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Gear Review: 55 Collection Hard Jacket

Product: 55 Collection Hard Jacket Made in: Barcelona Cost: €480 (US $510) Website:www.55collection.com
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…

The strange and sudden decline of RideApart

UPDATE: I wrote this piece in December 2013. A lot has changed since then, including the fact that I am now managing editor for RideApart. Here's a link to all the stories I've written. The site has largely moved away from the things that I criticise in the post below and with every piece that I write for RideApart I hope I am doing my part to make it a quality, interesting site that will continue to inspire people to ride motorcycles.

RideApart now churns out crap like this.
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll have likely picked up by now that one of my favourite motorcycle websites is RideApart. Or, rather, was RideApart. In the last few weeks its quality has rapidly decreased and it has become something that both angers and saddens me, whereas it used to inspire.

And if you're a long-time reader of this blog you may remember my story: I got my motorcycle endorsement in Minnesota when I was 18 years old, but didn't actually make any effort to ride until almost two decades later. Then, suddenly, I had to ride. The reason for that instant awakening of interest has always been tricky for me to explain satisfactorily. It just sort of happened, just sort of became impossible to ignore. But I can, at least, pinpoint a handful of things that had a major effect on me -- things that lit the fire:
  1. Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs by Hunter S. Thompson. It wasn't all that great of a book. The writing is pretty weak at many points. But it helped open my mind to the idea of a motorcycle as transportation, rather than a shiny way for an old man to compensate for erectile dysfunction (a).
  2. The "You Know, I Know and They Know" video. There is a whole genre of self-aggrandising hipster/chopper motorcycle videos out there and I've probably sat through every single one. The best and most beautiful, though, is this one.
  3. That episode of RideApart when Jamie goes to Sequoia National Forest on a Triumph Bonneville. Jamie Robinson is a Yorkshireman who was once England's best grand prix racer. He retired in 2008 and now makes a living being the guy you wish you could be by riding all kinds of bikes in all kinds of places. The great appeal of Jamie is that he maintains an enthusiasm for all bikes regardless of type or engine size; if it's got two wheels, it's fun.
    1. By extension, "Hell for Leather," the accompaniment website to RideApart. Originally, RideApart was just the name of the video series. Early in 2013, the old Hell for Leather name was dropped and everything was joined under the RideApart name. Jamie left for MotoGeo and the RideApart site got a rather commercial-looking overhaul. That may have been the first clue...
First of all, you're in Canada...
Be it in the guise of Hell for Leather or RideApart, I read the site religiously. The first thing I would do each morning at work was click on my computer and read all the new articles. RideApart influenced everything from my attitude in riding and toward riding, to the gear I wear. I found the articles to be interesting, informative and engaging. In general, they held that Jamie Robinson enthusiasm for all motorcycles and the truth that being on a motorcycle does not mean having to adopt some sort of accompanying lifestyle; i.e., if you ride a Harley that doesn't mean you have to dress and behave like a member of the Cult of Latter-day Harley-Davidson. I also felt that the general tone of discussions in the comments were more friendly, more intelligent and more fun than one finds in many other places.

Then, one day it all started to go south.
To my mind, the downfall of RideApart began with this article, in which executive editor Wes Siler basically did a big tinkle all over everyone who has the audacity to be really interested in motorcycles. You know, like, those stupid noobs who would read a motorcycle-focused website. 
"No, I don't want to help you learn to go faster. No, I don't want to spend my lunchtime talking about Marc Marquez, again. And yes, I've ridden that route before," he whined in an article that I'm sure he would tell you was supposed to be funny. 
But it lacked a key element in funny stories: anything resembling a sense of humour. Read that article and you can see that Wes is serious. He thinks he's pretty damned special. And he thinks you're pretty damned stupid if you don't already know all the things he knows, if you don't adhere to his view, if you don't subscribe to his way. It is an article that is a complete rejection of the erstwhile all-encompasing RideApart philosophy.
I called him on his arrogance at the time. In a comment, I suggested he needed to humble himself. I told him to re-watch the video episode of RideApart where he gets The Fear and starts crying on the freeway and realise that he is not so much more fantastic than the people who help pay his salary by visiting his site. The comment was deleted.

