I recently received a form from my auto insurance company, asking me to either promise to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle, or to purchase a required additional twenty-thousand dollars of coverage for the privilege of going helmetless.
It was for me a no-brainer — pardon the pun. If I agree to expose myself to probable skull and brain trauma when I crash, I have to pay extra for that? That's like asking me to pay extra for the right to weld without wearing goggles. Or charging me more to cut firewood if I promise not to wear gloves. It's like asking me to pay a dividend to go without a warm jacket in a snowstorm. Are they nuts? Of course I signed the form promising to wear a helmet when I ride.
I've been riding a motorcycle on the road for more than thirty-five years. It's one of my favorite and most economical modes of transportation for exploring the wilderness I love. My motorcycle gets twice the mileage of my truck, it unsnarls traffic jams nicely, and I almost never have trouble finding a place to park. In summer, it's an ideal form of transportation.
I ride a lot on dirt and gravel roads. It's just a feature of the territory where I live. There are two paved roads within twenty-two miles of here, so it's inevitable that I ride on roads that sensible road-bikers would rather avoid. My last two motorcycles have been 650CC for that reason, because I need a bike that's not too heavy to throw around. It'll still do a hundred miles and hour, and it has no problem accelerating uphill while carrying a passenger. Yet it's light enough that I can handle it when the road under my tires tends to move.
But that's not why I never get on the bike without a helmet. I don't ever intend to use that piece of equipment for its intended purpose. But I do use a visor, because I've had too many June beetles, hornets, rocks, and even birds bounce off it to even consider going without face protection. A baldface hornet hitting you on the unprotected cheek at seventy miles-per-hour is like a hard punch to the face. The impact of being hit in the head at highway speeds can, and has, unseated a driver, and caused more accidents than you can shake a stick at. Besides, I sometimes have to ride in a pounding rain, passing cooler-looking riders in half-helmets and Ray-Bans sitting out the storm in highway rest areas while I'm pressing on.
Ride without a helmet? Why do you even need to ask me that question?
Photo by Fotolia/goodluz