Riding Greats: Harley-Davidson
It’s easy to forget the heritage of a motor company like Harley-Davidson. The business has seen so many changes over the past hundred or so years that its true identity is not something that’s immediately obvious. Indeed, even as you read, Harley-Davidson is undergoing something of a sea change in engineering, marketing and culture. Now well past mid-life crisis stage, baby boomers are no longer buying the monolithic V-twins that so powerfully characterise the company. With a strong focus on gaining share in the younger market previously dominated by overseas manufacturers, Harley-Davidson is reinventing itself, much like it did at the beginning of its life.
And what humble beginnings they were. Taking about years to make, the very first engine designed in Milwaukee by William Harley, then aged just 22, was a mere 116cc and failed miserably. The following effort created a blueprint for the modern motorbike, with a much heavier engine (405cc) and loop-frame pattern. Rather than being a motorised pushbike, this was a real motorbike in every sense.
However, for the next few years, very few motorbikes were being made by the team of William Harley, William Davidson, Walter Davidson and Arthur Davidson. Their business model involved selling engines to DIY enthusiasts, rather than motorbike fanatics. However, with clever funding the team managed to buy their first factory, and for the first three years produced no more than 150 vehicles per year. It’s interesting to note that without a major contract to police departments the now incorporated company could well have been an abject failure. Even today the police market is hugely important to the company.
The first of the iconic V-twin models appeared in 1907 and offered no more than 8 horsepower from their 880cc engines. This model was improved drastically four years later, incorporating mechanical valves rather than the automatic ones that worked on a vacuum system.
With the First World War demanding over 14,000 vehicles from Harley-Davidson as well as a significant overseas distribution network, the company had gone from producing 50 vehicles in 1907 to over 28,000 in 1920. They were now the largest motorbike company in the world.
Although sales dropped to just under 4,000 units after the great depression, Harley-Davison was still able to stay afloat and made it out of the crisis as one of the few survivors of the previously thriving motorcycle manufacturing industry. This was mostly thanks to the continued police contracts.
During World War Two the company almost exclusively produced for the military. Apart from the popular military model, the WLA, being brought back into production for the Korean War, Harley-Davidson’s motorbikes were now firmly ingrained as a part of civilian life, especially with the ‘biker’ movement, as well as being a staple of military and police forces around the world. Interestingly, as part of the war reparations, BMW were forced to give their latest designs to the American company, who later went on to produce the popular Hummer series directly from the blueprints.
The period after the war, right up until the 80’s saw a fair degree of financial turmoil, with the company almost going bankrupt after a sale to AMF (American Machine and Foundry). With declining quality and subsequent drops in sales, the Harley name was slowly becoming a joke. Indeed, the name ‘Hog’ in reference to their motorbikes came from a widely used slur from the 70’s, namely “Hogley-Ferguson”.
With a strong change in marketing throughout the 80’s after a heavy tax burden was placed on imports to the US over 700cc, Harley-Davidson went from strength to strength, enjoying massive popularly right through the 90’s. However, with falling stock prices, problems with the police touring models and increasing environmental resistance, not to mention the declining numbers of baby boomers, for whom the name is synonymous with excitement, Harley-Davidson is fast reinventing itself again. With a focus on re-establishing itself amongst younger riders, as well as the introduction of smaller scooter models, the company is, in many ways, going back to its roots.
HOOD are the UK’s leading manufacturer of protective motorbike jeans.
Top UK Track Days
Here in the UK we have a strong history of riding. With our country lanes providing excellent riding in virtually all parts of the country, along with the bank holiday tradition of get-togethers and mass outings, there’s a lot of fun to be had on our roads. However, sometimes that simply isn’t enough. If you’re anything like me, you’ll relish the chance to really let loose with trackdays whenever you can. Regardless of your level there’s a trackday out there for you. But they can be expensive, usually upwards of £100 before you’ve even gassed up. This list should give you a bit of a better idea of the right track for you.
