This week's Gear Guide features some terrific new-old-stock Buco helmets, warm and pretty Navy grade sweaters, a bright and beautiful backpack, a handsome twist on the classic engineer boot, and good looking no nonsense leather jacket.


PRODUCT REVIEW - NORTH SEA CLOTHING SERVICE SHAWL COLLAR JUMPER Motorcycle shops and outdoor stores are full of the latest technical fabrics that claim to be this layer and that layer, offering protection from sand-storms and blizzards, keeping you cool when it's hot and hot when it's cold. In my mind all of them fall short of good old fashioned wool.


Wool has so many advantages over man made fibres: it is environmentally friendly, is biodegradable, renewable, long lasting and robust. It's a breathable insulator, has high UV protection, and is naturally flame retardant. It's natural elasticity helps keep the garment in shape after continual wear and washing. Neil, of North Sea Clothing, an avid vintage clothes collector and a life-long biker, focuses on manufacturing outdoor wear which is up to protecting the wearer from the harshest conditions. He draws his inspiration from the Original Submariner sweater issued to North Atlantic convoys in WW1 and WW2. He manufactures his sweaters to the exact specifications using the same 100% British wool.


These sweaters were adopted by the cafe-racers and ton up boys in the 50s and 60s, worn under leather jackets keeping them warm as they tore it up on old Brit thumpers. The Service Shawl Collar Jumper is a variation on the Submariner, and is perfect to wear on the bike underneath a leather or wax cotton jacket. It's ribbed knit creates a snug fit with a long waist and long cuff collars. It sits well under a jacket, and seals all the gaps that otherwise lead to nasty drafts. The shawl collar can be rolled up and fastened when on the bike, and rolled down when off. It's comfortable and insulating whilst not being as all encompassing, and sometimes restricting, as the roll neck collar. It has cotton wear patches on the elbows and shoulder.


I've worn mine all winter, and with a silk base layer this has kept me warm in the nastiest of conditions. As the weather's got warmer, it works well with just a t-shirt underneath, and because of its breathability will be comfortable far into spring. As well as being practical it's also just a really comfy and good looking jumper. It can be worn all day and night once you've got where you need to be, and if taken off packs down to next to nothing. The Service Shawl Collar Jumper will last for years, if not decades, and like all of North Sea Clothing's products, is worth the investment. Photography by Ben Curwen.


ELMC - VINTAGE NEW OLD STOCK BUCO HELMETS. Vintage motorcycle helmets are a highly collectible, and one of the most sought after manufacturers are Buco. Gary at ELMC has managed to get his hand on a batch of old new stock. "They have never been used, but naturally, being many years old, there are some slight signs of storage soiling - boxes may have some staining and creasing etc - but generally the condition rating is a good 9/10."


These wonderful lids are the original 'jet helmet' that have the desirable closer-ftting profile, much less bulbous than their modern-day counter-parts. Buco helmets date back to the year 1933 when the company was founded in Detroit, Michigan, and the company sported the slogan of "Look better, feel better, are better". Buco were very popular helmets in the 1950's and 1960's and were sold by all Harley Davidson and Indian Motorcycle dealers.


The Buco met the US safety standards at their time of manufacture, but now 40 odd years later, it's unlikely they meet any contemporary standards. Therefore, Gary sells these helmets as vintage collectibles and he doesn't advise them to be worn on the road.


Gary has stock in candy red, orange, white, yellow and silver. These are a piece of motorcycle history, and look terrific.


PRODUCT REVIEW - CHIPPEWA CORDOVAN ENGINEER BOOT During the depression era, The Chippewa Shoe Manufacturing Company, of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, developed a pair of boots with a stovepipe leg that was fashioned over their "English Riding Boot" last. These became the Engineer Boot. These were purposely designed as a stripped back safety boot with a lack of protruding fittings, nails or laces, preventing snagging injury when working around belt drive and line shaft machinery. The straight solid shaft with few seams could be readily waterproofed for those working in wet environments. For these reason they were quickly adopted by bikers, and to this day still remain one of the most effective boots for riding in.


Chippewa are a heritage brand. The company philosophy demands that Chippewa products use only premium raw materials and are hand crafted in the USA. To this day, their boots still carry the "Hand Crafted in the USA" labels as "...homage to the men and women that have built Chippewa."


