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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…

This bike is a pain in the caboose

One of the things I didn't really mention in my review of the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 is that it is, in fact, a large piece of machinery. It is not so huge as a Triumph Tiger Explorer, nor a BMW R1200GS, but is still pretty damned big. Tall and wide, the thing has a lot of presence.

This is a truth that I didn't fully consider until I first got the bike home, discovering it didn't actually fit through the gate into the courtyard where I store the bike. Before even buying the thing I had done several guesstimating experiments to ensure I wouldn't encounter exactly this problem, but I had used my bicycle with a metre stick strapped to the handlebars. With this method, I had determined the V-Strom would definitely fit with some wiggling. I had failed to consider, however, that: a) a bicycle has no steering lock; b) a bicycle doesn't weigh 228 kg; c) a bicycle is not nearly as wide as a crash-bar-laden adventure-styled motorcycle. 

So, when it came time to bring said motorcycle into its new courtyard home, it simply would not fit. It almost, almost, almost fit, but the crash bars were too snug against the gate door's frame. Needless to say, this instigated a certain level of panic within me, exacerbated by my neighbour's friendly but not-really-appreciated attempts to "help."

Ultimately, I decided to use the bike's muscle, angling it to the point of almost making it through, then gassing it. The crash bars ripped a small chunk of wood from the door frame and the bike leapt in. Of course, this wasn't a viable solution to the problem, but I had at least managed to get the bike in and off the street.

A week later, my wife, her brother and I spent our Easter Monday ripping out the old door and frame, then installing a new, wider gate. Doing so afforded an additional 20 cm of width. With hand guards, the handlebars on a V-Strom are still so wide that you have to turn them a bit to get them through a 90-cm opening, but overall there are no more problems.

Well, no more problems getting the bike through the opening. But there were still problems.

The entrance to my courtyard is via a (thankfully) wide pavement -- also known as a sidewalk in the United States -- and immediately next to that pavement is the street (in other words, there is no little patch of grass between the two, as is often the case in the United States). For some silly reason I feel averse to showing you a picture of my house, so here's a Google Street View picture of a house that's nearby, where the situation is the same as my own.

See that brown gate door? Imagine having to navigate a motorcycle through that. Look at the situation closely: How would you do it? 

Well, of course, in ideal conditions, you'd come at the door straight, riding up the curb (bafflingly spelled "kerb" in the UK) and through the doorway. OK, fine. Let's go with that.

If you look closely, you will see that, as with my own situation, there is a step up into the courtyard from the pavement. In my case, that step is 6 inches high. Meanwhile, the curb is 4 inches high. 

The the bikes I've owned have had no issues surmounting the 4-inch curb, but the additional two inches of height on the 6-inch step create too great a challenge. With the Honda I used a folding aluminium ramp to get my bikes into the courtyard. That ramp is 2 feet long. The width of my pavement is just over 7 feet, which is, very conveniently, about the same length as both my former Honda and my V-Strom.

So, anyway, to get the bike into the courtyard, you simply ride (gently) up the curb, onto the pavement, up the ramp and through the doorway. But, looking at the picture above, can you identify a potential issue?

Yes: What happens if there's a car parked in front of the courtyard gate?  

In that scenario, you're not able to come at the gate from head on. Instead, you have to find somewhere else to bring the bike onto the pavement, then walk it to just outside the gate, enduring the incriminating stares of mothers with pushchairs (aka "strollers") who can't stand the idea of your taking up space on the pavement when they so clearly need ALL THE SPACE for their ginormous baby movers. Then you need to pivot the bike 90 degrees, most likely by using the magical side-stand turn technique (here's video of me spinning my old Honda).

But, dude, remember that the bike is 7 feet long. And the space between the gate and the street is about 7 feet. And the ramp is 2 feet long. Which means it extends into the 7-foot space in which you are working. With the Honda, I was able to precariously balance the bike entirely on the side stand and lift the wheels high enough off the ground that I was able to place the front on the ramp. Unfortunately, the nature of the V-Strom's girth and the style of its side stand mean I'm not able to do that anymore. The bike's long-footed side stand would almost certainly snap if I were to try to balance the whole of the bike's weight on it. My side-stand turn is more of a side-stand drag and I am not able to lift the wheels.

What I'm getting at is that I was forced to buy a new ramp. Lower and shorter (and uglier) than my aluminium ramp, this one allows me to line my bike up within the limited space available.

So, getting my bike in and out of the courtyard is a major hassle. But, I've managed to sort everything out. But, hey, Chris, why not add some difficulty once it's in the courtyard?

OK. Yeah, why not?! That'll be fun!

Last weekend, Jenn and I constructed a shed in which to store the bike. Admittedly, this storage solution is infinitely better-looking, more secure and more effective weather protection than the tent-like motorcycle shelter I had been using with the Honda (the V-Strom is too tall for such a shelter).

