Many motorcycle riders choose not to wear helmets, thinking that as experienced riders, they do not need a helmet or they just don’t like them. I can personally attest to the safety of wearing a helmet from an accident I had three years ago. When my head was sliding on the payment, all I could think of was “Thank God for helmets.” No one can ever be certain when they will encounter a situation on the road that is beyond their control. The majority of multi-vehicle motorcycle accidents are caused by the operator of the other vehicle. Of course you have the freedom to choose whether to wear a helmet or not in states with non-helmet laws, but I would like to offer a few guidelines in choosing a helmet that offers the most protection without sacrificing comfort or style. And diva’s you know we want to be stylin’ even though our hairdo isn’t!
First, and most important, purchase a Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218 approved helmet. The symbol will be on the outside back of the helmet and also on the label inside, stating the manufacturer’s name, month and year of manufacture, construction materials, helmet model and size. A complying helmet must have both labels. The helmet will have a firm polystyrene (Styrofoam) inner liner of about on-inch and weigh about three pounds. They will have sturdy chin straps with solid rivets and will not feature spikes, or other protruding decorations.
Full-face helmets offer the most protection in a collision. Plastic face shields protect you from the wind, dust, rain, insects and road debris. If you don’t want the face shield, be sure to wear goggles to protect your eyes. Don’t just rely on your windshield or glasses as an adequate substitute for a face shield or goggles.
There are other styles of helmets to choose from, including open face and half helmets. Many half helmets offer a zip out liner, which is really convenient when the weather warms up. There are many novelty helmets, German army or skull cap styles to select from, and granted they are more comfortable, cooler and lightweight, but they are considered unsafe. The feeling of the wind blowing through your hair is such a free feeling, but it’s not worth the risk. The last two riders I knew who died from head injuries were both wearing novelty helmets. I know it’s all about choice and I’m not trying to influence your decision, I just want you to ride, be safe and well protected.
Bright colored helmets increase your visibility to other vehicles, or you can add reflective stickers or tape to the back and sides for greater visibility.
Always try on a helmet before you buy it. Your helmet should feel snug and should not turn freely around your head. It also should not move back and forth on your head. A helmet should never prevent you from turning your head to observe traffic.
When you wear a properly fitted helmet, wind noise is actually reduced and it reduces the intensity of all sounds equally. I also recommend getting into the habit of wearing ear-plugs for protection. They are a hassle when it comes to taking in and out and trying to remember where you put them, but over a period of years of riding, your ears can be damaged from all the noise.
Each brand of helmet fits differently. Try on a variety of brands to find the one that fits you best. The dealership staff should be able to assist you with the proper fit.
I would discourage buying a used helmet. It may have been involved in an accident and damaged in ways that are not obvious or visible. Anytime you drop your helmet or it falls from your motorcycle seat it shortens the helmet’s life span and reduces its effectiveness. Be sure to replace your helmet if it has been in an accident.
Always fasten and tighten the chinstrap of your helmet. An unfastened helmet will fly off in an accident.
Good Luck and happy helmet hunting!
I am moving up to a bigger bike this spring and wanted to know if you had any tips in adjusting to the added weight?
Hi Shelia, Go to a parking lot and practice; learn where your controls are, and so on.
As long as you can flatfoot and have control on both sides, you can probably ride it safely under most circumstances. If you cannot touch flatfooted, and you are on the ball of your feet, you may want to consider having your seat cut down to help improve your ability or have your bike lowered. See my February article entitled, A New Saddle for your Ride, for tips on purchasing a new seat.
When you stop on an incline across your lane, put your foot down on the higher side only at first, and reach very carefully with your foot for the lower side.
When turning at slow speeds, a small amount of pressure on the rear brake can help you maintain control of the degree of lean you want. And always remember to look through the turn!
To get your bike off the kickstand when it is leaning too much, grip the front brake and clutch levers securely and push the bike forward as you try to bring it upright in one smooth movement. This can be done with the engine running or not.
I hope this helps you, Shelia, and remember to relax and enjoy yourself!
Congrats on your move up! Sometimes moving up is like starting over. Everything is different, the feel, the power, the controls, the handlebars, the seat, yada, yada, yada, so here are a few suggestions:
“Never Ride Faster than your Angel can fly”
Tip of the month: It is easier and safer to anticipate animals in the road than it is to miss them once they’re in front of you. Watch for sudden movement in roadside grass and shrubbery. Remember that most lines in the woods are vertical, so if you see something horizontal, it may be an animal.