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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 will probably end in tears

Last week, Jason Fogelson published an article on RideApart about the infamous Iron Butt Association, the worldwide motorcycle "club" where membership is earned by riding a stupidly long distance in a short period of time.

Jason finished his article by stating: "I'd love to be counted among the world's toughest riders. Wouldn't you?"

Yes, I would. And coincidentally, just before I read that article I had signed up to take part in an event that will see me tackling my first-ever Iron Butt ride. If I pull it off, I'll get to claim membership in the Iron Butt Association and, presumably, get a spiffy patch that I can have sewn into an Aerostich Roadcrafter or some such thing.

If I don't pull it off, though, that'll be OK because this will be an Iron Butt attempt with a difference. Unlike most attempts this won't be a lonely affair. I'll be on the road with more than 200 other riders, all helping to raise money for British military personnel as part of the Royal British Legion Riders' 1000 ride.

The Royal British Legion is an organization that helps provide support to current and former military personnel, as well as their families. It's an incredibly active organization and one of its most famous fundraising initiatives is the Poppy Appeal. Folks from the UK will know what that is, but if you're unfamiliar with British culture it's an integral part of life here.

Almost all performers on Strictly Come Dancing incorporate a poppy into their costume in November.

The initiative reaches its peak in the month leading up to Remembrance Sunday (the Sunday closest to Armistice Day). In those weeks, paper representations of poppies are sold in every shop, train station, and main street in the country. And just about everyone pins one to his or her lapel. Turn on the television during that time of year and poppies are omnipresent, worn by everyone from politicians and newscasters to reality show contestants.

Although most visible in the autumn, the Poppy Appeal raises money year round. And it's in support of that initiative that the RBLR 1000 ride has taken place each June since 2009. When I first heard about the event I knew I wanted to take part, if not simply because it's partly organized by the Royal British Legion Riders Branch, a group of motorcyclists — the vast majority of them veterans — helping to support the work of the Legion. And those dudes are awesome.

One of my favorite motorcycling experiences happened when I was amid a throng of Branch riders. Like a lot of people in riding organizations, many Branch riders wear leather cuts bedecked with patches that, if you didn't know better, might make them look somewhat nefarious. I was riding amid a pack of about 10 of these guys when we pulled up at a stoplight and one of them decided to crank up the stereo on the Indian Chieftain he was piloting.

It took approximately half a second before the entire group was dancing along to Taytay's sick beat. Within another half second we had managed to coordinate our moves, a few of the particularly celebratory riders dismounting their bikes and beckoning to people to get out of their cars and join us.

So, yeah, this June I'll be riding with those guys.

As well as members of the UK's Iron Butt Association, who are equally nuts.

Earning an Iron Butt badge in the UK isn't easy—if not simply because the country is less than 1,000 miles from top to bottom. And there are close to 70 million people crammed into it at any given time. Which means you can't just point yourself down a lonely highway and click on cruise control. There are no lonely highways; you have to navigate congested roads through heavily populated cities.

And more often than not you have to do it in the face of British weather. It never gets hot in Blighty and the odds of your riding 1,000 miles without hitting rain are extremely low. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to it. Which is to say that ever since I sent in my entry fee I've been jittery with fear.

I worry I've made a terrible mistake and this whole thing will only end in tears. Or, perhaps snores. I mean, 1,000 miles in 24 hours; I'm the sort of fella who likes his sleep. Still, I feel I'm capable of accomplishing the feat. In part because of a marathon ride I managed last year on a Victory Vision, speeding 685 miles from Milan, Italy, to Rotterdam, Netherlands, in just shy of 15 hours.

The weather on that ride was horrendous — nonstop rain for about 6 hours — but apart from wet boots and gloves I came out of it OK. Admittedly, the Vision is a more comfortable bike than my own Suzuki V-Strom 1000, equipped with heated seats, cruise control and a radio to help fight boredom. 

So, perhaps one of the main things I'll be doing between now and June 11th is working to increase my Strom's levels of comfort. The seat is famously large, but maybe I should do that sheepskin thing. Anyone know if that actually works? Any other tips you want to throw at me, feel free.

I think my main fear in all this is that I'll hit the physical wall in the middle of nowhere. That I'll be riding along in Scotland at 2 a.m. and suddenly realize, "Nope. No more of this. Gotta sleep," and end up trying to grab some shuteye in a rest area that turns out to be a popular spot for dogging.

(If you don't know what dogging is, look it up. Do not look it up if you are at work. Hint: it has nothing to do with dogs.)

As I say, though, it's OK if I don't finish because either way I'll be raising money for a good cause. I've had the pleasure of meeting a number of veterans and current military men and women in my 10 years of living in the UK, and I'm always struck by how friendly and good humored they are. Perhaps, too, I feel a fondness for them because the UK has been such a staunch ally of the United States for more than a century.

And this is the part where I transition into an awkward pitch for donations. As part of my participation in the RBLR 1000, I'm being asked to raise at least £50 (US $70) for the Poppy Appeal. My plan is to simply contribute that amount myself, but I have set up a GoFundMe page to collect additional funds.

Yeah, I know. GoFundMe. It's the site used by Gixxer brahs when they crash wearing no gear and need money to pay medical bills. But, of the crowdfunding sites I'm aware of, it's also the one with the lowest fees. And I want the most money possible going to the Poppy Appeal. Additionally, the site allows donations in different currencies. 

So, if you're reading this in the United States, or Australia or Spain, you can still help out. That is, if you want to. If you don't want to, that's OK. I'm hoping though that the reach of the interwebs can be used to help out some very cool people. All of the money collected will go to the Poppy Appeal. To donate, visit:

(Originally published on RideApart)


  1. Happy Iron butting.... On the show I am host with one of our fellows does IBA rides. I was going to do a 1600km ride, but I gave myself a reality check, its too much for me and I think it would end in tears for me and a very sore body. The sheep skin will make a difference it will help with sore spots. Look at a LD Comfort riding underwear, my iron butt friend swears by it and I think you can order it on line. Good luck.

  2. I know there are countless forums dedicated to Iron Butting. Definitely do your research with those. You may want to contact Steve Johnson, who has done two of them but refuses to send any documentation. It's his anarchy that prevents him from proving it to anyone but himself.
    Curt Carter is a good contact as well, as he has done a couple IB rides.
    As for me, I would never/could never do it, nor do I understand such torture. Just know that while you're riding I'll be binge watching Netflix in bed with a bowl popcorn and a warm puppy.
    Lastly, I'll share the article in my social media so as to hopefully help you raise money.
    Best of luck Crybaby! ;)
    Sash The Rude Biker Chick

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Good Luck Chris! I'm hoping to tackle my first IBA ride this year myself (having postponed it twice already...). You've also chosen a worthy charity! Looking forward to hearing about your success.


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