When I knew RideApart had jumped the shark.
Since then, RideApart seems to have fallen into a long slide. Articles are increasingly arrogant and centred on sportbike riders who live in Southern California. Or, well, those are the articles worth reading. The rest of the site is filled out by intolerable fluff. RideApart seems desperate to turn itself into the Buzzfeed of motorcycling, with every other article written in list format and almost none of it having any real content. 
"4 Reasons I don't Split Lanes," "10 Reasons You Shouldn't Date a Motorcyclist," "13 Things More Dangerous Than Riding a Motorcycle," and on and on and on with an endless torrent of effluent. These articles are completely devoid of any actual content. There are a lot of words and pictures in them -- enough to get you to click at least twice in the sory to increase page views -- but no actual information. The lane-splitting article was merely a collection of unfounded opinions, the list of things more dangerous than a motorcycle was a list of things that were not in any way comprable to motorcycling and which were mathematically proven by one of the commenters to not, in fact, be more dangerous.

In that aforementioned article I commented that I felt RideApart had lost its way, that its endless lists and general alienation of all but a core segment of readers was offputting and disappointing. The comment, of course, was deleted.
So, I'm saying it here: You've let me down RideApart. Whereas you were one of my big inspirations to finally get on a motorcycle, you've now turned into the sort of thing that makes me just a little bit embarassed to be a motorcyclist.

____________________

(a) Unfortunately, the Minnesota I grew up in had a whole lot of dudes who were clearly using bikes to compensate for the lack of something. They instilled in me a dislike of bikes and bikers that caused me to over-generalise and oversimplify motorcycle riding.

Comments

  1. I too have noticed it isn't much but a bunch of lists lately. Maybe they lost all their writers and they are flying by the seat of their pants. Who knows, but it is sad when a good resource goes downhill so quick.

    And to delete your comment. All that does is confirm you called him on his sh*t and you were right and he didn't want anyone else to notice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Once upon a time a writer used to be good work if you could find it and - if I may stroke my ego a bit - I wrote some articles for some football (soccer) web sites years ago. One of the editors called me to task for being critical of the league's front office. He told me in no uncertain terms that they paid the bills for the site and I should not be so critical. Needless to say I didn't write for them anymore.

      It used to be a dirty little secret but today where a magazine or website has to be dependent on advertising dollars you get little content. Lists are safe and easy. Research is a thing of the past. Facts don't matter so much as page views.

      Delete
  2. Chris:

    I seldom read motorcycle magazines nor do I go to motorcycle sites other than Forums but perhaps Trobairitz is right. They lost all of their writers, or were not willing to pay for articles and have to struggle to keep new content coming

    bob
    Riding the Wet Coast

    ReplyDelete
  3. The site does seemed primarily aimed at Sport Bike riders. Maybe they've decided to target a younger demographic...one with the attention span of a gnat. Oh, look, squirrel. ~Curt

    ReplyDelete
  4. Gotta agree with this article. Everything went downhill quickly once Grant Ray and Sean Smith left the scene. I think those two may have been some sort of anchor for Wes' ego. Beyond that, Grant brought tremendous design flair and Sean brought technical and practical experience that the site has yet to recover. The articles from industry greats slowed to a stop. Jamie leaving was the last drop of joy out of the faucet.

    I recall when the site started doing reviews of trucks/SUVs out of nowhere. Each review had comments complaining and, in turn, snarky responses from Wes. When I suggested that Wes drop an editorial on why those articles are being run and the future direction of the site, all I got was another bitter reply. HFL grew strong by embracing the community. Treating long time patrons as pests did a lot of damage.

    With Wes left to his own devices, the site heavily leans on his Gawker Media background. Clickbait article titles, trite lists, and unnecessary page breaks to boost ad revenue. It's strange to imagine that I was once happy to have a paid subscription to HFL.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Frankly, I liked the "Jaded Motorcycle Expert" article, if only because I've been working in the industry long enough that it resonated deeply for me. I get your point, though: the click bait articles are getting irritating.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Your blog entry was cross posted from Sean Smith on my fb feed.

    RideApart has been uneven ever since it started. I don't know what happened with the people but it feels like every article is
    a) a buzzfeed friendly listicle
    b) Wes talking about how awesome he is
    c) both

    Wes comes across as a smug, insufferable douche (yeah you date models - you're awesome - we get it). Basically the opposite of Jamie.

    They used to do amazing content on HFL. Did you see the series from when Grant and Wes motorcycled Newfoundland? It was phenomenal. Turns out no one reads it. They want to read about the top 7 whatever bullshit.

    HFL predates RideApart by several years - they got folded into RideApart when Wes moved to LA. It used to be about 'real' motorcycle journalism. RideApart today is the sort of thing that HFL would shit all over. Now it's LA Wes, shitting all over himself every week.

