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Adventure Motorcycle Riders.
The Legend of Lawrence
The start of a new year always means the potential for adventure and discovery. No man has adventured further than TE Lawrence, whose intrepid spirit is celebrated here by Rob Ryan
It is the time of year when we look to the coming 12 months and begin to plan our trips away, perhaps conjuring up something that will challenge us and rise above the humdrum. But what if behind you lies the adventure of a lifetime, impossible to top? This has long been a problem facing those who find fame early in life. Take TE Lawrence, who, as well as being an explorer and archeologist, travelling in some of the world’s remotest regions, had led the Arab Revolt in 1916-18 against the Ottoman Empire. The image of this slight, blond man in flowing robes at the head of a daring camel-mounted guerilla army caught the imagination of the British public and he subsequently had unwelcome adulation thrust upon him. ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ was sickened by war, suspicious of his celebrity status, but, even in peacetime, still craved the excitement and adventure he had experienced in the desert. He found it in motorcycles.
T E Lawrence on his Borough Superior Motorcycle
TE Lawrence on his Brough Superior motorcycle chats to George Brough, the creator of the motorcycle widely considered the world’s first super bike
Post-war, he enrolled anonymously in the RAF, and in 1922 he purchased the first of no less than eight Brough Superiors he would own. He waxed eloquently about the thrill of riding such a machine:
“Another bend and I have the honour of one of England’s straightest and fastest roads. The burble of my exhaust unwound like a long cord behind me. Soon my speed snapped it, and I heard only the cry of the wind, which my battering head split and fended aside.”
Lawrence donned Arab garb during his World War I campaign because Bedouin robes were ‘cleaner and more decent in the desert’ than a khaki army uniform. However, for his rides in the UK his tunic of choice was a Belstaff ‘colonial coat’, a very modern-looking (the company has in fact produced an identical replica, the Roadmaster) jacket of triple-layered cotton, with patch pockets, belt and a stand collar. Belstaff has long been the choice for adventurers and travellers of all stripes and this jacket was intended for those making for hostile climes and in need of a versatile, wind- and waterproof garment. Lawrence was not leaving the country, but he was venturing into extreme conditions – he frequently topped 100 mph on his bikes and boasted about losing any chasing policemen on forest roads.
T E Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia
Peter O’Toole starred in David Lean’ Lawrence of Arabia, the story of TE Lawrence’s life. Image courtesy of Rex
He would have worn the coat to ride his beloved Brough SS100s, Georges II, which he bought in 1924 - the year Belstaff was founded - to George VII, the bike he died on 11 years later (George VIII was still being built when he crashed near his Clouds Hill cottage in Dorset).
Exactly what happened to cause that accident on a long, straight, if undulating, road on the morning of 13 May 1935, when Lawrence was just 46, has never been fully determined. But Lawrence died - six days after the crash - as a result of doing something he loved: riding a powerful motorcycle. ‘A skittish motorbike with a touch of blood in it is better than all the riding animals on earth, because of its logical extension of our faculties, and the hint, the provocation, to excess conferred by its honeyed untiring smoothness.’ That ‘provocation to excess’ might well have proved his undoing that morning, but, 80 years later, the legend of the fearless, blue-eyed adventurer who conquered the desert lives on.
Words: Rob Ryan
Robert Ryan is a writer for The Times and Sunday Times and author of Empire of Sand, a novel about Lawrence before Arabia
MR DAVID BECKHAM
Sport’s biggest style icon chats to Mr John Lanchester about fatherhood, football and his starring role in Belstaff’s short film Outlaws
Words by Mr John Lanchester
These days, Mr David Beckham describes himself as “a driver”. He is only half joking. He takes his children to their four different schools every morning, picks them up every afternoon and cooks them dinner most nights. Appearing on Mr Jimmy Kimmel’s television programme, he claimed that “I’m literally an Uber driver”. I told Mr Beckham that, with two teenagers of my own, I sympathised, but at least we should be grateful that our children can’t summon us by app. He laughed and said: “It would be game over”.
However, Mr Beckham doesn’t have an Uber driver’s typical CV. In the first decade of this century, the president of Real Madrid football club set out to assemble a squad of “galácticos”: football players who were so famous that they would be recognisable not just anywhere in the world, but throughout the entire galaxy. (I’m using “football” in the global sense of the term to refer to the game that in the US is called “soccer”.) The idea was that you could get into a taxi anywhere in the world, from Beijing to Johannesburg or Sydney to Oslo, and the cab driver would be able to name five or six players from the Real Madrid team. Once the policy was announced, it was clear that Real Madrid would eventually sign Mr Beckham as he was already one of the most famous footballers, and most recognisable faces, in the world.
