BMG Blog

  • Belstaff Explorer

    ALASTAIR HUMPHREYS

    What is the one defining characteristic of the world's great explorers? Something that they all have in common? According to modern-day adventurer, writer and motivational speaker Alastair Humphreys, it's that they were all 'ordinary'. Whether you’re talking about Sir Walter Raleigh or Sir Ranulph Fiennes, every great adventurer was a regular person who simply made the decision to do something daring.

    'Some of the most extraordinary journeys were undertaken by very ordinary people.' Humphreys explains. 'The only difference between those people and those who haven't done big trips is the choice. The difficult part of most adventures is getting to the starting line.’

    Alastair Humphreys exploring Greenland
    Greenland Expedition. Image credit: Alastair Humphreys

    Although Humphreys might not rank himself among his travel heroes, it was the likes of Patrick Leigh Fermor, Ernest Shackleton and Laurie Lee who inspired him to take the road less travelled. 'My escapades began because I loved reading stories of travel and adventure. Britain has this incredible legacy of explorers, which inspired me to dream of writing a book myself. I think the writing side of travel and adventure is my first love, really.'

    Finally deciding to stop dreaming and start doing, Humphreys embarked on his first journey in August 2001. But to call that first expedition 'big' is quite the understatement. Aged 24, Humphreys set off from his parents' house in the Yorkshire Dales on a bicycle weighed down with supplies and a change of clothes. He didn't return for over four years. Admitting that he embarked on the kind of trip he 'assumed would fail', he persevered on his round-the-world journey, through the stifling desert in Sudan, through Argentina’s arduous Aconcagua mountains and snow-covered Siberia. His extraordinary journey took him 46,000 miles across 60 countries and five continents.

    Alastair Humphreys hiking to Laugafell
    Hiking Laugafell, Iceland. Image credit: Alastair Humphreys

    What perhaps separates Humphreys from his contemporaries is a truly nomadic spirit. Throughout that first epic journey - which cost him only around £7,000 - he carried all his belongings on a bicycle. No television crew or entourage accompanied him, he usually camped out under the stars and occasionally relied on the kindness of strangers. 'I really like the simplicity of adventures,' he says. 'Part of me would like to collect beautiful things from around the world, but that's not really compatible with my life – cluttering it up with stuff. I'm filling it with memories instead.'

    He documented his journey through photography and blogging, later publishing a two-part book on the expedition. Once home, the inevitable ‘what next?’ question soon arose, but his experience only gave him the impetus to do more. Throughout the last decade, he has forged a career out of adventures, writing - he's published seven books, including a children’s series - and giving motivational talks. He has travelled across Iceland via pack raft, walked the length of the River Kaveri in India, and rowed across the Atlantic with three complete strangers. 'I love doing stuff I've never done before,’ he enthuses, 'starting from scratch and building up confidence in order to do the journey. I've really tried to make myself go and do something and not worry about failing – I worry instead about getting old, then looking back and regretting not doing it.'

    But Humphreys' most epic experiences eventually turned him on to the idea of 'downsizing' his trips. 'I noticed people started talking to me as though I were an adventurer and they were a normal person, which struck me as weird and quite uncomfortable - because I am a normal person,' he explains. 'It made me realize adventure is often seen as an inaccessible thing for normal people to do.'

    To prove that anyone can go on an adventure, Humphreys decided to spend a year exploring the Great British landscape through mini-excursions, such as swimming the Thames, or camping on a hill during the spring equinox. He named these experiences 'micro-adventures'.

    Alastair Humphreys swimming the Thames
    Wild swimming. Image credit: Alastair Humphreys

    'A micro-adventure is just an adventure,' Humphreys explains. 'The only difference is a micro-adventure is shorter in time. It doesn't cost a lot, doesn't require much expertise and you don’t have to live in the Himalayas to be able to do it. Micro-adventures are achievable within the constraints of busy people's lives.'

    If you work 9 to 5 and feel there aren’t enough hours in the day, Humphreys insists you are the perfect candidate. So convinced is he of the attainability of these excursions that, as well as publishing a book on the subject, he has dedicated a section of his blog to spreading the word. Full of month-by-month ideas, videos and tips, his blog has inspired a community of fellow micro-adventurers to document and share their experiences.

    'It's been really rewarding for me to see lots of normal, busy professionals getting out and having little adventures – and seeing the impact it can have on their lives,' he says. 'My mission for this summer and onwards is to try to get more people to do something they've never done before, out in the wild, close to where they live.'

    Well, what are you waiting for?

