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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…

Rethinking the Sportster

You know what would be really clever? If Harley-Davidson dealerships could issue false invoices that you could show to your wife. So, you could come home with, say, a $15,000 motorcycle but produce for your life partner a receipt claiming you had paid only $9,000. 

"Yeah, babe," you could say. "I talked 'em down."

In truth you would have paid full price, plus the Stage 1 tax, but your wife would never know. Except for your refusal to buy new clothes for the next decade or so.

In fairness, this is not something I would need for my wife. Recently I found myself thinking very seriously about getting a Triumph Bonneville, and even got all the way to the point of scheduling an appointment to go in and work out the financing. Over and over I gave Jenn the opportunity to kill the decision by telling me it was impractical. But her argument was that owning a motorcycle is in its nature sort of an emotional thing, so it's difficult to discuss the issue of practicality. She was supportive of the idea and, I suspect, looking forward to riding on the back of a Triumph. In the end, it was fate that waved me off the plan. My office was hit with lay-offs and though I'm not under threat I felt it best to wait until I'm sure I'm not under threat. 

Maybe in autumn. Maybe in winter. Maybe next spring. We'll see. But not getting the Bonneville has initiated some heavy rumination on whether it's really the bike I want. I mean, no ABS. That is a real problem for me. 

Last summer, I found myself making use of the anti-lock brakes on my Honda CBF600S when approaching a semi-truck at high speed on a typically gravel-strewn Welsh road. In thinking about the ABS-less Bonneville I tried to tell myself that I had been particularly inattentive that day and that I was really green in terms of riding. But the fact is, I am still pretty green and you cannot choose your panic situations. Every time I mention anti-lock someone rolls out a story about some MSF super-pro who can stop faster on standard brakes. But I'm not that guy, and that guy is not me. He's got 30 years of experience and is stopping under ideal conditions; he's not an easily distracted newbie in Wales, in the rain, on a tiny road that has been abandoned by maintenance teams.

And really, it is stupid and lazy that Triumph has not equipped the Bonneville with anti-lock brakes. The technology exists on all of the company's other models and as of 2016 will be legally required as a standard feature for all motorcycles sold in the European Union. Really, Triumph should have by now accepted the way of things and added the feature. Harley-Davidson has with all of its bikes.

You were wondering when this was going to get back to Harley-Davidson, weren't you?

I know that I keep saying cruisers aren't terribly well suited to UK roads but I don't seem willing to believe it. I don't want to believe it. I want to ride a cruiser. Surely it must be possible; according to a recent story I read on VisorDown, there are nigh 41,000 Harley-Davidson motorcycles on UK roads. And lately I've found myself thinking a lot about the Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200: the bike I got a chance to test ride last August.

I think a lot about how my riding style has developed since then, how I'm far more comfortable in terms of manoeuvring, road position, etc. I'm more confident in my actions, more sure of what I'm doing, and better tuned to the general experience of riding a motorcycle. And with this knowledge I find myself looking back at my criticisms of the Sportster:
  • I didn't like the fact that it did not have anti-lock brakes. But a week or so after my test ride, Project Rushmore was launched and over here in Europe ABS became standard on all Harley-Davidson models.
  • I felt the Sportster was a bit heavy. But not so heavy that I was really uncomfortable. Indeed, I filtered through traffic on my test ride -- the bike's low centre of gravity gave me confidence. And the fact is, at that time I was really green and still often feeling awkward on my Honda. So, it is entirely possible -- in fact, likely -- that I now wouldn't be too greatly affected by the Harley's girth. Or I could very quickly adapt. Either way, I think the Sportster is just "small" enough to manage a solid 90 percent of the traffic filtering situations that I tackle on my present bike. And for those other situations there's an argument that the presence of a Harley-Davidson would open up traffic gaps more effectively than the presence of an economy Honda.
  • I didn't like the fact that the Sportster is air-cooled. But, dude, I live in a country that is always cold. I can think of several times over the past few months when I would have loved to be able to reach down and warm my hands on a H-D engine.
  • I didn't like the fact that it does not have a tachometer or other dashboard information. But again: Project Rushmore. The Sportster set up now comes standard with a digital tachometer and gear indicator.
  • I didn't like the fact the Sportster has no wind protection. OK, I still don't really like that. But that wasn't stopping me from wanting a Bonneville. And, of course, the H-D extras catalogue offers dozens of screen options.
  • I didn't like the fact it doesn't get good gas mileage. But, turns out I was talking without checking facts on that one. According to the Sportster gets similar MPG to my present bike (less but not a whole lot less).
  • I wasn't sure I'd like the engine's sound over long periods of riding. But at the time I wasn't regularly wearing ear plugs when riding. It's a good bet I now wouldn't notice (I am that one person who doesn't feel a Harley-Davidson needs to be any louder, so I wouldn't install new pipes).

Also, apparently unique to H-D dealerships, I was treated really well by Swansea Harley-Davidson. And being treated well is the sort of thing that sticks with you. It makes you want to return. If you're treated really well, it makes you want to find ways to spend money.

And the more time I have to ponder upon the thing, the more I find myself thinking: "Yeah, actually, that Sportster was an OK machine. Maybe, just maybe, I'd like to have one of my own."


