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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 Dirt Quake IV

I'm missing Dirt Quake III this weekend and I can't help feeling ridiculously foolish for doing so. Oh, sure, I have a good reason for doing so -- actually, two good reasons -- but that doesn't make me feel any better. I can't help feeling that this is the sort of thing that will go on the list of Greatest Regrets to be flashed before me in my final moments within the mortal coil. Right up there with the time I chose not to dance the polka with Miss El Cajon at an Oktoberfest celebration in Santee, California, and the time I changed my mind about going to senior prom with a girl after she had already bought her dress.

OK, perhaps it won't be that bad. But, still, I really wish I were there.

Dirt Quake, for those of you who don't spend hours of your life searching motorcycle tags on Vimeo and Tumblr, is a ridiculous motorcycling event that takes place each year in eastern England. Perhaps it is best known for hosting flat track races for bikes that are woefully ill suited for flat track, such as choppers, scooters and well, whatever else is inappropriate for use on a dirt track. It is a weekend of hipster/chopper/flat-tracker/nuevo-rocker boneheadedness. 

How could you not want to see this?
If you haven't heard of it, don't feel bad: it is not all that well known. Well, not here, at least. You'll find no mention of it on Visor Down or MCN or any other major UK-based motorcycling website. People here aren't into that sort of thing. Or, that's the perception. I often wonder if things that Britons allegedly dislike are actually disliked or simply said to be disliked by the cynical, creatively lazy people in the UK who control the mainstream.

I digress. And certainly if you take a look at the cheerless, middle-aged, shaven-headed, bacon-sandwich-eating, rollie-smoking, worn-leather-onesie-wearing, let-me-tell-you-why-the-1998-Honda-Fireblade-was-the-best-bike-ever-talking numpties that are so prevalent at UK motorcycle shows, it's not hard to imagine that Dirt Quake wouldn't be up their street. That's doubly true of motorcyclists in Wales. Here in the Land of Song, the Suzuki Gladius is king. The Welsh love cheap mediocrity. They are like people of the Appalachia without the good music, interesting personalities, or innate ability to jerry-rig machinery.

It was my frustration with this situation that led to my discovering Dirt Quake. Why oh why, I lamented, did Britain not have things like Mama Tried or Born Free or Wheels and Waves or Deus or See See, etc.? Why, in the country that created the mods and rockers and cafe racers and the Triumphs ridden by Marlon Brando, Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan, Elvis, Steve McQueen and the Fonz, was there no modern "cool" motorcycling culture?

It turns out there is. It's just really hard to find. British subculture is a lot more sub. But with some digging I found out about things like Bike Shed and places like Krazy Horse and, eventually, Dirt Quake. And when I saw the video for Dirt Quake II, I made a vow to myself that I would be there when Dirt Quake III rolled around.

But, as I said above: I won't be there. Firstly, because the guys at Sideburn Magazine (who organise the event) chose to have the event take place on the same weekend that Jenn and I are celebrating our wedding anniversary. Really poor planning on their part, if you ask me.

I had considered trying to convince Jenn to come along, to convince her this would be a fun/funny way to spend our anniversary, and I think I probably could have succeeded (a), but we burned all our money on our recent trip to the United States.

I'm missing all the fun.
So, I won't be there. And I am heartbroken about it. Sure, it falls on an inconvenient weekend, at a time when I have no money, and it would require that I ride to the other side of the country and sleep in a field on a weekend for which thunderstorms are forecast. But that doesn't feel like a good enough excuse. Deep down in my gut, I feel this is something I will really regret missing.

The good news is that it seems likely there will be a Dirt Quake IV. This year's Dirt Quake is big enough to draw Guy Martin as a participant (who said of Dirt Quake: "There's nothing else like it... everything else is like a sea gull following a tractor"). He will be there racing a chopper on the flat track. 

The event has also drawn enough attention beyond the shores of Blighty that there are replica events elsewhere. Back in May, the first-ever Dirt Quake USA took place. (The video of that event makes me think that a pilgrimage to Washington state may one day be in order.) Hopefully, all this bodes well for the future of the event.

And hopefully, next time I will make it. 


(a) Just the other day, she expressed passing interest in getting a scooter. And she has said that when we move to the United States she might get a motorcycle since licensing is easier.


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