I should start by saying that this is not an article for experienced bike riders. Unfortunately, I can pretty much guarantee that they will have done at least three of these things already. This article is more along the lines of ‘things I wish I had known before I started’.
It’s my attempt to save your motorcycle helmets, by learning from mine and others’ mistakes.
As you have probably already discovered, now it’s become a leisure pursuit, motorcycling is an expensive business. Starting with the bike and then going on to all the other gear you need to ride it with at least a chance of protecting yourself, should you be unlucky enough to have a mishap.
The most vulnerable piece of your gear, surprisingly, is your helmet. Surprisingly in the sense that although it is amazingly strong when needed, It doesn’t take too kindly to day-to-day rough treatment. To keep it looking as immaculate as the day you bought it, please consider my top tips:
Don’t Drop It:
The cardinal sin. You are probably aware that motorcycle helmets have an inner ‘foam’ layer under the shell that is designed to deform under impact to cushion your skull as it decelerates.
If you accidentally drop your helmet; even though the outer skin may look intact, the inner foam layer may have been compressed. If this layer has been squashed another impact in the same place won’t be able to absorb as much shock. In blunt terms, it will be your head that has to absorb more shock.
I know you are thinking that dropping a helmet would be an accident, and how can you stop something accidentally. That might be true, but the majority of these accidents happen right after that moment when, as you balance your helmet somewhere precarious, you think to yourself ‘crikey, that looks a bit wobbly, I hope it doesn’t fall off’.
Crunch! The chief culprit for me is balancing a number of motorcycle helmets on the top of a shiny sloping fuel tank, just while I fill up. When will I learn? If it looks marginal, It is marginal. Don’t do it.
Don’t Paint It Yourself:
Okay, lots of racers have their own designs, and they do look mighty cool, but the actual spraying is done by professionals using specialist equipment, paint, and lacquers.
Using the wrong chemicals on the shell of a helmet can attack its structure and weaken it. How much you would weaken the shell, you can’t be sure of. It’s not a question you want to find the answer to when your head is bouncing along the road.
Personally, I think that if you can’t find a design to suit you out of the literally hundreds out there. You’re not looking hard enough.
Don’t Ride with Your Visor Open:
Not strictly something that will damage your helmet but certainly something that will damage your face. There are all sorts of excuses or flipping up your visor, but none of them are any good.
The visor is an integral part of the helmet which is there for a reason. That reason being that a stone or even a bee hitting your face or eyes at even 30 or 40 mph will hurt and no you won’t have the reactions to be able to dodge it. You will realize this is a good idea the first time, you are shocked by how loud the BANG is as a stone is flipped up and into the visor.
Don’t Sneeze Inside It:
Okay, this might be impossible to actually prevent but I find a face mask which goes over the nose prevents those slimy explosions coating the inside of the visor, giving instant frosted glass!
Don’t Think Motorcycle Helmets Mystically Give You Magical Riding Powers:
There is something about the ritual of putting your riding gear on that can make you feel like someone else. Someone cooler, sexier, a bit of a rebel. That’s all okay and it’s probably some part of the reason for being a biker in the first place, but beware that this alters ego doesn’t also think that he’s the fastest most skillful rider ever to walk the earth.
There is always the temptation, especially in the vicinity of other riders to push it that little bit further. The consequences of getting it wrong are enormous…
Motorcycle helmets are amazing pieces of modern technology which undoubtedly save thousands of lives. They are also expensive and are protecting a pretty vital piece of your anatomy. So don’t get blase about the dangers; look after your helmet and hopefully if ever called upon it will look after you.