The Helmet Battle

Posted on November 16, 2006 with 1 Comment

There has been a battle waging with regards to the use of helmets. I’m not talking about the public battle but instead my own internal conflict.

Sure, the public battle has been going on for a while, with all due legislation and finger pointing. In fact, I once canceled our ad business with a major cruiser publication, when the Editor opined that people who rode without helmets are “ignorant” and if they were injured, this Editor would feel no pity for them. I found this type of statement repulsive. Especially given that a fellow rider had died (while not wearing a helmet) just recently on a ride, that I had decided not to attend at the last minute. No doubt I felt very sorry for him and his twin brother, who flew here to take his body home.

Oddly enough, the people who make such harsh statements are doing so from a State where there is a helmet law. A law in many cases they opposed in the name of motorcycle political correctness. Talk about hypocrisy. “We should be able to decide for ourselves” they say, but if your decision does not jive with theirs, you’re “ignorant”. These same people would never speak with such callous disregard to those around them who smoke, eat too much fast food or engage in some other “acceptable” high risk behaviors. Face it, life is a risk and whether it is being a couch potato or jumping out of airplanes, we all pick our poison. As for this aforementioned Editor, living and working on a fault-line could be construed as “ignorant” by some people.

 With all of this you might think that I am anti-helmet. In fact my position could be seen by some, as equally hypocritical. For many years I have ridden without a helmet. When asked why, I would simply say “it is not a smart choice, just a spiritual one”. In the next breath however, I would always speak very loudly in favor of wearing them. Though I never chastised anyone for not wearing a helmet, I would always encourage friends to do so, hoping that they would not follow my bad example.

The spiritual reasoning, had to do with surviving so many high risk activities and close calls in my life that I had increasing come to believe that helmet or no, I could not change whether I live or died. Having survived three major motorcycle accidents with hardly a scratch seemed to support this theory. In none of them was I wearing a helmet. Fate, God or the natural laws of the universe would be making the “live or die” call for me, I concluded. Increasingly in the past couple of years, I have had this nagging feeling that there was perhaps a spiritual irresponsibility and dichotomy in this line of thinking. I eat organic foods and have switched to almost entirely organic cleaners and bathroom products. I have even been known to step out of the road when a semi is barreling towards me. Perhaps this spiritual “excuse” was not holding as much water as I had once thought. The plain fact is, that I like riding without a helmet with the proverbial wind in my hair and the bugs in my teeth. I like it a LOT. That is my only real reason.

Along with the nagging feeling about irresponsibility to my own metaphysical center, has come another phenomenon. Despite my vocal support for helmets, I have started to notice that my bad example has been having a more solid impact. Friends whom had always worn helmets had suddenly stopped doing so. It appears that saying one thing and doing another was having a less than desired effect.

This brings us back to the result of my personal helmet conflict. During the summer months I made several attempts to wear a helmet. Each time the weight of the helmet and the heat brought me back to riding without. This would often occur within just a couple of miles. It became obvious that this transition would take some strategy, so I cleverly awaited the chill of fall. The other day I purchased the coolest looking full face I could find. “A full face” you ask? Yes quite a jump. But as always, there is a method to my madness. First looks. This helps the visual aspect that I am so attuned to. The black/dark gray and white tribal graphics really spoke to me. Even the name Raven. Cool! Next was the fact that the weather can get cold as hell here during the winter months. The full face keeps me toasty warm with very little acclimation needed.

I have only ridden a couple of times with this new helmet. Due to the cold, I actually made it the entire ride without giving up. In fact, the protection from the elements has been more than welcome. My long term strategy is to find an equally cool looking half helmet for summer. I am hoping that having acclimated to the full face during the winter months the half helmet will feel like so much liberation. At least that is the plan.

Even though I have made a personal decision to try to wear a helmet, I will never call someone “ignorant” for not wearing one and I will always feel sorry for a fallen brother or sister biker who dies or is injured in a crash, helmet or not.


One comment

  1. JBLGUY47 says:

    Living in NJ we have a helmet law so I don’t have any experience riding without one. Too many people here ride with non-DOT approved helmets and too often we read in the local papers of riders who don’t make it through a crash. I have a 3/4 HJC-CL33 with a shield that comes down full face, offering no chin protection. I bought a “cool looking” 1/2 helmet that “looks” better but I still find myself wearing the 3/4 most of the time. Safety is more of a concern for me than the “look”. I’ve tried on full face helmets but feel too restricted in them. I’m old though so what the heck to I know anyway?

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