Brands Hatch (Fawkham, Kent)
The classic British racetrack, Brands Hatch, has something of a fearsome reputation. As the spiritual home of superbike racing, it’s definitely one to put up on your to-ride list. Racing usually starts here at 9:00 am, and can continue until 6:30 pm, but no later, due to a nearby housing estate. Still, that’s more than enough riding to be had. While it is considered an advanced track, there are numerous novice and intermediate events held here. While it’s possible to have your trackday here as a beginner, it’s well worth waiting until you have around ten under your belt and going for the higher-speed advanced rides. The only real drawback is the cost, which will usually set you back upwards of the £150 mark.
Silverstone (Silverstone, Northamptonshire)
While in the past it’s not often been considered a course ideal for superbike racing, Silverstone has seen a good deal of work specifically to convert it for bikes, most notably the bridge at Bridge Corner. There are a few restrictions worth noting at Silverstone, namely a 102Db volume restriction (105Db static). The course itself offers a nice bonus in the addition of MotoGP legend Ron Haslam hanging around the place, although he’s not always on hand. The track limits the number of bikes to around fifty (depending on who you book with), which makes a nice change.
Donnington Park (Derby, Leicestershire)
Having failed to pick up both Formula One and MotoGP, Donnington is something of a sickly child when it comes to UK race circuits. Still, the 23 years of MotoGP experience it’s had means that this is still something of a Mecca for us superbike types. Demanding technical expertise and offering exhilarating rides, Donnington Park is a circuit of two halves. It’s not a particularly varied course, but it sure as hell separates the men from the boys. A really nice touch is the chance for track evenings. Prices seem to vary greatly, so look out for the good deals.
As well as those three greats, it’s well worth looking at cricuits like Cadwell Park, Snetterton and Oulton Park, which can offer much cheaper days out if you’re working on a budget. Whatever you do, make the most of your next trackday and be aware of the restrictions for roadworthiness, clothing, and volume. Take it from me, being turned away from a trackday because of a silly oversight really stings.
HOOD are the UK’s leading manufacturer of protective motorbike jeans.
European touring tips for bikers
If you’re anything like me, the stresses and time-consuming tasks of daily life often mean you don’t get quite as much time on the road as you’d like, particularly when it comes to the meatier tours. This means you really have to make the most of them. The obvious storage limitations to bikes as compared to their more spacious cousin, the motor car, mean that planning and logistics are more important than they otherwise might be. Here’s a collection of tips that should help with that particular aspect; some of them are from personal experience, some have been told to me over a pint and others are the result of scrupulous Internet searching. However, all will help you do one thing and one thing only: enjoy your tour, whether you’re touring the world, Europe or your own country.
Organise your ‘must-packs’.
Think of this as separate from your regular packing. The key here is safety. First aid, toolkits and emergency gear are essential when touring. Similarly, maps and map covers are going to be your best friends during your trip. Whatever you do, don’t scrimp on any of this stuff. If you don’t already have a decent ‘essentials’ kit, create one that covers all the bases, and actually works. I can’t stress how important it is to check your toolkit actually works before you set off. The chances are that you won’t need most of the emergency gear, so pack it tight.
More, more, more.
Thinking about storage is a matter of thinking smart, rather than thinking more. A great tip here is to buy your bags last. Of course, if you already have bags, then this is a moot point, but remember that a year’s touring is not going to require significantly more space than a week’s. Tailbags, fueltank-top storage and panniers are all an option, but do you really need all that space?
Don’t dress to impress.
Your single most important piece of clothing on any tour is your motorbike clothing. You know how you ride, so get clothing that fits your style and feels comfortable. It’s also worth thinking about how many layers you want underneath. In my experience there’s nothing worse than freezing to death on a leg of your journey filled with spectacular sights – you just wind up missing it all. You can find pretty much everything in thermal material nowadays, so check the weather – from numerous sources – before you go and pack appropriately. At the risk of sounding like Gok Wan, it’s all about layers, babe.
Packing up your troubles.
If, like me, you’re a man with dubious packing skills, there’s one rule: pack heavier stuff on the bottom. Obviously try to balance your load and centralise weight wherever possible. However, this shouldn’t be at the expense of functionality. If you have your snack food handy, it makes those little pit-stops all the more enjoyable. Here’s one tip that comes from painful personal experience ¬– if you’re using bungee rope or netting for anything, just double up with a bit of duct tape over the fastenings. You’ll thank me one day.