    ReplyDelete
  7. The Motorcycle Obsession, list free since...the 3rd article down the front page:

    http://www.themotorcycleobsession.com/2013/12/20-things-ive-learned-about-motorcycling.html

    The thing with lists is that people click on them. We can produce the best motorcycle content in the world (and we do), but if no one sees it, the effort's been a waste. RideApart's editorial mission is to make motorcycling relevant to a wider audience. While some article are obviously on the lighter side (and hopefully enjoyable to a wide group of people as a result), you'll also find that we delve into great detail.

    You might enjoy these articles from the last few weeks that go into great detail on their topics:
    http://rideapart.com/2013/12/world-exclusive-2014-ural-gear-up-sidecar-review/
    http://rideapart.com/2013/12/charles-rutherford/
    http://rideapart.com/2013/11/2014-harley-davidson-street-500-review/

    I don't think you'll find anything like them in any other motorcycle publications.

    And in this year-end roundup, we detail some of the stories of which we're most proud:

    http://rideapart.com/2013/12/controversial-stories-2013/

    What's changed in the last few months is that RideApart now has a much larger number of contributors, all of whom are compensated for their work and most of which have a good deal of experience in motorcycle journalism. With Hell For Leather, it was basically me writing everything, which got a bit boring for everyone, especially me.

    As for comments, well, take a look at our community policy here: http://rideapart.com/2012/12/how-to-comment-on-hfl-like-a-boss/

    Our rules are easy to understand and totally transparent: contribute something of value, ask an intelligent question or, at the very least, be interesting. Comments which are personally abusive, vulgar or which contain racial or sexual slurs are promptly removed. I'm incredibly proud of the quality of RideApart's community, it bucks the general Internet trend by being a place full of genuine value for everyone involved. Because of that, it is something we protect through moderation (we remove, on average, 1 to 2 comments a week). If you'd like to be a part of it, well, be valuable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "The thing with lists is that people click on them." - Wes Siler 2013

      Delete
  8. I've read RideApart a number of times and I must agree with you on your points in general Chris. I rarely, if ever, go there to read because frankly, I find much better reading in many other places.

    As internet publishers ourselves, we understand the power of lists in the media and we've done a few ourselves lately. I actually just wrote one today. I find that as a writer it helps me hit points and stay on target of a topic rather than ramble into another topic halfway through the article. But I'm a professional writer, so I know better than to do that anyway. So as far as Wes' comments above, yes, I agree that some amount of lists are good content, but making that the main bulk of a publication's content weakens the body of work.

    With that said, and after reading just enough RideApart over the past few months, I must agree with your summation and the other comments above. It appears Wes is using his rules on his site to justifies deleting your comments, implying you didn't meet his criteria so he can delete them.

    (So the comment that said "Eat a Snickers Wes" was valuable?? C'mon Wes. Chris hurt your offended and you deleted his comments. We're all human. If you regret it now, just own it and save face.)

    But you're making a point by publishing his, and he knew you would.

    Like I said, I go to RideApart, read one article, often find the content weak, and don't read anymore. I wish it had more for me, but to each his own.

    Smooches,
    Sash
    www.SashMouth.com

    ReplyDelete
  9. I haven't read RideApart before, and actually never really heard of it before. So, I presume the changes they made to their publication were attempts to build more traffic by writing higher SEO content and writing effective titles. The list articles you speak of are an industry standard in attracting attention. I've done it myself too, but I try not to go overboard with it. As an Internet marketer, I can appreciate what RideApart is doing. But I also agree with you too Chris, that it also runs the risk of making a publication look cookie-cutter.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I couldn't agree more... Ever after Wes Siler's entry here, I gave the site the place of my first read everyday... just that there's nothing more to read. Just lists, endless list of meaningless stuff. No need to mention such nonsense here... I used to read HFL, and then later RideApart because I was tired of the same "list this, list that" and content-less websites of Motorcyclistonline.com, motorcycle.com, and other such venues... Guess what, reading their content seems like fresh air again!!! I'm really, really sad, that one of my favorite sites has become BuzzApart.com... and in such a short time... might as well do like Asphalt and Rubber, they don't write anything at all, if there's nothing to write about. I love it when they have something to say, but RideApart is just buzz word and list capital of motorcycle journalism, what a waste of once a great site...

