Skip to main content

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…

Thoughts on the Kawasaki Vulcan S

Here's a question: Is a Harley-Davidson a cruiser, or is a cruiser a Harley-Davidson? In other words, which is the Form?

In Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy there is the concept of the Form: that all things and, in fact, concepts, have Forms which are the "true" representation of their reality. So, for example, imagine if I were to show you a picture of a beagle, then a whippet, then a dalmatian, then a poodle, and thereafter ask you: "What did I just show you?" 

Your answer might be, quite simply: "Pictures of dogs."

In this case, "dog" is the Form. It is the thing that all the other things are in their essence. We have in our minds an idea, an understanding of what a dog is and we are able to apply it to thousands upon thousands of images despite the fact these images can vary greatly. 

So, again: is a Harley-Davidson a cruiser, or is a cruiser a Harley-Davidson? Which is the "true" thing? Which is the Form and which is the representation of the Form? 

More specifically, what is the Form of a cruiser? Is it a motorcycle, or is it a Harley-Davidson? My instinct, of course, is to claim the former –– that a cruiser is a type of motorcycle and that a Harley-Davidson is a type of cruiser.

But it seems a whole hell of a lot of people believe the latter. You can see this in internet forums and website comments sections; read between the lines of criticisms of, say, an Indian Scout and you will see many critics are just upset because it doesn't look/perform enough like a Harley-Davidson.

It's important that you have a solid grasp of what you believe (and belief is really all it is since even the Form of "motorcycle" can be questioned by the advent of things like the Can-Am Spyder), because it will dramatically temper your interpretation of machines like the newly announced Kawasaki Vulcan S. If you are of the camp that believes Harley-Davidson is the Form, and therefore to make a cruiser is to make a truckling homage to Harley-Davidson, you probably won't like the new Vulcan S.

Personally, I do like it. To me, this bike is really interesting and part of what seems like an exciting movement in the cruiser genre to push away from the old thinking in which Harley-Davidson is the Form. Interestingly, Harley-Davidson itself is part of that movement, but I'll get to that in a second.

The Vulcan S was announced rather suddenly a while back at the AIM Expo in Orlando, although a few websites, like Biker News Online, had picked up rumours of its existence about a month earlier. Those rumours were quite excited because the Vulcan S is powered by the same 650cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine that can be found in the Kawasaki Ninja 650 and Kawasaki Versys 650. And as such, it delivers roughly the same amount of power as is enjoyed on those bikes.

On the surface, taking a platform that has existed for years and dressing it up as something else doesn't sound terribly revolutionary, but such is the overly conservative nature of the cruiser world. For decades, manufacturers held to the idea of a Harley-Davidson as the cruiser's Form. Which, if you think about it, was a really stupid thing to do for everyone who wasn't Harley-Davidson (or, perhaps Triumph); you can't out-Harley the Harley-Davidson Motor Company. If you're any other manufacturer and you're setting out to create a Harley-Davidson you're inherently going to fail.

And even when companies appeared to be breaking from the same old routine, such as when BMW made the R1200C, they weren't really –– still adhering to the Form ideas of a cruiser as heavy, underpowered for its engine size, and expensive.

But in the quite recent past, we've seen a small movement to make cruisers that are lighter, less expensive, and that deliver more power with smaller engines. To my mind this started with the Honda CTX700N, a bike that looks as if it was designed to be used in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Which is to say, it looks as if someone in the 1990s was trying to imagine what cruisers would look like in the future.

Next to lift its head was Harley-Davidson itself, with the Street 500 and Street 750 models. To me, though, these bikes look a little confused. It's as if Harley-Davidson wasn't prepared to commit to the idea of a motorcycle that looked like anything other than a "traditional" Harley-Davidson.

I think the look of the Vulcan S is the best of this new school. Its headlight takes a little getting used to (it reminds me of Cobra Commander's face shield) but once you break from the emotional need for a round headlight on a cruiser you can see that it fits the overall look and feel of the bike.

With its engine set to produce 61 hp, the new Vulcan S will deliver roughly the same amount of power as the Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200. It will have anti-lock brakes and a few other modern touches, such as its digital dash, but the thing that really strikes me is that the ergonomics will be highly adjustable. Moving the pegs and seat to a variety of combinations will, Kawasaki says, allow the Vulcan S to accommodate a large spread of heights. And Kawasaki says these ergonomic adjustments will come at no additional cost.
I also like that the exhaust is placed underneath the bike, creating a little more space for lean and lessening the chance of the rider or passenger burning his or her leg, a la Road Warrior Animal in SummerSlam 1992.

