In the making of Gear Guide #70 a Premier Carbon Trophy was crashed flat tracking atop a Volcano in the Mid Atlantic while somewhat less glamorously a host of equipment from California based brand Iron & Resin and British firm AZO Equipment tackled the daily abuse of ‘Shed life in London.
Why is it that things from before are always cooler than the things from right now? I was still shitting my nappy when Steve McQueen died but three and a half decades later and most guys still want to be him and most girls want to be on him. He was simple cool. No elaborate tattoos, bulging biceps or a hairpiece made into funny shapes just good old fashioned cool.
Motoracing was cooler back then too. In the bike world tyres were crap and riders were gladiators wrestling beasts that either spat flames or belched smoke whilst bucking and weaving all over worn out race tracks. Helmet technology was in its infancy and during the seventies the full face lid had caught on, inspiring designers to come up with ever more elaborate paint schemes to promote a rider’s sponsors.
That iconic shape of a plain shell and wrap around visor with popper fastening has never really been bettered. Sure, vents, scoops, fins, spoilers and other clever appendages aid performance but they never quite strike the cool chord, perhaps just a personal taste thing but the crop of new old-school lids on the market take design cues from simpler times but dance a fine line between looking like the real deal and a trip aboard the fashion bandwagon.
The Premier Trophy however absolutely nails the classic look. Its shell shape is nearly exactly as Phil Read would have worn when he became double world champion for MV Agusta in 1973. The slightly squared-off chin bar a signature of Premier helmets of the era. More recently Frankie Chili, Ruben Xaus, Pol Espargaro and even a prebuscent Marc Marquez have protected their noggins with Premier helmets.
I inherited a plain black Trophy from one of the ‘Shed’s elder statesmen (review here) and had it pinstriped by Nefarious at Bike Shed London 2015 but unfortunately I found a crack near the visor mount and had to replace it. Fortunately our shop had the carbon version in stock.
OK, so carbon is hardly classic cool you say. Tell that to schoolboys who lusted after a 1987 Ferrari F40 with its naked carbon kevlar interior. On the Trophy the fibres and weave are visible through what appears to be a tinted lacquer and the shine is deep, giving a classy look. There is a degree of flex to the shell which sounds wrong but having dropped/crashed and shattered a few polycarbonate lids that were totally rigid I’m alright with the idea of flex absorbing some impact.
The visor pivots on two cap head bolts on either side which sounds like a faff to swap but when removed the visors are completely flat allowing you to stash a clear one for night riding, I keep one in my laptop case which is pretty handy. For this Trophy’s maiden voyage I was headed to sunny climes so ordered a new pair of visors from Bob Heath Visors, one light smoke and one in retro racing yellow. Premier also offer a yellow and a dark tint but I find the latter impossible to use at night. Time a ride slightly wrong with the light smoke and riding in the city is not too bad, although that would flout the law so on your head be it.
Cheek pads are removable for washing and on the carbon version the interior is partially lined with red faux leather, which looks the biz. The double D-ring is slightly staggered for added cinching strength on the chin strap and feels a decent quality. In fact overall the Trophy feels better put together than other lids at this price point.
Obviously it’s E marked and approved for Europe but also the people at the Sharp Test lab have smashed one against heavy objects and it came out with a 4 star rating, which is actually better than some of the lids you see people wearing when hooning around race tracks.
Being devoid of vents means wind noise is less of an issue. I have tinitus so loud that Brian Johnson’s doctor would have me banished from motorcycling so I like a quiet lid and the Trophy isn’t bad at all. There’s a bit of rush around the non-flush fitting visor but apart from that it’s pretty good. It’s also very light at 1200g so less strain on the neck.
Sizing wise, I’m an Arai medium all day and the Premier in the same size fits perfectly, providing adequate cheek pressure. Above three figure speeds the chin bar does creep back slightly and touch one’s face, but then again I am sporting a rather large hooter.
