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Showing posts from April, 2014

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…

The 12,000-mile service

Let me just say right off the bat that I don't begrudge anyone earning a good wage. Life is hard and if you can earn enough money to make it just a little bit easier on yourself and your family, then more power to you. Especially when the thing you do has intrinsic value, like teaching or curing illness or fixing cars/motorcycles. Often when we see discussions of motorcycle maintenance and repair we fall into the trope of portraying mechanics as Shylocks.
This is silly. My brother is a mechanic (a), so is one of my very best friends, and I've hung out with plenty of other guys and gals from all sides of that world: mechanics, auto body technicians, painters, tire guys, and so on. They're just people who, like any right-thinking individual anywhere, want to make a good living doing stuff they're good at. If you're being critical of that you need to consider whether what you're actually feeling is jealousy.
As a side note, kids, take it from your ol' pal Chr…

The future gets a little clearer

Not too long ago I wrote about how excited I am to see what Victory Motorcycles has up its sleeve for the future. At the time, some sketches had leaked to various motorcycle publications showing multiple styles of bike all sporting a liquid-cooled engine.
In that post, I pointed to two bits of information that might suggest what will come next from the Polaris-owned marque. First was a 2013 interview with Polaris VP Steve Menneto in which he said he expected to see Victory focusing on "performance and innovation" in the wake of Indian's revival. 
It's the general feeling amongst motorcycle journalists and laymen, such as myself, that with Victory sharing its parent company with legacy brand Indian it should avoid trying to compete for the hardcore H-D rider's money. That's Indian territory now, and Indian is so far doing really well. It will be fun to see where Indian goes from here. I would like to see another Indian model introduced at Sturgis (a) this yea…

What I want: Honda CB1100 EX

The other day, on the way back from riding out to the Fleece Inn, I took a detour to the Cwmbran location of Thunder Road, the official Honda dealership here in South Wales. I have an unsteady history with Thunder Road, having visited their Bridgend location several times and never really coming away with a positive feeling. To their credit, they once tried to make good on a negative experience by calling and apologising to me in person but on consecutive visits I still found myself being wholly ignored.
But, you know, I still love all motorcycles and the Cwmbran location was more or less on my route home, so I dropped in to stare at a few things. And, of course, it was an experience that served to remind me of that old truth that one does not equal all. Separated by more than 30 miles, Thunder Road's two different locations are, you know, different.
A saleswoman, Mel, started chatting with me (not in a pushy way) soon after I wandered in. We talked about the new CTX1300, which l…

Ride review: Victory Judge

I used to be a delivery cyclist. Clocking up roughly 40 miles a day, darting through traffic, dodging buses and hitting gaps you would not imagine, I could push upward of 30 mph and stop on a dime. I'm not bragging when I say this, just being honest: on a bicycle I am really good. Probably better than you. And even though I now have an office job, I still cycle every day to work. I tell you all this as preface. 
Recently, I was zipping down Paget Road, a steep hill that is part of my daily commute. Without pedalling I can hit 24 mph on that hill (my bicycle has a speedometer). This morning being dry and sunny, and with me in a good mood, I'd reckon I was going close to 35 mph when a cat decided to jump out in front of me. Which initiated a sequence of events that all occurred in less than 2 seconds:  The cat stared at me in terror. This particular fellow, however, did not appear to be blessed with the reflexes for which cats are so famous. He chose instead to just stand there.…

Visor Down and Michelin are my new jam

I ended up getting to put your advice to work sooner that I had thought. After my longish ride to the Fleece Inn, many of you offered tips on how to improve my timing, last longer in the saddle and make the most out of breaks. I'm thankful for that, because the day after I wrote that post I got a call from Visor Down asking if I could be in Stoke-on-Trent by 10:30 a.m. the next day.
Visor Down is a UK-based motorcycle website and I had won a competition to be a part of the launch event for Michelin's Pilot Road 4 tires. The prize included getting to learn all about the new tires (more interesting than you might think), getting to put them to the test by taking a Michelin-provided bike on a 130-mile tear through Peak District National Park, getting put up in a hotel (along with food and booze), and receiving a free set of Pilot Road 4 tires to put on my own bike. All I needed to do was get myself to Michelin HQ.
The distance from the Welsh seaside town of Penarth to the Midlan…

Kids these days

A lot -- in fact, most -- of my connection to the wider motorcycling world comes via the interwebs. And I've talked before about the fact there are a number of revolving themes within the internet side of that community: helmets, and filtering, and holding a vociferous opinion on Harley-Davidson, and so on and so on. 
One of the themes that shows up quite often, an opinion that will show up several times in the comments section of almost any web story about the launch of a new/revamped model of motorcycle, is the one that goes: "We need to get more young people riding."
Do we, though?
I mean, really: does it matter that the median age of motorcyclists in the United States is 40-ish? 
That's a surprisingly difficult to clarify statistic, by the way. Though it frequently gets dragged out to show the dire state of things -- that motorcycling is doomed. I'm not able to find a recent, reliable source for the statistic but it generally ranges between 42 and 49 years o…

Visiting the Fleece Inn

A few miles from the quaint Cotswold market town of Evesham lies the Fleece Inn, a pub with a history stretching back more than 600 years. I'm a sucker for that sort of thing. I love the idea of sitting in a place that's been around since before any Europeans even knew that the American continents existed. I love the Fleece Inn especially because it belongs to the National Trust. For those of you playing along at home, the National Trust is kind of sort of like a privatised version of the U.S. National Park Service.
Though, whereas the U.S. National Park Service is best known for looking after large swathes of natural land and is lesser known for taking care of historic buildings and property, the reverse is true of the National Trust. I'm veering into my day job here, but seriously, y'all: wherever you live, it is a whole hell of a lot more interesting than you realise. Get on your bike on go see the amazing stuff that surrounds you.
Too many people in the modern wor…

Worth waiting for

In my previous post, I talked about how I'm struggling with the concept of delayed gratification. After flirting with the idea of chaining myself to challenging monthly payments for the sake of a brand new Triumph Bonneville, I've decided instead to hold onto the objectively superior bike I've already got, ride it into the ground and in the meantime set aside money for something I really want.

I've wanted a Victory Judge ever since they were first introduced, but it's been off the "Bike I'll Get Next" list because of, primarily, two things: cost and the absence of ABS.
Give it two years, and at least one of those issues will definitely be resolved. Recently, I wrote to Victory (which already offers ABS on its tourers) to ask about anti-lock brakes being made available on its line of cruisers. Obviously, they're not going to share specific secrets with some random fan boy who emails in, but they did tell me this: "Victory have always been app…