Your key motivation for any tour is to enjoy yourself. It’s a wonderful experience to take those longer tours, and keeping both safe and sensible makes it all the better. Making sure you’re prepared for the most common issues takes away all the irritation and helps you enjoy your freedom even more. Good luck and happy touring.
HOOD are the UK’s leading manufacturer of protective motorbike jeans.
Modern Classic Motorbikes
Okay, so I know that this subject is going to be a bit of a hot one, and one that will no doubt encourage a fair bit of comment. Let me just lay this on the line before I lay my head on the chopping board: this is my top five, and hopefully you’ll agree with at least one or two of them. And if you don’t agree, well, you got your version, I got the truth.
5. Triumph Scrambler
Yeah, yeah. Okay. Triumph had to be in here somewhere, didn’t it? I find it difficult to pinpoint exactly what triumph have that others don’t, but the generally held consensus is that they do retro-without-feeling-retro just that little bit better than everyone else. The standout here comes in the seat height (cleverly positioned to make you feel like you’re on a sportsbike) combined with the deliciously low centre of gravity. This, along with the two-tone fuel tank, dual exhausts and spoked wheels make you feel like you’re Steve McQueen in a 1950’s Hovis advert.
4. Moto Guzzi 750V IE
To be honest, with Moto Guzzi’s prolific production over the years, not to mention the sheer length of time the company has been going, it’s kind of difficult to pick a real gem from the gem-filled treasure trove that is the Moto Guzzi parking lot. This selection was almost an arbitrary one, but one that I’m happy with nonetheless. I guess what I love about this is its purity. It’s nothing but ride from start to finish. Sleek, powerful and uncompromising, you do somewhat feel that, like a prize stallion, it’s allowing you to ride it.
3. Kawazaki Ninja ZX-12R
Now, the history of this vehicle is something of a muted one. Looking like being one of the world’s fastest sportsbikes with handling and ergonomics to match, pre-production versions of this blew everything else off the track. Trouble was that a few pesky European governments combined to force Kawasaki to detune the engine. Wrong. On so many levels. Anyway, what has always impressed me about this diamond is that it’s still a bloody, bloody good sports ride.
2. Ducati 916
Compact, clever and powerful, this Ducati really can take your breath away. It does have problems, but those issues that are as endearing as the complete control you feel riding it. It’s a little uncomfortable (most notably wind and seating comfort), and not immensely practical for day-to-day use, but boy is it a fun ride. This is a bike you need to take control of and get to know to get the best out of, and isn’t that one of the greatest joys of what we do?
1. BMW S1000RR
I’ve kind of succumbed to peer pressure on this one. As one of the best bikes of 2010, it’s perhaps too modern to be considered a modern classic. I like to think of it more as a classic of tomorrow. Still, that’s all semantics, as this is an amazing superstock. Affordable and near perfectly engineered, you can find little to fault about this ride, especially being designed and produced in an age of worldwide recession.
Obviously, you’re likely to disagree with at least some of these, but do you have a better top 5? Answers on a postcard, or for ease’s sake just post below.
Check out our 2012 collection of Motorcycle Clothing. Hood Motorbike Jeans
Our Relationship with KNOX Armour
With a history that stretches back as far as 1981, KNOX armour is the go to gear for dynamic impact protection for motorcycles. That’s why we at Hood Jeans use this great guard in our products.
The consistency and the technological superiority of the KNOX brand has made it a leader in the industry and the ideal, high quality product to team up with our great high end jeans. All of KNOX’s products are CE approved and held in the highest acclaim by those in the motorbike industry.
Our optional use of the KNOX knee and hip armour ensures that should the unfortunate happen, the mix of this gear and our own Hood Jeans keeps you as safe as possible - have a look at our real life stories for testimony.
