To Wear or Not Wear a Helmet…

motorcycle helmet crash

“You know why I wear a helmet? Because the road is harder than my head!” –Carlos Mencia, comedian.

I know this is probably the most controversial subject within the motorcycle community, but it is a topic I just do not understand. I won’t bother you with statistics. I will, however, bother you with common sense. Now, I’ve heard all the reasons why not to wear a helmet:

  1. “I like to feel the wind in my hair.” I love when bald guys tell me this one.
  2. “I don’t like anyone telling me what I should wear or do with my life. That’s communism.” That makes sense. You don’t commit crimes, pay your taxes, have a boss, work for corporate America, but you don’t like being told what to do.
  3. “The helmet bothers me.” So did gloves, eye protection, and motorcycle boots when I first started riding. That’s why bikers say make sure you are performing regular maintenance on your bike because motorcycle boots were not made for walking. By the way, the helmet “bothering you” was a great argument back in the day, but with today’s new materials like carbon fiber, you do not even feel the weight of the helmet. My carbon fiber helmet weighs less than my motorcycle boots.
  4. “It makes me hotter.” Right. It is 98 degrees outside. Your skin is uncovered. The heat is rising from the asphalt, your legs are straddled around an engine, but it’s the helmet that is making you hot.
  5. Some argue that helmets contribute to a broken neck in an accident. I guess this is the chicken and the egg argument. Which came first, the broken neck or the broken skull? By the way, ride in the rain without a helmet. Explain to me how the road is softer than drops of water.
  6. My favorite- “the helmet is just a brain bucket.” I know plenty of people that have had accidents and the only reason they are here today is because they wore a brain bucket.

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When I first started riding in 2005, I wore my helmet even if I just rode around the block one time- that of course, is perfectly normal behavior with your first bike. Just like stepping into the garage before going to bed to peek at your baby one more time.

But even now, if I am practicing on the course, even to do a demonstration where I move the bike ten feet, my helmet goes on (except for my cover photo. That was in a parking lot in first gear, and strictly done for the photo). It has gotten to the point that if I don’t have my helmet on, then it bothers me and it feels “weird” and “uncomfortable.” Everything I started riding with was at a minimum, uncomfortable.

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Our passion, what we live for, what we daydream about every day, comes with great rewards, but, it also comes with great risks. If you live in the middle of nowhere, you might be safer, but I have ridden in the middle of nowhere, and I feel safer surrounded by cars than deer. No matter where you ride, if it isn’t traffic, it might be deer on the side of the highway or a turtle crossing the road, or worse yet, hidden dangers like debris. We do not need to increase unnecessarily the risks when we ride.

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The part I really don’t understand are the contradictions. I pay close to attention to “consistency.” You may not wear a helmet, but you have other safety gear like motorcycle riding boots, gloves, and you definitely wear eye protection. You will protect your hand, feet, and eyes, but not your head?

You can survive without hands, feet and eyes, but you cannot survive without a brain. Here’s a question- do you own a car? Do you wear a seat belt? Unless you are riding with sandals, shorts, a tank top and no eye protection, then you are being inconsistent in your actions and thoughts, and that doesn’t make sense to me. My favorite is the rider who is on the fence; the one who straps the helmet to his bike, but doesn’t wear it.

Everything we wear, serves a purpose. Yes, it makes us look cool and play the biker part- but there are reasons for motorcycle boots. The proper motorcycle riding boots have oil/skid resistant soles, so when you stop at a light, your feet won’t slide from underneath you and you drop your bike. It happens all the time and it has almost happened to me on numerous occasions.

The motorcycle vest- also looks very cool. But, it helps keep your shirt down on those windy days and more importantly, it protects your skin from road rash better than a t-shirt. The same goes for jeans and the obvious ones like gloves and eye protection. Some of us go a step further and wear ear plugs which studies have shown not only helps in reducing fatigue, but also hearing loss.

I know we have the right in this great country to do what we want with our lives, including doing stupid things, but, I try to reduce my stupidity as much as I can. Take another approach- you are being selfish!

You undoubtedly have friends, family, and loved ones. Think of them. If you die in an accident from not wearing a helmet, who will support your family? Your child(ren) will grow up without their mother or father or even both.

Your family may not afford to live off one income, so they may have their home foreclosed on, evicted from their apartment, and/or have their car repossessed. Next stop: bankruptcy court. Worse yet, what if you are vegetable the rest of your life and now your spouse or children have to take care of you. Is that fair to them? And, this is just the financial issues, I haven’t even discussed the psychological and emotional scarring.

So I convinced you to go out and buy a helmet. Better yet, let’s say you already ride with a helmet. Do me a favor; you just dropped tens of thousands of dollars on your Harley Davidson motorcycle or you customized your bagger, invest as well in a good helmet. At the minimum, make it a DOT helmet.

Granted, some of you will undoubtedly disagree with my opinion, but, at the minimum, you would have to agree that I make sense. Every time I hear of another biker dying in a motorcycle crash or being severely injured, I feel that pain too. It bothers me. It bothers me that I have to hear this. It bothers me that accidents occur and lives are destroyed. I always take a moment of silence by myself and send positive thoughts and vibes to that biker whether I know him/her or not. I don’t have to know you to feel sorry for you.

Now, I am not naïve. I am very well aware of the fact that the world is not perfect. But, I have come to realize that we are not given enough time on earth. There is a simple formula that scared me into the reality of life and now I try harder at making a “life” instead of a living.

Assume you sleep 8 hours a day and work 8 hours a day, that means you have spent one-third of your life sleeping and working. How do you spend the remaining one-third? Traffic. Grocery shopping. Appointments. I could go on forever. So, the reality is, we don’t even get to spend 1/3 of our life doing “fun stuff.” My advice to you, don’t cut into your “1/3” any more than you have to.

MC Atty

Here is a blog on the helmet laws for each state.

never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life
Words to live

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