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Showing posts from August, 2013

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…

220 miles (and a little more)

Hitherto a week or so ago I hadn't taken any particularly long journeys with Aliona. Well, "particularly long" is a relative term, I suppose. For some people, perhaps 20 miles might be a long ride. It's all a matter of your experience. I'm still pretty green –– having now owned a bike for less than 3 months –– so my experience is such that the 110 miles to the Fleece Inn in Bretforton seemed like a pretty long distance.
Indeed, by the time I finally got back home, having racked up at least 220 miles in one day (I say 'at least' because I got lost several times en route), I was completely exhausted. Before that, the greatest distance I had covered in one day was 140 miles. And the extra 80 miles I tackled on my Bretforton trip just about kicked my ass.

Coming home, I started to suffer major lapses in concentration –– focusing too intently on just the car in front of me, changing lanes or turning without checking my blind spot, etc. The worst moment came a…

Ride review: Harley-Davidson XL1200CA Custom

An un-Harley-like whir let me know the engine was ready. I pushed the start button and...

"Oh, baby," I whimpered. "Baby, I think I love you."
Thus began my experience with the Harley-Davidson XL1200CA, a fat-tired beautiful thug of a machine that I got a chance to test ride recently at Swansea Harley-Davidson.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had visited Wales' only H-D dealership on a whim, hoping simply to be able to stare at a few of the bikes up close and maybe, just maybe, sit on one. When I got to the dealership, though, I was greeted with a relaxed friendliness I simply had not expected. Sales executive Paul Chapple said I was more than welcome to sit on any of the bikes, but suggested a test ride or two to get a real sense of the machines.

The first bike I rode was an XL883L SuperLow, which is reviewed in the aforementioned post. Overall, I was crazy about the bike and the Harley-Davidson experience in gener…

Ride review: Harley-Davidson XL 883 L (aka Sportster SuperLow)

Yes, as a matter of fact, it is like riding a tractor.
That's the criticism so consistently levied against Harley-Davidson motorcycles: that there is something agrarian to the experience. And I can now say from personal experience that all those critics are right. But I can also say those critics are leaving out a key piece of information, which is this:
It's a tractor that hurtles forward with roller-coaster intensity, a tractor that goes really fast, a tractor that makes you feel like Brock Lesnar in a children's ball pit. A tractor from the Land of Bad-Ass, with which you can sow the seeds of awesomeness.
But let me back up a bit...
A few days ago, I decided to take the day off, solely for the purpose of getting a chance to ride around and finally make use of the free breakfast coupon sent to me by Thunder Road. As I was gearing up, I suddenly decided that since I was already heading west, I might as well push a few miles further and che…

The great Welsh boondoggle

According to my stats, the majority of the people who read this blog are in the United States. Even if you lived in Her Majesty's United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, though, you might find any talk of the proposed Circuit of Wales race track to be a little hyperlocal. But, hey, it's my blog and this seems like the appropriate forum to express my deep frustration with what I feel is yet another swindle at the expense of the people of the South Wales Valleys.
For those of you playing along elsewhere, the Circuit of Wales is an enormous knot of concrete proposed for an area of Britain that was once described as one of the most beautiful in the Empire.

In the late 1800s, however, much of the area fell victim to the Industrial Revolution and began churning out all kinds of terrible pollutants, along with coal, tin, and iron that was shipped all over the world. The Ebbw Valley, at the top of which would be the proposed CoW, became a major steel-producing area and …

What now for Victory motorcycles?

