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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…

Bring on the Buell 1190AX

The EBR 1190RX
Crikey, that seat looks uncomfortable!
I'll admit I've never really been a Buell guy. That is to say, I've never really been that hot on the look of the bikes he's produced. The guy himself I don't know that much about, though. And his vision of producing American-made motorcycles that aren't cruisers is something I applaud. So, for that latter aspect alone I'd be willing to try to force myself to like his bikes.

If you've been in a closet for the last few decades, Erik Buell is a guy who fell in love with motorcycles thanks to a P.O.S. 1957 Harley-Davidson panhead he rode around in his home state of Pennsylvania. After college, he got a job working for Harley-Davidson and in 1983 branched out to start his own small venture, Buell Motor Company. The company, based in Wisconsin and always maintaining close ties with Harley-Davidson, produced the first American-made sport bike since the Nova Project had been axed.

The close relationship was a blessing and a curse, of course. And it wasn't too long before Harley-Davidson bought up a controlling stake in Buell Motor Company, seeing this as a way for H-D to have its cake and eat it, too. Most people feel Harley-Davidson never really understood the cake they had, though, and in the wake of the Great Recession it decided to pull the rug out from under Buell Motor Company

Almost immediately thereafter, Erik Buell formed a new company, Erik Buell Racing, aka EBR. Which more or less brings us up to the present. EBR began full production of its 1190RX sport bike this past December and just this week announced the first European shipment had arrived British, German and Dutch shores. And on the back of this announcement came a glimpse at the forthcoming 1190SX, a naked version of the aforementioned fully-faired sport bike.

Information is not yet available for the SX, but the RX appears to have impressive statistics in terms of power, torque, etc., and has spiffy features such as 21-setting traction control (though, I can't help notice there is no talk of ABS). And it competes price-wise with other very high-end, high-performance motorcycles. Yes, the US $19,000 asking price (I can't find info on what it costs in the UK) is a bit steep, but so is the US $24,500 being asked for the Ducati 1199 Panigale S. 

Perhaps I really only think that's pricey because I don't quite "get" pure super-sport motorcycles. But ask me to fork out US $24,000 for the BMW K1600 GTL, or US $19,000 for the Victory Cross Country, and, would that I had it, I'd do so happily. 

EBR 1190SX
And certainly I want to see the RX succeed. If someone were just handing out EBR bikes, though, I'd want the newly revealed SX more. I'm guessing the ergonomics on the naked bike would be slightly less ridiculous.

The machine I'm most interested in, however, is the AX, something that is only listed as a future model on the EBR website. No pictures. No explanation. The interwebs speculation, however, is that the A stands for "adventure."

I've mentioned before that I really don't like the look of most adventure bikes. To me, there's nothing very cool in the aesthetic. But ever since I spent a day astride a Triumph Tiger Explorer XC, I haven't been able to scratch ADV bikes from the What I Want list. Their coolness comes in what they can do and how well they can do it.

In the guise of Buell Motor Company, Erik Buell has already produced an ADV. With the somewhat-maligned Ulysses, he managed to be in on the ground floor of the current ADV craze for blurring the lines between an actual off-road-capable machine and a tourer (look at this 2005 review for the bike and you'll see that Kevin Duke wasn't even sure how to categorise the bike at the time). If EBR can learn from the mistakes of the Ulysses and deliver a solid, American-made ADV bike I'm pretty sure I could force myself to love it regardless of its looks.

Well, that's assuming Victory or Indian don't produce such a bike first.

The point is, although I like the look of, want, and probably eventually will buy a cruiser in the not-too-distant future, it is very good to see something being produced in the United States that isn't same-old same-old. I can't help but wonder whether Harley-Davidson unintentionally spent several decades damaging the state of motorcycling in the United States by sticking so faithfully to the idea of giving people what they want. Sometimes you need to push forward, try different things and not worry about what people want, hoping that if the thing you produce is good enough they'll realise they want that, too.

And that's what I'm most wishful for in thinking about the forthcoming 1190AX, that EBR will produce a machine that will make me think: "I didn't know this until now, but this is the machine I've always wanted." 


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