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Gear Review: 55 Collection Hard Jacket

Product: 55 Collection Hard Jacket Made in: Barcelona Cost: €480 (US $510) Website:www.55collection.com
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…

Ay up

A stone wall near Grassington
This is Part 2 of my Yorkshire Dales trip. To read Part 1 click here.

One of the strange aspects of British life is that all 64 million of us are crammed into a space no larger than the state of Oregon, but getting around in that space takes an excruciatingly long time. And it feels even longer. As I've said before, the best way to think about it is to add a 0 to whatever distance you intend to travel. So, this 260-mile ride to Yorkshire Dales National Park felt like one that was 2,600 miles long.

By the time I had escaped the northern reaches of Birmingham I was stupid with boredom. Traffic had been slowed to 50 mph thanks to congestion and roadworks. The flow of traffic was steady, so putt-putting along at about 4,000 rpm was doing wonders for my fuel consumption, but it was heavy enough I could not take my eyes off the road. I wasn't able to look at the surrounding countryside, just the Land Rover ahead of me, the impatient Audi behind me, and the various cars we passed as we put faith in the "10% + 6" equation (a).

My knees were aching again and I was having that particularly male issue in which "the boys" refuse to settle. If you are female and don't know what I'm talking about, don't read that sexually. It simply means I was uncomfortable. Doing a full stand-grab-and-adjust manoeuvre is difficult and dangerous when travelling at speed and wearing full gear, so I was left to constantly shift around on my seat.

To keep my mind occupied I had "conversations" with drivers and passengers in the cars around me. They couldn't hear me, obviously, because I was talking in a normal voice with a helmet on and their windows were up.

Also, I spent quite a lot of time wondering whether this trip would be more enjoyable if I were on a BMW F800GT. Or perhaps an R1200RT. A number of the cops I had passed earlier in my journey had been on R1200s and had looked pretty cool. Sure, those things are stupid wide but they have a real presence on the road. And I bet they're a hell of a lot of fun. I bet, too, they'd be more comfortable for Jenn than my existing bike.

This led to the inevitable lament of my not being able to even imagine a time when I could afford such a bike. Jenn and I are severely strapped for cash these days and I've had to dip into some of the savings that I was slowly, slowly accumulating toward a new bike. I try to take solace in the fact that my Honda is still relatively low mileage and is, after all, a Honda. Which means I can continue to ride the thing until Jesus comes back. But that doesn't satiate the emotional need for a new bike. I want a garage full of bikes and I want it now.

Back in the real universe, I pushed on into Lancashire before stopping. Increasingly, I find the north is my favourite part of England. The accents strike me as more engaging than in many other parts of England and Wales –– you enjoy just listening to people speak –– and there are often semi-poetic turns of phrase, such as, "T'wer like suppin' lead," to describe something as difficult.

If you like narrow streets you'll love the Yorkshire Dales.
At Charnock Richard motorway services I supped hot chocolate and put away a piece of lemon cake Jenn had sent along with me. In the last few miles before stopping I had been able to pick up speed and again my right arm had been hurting. I thought of Curt Carter's recent post, posing the question no motorcyclist really wants to consider –– How long will I be able to ride? –– and that again kicked up thoughts about all the different bikes I wish I owned.

I often feel a sense of urgency toward motorcycling: I need to go everywhere now; I need to ride all the bikes now. This comes as a result of my having gotten into things so late. Though I've had my motorcycle endorsement since I was 18, I didn't really start riding until I was 36. Optimistically, that gives me a roughly 40-year riding career, maybe 50 if I stay lithe, keep my brain active and can one day manage to convince myself that a Can-Am Spyder is cool. I guess that's a decent amount of time, but it doesn't feel enough. I lament the 20 years in which I could have been riding but did not.

Back on the road, I was soon zipping along the delightfully open space of the M65. Near Burnley, a Volkswagen Polo came up hard behind me in the fast lane, flashing its lights as it approached. I shifted left (into the slow lane here in the UK) and nodded at the car to go on by. As I did this, though, I twisted the throttle and kept pace. I looked over at the driver and nodded again, as if to say, "No, really, go ahead," and again accelerated to keep pace. I did this a few more times, making grand "Go ahead, after you," gestures but always remaining side by side with the Volkswagen. When we reached 110 mph the car's driver finally got the joke and waved a playful middle finger at me. I waved back and eased up, letting him speed on (b).

Within a few minutes I was off the motorway and into the land of the white rose. God's own Yorkshire. The kingdom of Jorvik. The part of England that is, in a way, the most English and yet unlike any other part of England.

The roads of the Yorkshire Dales made for great riding: lots of curves, relatively well-maintained roads, and good sight lines. I swooped and soared my way to Grassington, where I would be staying the next few nights, all too quickly. When I pulled into the driveway of my B&B, the owner was already out the door and saying hello before I could cut the engine.

"Y'alright Chris?" she said. "Good ride up, was it? Shall I get you a cuppa tea?"

Yorkshire hospitality. I thanked her profusely and started unloading my gear. When I got up to my room, there was a fresh pot of tea and a slice of lemon cake waiting for me. I lingered on these things as long I could. The last part of the ride had offered up some beautiful scenery but I was exhausted.

Honest food: pork belly on black pudding with gravy.
A while later, cleaned up and in comfortable clothes, I walked to the village square to find a pub where I could have dinner. The B&B's landlady had described The Forester's Arms as "a bit worn around the edges but with honest food –– you know, proper portions for a lad."

It was in better condition than many high-end pubs in Wales, but she had been right about the food. I filled up on pork belly and black pudding, the latter of which gets a lot more love in the north than down where I live.

For those of you playing along in the United States, black pudding is a sausage of sorts. There's no meat; it's effectively just oatmeal soaked in pig's blood and stuffed into sausage casing. There's absolutely no way to make it sound tasty, but it's actually pretty good when used in combination with other proteins such as eggs or pork. Washing it all down with a cold beer I started to feel like a proper Yorkshireman (c).

I decided to head out for a walk across the fields south of the village, my belly full and my head spinning from tiredness, happiness, and a few pints of beer. Quietly to myself I had started talking in a Yorkshire accent and commenting on just how beautiful everything was.

Occasionally, I would drift out of the Yorkshire patois and hear my father's voice rising up in me. He loves Britain; I sometimes wonder if I stay here just so he'll have the chance to visit. The late-day sun had turned everything golden and I knew my dad would be going crazy for it.

"This is just so great!" I said aloud, channeling his kid-like enthusiasm. "I mean, gosh! Wow!"

I came to a river and walked along its banks a while, eventually passing an old man out walking his dog.

"Ay up," he said.

I grinned. It was the first "ay up" I had gotten in Yorkshire –– a phrase that's a bit like "howdy" in Texas: a part of speech so iconic it's almost caricature.

You can see why I love it.
"Ay up," I said back.

And we each walked on in the Yorkshire sunset.

To be continued...

____________________

(a) If you are caught speeding at 10 percent of the limit plus 6 mph you can avoid getting points on your license and instead take a traffic safety course. This means that in a 50-mph zone you can try your luck and go 61 mph. In some constabularies, the rule is "10% + 9", but reliable information on exactly which constabularies adhere to this rule is hard to find, so it is best to stick to the lower number. Of course, the even better bet is to simply not speed and save yourself the trouble, which is, of course, what I always do because I'm a good boy.

(b) If you are a member of law enforcement in the UK, please note that this story is totally made up. I always ride according to conditions and never above the national speed limit.

(c) Actually, I suppose a proper Yorkshireman would have been drinking ale, not that Nancy-boy lager stuff they drink in London.

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