But I guess a helmet is useless if it looks cool but falls to pieces at the one and only time it needs to do its job and save your swede. Thankfully I can vouch for the Trophy Carbon and its integrity. Whilst hurtling around a flatrack course on top of a volcano in the Atlantic I managed to highside a Yamaha SR400. Admittedly wide open in second is hardly the ultimate test but I landed fairly hard and the only damage sustained was deep scratching to the lacquer. The fibres beneath appeared intact. Having no spare I had to complete the next day’s test of the new Yamaha XSR900 but upon retuning I’ve had to retire my favourite helmet of the year so far. Thankfully the very nice man in the Bike Shed Shop is always on hand to deal with my sheepish requests for replacement gear…
We’ve been here before. It’s winter, it’s dark and it’s cold as sleet! Riding at the moment feels like getting mugged in an alley by a gang of snowmen. A perennial issue for riders through the winter months is whether to wear comfortable slim gloves and get frozen fingers or bulky lined ones and lose all feeling of the controls on the bars. Whilst not being able to feel what you’re doing with your hands may be seen as a major benefit to some of your single friends, (who may or may not have called you ugly in a recent helmet review) it is generally the pet peeve of most bikers.
The Iron and Resin Buffalo Bobber gloves are a handsome pair of simple, unlined leather gloves, which have now, perhaps surprisingly given the lack of Factor 50 and Soleros in London at this time of year, become my daily riding mitts. It’s in the warmer months that these gloves will come into their own but they have provided a level of weather robustness and comfort that has made them a surprisingly versatile and practical choice despite these frosty months.
The beautifully supple full grain buffalo leather allows you perfect dexterity and control on the bike with the reassurance of knowing you have rhino grade toughness protecting your palms and digits. Buffalo hide is around 3-5 times stronger than your common domestic moo moo skin of the same thickness. This gives you a very strong glove but with a fine softness that makes them incredibly comfortable to wear, combining toughness and tenderness to a level not met since Barry White’s ballads. Due to the thickness of the hide the gloves are actually impressively good at keeping out the cold winter wind and rain around town, so much so that I have been using them everyday since January. Having been soaked recently in some biblical rain my hands were one of the few dry things left in London.
The guys at Iron and Resin have made these gloves with a minimal number of seams, which reduces potential weak points, increases the comfort around your hand and leaves the gloves with a simple, retro styling. The leather is through dyed which makes the colouring impervious to scuffs and scratches and the mid brown leather is a welcome alternative from the usual ‘dominatrix black’ or ‘Nana’s marigolds yellow’.
Whilst I’m not putting them up to the test of motorway level winter wind chill these gloves have given me a great balance of weather hardiness and dexterity far better than any other unlined gloves I’ve had. They are also wearing in beautifully and as we near the spring months I think I’ll be practically sleeping in them soon.
Iron & Resin have come over from the states and they mean business. You’ll find quite a lot of the Bike Shed regulars using their stuff, from panniers and wallets to t-shirts and mugs. It was my turn to try out something and a lightweight wax trucker jacket that oozes quality build was distributed in my direction.
Blacker than satan’s soul with a fine corduroy collar thats smoother than a post Thy Barber shave, the jacket fits right in-between the seasons of autumn and full winter. It’s not a heavy weight item but shields you from the wind nicely and is loose enough to fit a sweat underneath. I’ve been mainly wearing it with a short sleeve tee right up to mid january and, as is often the way with wax, the heat generated by my body has kept me from needing any other layers so far. The front can be buttoned or zipped which does means there’s some level of climate control too.
This isn’t a biker jacket per se, no armour pockets or glove friendly zippers, it is much more in the lifestyle area of our Gear Guides but it’s a good fit for the custom scene none the less. If you’re off the bike and down the boozer then it’s a first grab out of the door item of clothing. The Americans have always had a certain swagger and this jacket justifies the confidence that illustrates.
There has probably never been such a good match between a Gear Guide reviewer and a product, let me explain…Around the bike shed I am known as “The man who can”. I fix things, break things, create things and eat things.
The product I had been tasked to review was the hardwearing Union Work Pant from American motorcycle lifestyle brand, Iron & Resin. The Union work pant is made from a tough 100% cotton duck canvas, which if it came in white, you could take to your local judo or jiu-jitsu gym and no one would be any the wiser, that’s how tough they are!
These practical pant/trouser (lets not have a debate please) are kitted out with submarine deep pockets and a D-ring (which I am still figuring out a use for). I & R have even been considerate enough to add an extra layer of thick canvas around the knee, so getting down, dirty and hammering away on the job doesn’t cause you the need for any undue concern for the garment.
I & R have done a good job here, they have made a rugged, useable, biker-esque and quite stylish, although when wearing them I don’t know if I feel like I’m a stevedore working the docks from The Wire (season 2) or if I’m back in the 90’s sporting a pair of GAP kids carpenter pants and a bowl hair cut – I prefer the former.
