Thursday, April 11, 2013

Of Harley Riders and Helmets

I have been looking at replacing one of my helmets, as I have seen very inexpensive helmets that look safer than a few of my own helmets. During my research, I came across a thread with an age-old question, but because of the lively interest and revealing comments, I decided to summarize it here. It is on the HD Forums, and the thread has 73 pages of responses (I didn't count individual comments.) The topic is stated, interestingly as "Real Harley owners don't wear full face helmets?"

So where do I start?  I think I will go with "What exactly is a "real" Harley owner?  Obviously, anyone who owns a "real" Harley Davidson should be considered as a real Harley owner, even if they got it for no money down, 0% interest, and no payments until 2025.  Even if they stole it, I guess you could say they "own" it now. But renting and borrowing a Harley don't count.  If you paid your own money fair and square, you are a real Harley owner, even if you also own motorcycles of other brands.  But I don't think that's the meaning of "real Harley owner", from the context of this message.  The intended meaning is based on a belief that there is a perfect, average, possibly even stereotypical "real" Harley owner.  And the original poster, named Apaolo, who asked the question, does not consider himself a "real" Harley owner, even though apparently he really owns a Harley Davidson motorcycle.  And I guess he thinks it is important to act like this imagined real Harley rider.

An interesting aside, before we get to the "real" answer to this question.  When Apaolo (the original poster) bought his Harley, the salesman at the Harley shop commented that Apaolo was "the youngest person he had ever sold a Harley to".  So Apaolo is .... 28 years old?  Are you kidding me?  Or maybe the salesman had only been in this line of work a couple of weeks.  Anyway back to the story.

I do find it refreshing that almost none of the replies to this thread argued against the safety of a full face helmet.  It used to be that this was a contentious issue, where many riders complained that wearing a helmet made you less safe.  Apparently that bogus argument is done with now.  So the jury is in, and full face helmets ARE safer than beanies which are in turn safer than a bare head.  This is now accepted by the vast majority of motorcyclists, even among those that do not wear a helmet.

The most common answer?  A real Harley owner (whatever that is) apparently does not give a fly*** f*c* what anyone else thinks of what he is wearing.  I'm not so sure this is true, but I do understand where they are coming from.  Motorcyclists in general are kind of nonconformist, and pretty much have to be that way to ride a motorbike.  They all understand the very real dangers involved, and mostly respect an individual's right to stack the odds of survival in their favour.

On the other hand, it seems to also be true that when groups of riders ride together, they tend to have similar attitudes toward helmets.  Helmeted riders do not like riding with helmetless riders, and vice versa.  I think I understand this, because the logic is quite simple.  If somebody in my group crashes during a ride, I am kind of squeamish about looking at them if they have brains spilling out.  So, to prevent this squeamishness from happening to me,  I would rather ride with people who have well protected heads.

From what I saw of the answers:

Many Harley riders do wear full face helmets, especially where the law requires some kind of helmet anyway, or where it's really cold, or where there are lots of bugs or rocks flying through the air, or when they go on long tours, or when they are on the freeway.

And some do not wear helmets, (if not required by law), or wear smaller helmets  for example if they are just going down to the corner store, or it is really hot outside, or if it is 1940 and they are in the middle of Nevada and there is no traffic around.  Some people just like the feel of wind in their hair, or have bad claustrophobia in a helmet.  One rider said he never wore a helmet but always rode with a gun for protection, which I found interesting.  I wonder where he rides that a gun is more important than a helmet.  Anyway....

I didn't go through every single comment, but I didn't see any that argued against the safety of the full face helmet, and I didn't see any that criticised Apaolo for wearing a full face helmet.  One helmetless rider admitted that Apaolo had more sense than he had for wearing a helmet.  Another offered to wave to Apaolo, regardless of choice of headwear.

Picture: Hell's Angel motorcycle rider wearing a full face helmet. Can't see the bike though, maybe it's not a Harley?

1 comment:

  1. My own impression is that the nature of the accident has a significantly greater bearing on the resulting injuries than the type of helmet one is wearing (setting aside those ridiculous 'beanies' with their counterfeit DOT stickers ;-)

    Most of us would like to own a selection of motorcycles, so that we could simply ride the one that suits our mood on a particular day. Seems 'overkill' to roll out that 800-pound monster decker for a spin to the mall!

    On the other hand, while most of us cannot afford a 'stable' of bikes, most of us can afford a selection of lids. Full face helmet for canyon carving, a more open lid for boulevard cruising.

    Especially when, like me, one is reluctant to pay a premium for a 'big name brand' helmet - when a perfectly competent lid (DOT, Snell or ECE rated) can be had for under $100.

    Of course, one makes a deliberate choice of level of protection, bearing in mind where impact in a motorcycle accident is most likely to occur ...