Finally the Bell Bullitt has arrived at our shores, and the BSMC crew got their grubby mits on one of the first. Also reviewed in this week's Gear Guide is leather from ELMC, womens biker boots from Chippewa, Filson packs and more great leather goods from Chester Belter.
PRODUCT REVIEW BY THE BIKE SHED’S RICHARD GUNN - THE BELL BULLITT
The Bell Bullitt probably doesn't need much of an introduction and since the legendary nogging box producers teamed up with young designer Chad Hodge last autumn I've had my beady eye on one. Based on the original Bell Star it comes in five colour ways with flat and bubble visors available in five finishes each and a removable liner.
Retro styled full face helmets are about as rare as rocking horse sh!t, I can think of four and out of these its only really the Bullitt that covered all my needs. I ride every day, all year round, all weathers, in town and on the motorway and really wanted a safe, stylish full face with a moving visor. I've pulled up at enough lights in the cold months and fogged up my snap on visor ending up blind and looking like some heavy breathing pervert!
The Bullitt is light and super comfy. Designed to suit more of an oval shape than the traditional round head of a lot of Bell styles (so I'm told) it suits me fine. I have a slimmish shaped oval head and can find even with the correct size that I get a slight hot spot at my forehead. If you get a similar fit front to back its worth noting that its likely you're going to feel the poppers for the handy removable liner on your forehead. I mean REALLY feel them, but I sorted this with about 30 seconds of softening the area with my thumbs. Now its like a glove! My head measurement is about 59cm which is at the top end of a size large, its a comfortable fit and I'd say the helmets are a fairly true, if a little snug, size fitting.
The visibility is exceptional for a full face, its like wearing a 3/4 helmet and its well streamlined at motorway speeds, which my neck loves! However, with such a large visor when its fully open the wind drag creates a whistle approaching 30 mph (I have this with an Arai helmet but this is more pronounced) but with the visor ajar I didn't have that issue even around 50mph. I've heard this doesn't happen with the bubble visor fitted but I am yet to try this.
The one thing I'd change personally is the chin bar, styled on on the 70's era its hit the mark there but not quite my taste and combined with their efforts to keep the profile as low as possible it does give the helmet a very vertical shape from the front which makes it look like something from my Lego box . This wide bar also creates a bit of wind noise over 70mph (under 77mph though obvs!) unless the base of the helmet is reasonably horizontal and more streamlined, then its fine.
I am really happy with the helmet, the styling is great (I know its marmite for a lot of people), and the fit and finish are superb. Also, for the price I think its a good buy, a well made safe helmet with the styling that costs a third of a Ruby. I'm always hesitant to spend less than about £200 on a helmet anyway, brains don't get better easily and and I'll take all the help I can get with mine! With our helmet laws holding up deliveries for months and sales elsewhere soaring limited stocks arrived in the UK with the next deliveries not arriving til October if you want one grab one sharpish. I can definitely recommend them.
PRODUCT REVIEW BY THE BSMC’S VERY OWN LITTLE BIG NOISE, VIKKI VAN SOMEREN - 11” BLACK ODESSA WOMENS STEEL TOE CAP ENGINEER BOOT
What does every Native American biker chick need in London? Yep you got it, a pair of Chippewa boots straight out of Wisconsin. Established since 1901, Chippewa products use premium raw materials and are hand crafted in the USA.
I opted for a pair of the Odessa Steel Toe engineer boots, well its hazardous on the streets of London and very handy to kick any little oik’s arse who might try to steal my ride. (and buses - ed.)
Original Chippewa is credited for inventing the Engineer style boot. An engineer boot, if you were wondering is all-leather tall stovepipe shaft pull-on boot with buckled leather cinches at the ankle and knee.
They are a serious bit of kit, extremely well made and perfect for the dodgy London weather. The leather is firm but soft if ever a contradiction, with a slight waxy texture and lots of stitch detail. They are a bit of an investment, but the quality really does shout out and they are certainly made to last.
Outlaw biker films of the 1950s made Chippewa Engineer boots a famous motorcycle icon. The classic 11" Engineer with Logger Heel and exterior counter was first introduced in 1940. The boots' lace-less tall shaft adds maximum protection to foot and shin while on the road.
The very helpful lady at Chippewa advised I got a size 7m (USA) which is a 4.5 UK. They are a tiny bit loose, but perfect for those winter socks and the length is spot on too. The steel toe is great forchanging gear and is 35% lighter than your regular steel toe!
So loads of technical stuff to tell you; thick sole, waterproof, breathable lining, electrical resistant and solid steel on the outer and inner sole. Just incase you were worried about my protection out there.
All in all, I bloody love them. They look great, feel good and when riding around the dangerous streets of London, they provide protection… on more than one level.
