You don’t need to be a rocket surgeon to know that one-offs float our boat around here. So why stop at the bikes? What about suiting up in custom gear, to go with your custom bike?
Today we’re looking at ways to get unique gear, and the companies that will make it for you. Find out how to create your own one-off motorcycle jacket, how to get leather pants as unique as a snowflake, and how to get a helmet that fits like a glove. It’s a cookie cutter world out there, so let’s stand out.
Custom motorcycle jacket by 55Collection I can barely draw a straight line, let alone stitch together pieces of animal hide. And yet I now wrap myself in a custom leather jacket of my own design. Of course I had help turning my muddled inceptions into a wearable result—but that process was easy. And the finished product, in my own humble opinion, is pretty damned sweet.
Barcelona-based 55Collection is a small but highly skilled collective of leather experts. On top of their own in-house collection of jackets, they have also developed a ‘Custom Works’ program for creating bespoke and tailored examples.
Since I don’t have a degree from Central Saint Martins, I leaned on the work of others to communicate my likes and dislikes. I sent over a few images of jackets that had styling elements I liked, and we morphed things together to develop a design direction.
Personally, I’ve always wanted something similar to Brando’s iconic Schott Perfecto from The Wild One, but wanted mine to have a more modern cut and added functionality. I spitballed ideas back and forth with company founder Aitor Gonzalez and, after a few emails, received a rendering based on 55Collection’s RCK jacket. It ticked my boxes, so I sucked in my gut and asked wifey to wield a measuring tape.
During the construction of my jacket, Aitor checked in with a few ideas and comments. We discussed pocket locations, zippers, textures and finishes, and made a few slight alterations along the way. Roughly six weeks later, my jacket was delivered and I was floored by how well it turned out. It’s since spent most of its time since on my back.
I realize that the design I chose [below] may not work for everyone. Chris thinks I’ve got an Adam Ant thing going on—which may or may not be a compliment—and Wes has stayed uncharacteristically mum. But that’s the beauty of Custom Works: you’re free to let your freak flag fly, as they say.
Personal aesthetics aside, 55Collection are making a stellar product. The stitching, inside and out, is strong and resilient. The leather is supple, smells amazing and feels thick enough to shrug off some rash.
The fitment is near perfect: I would have liked extra length in the arms, but that error falls solely on me. And even with the included D30 armor, nothing looks boxy or out of place. The break-in period was almost non-existent, and it’s stood up well in a myriad of weather conditions—although I did experience a wee bit of the oxblood dye bleeding after a mild soaking.
In the saddle, the sturdy YKK two-way zipper (Aitor’s recommendation) keeps the jacket nicely in place while the added brass snaps at the collar keep me from being smacked at speed. The pockets can be readily accessed with a gloved hand, and the shoulder area has great articulation to allow full range of movement.
The jacket’s insides are covered with a swanky, red satin liner that makes sliding in and out an absolute breeze. The only downside is that the liner is not removable, so things could get warm in summer months—unless you opt for perforations, like I did.
The armor pockets—two at the elbows, two at the shoulders and one at the back—seal with Velcro fasteners. They would be better if they were full length, but D30 bits come as standard for all spots, save for the back.
At roughly US$700 (€600) a custom jacket from 55Collection isn’t exactly inexpensive. But it does fall in line with other, off-the-rack, premium brands. And even if a bespoke design doesn’t interest you, there’s something to be said about wearing a motorcycle jacket that’s been tailored to fit. If you’re in the market, put 55Collection at the top of your list. [Buy]
Custom leather motorcycle pants by El Solitario I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; leather pants aren’t for everyone. But a bespoke set of Rascals from El Solitario M.C. can be pretty sweet.
Unlike the jacket option from their countrymen at 55Collection, the customization process here is limited. If you want something even rarer than the standard Rascals, your task is to sort out the materials (leather or suede) and color ways that float your hide-lined boat. Then they’re applied to El Sol’s tried and true design. Your Pantone choices are near limitless, so it’s good to have something referential if a true color match is your goal. But, as you’d expect from the minds behind The Impostor BMW R nineT, nothing is considered too wild.
The goat hides used throughout are 1.4mm top grain Nappa leather, which delivers a flexible yet durable finish to these retro-inspired riding strides. A small Spanish atelier that runs operations in the neighboring Portuguese woods constructs each pair. A fact that should only be spread sparingly, to secure the finest of drink and wildest of hearts.
The zipped exterior armor pockets at the knees run a touch small for my D30 stuff but readily accommodate other CE-rated curves, and the hips feature additional padding. The leg openings are zipped as well, and finish high enough above the ankle to comfortably fit into a full height boot. Or easily slide over six-inch Red Wings. (If you’re like me and have longer limbs, make sure to ask for added length from the standard sizing.)