But like even the most promising of tinder encounters nothing is perfect… the absence of functional side pockets can put a strain on your daily inventory carry and obviously there is no motorcycle riding protection beyond the tough canvas which won’t do a great deal if you a traveling anything over 15 mph. On the plus side they are more wind resistant than average jeans. That said I love my Union pants, I wear them all the time, they look good, and are comfortably tough enough to laugh off the daily abuse of my job.
Motorcycling is supposed to embody a sense of freedom and adventure. So how come riding anywhere nowadays requires a life support system strapped to your back? Laptop, wireless noise cancelling headphones, the latest giant iPhone complete with multiple charging options, waterproof trousers, a spare visor for the stylish but functionally challenged helmet upon your head and supply of low sugar, high fibre, cold pressed organic goodness compressed into Tupperware. OK, so that makes me sound like a modern day twat, but I’m certainly not alone.
Ferrying this cargo around is annoying enough and for me the ultimate irritation is poor design in the backpack department. I like to be balanced and symmetrical, you can keep your shoulder bags and courier options – better ergonomics make for a more pleasurable and safer ride.
The guys from Azo Equipment sent us this Amhara backpack to try. Firstly, they don’t purport to be motorcycle apparel manufacturers but their first pack, the semi-cylindrical Bashilo caught our eye when it was used in one of Old Empire Motorcycles’ early videos. Simple, free from flapping straps and superfluous dangly bits I liked the rugged look but the capacity 15 litre would never meet my haulage needs.
Azo Equipment was conceived a decade ago during an overland expedition in Ethiopia and the bags have evolved and been continually improved over the last couple of years. Their aim is to produce long lasting luggage using the strongest materials available whilst dancing the fine line between practicality and traditional aesthetics.
I’ve been through a few bags in my time and this ticks a lot of boxes. Looks wise it’s plain and simple, the main body made form dry waxed UK produced canvas. The fabric feels tough yet isn’t overly thick and bulky, so far it’s maintained a complete barrier to the weather I’ve chucked at it – stormy rides on bikes with no rear mudguard provide a suitable test.
The straps are wide and semi-rigged meaning you don’t end up in that infuriating tangle when trying to feed through armour-jacketed arms in a late-for-work flurry of rage. The thick leather on the top surface of the straps has broken-in nicely and not once have I experienced chaffing or edges digging in. There’s also a decent leather loop on top which is great for carrying and hanging.
The opening flap, or lid (can you have a lid on a bag?), features a near secret zipped pocket allowing quick access to keys, wallet etc and so far water hasn’t penetrated this either. There’s a ring of elastic at the hem of the lid which initially I wasn’t keen on but it’s proved to be a master stroke and no matter how empty or full I stuff the Amhara the stretchy canvas nappy literally keeps my shit from falling out.
Inside there’s a meshed pocket in the lid which is actually quite voluminous, a small bottle of coconut water and half a dozen low G.I. protein bars would easily fit. Thankfully I’m not that much of a new wave twat, I use it for tools, spare fuses, my key collection and other fiddly bits. Below that a padded laptop sleeve will swallow a 15″ Macbook with ease and feel resilient enough to withstand the harshest of blows. Interior wise, that’s kind of it. Simple and cavernous, making the most of its 26 litre capacity.
The webbing on the exterior is loop stitched opening up opportunities for additional MacGyvering, I frequently use bungee cords or tie-down straps to double the capacity by piggy-backing extra bags to the Amhara, confident that those thick straps can take the weight. I’ve managed a pair of Rev-it Mohawks, all of the aforementioned modern life accoutrements, a Ducati Monster battery (lead not lithium), a spare helmet and a 8-19mm spanner set (with case). All that and I didn’t even trouble the four side straps, which are probably for cinching in the sides when full capacity isn’t required, but I use them for carrying rolls of clothing and waterproof trousers.
My favourite part though is the Austri-Alpin Cobra buckle. Picture the scene; you’re gloved up, numb with cold and the fuel light comes on. You groan to yourself as you remember your wallet is is your bag. Have no fear, these buckles can be undone with even the most cakhanded extremity, yet can’t be knocked open accidentally. They clasp back together a bit like a car seatbelt, super simple. Plus, they’re black anodised with gold locking pin things. Black and gold, you can’t beat that with a stick.
I’m boring and like the wannabe SAS look so always go for black luggage but the Azo Amhara is also available in Olive and Dark Olive, with a host of leather combos too.