    Alastair Humphreys spoke on behalf of Belstaff’s Adventure Talks at the new South Kensington Club.

    southkensingtonclub.com

    alastairhumphreys.com

  • Cult of Cool

    The Rise of Café Racer Style

    In the US's early post-war decades, bikers were seen as outlaws. Ever since the wildly exaggerated Hollister riots of 1947 and the birth of the self-proclaimed 'one percenters' - following a statement by the respectable American Motorcycle Association that 99 per cent of motorcycle riders were law-abiding citizens - to be clad in black leather, astride an engine and two wheels, was to mark yourself as an outsider. Hollywood - thanks to films such as The Wild One, Live Fast, Die Young and High School Hellcats - served only to drive the stereotype home.

    Yet in the UK, as with so many things, biking was a more genteel affair - the newspapers' hysterical stereotyping of its fans being in some perpetual gang warfare with scooterists aside. Come the mid-century, riders tended to like this avant-garde new American music called 'rock', which soon got them dubbed 'rockers'. But not for nothing was the 59 Club - one of the most 'notorious' of London's biker groups - co-founded by Bill Shergold, habitué by night of Ace Cafe, the city's racer mecca, and a vicar by day. Biking had, after all, been a perfectly normal and popular pursuit since the Twenties.

    If biking in the US came to a peak in the late 1950s and 1960s, particularly as an outlet for dispossessed and disaffected GIs returning from World War II, it endured as more of a shared passion in the UK, especially when it came to the lightweight 'cafe racer' machines, which facilitated a stupendous speed on the roads that only more expensive, customised machines were capable of. Certainly, despite the popular characterisation of bikers as scruffy, anti-social layabouts, it took the income of a steady job and a grasp of mechanical wizardry to be one at all.

    Indeed, older rockers might be a little perplexed by the fashion world's adoption of their style as being iconic, a fact to which Belstaff's latest collection, with its patch-covered, studded, sleeveless summer-weight leather tops and articulated trousers, coated linens, henleys and bandanas - in fact, everything but the engine oil - pays homage. For the bikers of the period, the clothes, frankly, were a passing thought, chosen for their affordability and functionality, the British climate, and lack of money, with only a lucky few able to acquire purpose-designed waxed cotton or leather jackets from the likes of Belstaff. These would be festooned with patches and pin-badges denoting rallies attended, and customized with chains, fringes and hand-painted decals to the extent that they amounted to pieces of folk art.

    Cafe Racer Style

    Yet, of course, time and fiction have conspired to re-purpose the rocker's style - the matching gleam of leathers and of a Velocette Thruxton Venom or BSA Gold Star, cut by the grime of a smeared face, affords the rider a kudos equaled only by fighter pilots. It lends a decidedly dark, stark masculine cool at that: biker style is supra-fashion, not concerned with fey trends. In reality, come the end of the Sixties, the rockers had faded away - not because of society's disapproval, but chiefly because they had grown up, started families and now needed saloon cars. But their style lived on in mythology, which has kept it revving ever since.

    Josh Sims is a fashion journalist and author of Icons Of Men's Style

  • The Legend of Belstaff

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  • Barbour International Jacket

  • Classic Davida Helmet Video

  • Barbour Honors Steve McQueen on his 85th Birthday.

    Steve McQueen: The Legend Lives On

    On March 24th we are celebrating a day which would be the 85th birthday of Steve McQueen: the actor and motorcycling legend that inspired a collection for Barbour International.

    Date
    March 23rd 2015

    A true icon for motorcycling culture, Steve McQueen has long inspired the Barbour International brand - with a continuous collection showcasing his legacy each season.  With 24th March marking what would be his 85th birthday; we are celebrating the life of a legend who shaped the popularity of Barbour International.

    Although McQueen leapt to fame as an actor in some of the biggest movies in Hollywood, he was well known for his love of adrenaline filled sports – in particular motorcycle racing.

    “I’m not sure if I’m an actor who races or a racer who acts” – Steve McQueen

    Steve McQueen’s association with Barbour dates back to 1964, when he famously raced in one of the most iconic off road motorcycling events of the time: the International Six Days Trial.   ­­­On route to the trials (which were held in East Germany) McQueen and the rest of the US motorcycling team stopped off in London to pick up a Barbour International Suit for the race.   A race that required each rider to cover 200 miles a day, the ISDT was noted as one of the most challenging in the world.  Steve McQueen and the US team were among the first to recognise the waxed Barbour International Suit as the best defence against the huge amounts of rain and mud encountered during the race.

    With Steve McQueen an idolised figure worldwide, the Barbour International suit became almost standard choice for many racers over the years – with 70% of participants wearing Barbour International during one year.

    With the success of the International Six Days Trial as inspiration, in 2011 we combined McQueen’s effortlessly cool style with the spirit of Barbour International to launch the first Steve McQueen Collection.   The collection has continued each season and is now in its 5th year of acting as tribute to one of our most famous and influential fans.

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"The British Are Coming"

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