There are two zippered, diagonal pockets large enough to stash cash and EDC essentials, and a waistbelt to fine-tune the fit. Also included with the Rascals, whether bespoke or not, is a set of leather suspenders that I find to be the perfect accompaniment for these trousers.
Since the Nappa hides will eventually stretch out a bit, the suspenders should ensure continued fit. And, if you’re like me and find your waistline fluctuating from season to season, it means you can loosen the belt a notch or two without dropping trou.
In warmer climates, the quilted liner may prove to be a little steamy, but ever since fall arrived here in Toronto, I’ve been glad to have them. When the Rascals were first released, that liner was a classic Barbour-style tartan design that I wish still remained, but it’s since changed to plain navy. If you speak up in the early stages of construction, you may be able specify the tartan.
I can’t speak highly enough about the quality of materials used throughout the construction of the Rascal pants. The leather is absolutely flawless, with no variation in tone or texture. And the suede I had chosen for my side panels is as soft as a wolf cub’s belly. These are great leather pants that should last a lifetime, bespoke design or not. [Buy]
Vanguard FF helmet I wasn’t expecting much when I first slid my head into the Vanguard FF helmet. When something is designed and executed to look this pretty, performance usually takes a back seat. And while I won’t be shelving my ICON Airframe Pro or Schuberth anytime soon, I was pleasantly surprised.
Right off the hop and out of the packaging, this thing is gorgeous. The manufacturer is Veldt, based in the Isle of Man, and the Vanguard treatment on my Aluminum loaner model was exceptionally pretty. The carbon fiber shell was clearly visible through the glossy candy-coat, and the ‘aluminum’ portion is actually a metallic paint—but that isn’t a bad thing. Mixing mediums would compromise the structure, and the shell is extremely light as is.
The custom options for the Vanguard FF come in two different forms. First of all, you can adjust the fitment via removable pads in different sizes. If you need more support in the cheeks, front, back, or top of your head, this can be adjusted quickly and deliver a decent feel.
I say ‘decent’ only because my tester unit was an XL/XXL shell size—which is at least one ‘X’ and maybe even an ‘L’ bigger than I typically wear. Despite this, I was able to load up on padding to find a comfortable and stable fit. But make no mistake: that padding is for fine-tuning only. If you’re adding one to the collection, make sure it’s properly sized.
The more visible customization comes from the fact that the FF can go from a full-face to a three-quarter design, by simply unscrewing four titanium Allen bolts. Unlike Wes, I’m not a fan of letting my beard breathe freely at speed, so the modular appeal wasn’t big on me. But there are plenty of riders out there who would enjoy two options with one lid. And if you’re worried about safety, the Vanguard FF is both ECE and DOT approved.
The face shield is also removable, but I have reservations about its performance. It too attaches to the shell via titanium bolts, so the hinged area is not affixed to, well, anything. Those metallic rounds just kind of float in space, and avoid marking the shell thanks to soft touch padding below. The visor design also misses out on having a ratchet-action of any kind. That means it’s either up or down—and once you start moving at speed it’s down, whether you slam it or not.
This made me think the Vanguard FF was going to be noisy and cause lift at high speeds. Well—and here’s the surprising part—it isn’t noisy, and it didn’t lift. At least not compared to other similarly-styled lids. As a benchmark, I rode with my Bell Bullitt for a couple of hours before donning the Vanguard FF. The new kid on block was quieter, and I found less rattle coming from that shield too.
Venting was adequate, with eight different holes cut into the shell design. Those vents can’t be closed though, and even though the visor features a Pinlock design, you may experience fogging issues, depending on temperatures.
As an added option the Vanguard FF can be outfitted with an internal Bluetooth headset from Fusar. My demo unit was so equipped and, despite the lack of lows and mid-range common to most of these devices, the sound was decent. Even on my Thruxton, riding on the highway with its British Customs 2-into-1 race system.
The accompanying handlebar mounted remote is a nice touch, too: otherwise, control comes from buttons on the boom mic, which can be a bitch to get to on the roll.
Pricing on the Vanguard FF starts higher than just about every one of its peers, which may stop many of you in your tracks. But if you see the Vanguard FF (or its Veldt variant) as two helmets, that pill is a touch easier to swallow. If you also opt for the additional Fuser kit, things fall inline a little bit more.
Images: Supplied, Matt Neundorf and C. Merey.
from Bike EXIF http://bit.ly/2zdU38u