Remember The Salt Ghost? In that ChopCult feature Four Aces Cycle and Lowbrow Customs combined forces to return their machine to its full race glory. Well, Vanson Leathers took notice and has volunteered their support. The Malinky brothers recently visited Vanson for a custom fitting, and while they were there Kyle filed this report.
Tyler and I flew in to Providence, RI and took our time heading to Vanson's headquarters in Fall River, MA. We made a few stops on the way, which included hitting a cool '40s streamliner diner for breakfast. We arrived early, so to kill some time we visited a place called Battleship Cove, which we assumed was a cheesy tourist trap, but it ended up being a group of WWII battleships, destroyers and a submarine. It was a pretty cool sight to see and even better they let us walk unattended through the ships and subs. It is hard to imagine how many men lived, fought and died on those ships. That night we met up with the Choppahead crew to check out their shop full of cool bikes, projects, and parts. Thanks again guys for the burritos, beer and hospitality!
Vanson headquarters is located in a turn-of-the-century warehouse. Vanson owners Mike and Kim Van der Sleesen gave us a full tour and let us check out all their products firsthand. For our personal leathers we were measured and fitted for the custom suits we'll be wearing when we race the Salt Ghost during Bonneville Speed Week. Vanson's generosity and support for our race program still blows my mind.
It is pretty impressive to see what goes into making a race suit, starting with the 40 odd measurements, the pattern making involved, and how they customize the suit and graphics to each customer. There is only one grade of leather that Vanson uses, competition weight leather of their own special tannage. When we were selecting the leather for our suits they had a whole drawer of samples, everything from standard colors to metallic leathers. All of the race suits are hand-cut piece by piece using the hundreds of patterns hanging throughout the production floor. When something doesn't fit or work just right, they make more patterns. Every piece is then hand stitched. A wide range of body armor, high-tech materials and other features are available to customize your suit for whatever kind of riding or racing you plan to do. In Vanson's graphics department they use modern state-pf-the-art water jet cutters to create the lettering and graphics and other custom elements on their race suits. It was interesting to see 100-year-old industrial sewing machines next to modern water jet plotters. There's definitely a blending of old and new technologies at Vanson Leathers.
The Vanson showroom was packed with tons of inventory as well as racing suits on display, bikes scattered throughout, and a wall of trophies and racing memorabilia. Walking through this old converted warehouse space was an experience. If you are ever in the area or in the market for some leathers it is definitely worth a visit. Thanks again to Kime and Mike for their time and support.