In the United States, the ABS version of the Vulcan S will be priced at $7,399 (and £5,899 in the UK), which still puts it at $100 less than the H-D Street. The latter bike offers less power and does not (yet) have an ABS option. Considering the half-hearted reviews the Street has received so far I think the Vulcan could stand out as the king of this little group of sub-800cc liquid-cooled machines.

However, although I definitely like the concept of the Vulcan S and will certainly make an effort to test ride one as soon as it arrives in UK dealerships, there is not really anything about the bike that makes me think: "I need this in my life."

But that is generally how I feel toward Kawasakis. There's just something about them that feels a little "meh" to me. Great bikes, without doubt –– along with the Vulcan S, I'd love to be given a Z1000SX or Versys 1000 or 1400GTR –– but they aren't really bikes that make me want to spend my own money.

My hope, though, is that the Vulcan S and the Street models and even the dog ugly CTX700s will succeed. I think these are machines that can help widen the appeal of motorcycling just a little more. And I hope, too, that their success would draw Yamaha into the field, making use of its fantastic MT-07 platform.


  1. Dont forget the Honda DN-01 from 2008. I think that is what spawned the CTX series.

  2. The "traditional" motorcycle market is aging out and the industry needs to find new blood. A few years ago scooters were all the rage and many of those riders are moving towards bigger machines, however they also don't want the power and expense of some of the traditional motorcycle forms you speak of. So we see an emergence of the "mid-class" cycle. The 500 - 750cc which is perfect for either city or highway life. While the idea of a "automatic" has still not caught fire in the motorcycling world, I believe it's only a matter of time before more and more bikes have an automatic transmission. Your witnessing a slow but steady change in what a motorcycle can be.

    1. This bike has an automatic gearbox? is there a manual option? if not that might just kill it for me.

    2. It's equipped with a 6 speed manual which is almost unheard of in this class of cruiser.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Ride review: Harley-Davidson XL 883 L (aka Sportster SuperLow)

Yes, as a matter of fact, it is like riding a tractor.
That's the criticism so consistently levied against Harley-Davidson motorcycles: that there is something agrarian to the experience. And I can now say from personal experience that all those critics are right. But I can also say those critics are leaving out a key piece of information, which is this:
It's a tractor that hurtles forward with roller-coaster intensity, a tractor that goes really fast, a tractor that makes you feel like Brock Lesnar in a children's ball pit. A tractor from the Land of Bad-Ass, with which you can sow the seeds of awesomeness.
But let me back up a bit...
A few days ago, I decided to take the day off, solely for the purpose of getting a chance to ride around and finally make use of the free breakfast coupon sent to me by Thunder Road. As I was gearing up, I suddenly decided that since I was already heading west, I might as well push a few miles further and che…

Ride review: Yamaha XV950 / Star Bolt

Imitation, Charles Caleb Colton famously noted, is the sincerest form of flattery. If that's true, the flattery the Harley-Davidson Iron 883 receives from Yamaha's XV950 is enough to make one blush. Put the two bikes side by side, and the inspiration for the latter is undeniable. Yamaha claims its bike has a "new neo retro Japanese look," but that's clearly just nonsense –– lorem ipsom that was used instead of "totally looks like a Harley-Davidson Iron 883."
Certainly the XV950 –– known as the Star Bolt in the United States –– isn't the first example of a Japanese OEM adhering faithfully to the styling cues of America's best-known motorcycle manufacturer. The orthodox members of the Church of Jesus Harley Latter-day Davidson write these bikes off as "wannabes," and tend to be pretty dismissive of anyone who would dare consider purchasing one. But I'm going to commit blasphemy here and tell you that the XV950 is unquestionably the …

Ride review: Triumph Bonneville

"OK," I said. "I want one." "Well, you know, maybe you should ask your wife first." "She loves Triumphs," I said. "Still, Chris. You should give it a think. Go home, discuss it with your wife, give yourself a chance to think clearly. After all, this is one of Triumph's most popular models; there's plenty of stock available."
The voice of reason in that conversation was Drew, the salesman at Bevan Motorcycles. He was doing his best to talk some sense into me after my test ride of the 2014 Triumph Bonneville. I was wild-eyed and yammering like a teenage boy who has touched boobies for the first time. This, my friends, is what the Bonneville does to you. It is an instantly rideable, instantly enjoyable, instantly lovable motorcycle that surprises you in just how good a simple motorcycle can be.

The Bonneville, of course, is a storied machine that's been around in one form or another for 55 years. It is a classic. Partially b…