KNOX Flexiform Lite Range
The latest generation of the KNOX Flexiform Lite range is one of our most popular upgrades for our jeans. Made from the highest performing PU foam, these are soft and very flexible protective pieces that offer amazing protection yet are barely noticeable in your jeans. This new armour adds that extra comfort many other protectors don’t to riding - something at the centre of our jeans.
Our great modern looking jeans offer amazing impact protection thanks to the KNOX option. Aside from this new KNOX armour, we also have some other fantastic, body saving KNOX products and the Kompakt Back Protector is one of our favourites. Team this item up with our K7 jacket and you have one of the most comfortable protectors on the market and also one that’s brilliantly portable as it’s amazingly light and folds up to a tiny footprint.
This item is suitable for everything from extreme sports, and is extremely slim and light - only 500g - meaning unlike others we could mention, you’ll probably not even notice it.
KNOX Advanced X armour is also a great addition to the range and provides amazing, award winning protection Advanced X is very economically priced and and is one of our best sellers. It’s a three layer armour and has a honeycomb core, making it light weight and extremely flexible. It’s available for knees, hips, elbows and shoulders also, meaning you have protection where you require it.
The technical innovation of KNOX products goes well with the on the ball ethos of our own products. All of KNOX’s gear is independently tested and CE certified, so you know you can trust it. Unlike others, KNOX armour is seen to live up and to surpass its claims through independent tests.
So, if you’re looking for great quality products, from two companies who provide excellent mutually compatible products, then our work at Hood Jeans with KNOX is probably exactly what you need. Protection, style and innovation for you via our excellent K7 range.
Need to know more? Check out our range of motorbike jeans with Knox Armour options.
Poole Global Trek and Hood Jeans
A world trip via the road is probably the greatest of all testaments to biking. Getting out in the open air and just seeing the great planet we call home is one of the dreams of many riders. Nick and Lesley Poole from Wymondham in Norfolk, England did so, wearing Hood Jeans motorbike jeans all the way.
The couple started their journey in 2006 and managed to travel to as far flung places as Panama and Laos on their BMW GS1150 Adventure - an aptly titled bike if there was one. Having covered a distance of 89,000 miles their trip in our jeans is a testament to the spirit of adventure and one we are proud they trusted us with.
Across the Universe
From culture to culture and country to country and dare we say it dubious driving nation, to dubious driving nation, the journey these pair took is something of spectacular merit.
The journey, which took on board raising money for charity Keeping Abreast, began in 2006, though the couple would claim that they had decided on doing so a lot earlier. Beginning from Norfolk they brought the very basics necessary initially including a ball compass, 2 security cables and of course an inflatable saddle cover for comfort on those longer tracks. They also brought essentials such as a skipping rope, umbrella and a Frisbee.
The couple travelled the USA first and have managed to see such far flung parts as Alaska, before heading to Mexico and Central America and its wonderful countries. From there South America was on the cards, before they skipped across the New Zealand and the Australia, where they visited family in both places.
The Far East
Asia was next on the wonderful trip and trips to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and elsewhere ensued before they travelled to Nepal, India and Sri Lanka. Of course, travelling through the Middle East, to Europe is one that not even our gear can help them with and it all was dependent on the political situation at the time, which was fortunately okay. Once in Turkey, the couple rode home across Europe, through Bulgaria, Hungary and the South of the Continent until they reach Blighty.
Through thick and thin and thrill and excitement, Nick and Lesley managed to come back all in one piece after the trip of a life time. Our gear protected them all the way and still looked good at the very end, while it also obviously ensured their safety on their trip around the world.
Three years is a long time to be away from home, however upon arrival home, the press heard about the trek they wanted part of the wonderfully exciting story. Just so you know, the BMW also remained in one piece and we’d imagine there are few bikes in the world that have seen so much, in fact we doubt any of our Hood Jeans gear has either.
Interested in checking out our 2012 collection? Click here - Hood Motorbike Jeans
Real Life Success Stories
No amount of testing can compare to the real world experience of those who use a product. Fortunately, in an area such as ours we’ve received nothing but positive feedback for our products, which makes us both proud and delighted in equal measures.