PRODUCT REVIEW BY THE BSMC’S IAN HEARTFIELD - THE FILSON TIN CLOTH PACK
Getting the right size (and look) for a rucksack is a tricky business. It took me months of browsing, measuring and badgering of fellow Shedders before settling on this, the Filson ‘Tin Cloth’. But then I am a fussy bugger.
For years I’ve been making do with a Manhattan Portage shoulder bag for my daily commute. It was a good size for waterproofs and a laptop, and could accommodate more stuff as and when required. But when more was asked of it, the shoulder strap thing became a right pain. Literally. So I decided I needed a decent looking, two strap rucksack jobbie to spread the load.
I owe the Filson shop find to the guys behind the counter at the new(ish) Red Wing shop just off Carnaby Street in Soho. Thanks chaps. As soon as I walked through the Filson door and saw and smelt the goods, I knew this was the right brand. The quality oozes from every buckle and stitch. And they’ve been around forever which is always a good sign.
I very nearly walked out with one of their traditional rucksacks, but at the last moment spotted the Tin Cloth which is a much better size for what I need it for. Big enough, but not too big. I’ve had it about three months now, and I absolutely love it. It feels great to the touch and sits nicely on my back, whether I’m hunched over the clip-ons of the Sport Classic, or cruising upright on the Monster. The straps are surprisingly comfortable too considering how thin they are. I can’t vouch for the waterproofness of the 12.5oz oil finished cotton yet, as I’ve somehow managed to avoid the recent downpours. But I’m pretty confident it’ll keep the worst of it out.
But lets be honest, this is as much about the looks as anything else, and all I can say is non-biking soho types have commented on this bag as much as bikers. And that’s a good thing in my book as I continue the quest for one outfit that works just as well off the bike, as it does on it.
Ok, these bags are definitely not cheap. But my god they’re built to last. One gorgeous looking bag that will get better and better over a lifetime? Or half a dozen cheap and cheerfuls? No contest.
ELMC - WINDWARD JACKET
For 30 years Eastman Leather Clothing have specialised in reproducing high-quality, authentic, wartime military issue flight jackets, mainly of American heritage. Garments that are “....absolute authentic recreations from that period.”
They have also produced a number of heritage garments from civilian life, including motorcycle clubs and road culture. These garments served as the inspiration for ELMC.
The Windward is taken directly from a 1940s original. Originally produced by one of America's traditional 20th Century greats - Montgomery Ward - it exudes quality in material and design from every seam.
Neat American top-stitched seams to the side-panels and inside facings are exactly as per the original. This style of seaming (often faked by just two rows of normal flat-bed sewing) requires a special machine (an original 1940s Union Special in this case), which covers from underneath, allowing the seam to be folded out flush, but keeping strength, thus giving the garment a very tidy and smooth finish.
The outline pocket is piped inside with leather, not cloth cord, which in turn is sewn with an American top-stitch to hold securely. The quilted lining (which runs through body and sleeves) is 100% rayon-satin, backed with a 3mm 100% wool fill - not polyester, or other such synthetic hollow-fill - allowing it to breath, thus giving a true glowing warmth, and not a trapped hot one. The cut is reasonably close when zipped up, making it perfect for motorcyling or other open-air road pursuits - the sewn-in half belt around the back holds the garment snug into the small of your back helping to ensure the drafts don't get in.
Gary at ELMC has spared no expense in the sourcing of materials and quality manufacturing. Nothing is mass-produced or made in countries commonly known for high-volume. ELMC are made either in the UK, Japan or the US, and even then, only from high-quality low-volume producers.
All of the materials and components in the jackets are produced to the highest degree of quality and authenticity possible. The leather and sheepskin garments are naturally all made at their factory in Devon. The hides are custom made exclusively for ELMC, nothing is from off-the-shelf merchants. They work directly with the various tanneries, many of which are in Italy, and thus the hide has the quality and character exactly as they require.
The Windward is an outstanding jacket built for purpose. It’s not armored, (nor were the originals) but the abrasion protection is high. This jacket will last a lifetime and some.
PRODUCT REVIEW - CHESTER BELTER REG BELT
Now my colleagues at the Shed routinely take the piss out of me for allegedly colour coordinating. Blue Hedon lid with my Blue Commando, tan leather jacket with a the tan seat on my SR. So imagine their delight when I rocked up on my red framed CB750 sporting my new Chester Belter Reg belt. An accidental coordination I maintained.
I actually don’t care what they think, one of the joys of getting to my age. But what I do care about is old fashioned, homegrown craftmanship, which is what Rich is all about with his one man handmade outfit Chester Belter. A self taught craftsman, Rich makes everything by hand in his West London studio.
Everything he turns his hand to is ridiculously over engineered, producing stunning and hardy goods, whether a belt, a key fob (yes I got one of his Norton fobs) or tool rolls. He also makes terrific lanyards and wallets.
Rich also makes belts in black, brown and tan, in a number of different designs. All of them simple, tough and elegant.