Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Gear News: Fuel Downtown jacket

The main problem about stylish gear aimed at café racer/scrambler/bobber riders is that in order to have The Look you need to compromise on protection. Which is a bit silly, really: you're just as likely to have a moment on your "built, not bought" machine as you are on a high-tech sports roadster (or any other kind of bike, for that matter); and from my own personal experience, road rash is painful. Motorcycle jeans have been around for a few years now, as have casual and more formal footwear options. Motorcycle jackets however, have lagged behind when it comes to combining chic with protection. But with many European countries contemplating legislation making it mandatory to wear proper protective clothing when riding a powered two-wheeler, manufacturers are starting to get the hint.

Helmet? Umm yeah, whatever!

Enter the new Downtown jacket by Barcelona-based Fuel Bespoke Motorcycles. When this handsome garment was brought to my attention by Constance Diaconu of Codi & Co. and Barcelona We Ride fame, my first question was "does it have body armour?" Yes, I admit it: as I get on in years I'm becoming more and more of an ATGATT* bore. When Constance replied that it did have body armour, I decided it was time to take a closer look.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Ride Report: Indian Chieftain Dark Horse

"We have the Chieftain Dark Horse available at our HQ, would you like to ride it?"

It's fairly obvious what the answer to that proposal was going to be. Thus in due course, on an autumn morning that felt more like a spring day, I found myself on the train to La Garriga, the small town some 40 km (25 mi) north of Barcelona where Polaris, Indian's mother company, has its Spanish HQ. Once I had located the business park, a brief ten-minute walk from the railway station, I had no problems locating Polaris España's premises: the matte-black bagger that was going to be my ride for the next six days was already parked in the street, waiting for me to hop on board and rumble off into the middle distance.

A quick visit to the nearby petrol station and it was time to roll. Fire up the big 1800cc V-twin, switch on the radio (which I managed to do more by luck than by design - by the way, I still haven't worked out how one switches it off!), and hit the dual carriageway that snakes past the Montmeló Circuit de Catalunya F1/MotoGP track and on into Barcelona. Getting up to the speed limit, I instantly thumbed the button that controls the electrically adjustable screen and watched as the screen slid back and upwards into its fully-deployed position. That cut down buffeting and wind noise; adopting a slightly more recumbent seating position meant that I was in a pool of quiet air behind the swoopy "batwing" fairing; this was comfortable even with the open-face LS2 Spitfire helmet (read our review here) I was wearing on this mid-November day.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Tech: Cosmo Moto

As a motorcyclist, one of the best things you can do to improve your safety - apart from not riding like a knob, of course - is to make yourself more visible. That means high visibility colours and light-reflective inserts on jackets and crash helmets. Of course, it won't always work, but at the very least if you do get punted down the road by another vehicle, the other driver's standard-issue "sorry mate, I didn't see you" excuse will sound even more pathetic than usual. That said, some motorcyclists roll their eyes at the merest mention of hi-vis this and reflective that; sarcastically suggesting that we should all ride around with a flashing light stuck on our crash helmets.

Well in fact French startup Cosmo Connected do think that having a light on your lid may be a good thing. This company, founded by none other than Romain Afflelou (son of of the owner of the internationally-implanted Afflelou chain of High Street opticians), has developed a device called the Cosmo Moto, which is a sort of supplementary brake light that you fix to the back of your crash helmet.

But calling it a brake light is somewhat inexact and simplistic. Instead of lighting up when you squeeze the brake lever or push on the rear brake pedal, the Cosmo Moto's accelerometers detect when you slow down (either by braking or by rolling off the throttle) and light up the incorporated 24-LED light. The device is also connected to a complementary smartphone app that allows you to customise the unit's functions: as well as the basic configuration, you can choose to have the light on all the time with increased intensity when you slow down, or set it to flash continuously - this configuration can come in handy when filtering, in bad visibility conditions, or as a safety beacon if you're stopped by the roadside or on a motorway hard shoulder.