  1. Excellent...

    Get it. GET IT.

    (OK, OK, wait until you're ready. Then GET IT.)

    1. Dude, especially now that H-D has introduced their Gas n Go financing it's basically just a matter of saving up the deposit... unless Victory puts ABS on the Judge.

  2. Motorcycles are a personal choice. Get what is right for you, and if that is one with ABS, then that is the right one for you.

    Hardest part is making the decision on which bike, it gets easier after that.

  3. Hahahaha! Go figure, you're American, and americans are infatuated with riding HDs. There you had a chance to buy a modern, retro-looking bike. I'm sure they have other options with ABS.

    I had a Sportster Nightster XL1200N. Great bike to learn. It was my first bike. Torque was awesome, the bike was so nimbe and throwable that I wish it had more cornering angle (guess that could be fixed). No maintenance issues at all. Started every time. The key stack was very flimsy, poor quality. WD-40 fixed it. The horn was a joke. Guess a lot of things were, and I ended up chroming everywhere that nightster (supposed to be all blacked out), that's the point: customization.
    There was only one thing I couldn't get over: braking. It felt like I was pushing on wooden pads. That thing would not stop (like my BMW K1200R). I love riding fast, I was making the needle bounce on the speedometer's end, but it wouldn't stop and no ABS.
    After a couple of scares, I put it for sale. Bought it for $9k. Sold it at $8k.

    If it had ABS, would be an awesome bike to keep owning. Don't move the pegs forward, you loose handling, and your kidneys will be feeling every bump on the road.

    Great bike... but no more HDs in my life right now.

    1. Who's "they"? Triumph? They do have ABS on other bikes –– on every bike that isn't part of the Bonneville range (Bonneville, Scrambler, Thruxton, Speedmaster, America). It is only that bike without ABS, which I feel is lazy on the part of Triumph.

      I'm not really infatuated with riding H-D, it's just that, at the moment, they're the ones offering the best cool-looking bikes. Honestly, I would prefer a Victory Judge. But it doesn't have ABS.

  4. Sounds to me the CBF600 has everything you want in a bike except for the image you seem to be looking for.

    1. You are pretty much dead on there. If I'm honest, there is absolutely nothing to complain about with my CBF600S. But for some reason I just don't love it.

  5. Chris,

    I know you've felt torn about your next bike and that you had reservations about the Sportster but it's a solid bike and it's FUN to ride. I have a 2012 XL1200C and I've ridden over 22,000 miles since Aug 2011. I don't think you'd be disappointed...and what better way to claim your American heritage than by riding American Iron in England, :-)

    If you do get the Sportster, you'll need to get an aftermarket saddle and a passenger backrest. My wife rode once on the stock saddle and said she'd never ride again till I got a new seat w/a backrest. I've been very happy with the Corbin Dual Tour and so has she. As far as windshields go, you'll have lots of choices. Sportster are very customizable.

    Can't wait to see the photos of your new Sporty! :-)


    Live Free. Ride Hard. Be Happy

    1. I'll admit that your love for your Sportster is certainly a part of what's changed my thinking on the bike. I'm not sure Corbin sells seats in the UK, but I had guessed that replacing the butt holder would be a part of the H-D experience.

  6. I get it. I didn't love my Yamaha V*Star either. So when I sat on the Bonneville and thought about trading that V*Star in, listing all the things I didn't love about her, I started to make the separation. That day I sat at a coffee shop and enjoyed a cup of tea and just looked at my V*Star glistening in the sun. I thought about how happy she would make someone else and how happy I would be on that Bonnie.

    When I rode her that day I seemed to notice she was moving quite well. It's funny how we can take something for granted, or someone, for that matter. I figured I was stuck with her for a few months until I could afford to make the change so I would just stick it out. But over the next couple of weeks she really spoke to my heart.

    I learned that changing bikes isn't all it's cracked up to be, in my case. I tend to have high expectations and I learned that ALL motorcycles come with limitations. After everyone warned me about all the problems with the Bonnie (it doesn't matter which bike, there are problems with them all!) I started thinking about my V*Star. Now I'm in love again.

    My Tatonka is the only bike for me now. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, said Franklin. :)


  7. My Ex bought a Sportster, an Iron 883, she never rode it for some reason, So I did, about 11,000 miles over a 2 year period (that was on top of my other bike that I put 20,000 miles on during the same time) it was great fun, The Sportster line up and the Older VROD line up are all that really interest me i HD, I almost bought a Sportster 48 a year ago but went for a Triumph Scrambler instead. I love this Triumph, still have my other Bike too its just that after owning it for 9 years it has 117k on it now and I needed to stop putting so many miles on it. I admit the 883 was a bit sluggish and got boring after a few 100 miles but the 1200's I have rode are great. They are fun bikes and easy to work on. The Triumph I love because my other bike is a Cruiser of sorts and the Scrambler allows me to ride other roads etc...

  8. I agree, a bike without ABS seems like a risk not worth taking.

  9. Harley Sportster 883 needs 10 % increase in HP/Torque. Maybe VVT, or 3 Valve Head, or 1,000 cc ?

    Until then I'll keep my Bonneville SE.


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