In the past few weeks I've talked a lot about my love for the motorcycle products of Minnesota-based Polaris Industries. First, I waxed lyrical for both the Victory Judge and the Victory Cross Country, then Indian came out with the new Chief Classic and I was so excited I had to change my pants. Both marques produce big, beautiful American machines to be proud of. But, see, therein lies something of a problem.
Ever since Polaris bought the rights to the iconic Indian motorcycles marque, there has been the unanswered question of what will happen to Victory. Now that Indian has officially been relaunched, that question becomes even harder to ignore.
Polaris built Victory from scratch. To my knowledge no other company has done that in my lifetime. Buell came close, sorta, perhaps, but used Harley-Davidson engines, never found its feet, and was then bought and killed by Harley-Davidson. What Victory has done is admirable, inspiring and (at the moment) profitable. I doubt that Polaris…

What I want: Indian Chief Classic

By now you should have figured out that I am a Minnesota fanboy. Sure, I am fiercely proud of my Texas heritage, but most of those years in which a man is truly formulating his personality (15-22) were spent in Minnesota; it is the place of my heart. And if something comes from Minnesota, there's a good chance I'll like it. So, I'm willing to admit upfront that I am biased when it comes to the newly relaunched Indian motorcycles.
Like Victory motorcycles (which have also shown up multiple times on my What I Want posts), this latest incarnation of the Indian marque is owned by Minnesota-based Polaris. Like Victory, the Indian machines are made in Iowa, which is still pretty much Minnesota if you look at NFL fanbase (ie, there are more Vikings fans in Iowa than say, Packers or Bears fans). But even without my rose-tinted regionalist glasses on, these bikes look pretty damn good. They possess that certain je ne sais quoi that makes you think: "I really want to ride that…

Drop it like it's hot

Jenn and I are both Pisces, which is a commonality that means nothing because astrology is intolerably stupid. But if you were intellectually thin on the ground you might perhaps point to that as a reason both of us love playing around in water. 
Or, perhaps, more believably, it has something to do with the fact both of us spent portions of our childhood living close to the sea (Jenn by the English Channel and myself by the Gulf of Mexico). 
Or, maybe it is simply that quite a lot of human beings like being close to bodies of water, as evidenced by the location of most major metropolitan areas. It doesn't really matter why; the point is simply that Jenn and I like playing in water. And last Saturday, there was a break in the rain, so we decided we needed to get out and make the most of whatever moments of summer that might be left in these parts (summer in Britain is often not so much a climatological phenomenon as it is an idea).
"I want to swim in the sea!" Jenn said. …

The Honda CBF600 is not an adventure motorcycle

Aliona likes the road. The smoother the tarmac the better, thank you very much. I suppose that's not terribly surprising; the Honda CBF600 is really just a detuned CBR600RR, the supersport stalwart that for many people is the very definition of a sport bike. Aliona has been modified to offer a more natural seating position and a throttle that won't make me pay dearly for learner mistakes but she is still, at her core, a bike that was intended to never stray too terribly far from track conditions.
That can be a challenge if you live in the Land of Song. Most roads here in Wales leave quite a bit to be desired. Mother Nature spreads mud, farmers spread manure, and some roads are so pockmarked you're inclined to believe the local council simply hasn't gotten around to fixing it since its being bombed in the war. 
I live on the corner of two roads that are riddled with potholes, ruts, and half-assed quick fixes (just throw some tar at it). The plus side of this is that an…

What I want: Victory Cross Country

Am I getting old? I think I may be getting old. What other explanation could there be for my fondness toward big-ass baggers like the Honda F6B or -- far more appealing to me -- the new Victory Cross Country? In my heart, though, I tell myself it is not so much age that makes me want such a thing but a gradual understanding of my own style and needs. The more I ride, the more I feel I'd like to own two types of bike: one for moving around in city traffic, and one that can comfortably haul Jenn, me and a bunch of stuff to various locations.
I love Aliona (that's Jenn's name for my bike), but she's not exactly the ideal machine for taking two people much further than the nearest beach. Both of us have found there is a magical 46-mile threshold before Aliona suddenly becomes very uncomfortable to sit on (I am assuming tolerance distances will increase with experience, though. And I can last longer on my own, when buzzy pegs are less of a problem due to less strain on the…