Today Chippewa still manufacture amongst the finest engineer boots money can buy. They make them in a number of different styles using different materials. I've recently got myself a pair of 11'' Cordovan Plain Toe (as opposed to steel) Engineers. They're made from a premium quality Cordovan hide, and built on a Goodyear leather welt, with a steel shank, Texon and maple leather heel insoles, with a Vibram v-bar black sole.


These fit true to size and are comfortable out of the box. The leather is supple and a lovely reddish mahogany tone. The shaft is narrower than my Redwing engineers, so sit under jeans easier and are less bulky in appearance. They have a high heel, and thus a deep inset, which when kick starting my Norton is a real advantage. They're bedding in really nicely, and have kept my feet dry so far in the wet.


These are a terrific boot which should last me for years. They're tough enough to ride hard, and handsome enough to keep on when I get to work or the pub. Photography by Ben Curwen.


PRODUCT REVIEW - SIDEWINDER CANVAS BACKPACK A decent backpack on the bike in essential, whether you're commuting, touring, on a Sunday blast to the coast, or just humping round the bastard-big lock you can't leave your bike without. Sidewinder make a great backpack that is ideal for the bike. It's a traditional design with a drawstring close, one internal pocket and one outside pocket. It's dimensions are 46cm x 40 cm.


What's really irritating with most backpacks is how fiddly it is to adjust the straps according to the load. Sidewinder have such a simple solution, using two buckles and straps, rather than a D slip lock. You just fasten it to fit whilst the backpack is on, getting rid of the need to take it on and off half a dozen times to get it right! I've got the pack in a lovely orange. I have an aversion to hi-viz and day-glo, but on dark winter nights it's good to be visible. This is a happy compromise that gets me seen without me looking like an extra from some early eighties Road Traffic Safety Campaign. They also come in indigo denim, striped canvas, yellow and black.


The build quality on these packs is ridiculous. Over engineered is an understatement. I've no idea what the maximum load is for one of these, but I'm pretty sure your back would break before the pack does. The hardwearing mid-tan pebble-grained leather straps are thick and securely nickel riveted and buckled, the straps are wide and comfortable, the rope fastener tough but waxed so it's not rough, and the canvas is waxed, so waterproof, and thick enough to hold pretty much anything. Sidewinder are a small London based manufacturer , and are "...dedicated to bringing you high quality, practical & classic accessories for the modern Gent around town. We are very proud that all our items are crafted in small quantities within the UK." This is a great backpack, fit for purpose, and handsome to go with it. Photography by Ben Curwen.


PRODUCT REVIEW BY THE BIKE SHED'S STEVE SIMMONDS - REV’IT MELVILLE JACKET There's nothing worse than setting off for a ride and arriving so cold you could turn water to ice just by looking at it. Not a particularly useful skill unless you work in a Cocktail bar- which I don't. Thankfully those days are over thanks to my new Rev'it duvet or as they call it the Melville. The first thing I noticed about the jacket was the weight. Not so heavy it feels oppressive but this is a thick quality ‘winter warmer’. I've got the medium and the fit is perfect, not too long, or baggy and just the right length for me on the sleeves –an important fact some manufacturers don’t consider we spend most of our time with our arms out-stretched.


It's a well-made bit of kit too, the jacket comes with a removable inner liner that zips securely in place and can obviously be removed if spring has now finally sprung. The inner has two super handy inside pockets too and although this jacket is well equipped in the pocket department on the outside I find these internal ones really useful. Another detail I like is the fact that once you take the inner out the jacket still feels like it fits right and it still has another two internal pockets… did I mention this jacket has a lot of pockets!


It comes as standard with elbow and shoulder protectors built in and with an option to fit a back plate too if required. It’s 100% waterproof and so far I can testify to this. The poppers are sturdy and well made, each engraved with the Rev’it mark. Minute detail but I love the shade of the metal they have used too.


On the front the jacket has four ample pockets and you can’t help but compare it to the traditional look of a Belstaff. Now I don’t own a Belstaff so I can’t compare, but for me this jacket looks the part and over delivers in terms of comfort and warmth. If I had to, and I mean had to pick a detail I thought they could improve it would be the belt. It feels a little flimsy (compared to the thick quality of the rest of the jacket) and the metal of the buckle isn’t the same as the poppers… particular aren’t I! But this is really me trying to find fault in what really is a splendid jacket and I something I know will keep me as toastie as I was when I left the house. Read all the techy bits here…