Friday, 13 November 2009

Rider Tek

Although the guys at BMW Bahnstormer did their best to sell me the brand's matching clothing, I found myself with an aversion to looking like catalogue man (or even Charlie and Ewan).

So last weekend I went to see my good friends at Grand Prix Legends to sort out some riding gear for the bike.

My requirements were pretty simple, I was looking for a 2 piece textile suit that would keep me both warm & dry but would also give good protection should I find myself sliding down the road.

In the 'old' days, leathers were the the only choice for safety, but at the cost of letting the water in. Soggy crotches weren't my fondest biking memory! Textile suits were around and would keep the weather out, but generally weren't as good as decent cowhide for protection, especially against the road surfaces. Abrasive tarmac vs sliding rider only ends one way, and as an instructor once reminded me "In hospital they clean gravel rash with a scrubbing brush".

In the 15 years or so since I last bought any gear, there have been a lot of development in this area. The best textile suits now combine the best in water, wind and cold proofing, with protection from impact and abrasion better than traditional leather. Armour is part of the equation, and protective back armour is de rigour.

Rukka make some of the best gear out there, although you do have to pay Rolls-Royce prices, up to £1500 for their top of the range suits. I was prepared to pay the cost of some of their more democratic equipment, until the GPL team pointed me at Halvarsson's range.

Made in Finland by people who know a thing or two about the cold, its lovely stuff, with a bunch of high technology fabrics and linings, and each one seems to come with its own tag. Its getting a good reputation even though there's not a whole lot of distribution in the UK. Better still, its much cheaper than Rukka's gear, so much so that the GPL people told me they're happy to have it in Rukka stockist as it makes it look great value!

I ended up snaffling up a 'Phanter' jackey and 'Zen' trousers (both having lost something in translation), to accompany the beautiful Racer gloves I bought the week before.

Alas, events overtook me, and I now find myself 6,000 miles from the bike and the English weather. More posts to come, it will be 6 months before I get back to the GS, but there's plenty to blog on about here in Hong Kong!


Friday, 6 November 2009


Sitting around SS7 towers are boxes containing every issue of CAR magazine from about 1978, when I at last had the funds to indulge regularly, to 2006, when I decided enough was enough and started chucking the latest issues away.

I picked one out more or less at random this morning as I was waiting for a call, and spent a couple of minutes flicking through it.

The 70's and 80's were CAR magazines' heyday. Nothing else on the market offered its combination of high quality (and honest!) writing, innovative photography & design, industry insight and access to the best and fastest motors in the world. CAR became the standard by which all others were measured, and I would always look forward to the monthly publication day.

April 1988 featured yet another fast but chronically underdeveloped de Tomaso era Maserati, the 'new' BMW E34 5-series, vs it's rivals, the Lancia Integrale & Ford Sierra Cosworth ('Europe's Great Supercar Bargains'), and the latest Suzuki bikes amongst others.

Two things struck me looking through the old mag.

First was that the quality of the journalistic line-up was epic; great writers all. Yet sadly I couldn't help being saddened by how few of them are still around.

Since 1988 we've lost the great George Bishop, the irrepressible old car guy Ronald Barker, the inimitable LJK Setright, Phil Llewellin and the so talented Russell Bulgin.

Of the rest, Gavin Green, then editor, is still involved with CAR 21 years on, Georg Kacher will last for ever, and Steve Cropley & Andrew Frankl still write columns.

The second thing that I noticed was how damned expensive cars were 21 years ago! The 'bargain' Sierra Sapphire Cosworth was £19,000, had 200bhp and ran to 143 mph. By contrast, the current Focus RS costs only £6.5k more and pushes out a storming 300bhp and 165mph.

The 'new' 5 series in 525i form was also £19,000 and offered 170bhp, compared to its nearest current equivalent, the £29,000, 190bhp 523i.

In 1988 a basic Porsche 911(Carrera 3.2) was £37k, the same as a 944 turbo. That compares pretty well to the current 911 at just over £60k, although £37k can still buy you an entry level Boxster.

However, should you have wanted to buy a Sport Edition 911 turbo with your city bonus , it would set you back £99,000. List price of a 2009 997 turbo? £99,000.......

By way of contrast I took at look at house prices. The average price of a UK house in 1988 was £45,000, or a quarter of current values.

Perhaps we don't have it so bad!