The shed is 8 feet long and 5 feet wide. It cost me a stupid amount of money to buy, and took Jenn and I roughly two days to build. In part, that was because there were no pictures with the instructions, and said instructions were poorly written. Ultimately, though, it was worth the trouble. The shed is high-quality, has a locking door and affords enough room within that I'll be able to work on my bike even when the weather is poor.

I am already looking forward to that aspect of next winter. I'll run a space heater into there and spend dreary afternoons happily doing maintenance on my bike just because I can.

But what's the theme of this post? That's right: this bike is a pain in the caboose. So, constructing the V-Strom's new shedly home has eaten up a great deal of space. So much so that I am not really able to turn the bike around in the courtyard as I used to. I performed a test run of getting the bike in and out of its new space the other day, and although it was not impossible it was incredibly challenging. So much so that it sapped my desire to take the bike out that day.

So, I am now trying to come up with a new solution. Unfortunately, I fear that will involve spending more money -- something I'm pretty tired of doing as far as this bike's concerned. But, if anyone has any experience with a bike dolly like this one I'd definitely appreciate hearing about your experiences. Is it worth it? Do these things work? Or do they create even more problems to be remedied by spending even more money?

One day, I will get to actually ride my bike, rather than spending all my time making sure I have a place to park it.

Jenn made some curtains for the shed. They are ridiculously cheerful and I like to imagine that when I'm not around, the V-Strom is playing children's board games and singing happy little songs to itself. I  would not be surprised to come home one day to find it having a tea party with teddy bears.


  1. Hi Chris,

    (I hope this isn't a duplicate reply.) Just saying, in this brave new Googleable world, you can't keep folks from finding your house if you post a picture showing the name and phone number of your neighbo(u)r across the street.

    I feel your parking pain, but I've got no solution except to take a sledgehammer to that step. Someone will be along shortly to say "You've got a big trailie; just gas it!"

    1. Yeah, that might work but for the fact that I have to slow the bike to pretty much a stop to contort the bars through the gate opening. So, when I gas it I don't really have the momentum for the rear tire to go up the 6-inch step. Additionally, I have rims, rather than spoked wheels. I prefer rims for easy cleaning, but they don't have the give that a spoked wheel would. So, I'd worry about damaging the rear wheel.

  2. It makes me glad I have a house with a terraced lane at the rear. I have a garage, and even before the garage door was usable I had a side gate also opening onto the lane, which my small 125 (at the time) and even my current MZ ETZ 250 could fit through fine :)

  3. OK this may sound flippant, but can't you just park on the street? My bike has only been in a garage a couple of times, and that's because the place we rented had a garage. If you have street parking, why not use it?
    Sash - The Rude Biker Chick
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    1. Anonymous below sort of answers your question: bike theft rates in the UK are pretty high in certain places. Not so much in Penarth, but I'd prefer not to take the risk. I suspect high theft rates have something to do with the bikes most people in the UK choose to ride, versus those preferred by Americans. My V-Strom weighs 225 kg, which is just shy of 500 lbs. That's a weight that two strong guys could lift, then throwing said bike into a cargo van. That would be much harder to do with, say, an Indian Chief Classic. Meanwhile, resources are such that UK police have little to no interest in recovering such stolen property.

      1) Because of the above, it costs a lot more to insure a motorcycle that's parked on the street.
      2) I don't have designated street parking; I'd have to just park wherever there's space. So, not necessarily in front of my flat or even within eyesight of my flat. And roads in Britain are very, very crowded. Use of the "love tap" in parking is pretty common practice, so parking on the street will inevitably result in your bike being tapped or knocked over.
      3) There's a reason punk music started in Britain: many people here possess a dismissive and almost disdainful attitude toward the concept of individual property. This is exacerbated by alcohol.
      4) I live on a main walking route between a pub and a late-night chip shop. Lots of drunks walk past my flat; I'd prefer not to give them something to play with.
      5) Penarth is relatively low crime, but there have been break ins. I have seen fights in the street. When I had a car, I had someone damage the antennae. We've had kids steal our recycling bins just for fun. So, even if my bike were chained to a lamp-post and under a cover to protect it from the constant rain, I would never really be able to sleep -- fearing constantly that somebody was messing with my bike.

  4. I don't know how bike theft rates are like over in the USA, but leaving a bike unsecured out in the open in the UK is often tantamount to suicide. Learnt it myself the hard way with my first bike, always parked it outside in the street and it was stolen after two weeks. Suffice to say all the bikes after that stayed in the yard out of sight.

  5. Not sure if this would be useful to you, but I just happened across it on the interweb today. Seems pretty clever.

  6. I have similar problems to you in a town centre and have a dolly like you show for maneuvering in a courtyard . It's good provided that you can get the bike centered on it OK and the bike goes up easily onto the centre stand. I suggest that you could keep the bike in the street on and off but cover it. Also fit a tracking device.

  7. Thanks for making my problem of turning my motorcycle around in my garage seem very manageable in comparison!


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