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Gear Review: 55 Collection Hard Jacket

Product: 55 Collection Hard Jacket Made in: Barcelona Cost: €480 (US $510)
It’s likely you’ve never heard of 55 Collection; the Barcelona-based leather goods company is relatively small and has only been on the scene for a few years. So, allow me to introduce you to a company that’s making some of the best-looking and unique motorcycle jackets out there at the moment.

Adopting the “non serviam” nonconformist attitude that seems to run through a lot of Spain’s motorcycling culture (check out the crazy/beautiful custom works of El Solitario MC, for example), 55 Collection’s jackets may split opinion because of the company’s willingness to make jackets that are fashionable – that is to say, jackets that have a strong fashion element. The old dudes will decry hipsterism or some such thing. And indeed, I’ll admit that when company founder Aitor Gonzalez offered me a chance to try out one of his jackets I naturally defaulted to the most conservative of his offeri…

Winter's coming. What do I do?

The bike has been sitting in its little spot beneath a cover for about a week now. The last time I rode, it was just a collection of very short jaunts –– from the house to work, work to the city centre, city centre to Cardiff University, the university to home. That's less than 11 miles, spread out over a space of 15 hours. So, effectively I've not ridden since my road trip to Mid Wales.

Going too long without riding makes me antsy, and I start to worry about all kinds of things. For example: is the bike clean enough? I have a fear of the next time I pull away the bike's cover finding it has somehow transformed into a great indecipherable pile of rust. After all, I didn't clean it before putting it away last time. Though, it was a dry day and I had cleaned it after the road trip.

"Clean" is a relative term, perhaps. I had invested £2 to buy 5 minutes at the power washer in the Morrisons car park. They say (whoever "they" are) that you're not supposed to clean your bike that way. I figure it's fine because I just use the soap brush and the misting settings, never hitting the bike with a full spray. Besides, I can't think how else I would clean the thing. When I first got Aliona I would invest time filling a bucket with water and cleaning her with a sponge, but that was: a) in the summer when it was warm and dry; and b) before I realised how much I hate washing my bike.

The other day, I saw a post on a motorcycle forum where a dude proudly confessed to spending an afternoon detailing his "baby." And I thought: "Good lord, man. That's an afternoon during which you could have been riding." I cannot think of one thing –– ever –– that I have spent an afternoon cleaning.

But cleanliness of the bike does play in my mind. It's a part of the equation, they say, to ensuring your bike makes it through the winter.

The coming of The Long Dark and its effect on my motorcycle and my motorcycling has been playing on my mind. If you've been following this blog for a while, you may know that one of the instigating factors in my becoming so obsessed with motorcycles was a desire to fight against the feelings of confinement and homesickness that always result from The Long Dark. That's what I call winter in Britain, because "winter" doesn't properly describe what one experiences.

Handling winter like a boss.
First of all, The Long Dark is longer than winter; it generally stretches from late October to early May. The weather is not so terribly cold, certainly not by the standards of someone who spent his formative years in Minnesota, but its capacity to break you down emotionally is so much greater than anything else I have experienced. It is grey and dark and wet and windy every day. No, dude, listen: when I say every day, I mean EVERY day. Day after day after day after day of the same miserable routine.

And for some inexplicable reason, the peoples who have lived on this archipelago for thousands of years have not figured out how to build homes and structures that combat this misery. It is drafty, cold and damp in my flat. At my workplace. At the pub. The Long Dark is inescapable.

I'm wandering off the point here, sorry. Here's what I'm trying to say: Winter's coming and I'm a little worried. I learned to ride in the cold and as such, I consider myself an all-season rider. Plus, I think I need to be for the sake of my sanity. So, there will be no sheltering of Aliona for months on end. Which means that the articles I've been reading recently about preparing your bike for winter are pretty much irrelevant to me.

But that's exactly what I want to know: How should I prepare for The Long Dark? I plan to get heated grips put on as soon as I can find the money, and I'm very seriously considering putting on some engine bars, as well. I'll be asking my parents to buy me a pair of these gloves for Christmas. I'll probably buy a balaclava just for kicks. But these are things done for my physical and psychological comfort. What about the bike? How should I be treating Aliona?

Britain is a land of myth and legend, and that's an attitude that extends down to what people tell you to do with motorcycles. So, I've been struggling to find any particularly good advice. Search the interwebs and stuff seems to be half made-up –– steeped in the intraceable "truths" of dudes who grew up in the 60s –– and comes from the same sort of people who complain that antilock brakes are somehow evidence that the socialists are winning control.

But what truths I have gathered are this: I should do my best to keep Aliona clean, and I may want to consider regularly dousing her in GT85. OK. Done. Is that it, though? Keeping in mind that I don't have access to a nice, warm, dry garage and that the best I can offer Aliona is a sturdy all-weather cover, what else should I be doing? Any advice? How do you keep your bike going year-round?


  1. Chris, one a heated jacket like a Gerbing or Tourmaster. I did quite a bit of research last season and ended up buying a Tourmaster. I thought it was the bast bang for the buck. It really helps keep you warm and toasty when it's cold outside. It will definitely make The Long Dark more bearable. ~Curt

  2. Hi Chris - I've just found your blog and have enjoyed going back to read your progress. I used to live in Minnesota (up north in Bemidji) and now live in Michigan, where we've got snow in the forecast later this week. I too am dreading the long cold months ahead. I wish you well in riding all winter long. Wish that was an option here. My new-to-me BMW k100rt is sitting in the garage waiting for spring...