From falls at 90 mph that mean sliding until stopped, with a couple of rolls near the end to slides under motorcycles at high speeds, our jeans have stayed strong again and again and proven themselves to be some of the UK’s favourite for motorcycle wear.
In fact, in many cases the worst you can say about our fibres is that a good crash takes the new shine off them and the para-aramid fibres end up looking a bit grubby and fluffy - which isn’t too bad considering the possible alternatives.
One of our customers said, ‘I came off the bike at around 70mph, losing consciousness in the process. I escaped any sort of major injury despite the K7 jeans and the armour being badly damaged in the process. I’m very glad I had these as I’d only bought them a few weeks prior to the accident. The A&E department at the hospital were quite amazed that I’d not damaged my hips or got anything more than bruising to my knees.’
This sort of testament is quite common among our customers and we have a number of fortunate and similar stories from people who escaped the possibility of horrific injury, we’d like to say as part of wearing our jeans. In many cases people find that the worst they experience to their body is perhaps some bruising, or a broken bone here and there from high speed crashes. Many are so happy with the product they just go about replacing them and carry on with business as usual.
One of the other interesting things we find is the notice the attending doctors seem to give our jeans. Many are amazed at the fact the rider has escaped injury and managed to come away virtually untouched from what they would usually see as a far worse incident in terms of causality.
One customer said,’ The attending Doc commutes on a GS1200 and was very impressed, wanted to know what they were, etc. I’ll be replacing them!’
We would put these success stories down to the high-tech abilities of our product, which is made from some of the finest and strongest technology in the world, yet still look great. Our armour is a high tech piece of equipment that many remain thankful to and so return to purchase our product again and again when it all could have gone so very wrong.
What is D3O Armour?
D3O armour has the excellent properties of being soft and flexible in normal conditions, but on impact , its molecules lock together to reduce and dissipate the force transmitted it’s nearly impenetrable. It is available on all of Hood partner brand Kyrano’s motorbike jeans as standard.
D3O armour’s popularity is down to the simple fact it provides the strength of body armour, yet it doesn’t actually take on the bulky appearance of such strong, but large plating and it’s soft and flexible so comfortable to wear . So, how does such thin armour actually work?
What’s it Made From?
The D3O technology is a composite material, comprising polymers and dilatant fluid – dilatant materials increase viscosity with the rate of the strain. For the non-scientific among us, this means in standard conditions, the molecules flow freely allowing the material to remain soft and flexible, but on impact, they lock together to absorb impact energy and reduce the force transmitted. The molecules instantly return to their flexible state.
The material is strain rate sensitive which means the stronger the impact, the more the molecules react, and better the protection.
The best and most real life example most people use is corn starch and water. If you stir the mixture at a slow rate it can be easily done, however faster stirring means increased viscosity and makes it a lot harder to do. This is very similar to what happens when D3O materials take an impact.
The great thing about D3O armour on bikes is that it’s amazingly flexible and as comfortable as normal clothing when it’s in everyday use. However when it undergoes an impact its molecules lock together to reduce the force of the bang transmittedand dissipates the impact energy across its mass.
Originally the D3O material made its way to the public eye in winter sports and the winter sports games as it was used in the Spyder race suits for the US and Canadian Ski teams.
The vanity of snow sports means wearing a conventional helmet is off limits, though obviously essential for well being if you land head first into some concrete like compacted snow. So, D3O beanie hats became the answer to all problems. These hats offer a fashionable, but practical take on head gear for snow sports.
This then led to the material being used in ski jackets and pants, as well as into lacrosse armour, ballet shoes and a range of other areas, including iPhone covers.
When compared to older kinds of armour, D3O is a far slimmer and more stylish alternative. The fact that the armour can be placed in our motorbike jeans means it is very popular with people who don’t want the atypical biker image.
The pads also provide a lot more flexibility for everyday life and really just feel like any other form of slightly thick clothing. The material has only begun to find its position in the consumer market and with a number of advances expected in the near future, expect to see the armour become increasingly strong.
If you want any more information on D3O body armour and its amazing properties - just contact us.
