In Gear Guide #62 we review the classic Bell Custom 500 helmet, the Helstons Cruiser jacket in dark blue and the latest messenger bags from British firm Kriega.
Helstons Cruiser jacket - Blue
I've never been a huge fan of black leather and usually plump for a tan or brown where possible but in a bid to add a degree of flamboyance to the wardrobe I threw caution to the wind and ordered this blue Cruiser, from French outfitters Helstons. Having tried a range of their clobber recently we're really impressed with the quality and attention to detail.
First off I like the slightly retro styling, just enough quilting and ribbing to break up the slightly more gregarious colour choice. This is a medium, but cut for a Englishman who drinks ale with a handle and doesn't trim fat off a steak. It fits perfectly, with or without the liner and once this tremendous summer departs I'll be able to fit a thick jumper underneath. This is one of the only jackets I've tried of late that is of this cut. Most seem to be for sleek European Pernod sippers who enjoy the snugness of slim fit shirts from Zara. I'm no fatty or gym bunny, but do hate constrictive shoulders and elbows. The Helton's Cruiser fits like, a glove I suppose.
The long arms culminate in excellent cuffs, the ergonomic zips easily manageable with gloves on. Ride open and tucked inside for sunny days or zipped-up and gloves over to block out the evening chill. Obvious, but button cuffs and other fiddly nonsense don't feature here. Pockets are plentiful and all lined with thick yet soft cotton, sunglasses can be shoved in without fear of scratching. The collar doesn't chafe and thankfully the fastening strap can be secured and doesn't flap about.
The blue is not uniform and has been treated with a patinating coating which usually has me running a mile. But after two rainstorms, in which I remained totally dry, the finishing sheen has dulled and the leather is breaking-in nicely and looks the business. With the liner, on a 13 degree evening I rode for two hours with only a t-shirt underneath and the wind didn't even stand a chance of cooling me off, and I'm a snake! It's made of cow and has proper, well positioned CE armour throughout, including a decent length, non-quasimodo back protector, the latter barely noticeable. It'd be a shame to scuff the lovely blue leather but it feels like you'd be well protected if you wanted to have a go. I won't ride in flimsy gear and it surpassed my expectations and requirements. Hopefully I don't see the black or brown versions anytime soon as I think I'd want one of each. Dear Santa.... Review by Ross Sharp
Bell Custom 500 helmet
I had always been a full face man. The anonymity and security they afford had invariably tipped my head away from the open face shelf. But with high anticipation of the 2012 Distinguished Gentleman's Ride
I ventured to my local shop and bought the cheapest open face lid in stock. It was a piece of tat with all the protection of a cloth cap but it taught me one thing, open face rules. Wind on the face, unparalleled vision and the potential to interact with the rest of the world, city riding has been open faced for me ever since.
Bell's Custom 500 is the definitive open faced lid, Bell pretty much invented the modern motorcycle helmet back in the fifties and the Custom 500 maintains many of those early styling cues while benefitting from modern construction techniques and full CE safety approval. It is a quality piece of kit a world away from my first open faced ventures. As soon as you open the box to reveal the luxuriously lined helmet bag you know you are dealing with a class item. The details and fixtures are all beautifully executed, from the perforated and quilted lining to the red leather embossed tab on the double D ring closure.
There are colours available to suit all tastes, I plumped for the matte grey option. The finish is beautifully smooth and tactile, tempting you to get creative with the brushes or sharpies but for now it is too damn nice to deface. Of course none of this matters a jot if it doesn't function on the bike. It is confusingly quiet for an open faced lid and doesn't lift at speed as others I have owned have been inclined to do, as with all helmets the fit is key and this Bell definitely suits my noggin. No corners have been cut here with judicious placement of extra padding, the Custom 500 comes in five different shell sizes which helps maintain the helmet's low profile whatever size you come up at.
I have been running the helmet with either sunnies or a flip-up bubble visor, but there are a plethora of visor and goggle options to style the helmet and protect your eyes, a low down of the options will follow in an upcoming Gear Guide. Price is often a pointless discussion, with one man's pocket money being another's weekly wage, but with this lid price is truly relevant. One hundred and thirty quid for an item of this quality and heritage is a bloody bargain by anybodies standards, why I wasted so much time in supposedly cheap rip offs I will never know. Get the original - you won't regret it. Review by Gareth Charlton.
Kriega Messenger Bags - Urban & Sling
Much like the motorcycles that compel our attention a lot of the kit in our scene harks back to a simpler age. Wax cotton, leather, and denim abound in a predominantly gore tex free world. But like every other square eyed screen gazer of this world we are ever more reliant on our tech and the fear of losing a laptop to an unexpectedly soggy ride with a cool but useless canvas bag was starting to creep. So when the latest issue of Sideburn
landed, featuring two new messenger bags from british firm Kriega, the ultimate manufacturer of functional motorcycle luggage, our attention was piqued.
The 16 litre Urban
and 8 litre Sling
feature all of the technical excellence you would expect from a Kriega bag in a pleasingly simple looking package. They are 100% waterproof with a roll top closing on the main compartment and a YKK water resistant zipper on the easy access side pocket. Both bags also feature the inspired CNC adjustable shoulder buckle and a removable waist strap. The size of our apples dictated the bag distribution with me and my 12 inch taking the sling and Ross with his 14' going for the Urban.
Ross: "The patented strap release is the real icing on the cake for me. Ever put your lid on having forgotten to put a normal courier bag over your shoulder? Pain in the ass and infuriating. Of equal annoyance is forgetting something buried in your bag just before setting off. With the Kriega strap release you can flick it up, drop the bag to your side, swing it around and bingo, the waterproof pocket is right there, the zip ready to be opened by your free left hand. The Kriega desingers have been inside my head on the angriest of days. Thanks guys, I’ve got 99 problems but my bag ain’t one."
Everything has been thoroughly thought out, the back of the bag is a super grippy material to stop it swinging around on your jacket, the waist belt is removable for shorter journeys, the lining is white for clarity of contents and removable for washing, the attention to detail is relentless. If you haven't already guessed it, we are huge fans of these bags, if your daily carry is in need of better protection as the short summer swiftly recedes, you will not go wrong with either of these brilliant packs from Kriega. Check out the Kriega website
for the full details and their excellent technical videos. Review by Gareth Charlton & Ross Sharp