    1. Thanks! I've heard of some riders in Minnesota who go year-round. I suppose that once the plows have gone through roads are OK-ish if you have the right tires. I'm not sure I'd try it, though. I guess it would depend on how desperate I got.

  3. Ensure your battery acid levels are correct and it is fully charged. As a Minnesotan, you probably remember how cold weather can quickly kill a battery. Also, tires inflated with nitrogen are less vulnerable to pressure loss related to colder temperatures.

    1. I wonder where on earth I'd find nitrogen to put in my tires!

  4. Chris - assuming you keep your chain oiled, and keep running the bike regularly... I'd just say keep it protected from the weather as best you can and take care of your battery. Which, in your case, might mean bringing it inside and keeping it on a trickle charger.

    As far as cleaning the bike... people do that? Mine is filthy. I guess every now and then I take a can of spray cleaner and a couple rags to it, but I personally like that ZZ Top dustiness/road-warrior grime look.

    Those glove look like pure awesomesauce.

    Also, GT-85 is pleasantly perfumed with lavender? Wow, they've thought of everything.

  5. Clean bike? What is that. I think my bike gets a once yearly bath if that. I just can't be bothered and if hubby has been riding it in the rain he'll take pity and wash it for me. If the headlight gets bad I will wash the bugs off it though.

    For winter riding I have a heated Tourmaster jacket liner. Love it. Like wearing an electric blanket while you ride. The sleeves and collar are heated as well as the front and back. I also wear a polar fleece buff tucked from my jacket up into my helmet. Keeps the cold out of the jacket and the chin/neck warm.

    Oh and protective glasses with yellow lenses will do wonders for seeing in muted light. On cloudy days I don't ride without them.

    Heated grips are essential and if you have poor circulation like me hand guards on the bike to stop the cold wind. I also find if I am going on a longer day ride in cooler weather the stick on disposable heated insoles are a must. They last 8-10 hours and are fairly inexpensive.

    If you don't have a battery tender you might want one as well, so the battery doesn't run low if you don't ride it for a few weeks. Or a trickle charger as Lucky suggested.

    Have fun. Riding in cooler weather can be exhilarating.

  6. Chris:

    I usually keep my bike under a carport with a bike cover and battery plugged into a battery tender.

    Last year I had to keep it "ON THE ROADWAY" but I had it under a cover and I ran an extension cord to the street, approx 30 feet away and plugged into a battery tender, with disk locks. Your bike is in your yard so you could also run a extension cord (power cable) for the battery tender.

    another trick is to put a little heat source under the cover to warm your bike a bit to keep out condensation. I used to use a little light bulb on a timer, but now they have those magnetic heating coils.

    If you have a lot of chrome on your bike, esp the mufflers. Take a bit of car wax, I used Turtle brand and swirl a bit of wax on the chrome and wait for it to turn to a white power and just leave it like that until spring, when you wipe it off. It minimizes pitting of the chrome

    Riding the Wet Coast

  7. Chris,

    I washed my bike the other day for the first time since I got it. I only washed my other bike twice with cleaner. And I felt guilty about taking so long to wash this one. . .

    Yeah, she's for goin', not for showin'.

    I don't know jack about parking a bike and keeping it in good condition. I am A) From So Cal and B) A new motorcycle owner and C) Going to keep riding. . .

    But your other friends seem to have that well in hand. I love this community!! :)


  8. Chris, We can identify with your winter's the same here in the U.P. (Yooperss)! Got so hungry for riding last January, I took out my new GS650 BMW..and dumped it! Was certain I broke my leg, but the biker gods were with me! Planning our 50th anniversary trip to Alaska next summer! Have no idea how I will manage getting thru this winter! Oh....I wax on and wax off daily! heheheeheh
    God Bless

  9. I agree with Lucky up above. You need to make sure your bike is being used regularly. I would recommend taking it out every couple of weeks. If not, then you really need to be storing it properly for the winter. Bad things happen when we just let our bikes sit.

    - Dave at Motorcycle Addiction

  10. Dirt makes it go faster (sorry...had to say it).

  11. Just a test, to see if I can comment without an account before type a proper comment...

  12. My thoughts on winter riding... Done a fair few miles in UK winter this year, but I have little spare cash, so cant get heated gear or fancy insulated gear. Instead, when I was buying my protective clothes for summer, I bought them slightly oversized. I then wear extra layers of normal clothes underneath.
    Did a 60 mile ride today, my fingers went numb in my Spada Enforcer (supposedly) winter gloves, but the rest of me was toasty warm. I looked giant, and couldn't move so well off the bike, but didn't really notice it once moving.
    My face got cold, due to having to ride with visor open (visor misting + low powered headlight + dark = bad), but hopefully that will be fixed when I get my new helmet.
    Also, be carefull cleaning your visor if you get sprayed by the salt truck. It looked like it was coated by sand by the time I got home. I imagine it would have ruined it if I had attempted to use the visor wipe built into my glove. Luckily for me I had it open so just got my eyes full of salt instead. UK winter riding is awesome.

  13. Chris,

    Winter has arrived in Ohio (freezing rain this evening) and thus I have discovered your blog. I was curious how your winterization has gone over the past year. I've scoured your more recent posts and haven't found a follow up to your winter dilemma. My bike lives on my porch about 11 months year, so I feel your pain.

    1. I struggle on. I'll try to write a post in the near future outlining all my efforts to keep Old Man Winter at bay. Perhaps other folks will be able to offer a few more tips, as well.


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