He moved to Madrid in 2003, and since then his celebrity has only grown. It helps that he is as good looking today, at 40, as he was when he first started playing for Manchester United in his late teens. It also doesn’t hurt that he is married to Mrs Victoria Beckham, the former Spice Girl (Posh Spice) turned respected fashion designer. Some observers have given her credit for his interest in fashion, but the fact is that Mr Beckham’s engagement with style predates their relationship. The earliest photographs of him in youth football teams show him as the one with distinctive – usually spiky – hair. The Class of ’92, a documentary about the 1992 Manchester United youth team showed him customising a sponsor’s donated car and being teased about it by the other players, and he clearly did not mind. He likes things the way he likes them.
Footballers are conservative and conformist about their style – the “banter” culture of the dressing room puts a heavy premium on not being different. Mr Beckham never subscribed to that. I asked him where this passion came from.
“I don’t wake up in the morning and think I’m going to wear this today, I just go out in what I feel comfortable in”
“I actually don’t know,” he said. “My dad definitely wasn’t into style. He was dressed all right, but he was never into fashion, even though he was a mod back in the day. He had an amazing Vespa that got nicked outside my gran’s house. But I don’t know where it came from. It was there even at a young age. I was a pageboy when I was really young, and I had a choice of whether to choose a suit or knickerbockers - and I chose knickerbockers.”
Those knickerbockers were not the last time Mr Beckham made a distinctive or controversial fashion choice. He has gone out in public wearing a sarong and he has 40 tattoos; several of them visible when he is fully dressed. His beard, which is neatly trimmed on the day we meet, has at times a lavishness that is part-hipster, part-Duke-in-exile. By his own admission, when he was in Spain, “I kind of had a mullet going on”. As he himself says with a grin about his sartorial choices, “It’s not always been right”. He clearly – and robustly – doesn’t care and isn’t going to stop. “I don’t know… The style thing, it’s not something I do on purpose, I don’t wake up in the morning and think I’m going to wear this and this today, I just go out in what I feel comfortable in.”
“With the way men dress, there are rules… but rules are made to be broken and I think I’ve done that over the years”
I’m reluctant to leave it there, because his appearance has done a lot to make him what he is today. Most men who are famous for style or fashion have a look; a distinctive way of dressing. Mr Beckham doesn’t as he, himself, is the look. I mention to him the idea that male dressing is based on rules, expecting him to not agree. He half-does and half-doesn’t.
“I think it’s important for people to have their own sense of style – a personal style. I think there are certain rules, especially when you’re English, because you’re brought up on ‘this is how a gentleman should dress’. If you’re lucky enough to be able to afford it, you can go to Savile Row and have a suit made, or you can go and see how people dress. We’re brought up around that. I think we’re lucky to have that. In that sense of fashion, and the way men dress, there are rules. But I do also think that rules are made to be broken and I think I’ve done that over the years, in good ways and in bad ways. But I’m having fun and I wear what I like to wear: I don’t get told what to wear. It’s always important to have your own mind.”
His interest in style is apparent in what he’s been doing on the day we meet: taking part in a fashion shoot to accompany the release of a new short film, Outlaws, made in partnership with Belstaff. The film is written and directed by Mr Geremy Jasper. The executive producer is Ms Liv Tyler, partner of Mr Dave Gardner, Mr Beckham’s closest friend since their days in the Manchester United youth team. "Cinephilic" Mr Porter readers might compare Outlaws to Ms Marianne Faithfull’s film Girl on a Motorcycle, except with Mr Beckham wearing the leathers. Mr Harvey Keitel plays a maniacal film director who is bent on revenge, Ms Katherine Waterston is a trapeze artist, and there are conjoined twins, evil bikers, a bearded lady, and much footage of Mr Beckham zooming across the Mexican desert on one of his beloved motorcycles.
The news about Outlaws, and the fact that Mr Beckham is appearing in Mr Guy Ritchie’s upcoming film about King Arthur, has led to excitable speculation that acting is his new goal in life.
“Acting is not my new career, it’s just fun, it’s not something that I’m training to be better at”
“I saw an article the other day that said this is my new career, and it’s really not,” says Mr Beckham. “It’s something that I’ve dipped myself into from time to time, but I only did it for a friend, Guy” – Mr Guy Ritchie. “I did a small bit in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and I’ve done little bit more for him in [Knights of the Roundtable:] King Arthur, and then obviously there’s what we’ve done with the Outlaws. But it’s definitely not my new career, it’s just fun, it’s not something that I’m training to be better at.”
