Print Posted on 06/05/2017 in Opinion

Motorcycle Helmet or No Motorcycle Helmet

Motorcycle Helmet or No Motorcycle Helmet

Why not wade into one of the most hotly contested items bikers and non-bikers debate. Every province in Canada has a helmet law, and many in the USA also have helmet laws, some don’t require all riders to wear helmets while others have items like age and/or insurance restrictions. In my own province of BC we had a law that until this recently was called the beanie law, as long as it had a hard shell and soft inside it was pretty much legal. That has changed now.

My views on helmet have changed over the years. When I was 18 and just started riding I wore a full faced helmet and just couldn’t understand how anybody would ride with a half helmet. I rode that way for many years. Even in my thirties I still thought that you have to be nuts to not wear a full face helmet. Then one day out of know where I decided I should try a 3/4 helmet. Well I tell you that was just incredible for me. I loved the increased view I got, I immediately went out and bought a 3/4 helmet. The 3/4 helmet lasted all of one week, as I had gotten adjusted to it so quickly I decided I should try the half helmet and suddenly I owned 3 pretty new helmets and was only wearing the half helmet.

I flew into Denver in 2006 and remember going down the interstate, the rider beside me had no helmet on. I remember looking over and thinking “dude, we are doing 80 miles and hour what if you go down”. I just couldn’t bring myself to riding without a helmet. It stayed that way until 2007 when on a trip through to Arizona we decided that we should do a photo shoot with no helmets on. There was three of us on the trip and along highway 89A in the middle of no where we pulled out the Canon and started taking pictures of us riding without helmets. First Cal, then myself, then my wife. The feeling was fantastic, I couldn’t believe the freedom I felt riding without a helmet. When we finished the photo shoot, both Cal and myself left our helmets off and continued down the road of freedom, I mean down Hwy 89A.

For the next 2 years I rode without a helmet as much as I possibly could. Every state we went into I would check to see what the law was and if I was allowed...the helmet came off. Then the unthinkable happened, late October 2008 my sister was thrown off the back of a motorcycle and lost her life. She was wearing a 3/4 helmet of extremely good quality at the time. The day before she was to be cremated a few of us went down to the funeral home where she was resting peacefully. I myself had to see her one more time, and was warned before going in there was obvious visual effects of the accident but that couldn’t deter me. What I saw was even though she wore a 3/4 helmet, she clearly took an incredible blow to the exposed portion of her face. I don’t know if she would have survived wearing a full face, but I do believe the evidence I saw suggested she would have had an incredibly higher chance of survival.

After that I swore I was going back to a full face helmet, the image of what I saw was deeply burned into my mind and still is today. I traded in my bike; to a bike with ABS Braking (another factor) and put on my full face helmet and rode away. Something happened though, I hadn’t counted on. When I put the full face helmet back on it reduced my knowledge of what was around me. I simply didn’t feel safer, in fact I felt more vulnerable than I had ever felt before. I thought to myself, this is just me getting back on the bike and the nerves coming out. The effect of having lost senses didn’t go away though, and I didn’t like it. After two weeks of riding with the full face helmet, I pulled out my half helmet again for a ride. At that point I realized I was more aware of my surroundings when I was not wearing the full face helmet.

Early riding season 2009 we headed into Idaho, the first time since Jacenda’s accident that I was riding in an area that didn’t require a helmet.  I decided to take my helmet of and enjoy the freedom I one time had without wearing a helmet.  I lasted one stop without my helmet, which for our group is about 60 miles. I rode that entire 60 miles thinking “don’t go down, you don’t have a helmet on, don't go down” that was enough for me. For me, those thoughts were enough to convince me I needed to wear a helmet when riding my motorcycle. I haven’t rode my bike on the highway since without a helmet on and I have no desire ride my motorcycle on the highway without a helmet on again.

So where do I sit on the entire debate, because I am pretty sure it isn’t clear here. I have a 21 year old daughter, that rides and I bought her a full face helmet for her birthday. I never encourage her to ride with anything else but her full face helmet, my wife and myself both wear half helmets but I am thinking seriously of moving the 3/4 helmet this next riding season and rode some of last season with the old 3/4 helmet. No matter how I answer this next line, someone is going to bitch…but I believe once you reach the age of majority you should have your own say in whether you wear a helmet or not…with the exception of my daughter. I am even ok with areas that put in laws regarding medical insurance in order to be helmetless but it should still be the choice of the rider.

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