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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…

Looking forward to INTERMOT

Bring this bike to the UK, Victory!
For those of us riding in the northern hemisphere, cooler weather is beginning to creep in. Especially in the mornings, some folks are already clicking on their heated gear. Within the next month or two, leaves on trees will change, providing visually stunning riding for those lucky enough to live near a deciduous forest. 

Autumn is a great time to ride, but it brings with it a kind of melancholy because it means the return of what the ancient Celts used to call The Long Dark: winter. Here in the UK, most of us can ride through those months but it is often an unpleasant experience. In other parts of the northern hemisphere, snow will fall, ice will form, and only those with the greatest of derring-do will venture out on two wheels.

Thankfully, this time of year brings us a few things to keep our spirits up: trade and consumer motorcycle shows, where the newest and coolest bikes are most often revealed. 

One such show is Motorcycle Live, which takes place in Birmingham in November. I'm considering going because the event includes the opportunity to test ride a number of bikes whilst also trying out top-level gear. Tickets to the show cost £17 (US $28) and getting there will inevitably mean doing the 125-mile ride to Birmingham in the rain. So, whether I am motivated to go will depend to a certain extent on what happens at a different show: INTERMOT.

One of the world's largest trade fairs for motorcycles, INTERMOT will take place in Cologne, Germany, during the first week of October. The event draws roughly 250,000 visitors and is generally the point when we see a whole host of new models revealed. In the build up to the event there have been all kinds of leaks and rumours, to the extent that I'm half inclined to ride all the way to Germany just to be a part of it.

Maybe next year. Such a trip would require far more planning and money than I have right now, so I'll just have to live it vicariously. In the meantime, here are a few things I'm hoping to see come from INTERMOT:

An ABS-equipped Victory Gunner
I'm probably the only who cares, but Victory are announcing their European 2015 model year line up at INTERMOT. I'd expect it to be pretty similar to the disappointing line up already announced in the United States. But it's worth noting that the 2014 European line up was not exactly the same. The Gunner still hasn't shown up on our shores, whereas we have three different versions of the Hammer (as opposed to one in the United States). Additionally, many manufacturers offer slightly different specs on European models than those sold in the United States. For example, ABS is already standard on all Harley-Davidson machines sold; it will be standard on the Indian Scout when it arrives in March. So, I'd love to see the Gunner finally brought over here -- equipped with the ABS that will be required in the European Union from 2016.

Some sort of magical other thing from Victory
It was about this time last year -- at EICMA, another major European show -- that Harley-Davidson first announced the Street series. That bike, of course, is targeted primarily at audiences outside the United States. If Victory were going to do something incredibly bold and offer a smaller-displacement, liquid-cooled bike, here in Europe might be the place to do it. However, I'd say the odds of such a thing happening are very minimal.

Image of a planned adventure-tourer using the MT-09 engine.
A middleweight Yamaha FJR
I mentioned this in my previous post, but Yamaha is working on two new platforms for the engine currently being housed in the MT-09: an adventure-tourer and something else. I blow hot and cold on such things, admittedly, but lately I've been all hot again on the idea of owning a middleweight sport tourer like the BMW F800GT. But that thing costs too much. So, what I'm hoping to see from Yamaha is a lighter, more affordable version of the FJR1300. Motorcycle cops in the UK are big fans of that bike and I trust their opinion. Although the MT-09 is a disappointment, I am certain Yamaha can still get it right with that three-cylinder engine. INTERMOT may be a little too soon for us to see such a thing, though. So far, I've only heard talk. One would expect spy shots to have been leaked if an actual bike were imminent.

A BMW adventure sport tourer
What are we calling these things? The bikes that, like the Ducati Multistrada, look a bit like offroad machines but are definitely not supposed to be used offroad? I'm not sure of the name being used for them. Nonetheless, there are spy shots of this one and I suspect a German event would be the ideal place for BMW to finally reveal it. I suspect, too, that it will turn out to be a hell of a machine. I'm not terribly hot on the look of adventure and adventure-tourer bikes, but when they are put together well I can't help but respect them. It's a good bet the Beemer will respectable. It will probably also be ungodly expensive and something I'll only be able to admire from afar.

A fleeting glimpse of the new Kawasaki Versys
A revamped Kawasaki Versys
Also spied recently, this time in Romania on what appears to be the site for a promotional video, is an updated version of the venerable Kawasaki Versys. The Versys and Versys 1000 have been around for a while now. Both are top-notch machines by all accounts -- the Versys 1000 especially. It has a whopping good amount of power, a load of bells and whistles, thought-out passenger accommodation, and a pretty agreeable price. But great googly-moogly is it ugly. I mean, even by adventure-tourer standards it's ugly. It looks like it was built by robots. And not even smart robots. The new version appears to have a little more fairing and has done away with the weird death ray headlight. It still looks goofy, but nearly as goofy as it used to.

Something from Suzuki that doesn't suck
I don't really know how things are going in the United States but here in Europe Suzuki is really hurting. In the UK, the company has earned a reputation as the brand of choice for chavs and gypsies, and despite offering massive rebates on its models it is not in the top 10 of motorcycle sales. Reportedly, Suzuki is keen to reverse its dire situation and plans to release at least a dozen new models over the next two years. Perhaps one or two of those will be revealed at INTERMOT. One hopes it will actually be a new model, rather than another reworked Bandit.

Anti-lock brakes on Triumph's Bonneville range
I've fallen out of love with the Triumph Bonneville, especially since learning that its front tire is bias and the rear radial (why?!). But you'll remember that my first real issue with the otherwise beautiful machine is its lack of anti-lock brakes. I'm a stickler on that feature and it annoys me that Triumph has left it off its Bonneville range, i.e. Bonneville, Thruxton, Scrambler, America and Speedmaster. Whereas it is available on all other Triumph models. Although I've cooled on the Bonneville I am still very much in love with the Speedmaster (which receives normal radial tires on both front and rear). With only a year left before the European Union requires it, and several years having passed since the Bonneville range received any real updates, I'm hoping Triumph will be announcing it has extended ABS to all its models.


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