Road Safety Campaign for Younger Riders
Teachers will tell you one of the best ways in which to teach children of any danger is to show them the repercussion of their actions. Of course for younger ones, speed is often one of the pivotal motivations of purchasing a bike and a mixture of inexperience and power can be deadly.
There’s no doubting that no matter what young people will want to go fast, so the only real pragmatic thing to do is to educate them and protect them. This is why our work with the Road Safety Team of Gloucestershire Council began. We wanted to show the different protection levels of different clothing.
We’re all familiar with inexperienced riders without the appropriate gear – tracksuit bottoms being one example of the apparel on show. So, with the commission of the Safety Team, we created a garment that was half jogger, half our HOOD K7 Motorcycle Jean. This garment was used at clubs, events and talks to show people that protection doesn’t have to cost in style terms. The perceptions that leather trousers are the only protective gear out there still is strong with many; however, we wanted to change that notion.
Our commission didn’t end there; the council asked us to do a drag test with our motorbike jeans and the high street jogger mix to show the variation in protective qualities. We joined these two pairs of trousers in two halves and put them through the same drag test.
By filling the trousers up with 50KG of para- aramid and dragging the garment for a quarter mile at 40mph, we could show the protection levels of the different clothing. We drove both sides of the trousers for this same distance, or as much of a distance as they would last. As you can imagine, it was an eventful but expected result.
A 40mph, the jogger became a shredded shadow of itself within the first few metres, whereas our renowned Hood K7 jean’s side performed just as we expected – excellently.
Our speciality Hood/ Kyrano jeans, with their tight weave denim did very well in the test and when compared to the jogger show instantly what we set out to show. The denim lasted for a good period of time and when it eventually wore though the high-tech para-aramid lining did an excellent job of holding everything together and staying perfectly intact.
Of course, this demonstrates to anyone on the spectrum of very interested to sceptical the abilities of our jeans. Our Hood Jean has never failed a customer, even at speeds of up to 90mph. The high-tech para-aramid abrasion protection did very well, performing exactly as it said it would do – which makes us proud and keeps you safe.
The History of our Great British Motorcycle Jeans
So for our first blog post we thought we would give a little history behind Hood and Kyrano. Future posts will include our pick of the best biker news and tips, so stay tuned.
With origins producing denim over 50 years ago, our company has come a long way. We set out work in Norfolk in England as a small family company with big ambitions. Our origins come from our owner’s father Chris, who once worked for Lee Cooper before helping to set up Falmer jeans in the 1950s. In the 1960s he started Motown Jeans single handedly, based out of Essex.
Chris and Julie met here and set up their own company in 1994, first designing high street styles but the future was shaped when they were approached by a Motocross team to design their kit. This work provided them with information about the materials involved and planted the seeds for their own design which was released in 2000. This resulted in the popular K7 jean among a number of others to follow.
This K7 Jean was one of the first para-aramid reinforced motorcycle jeans in the world, which was and still is manufactured in the UK - something we are steadfastly proud about.
We take pride in our British roots and the quality products we produce reflect everything you would expect from a British company. Our jeans are made from the very best materials and offer all the protection you need from motorbike clothing, yet at competitive rates. This has seen us richly rewarded with the support of our customers, even in the current challenging economy. Including Kyrano UK, we are left with two brands competing at the very forefront of the motorcycle jean market in the UK.
We know 2012 will be a bumper year for both the original Hood woven para-aramid jeans with its optional Knox Hip and Knee armour as well as ourKyrano-UK range of soft knitted para-aramid abrasion protection with its D3O T5 Hip and Knee armour fitted as standard.
These are both top class products and offer the best of protection from two great armour suppliers. We released the Kyrano UK range last summer, in 2011 and it has proved to be a very well-liked choice among our customers. Following this we’ve responded with new ringspun denim flat rivets and a newly designed Hood Jeans stud. The two brands offer more choice in the field of UK motorbike clothing andwith this in mind we’re interested to see how 2012 will develop. We hope it will continue in the vein of 2011, with our products right at the top, among biker’s favourites in the UK.
We’re excited and so should you be, so here’s to 2012!