The Thruxtonian would like to wish our American friends a happy Independence Day!
Thursday, 13 June 2013
Back in mid-May we introduced Biltwell’s new-for-2013 Gringo full-face helmet, saying that we hoped to bring you a full test sometime in the near future. Well thanks to the guys from Biltwell in California, we’ve been able to put a Gringo through its paces and give it a few appropriate prods, pokes and sniffs to see just how well built it is (see what I did there?).
I don’t think I’ve ever been so impatient for the postman to deliver a helmet-sized parcel. When it finally landed on my desk here at Chateau Thruxton, I was like a kid on Christmas day, hastily opening the box to see what was inside. As I unboxed the helmet, I was struck by how light the package seemed to be; indeed at one point I wondered if the lads from Murrieta had mistakenly shipped out an empty box! But indeed there was a Gringo in there, much to my delight and relief. I have yet to actually weigh it, but it is much lighter than my X-Lite X801-RR, despite not having a carbon fibre shell.
Another thing that surprised me pleasantly was the colour. In the photographs I had seen, the flat titanium colour looked a bit dull and boring, but the photos don’t do it justice because in the flesh it is really fantastic. Combined with the total lack of branding, it gives the helmet an air of sophisticated, sleek minimalism. And just like the metal it’s named for, the paintwork seems to change hue slightly depending on how the light falls on it. In a word, classy.
Moving along to the inside of the crash hat, we find a black brushed Lycra lining with orange stitching and two orange mesh inserts on the crown. The lining is also where Biltwell have chosen to place their branding with a neat looking tag sewn onto the rearward part of the liner. There again, everything is spot on, giving the Gringo the look and feel of a helmet twice its price from one of the “big name” brands. The only criticism I can make is that the lining isn’t detachable so that you can hand- or machine-wash it. The cheek pads are detachable, but that’s more to be able to renew them when they get old and worn. Perhaps this is a point that Biltwell could take into consideration for next-gen Gringos. One interesting touch is the quilted padding on the inside of the chin bar, also done in black brushed Lycra with orange stitching. It’s a totally gratuitous but nonetheless very pleasant touch.
Anyway, that’s enough greasy fingerprints on the helmet, let’s put the damn thing on and go burn some rubber! For the dynamic test, I tried it out in various configurations: without a visor and wearing sunglasses, with a bubble visor, with goggles and finally with the tinted visor from my trusty Airborn open-face lid.[...]
Tuesday, 28 May 2013
What a way to start serious proceedings in the first proper practice session of this year’s Isle of Man TT. Unfortunately I’m not talking about fantastic course conditions or blistering lap times. No, Monday evening’s practice session was one of those moments that you wish had never happened.
The weather had been bad all day and, as the practice session drew nearer, there was much debate about whether or not to go ahead with the evening's proceedings. It was cold and wet, the roads were beyond damp and as if that wasn’t enough, mist was announced on the mountain. Nonetheless, the roads closed pretty much as per schedule and, just before 7 PM local time Clerk of the Course Gary Thompson announced that the session would go ahead, albeit untimed and only for Superstock and Supersport bikes.
Despite the adverse conditions, speed trap times were pretty good, particularly from the top riders: John McGuinness and Cameron Donald both posted speeds of 174 mph through the ‘trap and later, Dan Kneen upped the mark to 184 mph. Meanwhile, Chinese rider On Jai was finally able to do his first laps of the Mountain Course behind Richard Quayle; the Chinese entrant was unable to take part in Saturday’s newcomer session due to an electrical fault on his machine. Brandon Cretu, for his part, had a rather embarrassing moment when he dropped his bike just out of the start gate; however he took that one on the chin in fine style, even posting a humourous tweet about it on Twitter.
However, all the mirth was soon knocked out of the evening. At around 7:30 PM the session was red flagged after an incident at Ballacrye. News later came through that 43 year-old Yoshinari Matsushita, riding for the Tyco Suzuki team, had unfortunately lost his life during the accident. Ironically, just a couple of hours before, the Tyco Suzuki paddock area had been all smiles as Hector Neill and “Yoshi”, as Matsushita-san was known to everyone, posed for an official photo session. Although Yoshinari Matsushita had been racing on the island since 2009, this year’s TT was his first ride for one of road racing’s top teams. The Thruxtonian would like to extend its condolences to Matsushita-san’s family and friends, as well as to the Tyco Suzuki team: Hector and Philip Niell strike me as being of that rare breed of team owner/managers who consider their riders as “part of the family”, so one can imagine that this tragic loss will have affected them profoundly.[...]