    ReplyDelete
  11. I used to keep up to date with Hell For Leather. I used to watch the show on youtube and then happily continued onto RideApart. After a honeymoon period the quality of the content on that site declined rapidly. As everyone here has mentioned, once observations were made, commented on and the ensuing criticism started to flow then they began to disappear. If you are going to moderate a site and keep some form of integrity then you can't go around willy nilly deleting all forms of criticism because you don't like it. Once you start running the site like a police state then you will lose all credibility and the trust of your much needed readership.
    To make things worse there have and are articles up on RideApart that were nearly a straight copy and pasted from the Visordown site. People commented on this and naturally enough during the course of the day and evening these comments vanished. A good example of vanishing comments was when this went up, http://rideapart.com/2013/11/supersport-600-class/ there was a lot of "WTF is this?" and "Are you trying to alienate your readership?" comments, but they all vanished.
    To be fair they might be just hunting for hits and screw everything else. It would explain the reason as to why there is very little in the way of professional journalism on the site. What reviews there are, most are mere tag lines with little to no depth. Gear Patrol do something similar, but the standard of writing is far superior and balanced. Something that RideApart should take note of.
    It is disappointing. It started out well and then sank rapidly.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Seriously weird.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Chris

    I've had a reply to a comment on RA today saying that "Wes Siler is no longer associated with RideApart." What gives? Any idea? Nothing on HFL on Twitter (yet.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not connected with RideApart, so I'm afraid I wouldn't know anything about their situation. Do you have a link to that particular comment reply?

      Delete
  14. I guess that's right. In the "About Us" page in RideApart (http://rideapart.com/about-rideapart/) Wes Siler is no longer there.
    A pity that he's huge ego got in the way of his job.
    His articles were cheeky at the beginning, and downright pathetic in the end.
    Hope that Tim Watson gets the point and actually writes good articles (like the one he just did on his new/old Triumph). Good writing, as opposed to just copying/pasting press releases with no filter or opinion.
    Anyways, I wish them all the best, but if the problem was the "let's make traffic" mentality, getting rid of the gawker-man won't solve the problem.

    ReplyDelete
  15. So I read Hell for leather from the beginning, had a subscription once that started, and thought it was great. A little snobby, but some of the longer pieces that were pop outs with grant's photography were very good. They were charming, and different. Made me sort of believe in the potential awesomeness of a revival in motorcycling, I guess as a lifestyle rather than just a hobby for rich dudes. I was sad when grant left, and thought things went downhill from there. Once it went to ride apart, it just blew. Aside from Jaime, who had some great videos. Wes is a douche, Sean could be a punk but wasn't so bad. Just makes me sad though. It was like a great blog with information that was interesting and whose writers could do really amazing things (like the newfoundland trip.) I noticed the change, and am glad to know it makes other people sad too, If only so I'm not alone in my sadness :(.

    I suppose it also was like "wow there is hope that people might actually do interesting creative things with the internet, instead of just being click whores!" And then it was like "Ah, I see the corporate model has sucked the soul out of this small corner of the internet too. Is there anywhere it can't reach?"

    The founder/ceo of rideapart also founded a company called "Hubris Factory." The second definition of hubris, from dictionary.com, is "an excess of ambition, pride, etc, ultimately causing the transgressor's ruin" All I can say is that douche nozzle successfully predicted the future.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hii Chris I too had been a reader of HFL since their first month of starting up (discovered it by accident and was impressed with it's honest style and lack of commercialism, Today I asked where Wes had gone as there was no statement forthcoming and really I found that pretty poor. I was pretty much reprimanded by the new Editorial Director (he was very touchy about the whole thing) anyway a quick google revealed he is a massive car jock and doesn't actually ride. you know it's a dam shame how that site went downhill chasing clicks. It's kind of lost me I wish them well but the tone of the new crew just leaves me cold, Sure wes could be a dick (can't we all?) but he had a spark that seems lacking in RA current guise. Oh well all good things come to an end I guess.
    I hope I stumble upon something as good as the original HFL.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm another one of the 'original' Hell For Leather readers (I don't mean that in a douchey hipster way) and I echo what the other Anonymous poster has said: it was the only place I could find honesty and personality in motorcycling. What a shame that it has become a homogenous noob wankerville, devoid of experience, judgment, humor, and anything generally enriching.

    More time to ride, now that it's gone I guess. But it did really feel like a slightly exclusive club of goodness; a nearly impossible feat on the internet.
    Someday, something similar and good will arrive. Hopefully it doesn't get shit on. I remember my last post on HFL before it had its soul transplant was, “Don't fuck it up ”.

    The advice was not heeded.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Coming to this late - I also had an HFL subscription, and liked the attitude (though more hipster and model-esque that I am, personally) and thought that Wes and Grant and Sean all balanced each other. Loved the photos and the more in-depth and independent writing of HFL. Sorry to see the ultimate demise of what had seemed so hopeful at the start. Sad.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Mr. Anonymous, I think you're right. They all balanced each other. When left to his own poor devices, Wes ruined everything.