That’s a revealing way of describing an ambition – something you train to be better at. Not many celebrities talk like this. Mr Beckham’s air of glamour might make him seem a show pony, but his football was based on high work rate and long hours of off-screen effort. A large part of his fan appeal was, and is, in that combination of his looks and talent with his appetite for hard work.
Mr Beckham retired from football in May 2013, after a spell at Paris Saint-Germain F.C. Most recently retired athletes have a loss around them and it is there, very faintly, around Mr Beckham, too. He and his advisers have prepared thoughtfully for the transition, though, and he is clearly busy. He has business and entrepreneurial projects; he has a plan to start a major league soccer team in Miami. He works hard for 7: The David Beckham UNICEF Fund, a charity initiative that grew out of his work for UNICEF, focusing on projects in seven global areas where life is especially difficult for children. Mr Beckham calls this his “main focus” now – I’ve already heard from a source at UNICEF about how much work he does for now.
But it’s impossible to miss that the central focus of Mr Beckham’s life now is his own children. His face changes when he talks about overhearing his son’s Brooklyn’s art teacher praising him (“all of a sudden, I realised I had to walk away, I was getting emotional”) or how Cruz said: “Daddy, can you teach me how to make a croque-monsieur?” When I ask him whether he teaches his boys about style, he instantly says: “They teach me now.”
This might seem a matter of importance only to the Beckhams, but there is more to it than that. Mr Beckham is in essence a shy and private family man, who also happens to be one of the most famous men in the world. That combination could be his real legacy. Fatherhood has changed. Fathers have to do more than they used to. There aren’t enough role models for this modern kind of male parent: the hands-on one who bears his share of the ordinary daily work of parenting. We need to see more of that – I mean to really see it – in the lives of the rich and famous. Mr Beckham, who is one of the most admired, best-looking and richest men in the world, can’t think of anything he’d rather do than spend time with his children. It is, unarguably, a good look.
Groundbreaking expeditions and epic road-trips are a time-honoured Belstaff tradition founded by Che Guevara, Steve McQueen, and most recently Ewan McGregor and David Beckham. Now Californian Chris Burkard takes up the mantle of defining the spirit of two-wheeled adventure today, chasing the perfect shot around the globe in a ‘personal crusade against the mundane.’ Usually found surfing the Artic with camera in hand, Burkard came back to his home state to capture friend and fellow adventurer Eric Soderquist riding with Belstaff along the Big Sur.
Surprisingly for a West Coast native, Burkard feels most at home in remote, dangerous and often sub-zero locations. Quitting his job aged 19 to become a surf photographer, he quickly found the regular surf spots and their tourist comforts monotonous. “I began craving wild open spaces, so I set out to find the places others had written off as too cold, too remote, and too dangerous to surf”, he admits. Burkard has since made a career conquering all weather conditions to capturing the beautiful challenge of adventures into the wilderness.
"Amidst the harsh conditions, I stumbled onto one of the last quiet places - somewhere I felt a clarity and connection with the world."
Exclusive prints from Burkard’s Big Sur trip are currently on display at Belstaff flagship stores in London’s New Bond Street, New York, Munich, Milan, Glasgow and Manchester, through August to September.
“THE GREASY HANDS PREACHERS”
After a successful world premiere at the 2014 San Sebastian International Film Festival, “The Greasy Hands Preachers” makes it’s worldwide debut. Belstaff is proud partner of the documentary film, executively produced by Orlando Bloom. The film explores a modern day return to manual work through the passion of motorcycle enthusiasts around the world, shot entirely on Super 16mm.
WATCH THE FULL FILM NOWShot across California, Utah, Indonesia, Spain, Scotland and France, filmmakers Clement Beauvais and Arthur de Kersauson capture mechanics and custom shop founders as they try to understand the difference between manual and intellectual work. “The Greasy Hands Preachers” explores the unique satisfaction that results from doing something tangible, the sense of time, the relation between the form and the function, the joy of riding in a beautiful landscape and the community and friendship that motorcycle creates. For that, Belstaff is honoured to support and represent such a passionate and free-spirited collective.
British Motorcycle Gear (BMG) Montana One of the most highly-rated vintage-style motorcycle jackets we’ve come across in our travels. The leather is a supple 1.2-1.4mm grade ‘A’ semi-aniline cowhide, and the Montana also comes as standard with CE Level 1 Knox shoulder and elbow armour. (CE Level 2 certified back armor costs an additional $39.95.) It’s also fitted with chunky YKK zippers and has pre-curved sleeves with rotated shoulders. With an MSRP of $399 the Montana is the cheapest of the jackets listed here. Because it can be kitted out with full armor, it’s a popular choice in the UK—and in much of the English-speaking motorcycle-riding world too.
You can wear this jacket out to you favorite 5 Star Anything or just go play in the dirt..
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