For the first Gear Guide to come out of our Shoreditch home we feature a shop floor favourite, the Twin jacket from Helstons alongside a fine pannier from our friends up north at Down & Out Cafe Racers and a beautiful custom painted DMD Rocket helmet from Italy.
Helstons Twin Jacket
I’ve been shamelessly flirting with numerous jackets in what seems an epic quest to find a quality all-round jacket that covers all my needs. I ride everyday, year-round and whatever the weather. With the majority of that being trips around London the need for alpine touring clobber isn’t necessary but it does need to be balanced by a level of weather hardiness and presentability that means I can stroll into work without looking like Pete Doherty after a heavy Glastonbury weekend.
What I immediately liked about the Helstons Twin was the simplicity of the styling; there are no extra panels or stitching cluttering up the design. There are nice details though, such as the double adjuster buckles at the waist and the extra padding with diamond stitch at key wear areas that add texture to what might otherwise be a heavy silhouette. The jacket sports two external pockets and two internal ones; perfect for keeping your phone and fags dry should God decide to rain on your parade. Combine all this with the waterproof membrane, an impressively warm (and removable) thermal liner and a set of proper CE armour (at shoulders, elbows and back) and I was sold!
The mandarin collar gives it a smarter touch compared to my traditional biker jacket and is deliberately cut low enough to allow plenty of head movement without choking yourself on it mid corner as if Christian Gray has slipped a dog collar on you. You’ll still have to visit Madame Spanky in Soho for that kind of discomfort because this jacket is well thought out. There are plenty of other well thought through details such as the long arm length, leaving your wrists covered when you reach onto the bars. Chunky YKK zips throughout are easy to work with gloves on without an explosion of expletives, and at the cuffs you can fasten them under the leather tabs to prevent scratching up your pride and joy. The A-symmetric main zip gives you an oversized flange: that’s not something you’ll need to see the doctor about but it will reduce the wind rushing onto you straight through the zip.
Helstons, a French company from Franceland, have been well known for their bike gear and expertise in leather working for decades and they show this here with a heavily laundered bovine hide that gives the jacket a vintage appearance and a lovely suppleness usually compared to a babies backside. The Twin jacket is cut to the same fit as the original race jackets from the 70’s giving it a longer length and making it slightly more fitted on the trunk. With the extra parts of the armour and liner fitted it felt tight and I was initially unsure of the correct size for me. Match the jacket to fit to your shoulders and after a short wear everything will soften up nicely and fit perfectly.
All in all the Twin Jacket fits and performs great and I love the toned down styling. I’ve been a fan of Helstons gear for a while now and with a few of us in the ‘Shed having various bits of their gear we’re continually impressed with their quality, attention to detail and styling.
Reviewed by Rich “The Slinger” Gunn
If you are local come on down to 384 Old Street to try it out for yourself or if you dwell further afield see it on our web shop.
Down & Out Saddlebag and Rack
Sometimes you have just that little bit too much to stuff to take on a ride, and it leaves your jacket pockets bulging or gets crammed into too small a space under the seat. You could always take a rucksack or courier bag?, but if like me you are looking for a more stylish solution that stays on the bike, then the boys at Down & Out have an answer.
This nifty little canvas and leather saddlebag which is mounted to a custom made stainless steel rack and provides a very handy bit of storage space. The bag itself is a robust heavyweight canvas item, lined in leather and with nice leather strap fasteners, trim and loops. Inside it is divided into four sections, which can be removed if you want to change the layout, however this is a pretty permanent change as once you cut the threads, you’ll need to be handy with the needle and cotton to stitch them back in!
Having said that the compartments help to keep smaller items from rattling around. Its not intended to be waterproof, but i got caught in a shower on a sunday ride out, and the Cuban contents inside thankfully stayed nice and dry.
The rack itself is a very nicely made stainless steel item with a brushed finish. The bag is looped onto the frame and further secured to a flat tab on the frame itself. This means that the bag cannot be removed unless the whole rack is taken, which adds a little security. The racks have two mounting points, which vary depending on the bike, but they are usually the top shock mount and exhaust hanger.
Its a doddle to fit, and once mounted is very solid with no noticable wobble even at speed. Currently they are available to fit Triumph Bonneville & Scrambler, Kawasaki W650 & W800 as well as the Moto Guzzi V7 you see in the pictures, and are available for both right and left hand sides.
So if you want somewhere to stick your spare goggles, sunglasses, smokes, flask or sandwiches its up to the job. If you pack light there’s even enough room for a change of undies and a toothbrush for an overnight stay. Its tough, well made and should last a lifetime. Price for the standard bag and rack is £150.
Reviewed by Tony Walters
DMD ROCKET HELMET
Having had a lifetime of my head snuggly fitting into any Arai helmet carrying an M on the back lid choice was something I took for granted prior to the relatively newfound need to look like a 1970s F1 driver or Cali cool kid. I could walk into any mainstream shop, decide on which model and then choose the black one, or white one.
Nowadays such over-vented modernity will never do. Why have a steam free visor and clever patented latches when a simple press stud will do. I prefer a full-face to open, having a half a head of receding vibrant brown hair is bad enough and I’d rather not compound misfortune with a third breakage of my chin. New wave choices were until recently relatively limited.
One thing that sets older lids apart aesthetically is shell size, back in the day one’s noggin was lucky to be shielded by a couple of mill’ of fibreglass and some leather yet modern headwear all too often creates the Mario Bros. effect. DMD is one company set on retaining retro styling whilst incorporating up to date safety standards.
Being Italian, style is obviously of paramount importance so the engineers and designers have worked in unison to ensure the incredibly small carbon kevlar shell on the Rocket meets stringent crash test criteria. There in lays a bit of an issue for the on-trend bearded rider, one’s tash may be tickled by the chin guard which is a trifle distracting.
Apart from that the fit is snug around the top of the head and firm on the cheeks, I’m no Billy Bunter though so if you like a pie with your curry maybe go up a size. I tried the large, 58cm according to DMD, and it compares to an Arai medium. The seventies porn set prop hanging from under the guard suggests protrusion of the chin, but this is not so. Unlike some other lids in this category vital parts of your face remain protected.
The visor is a simple affair held on by circlips and closed with poppers. I didn’t dare test my dexterity and risk pinging a clip off the mountain’s edge but it looks to be no more fiddly than the other Italian retro full-facer on the market. The poppers are firm to say the least and require a knack, which is to forget the ease in which normal modern lids flip open. The liner is fully removable, washable feels soft to the touch and is of a quality you’d expect at this price point.
This particular Rocket is a limited edition and hand painted. The finish is pretty good although tonally I don’t think it is the best colour choice for the follicly vibrant. There are more subdued schemes and completely plain ones if you’re a dab hand with a paintbrush.
So, if you’re after a traditional shell shape and prefer open face proportions the DMD range could be worth a look. And if you ride with ugly mates and are fed up with seeing too much face in their Bell Bulitts perhaps order them a Rocket for Christmas.
Reviewed by the follicly vibrant Ross Sharp.