    I think Chris is doing a great job here. This is fun to read.
    I'm actually thinking about blogging about my own experiences as well.
    Heck, I have right now five (5) different BMWs in my garage (K12R, K12S, K12LT, R12GS, R12R)... I could write a lot about the very different feelings each gives me.
    Also... I want and lust after other motorcycles... right now I'm obsessed with a CB550F that I bought (but can't import into this country), and a CB350 '72 that somebody is selling (too expensive)...
    Heck, there's even a Ducati Monster 4S '02 on the cheap...
    So much fun, so little money...

    ReplyDelete
  20. It's simple. Anybody who spends any amount of time living in LA loses their mind and becomes a hopeless twit. Among my friends, I don't know any exceptions.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Does anyone know where Wes, Grant and Sean are now?

    ReplyDelete
  22. I 100% agree with this article. When I first found the a couple years ago, I devoured their content. Then the videos stopped. The writing became somewhat insulting and one of their new writers, Heather McCoy, would reply to commenters with an "I know everything" attitude. I asked her to show a link to support one of her comments regarding Ducati snobbing the Matrix franchise. She replied for me to find it myself. I googled for ten minutes and couldn't find anything. She then got offended I asked her to show her fact checking as a journalist. I stopped going there as my main moto site. I now check it once every couple weeks and most times the content isn't compelling to stay longer than a couple minutes.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I just saw on BRD's new website that Grant is the Director of Communications at BRD. 2 or 3 years ago, I pre-ordered a BRD Redshift SM on the first day of private pre-orders. I'm still super psyched for its actual release!!!!

    Where is Sean Smith? He was (by far) my favorite writer for HFL. After his big crash, he pretty much disappeared. He and his girlfriend had a web design agency, I think. The other (later) Sean was a crappy writer (and a crappy rider too), and almost as full of himself as Wes. He's at Revzilla now, I think.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Wes is at http://indefinitelywild.gizmodo.com/

    ReplyDelete
  25. Well that answers that then. I used to read HFL at work until they wanted subscriptions so I gave up on them. Went looking for the site tonight and couldn't find it.
    HFL used to be good, I remember them raggin' on MCN. Ohh how the mighty have fallen.

    ReplyDelete
  26. It is September 2014 and Rideapart is only shittier now. I typed in Google "Why does Rideapart Suck" and up popped this article. Everything in it is true and has only gotten even more worse.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I'm glad you brought up the electric 2012 Zero DS review. Wes heard that the DS had a 112 mile range, so he decided to test it with a full day of canyon carving and freeway riding. It started out well, but it ended with him loosing power on the freeway heading back home. What he didn't realize was that 112 miles was the CITY range, you know, for stop and go traffic and lane splitting. The freeway range was advertised at 60 miles at 70 MPH (for every EV, freeway range is typically half the city range). Had Wes and the ride apart crew done their homework, it should have been no surprise to them when the bike ran out of juice at 58.8 miles into the trip. Instead, it ended on the side of the freeway with Wes about to cry, and sappy violin music playing as the bike was loaded up in their truck. How can they do a review of a new vehicle, without having such basic knowledge of its capabilities?

    To pour salt on the wound, he later did a promotional gig for the 2012 Brammo Empulse R in which he rode with them and took a tour of their headquarters. Range anxiety never came up, even though the two bikes were nearly identical in range.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Good article. I agree. Motorcycling is too vast of a culture for a few sportbike riders to carve out. I have to say Wes and Grant did a good job bringing motorcycles out from behind the leather and if they've made room for non-OEM voices to come forward then they did alright by me. We'd like to feature your writing on http://EatSleepRIDE.com - cheers man. Flip us a note at feedback[at]EatSleepRIDE.com

    ReplyDelete
  29. Rideapart seems to have had an exponential increase in the quality of its articles recently.

    Hmmm....

    ;)

    ReplyDelete
  30. Fascinating to read this in late 2015, as I'm following Wes' departure from IndefinitelyWild on Gizmodo. Unfortunately, the pattern seems to have repeated itself - Wes has a series of articles that were great (and it was my go-to site for a while), then he loses his way, the articles start to suck, an overactive ego kicks in and Wes gets into fights in the comments sections, and suddenly you're asking yourself "hey, why aren't my comments showing up?" It is clear now that Wes selectively green-lights comments.
    Wes, if you ever read this, your new mantra is "Humble. Honest. Transparent." You'll do great if you keep repeating that to yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Googled Wes to find out where he is now and came across this.

    Nice to see others miss the HFL of Wes, Grant, and Sean too.

    ReplyDelete

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