I'm Still Here Because of My Helmet
As I was thrown off the motorcycle, I rag-dolled across rocks on the cliff wall along the side of the canyon road. My head hit jagged outcropping after jagged outcropping at least four times. I finally came to a rest, right side down, my head pushed up against a ledge on the rocks. Thankfully, I was able to sit up almost immediately, but it could have been very different tale if it were not for my helmet. I was up in canyons outside of Los Angeles, just taking pictures for my review of the new Kawasaki Z1000. I was on my way home when I caught a patch of gravel, futility tried to save the bike, and got high-sided off the motorcycle and into the vertical side of the cliff wall. You can read more about my injuries here. RELATED: Check Out Caterhams Carbon E-Bike
While I could be cynical about the entire terrible experience and say, “motorcycles are the devil,” the experience has instead influenced me in a far more positive way. Before this wreck, I had heard both older and younger motorcyclists refer to a helmet as a brain bucket. Or, there were those who just didn't want to wear a helmet in case of an accident, subscribing to the misguided logic that they’d rather die instantly than live as a paraplegic. This seems a bit drastic to me, as I’d rather live for as long as I can.
Some of these motorcyclists just believe that helmets don’t really do all that much in terms of protecting you. I am living proof that they do, and it is disturbing that both friends and family alike have thought at one time or another that helmets don't work.
Legislation and Price
Only 18 states in the U.S. currently have laws on the books requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets. 28 other states only have some form of legislation on helmets. And only four states, including my native state of Illinois, along with Iowa and New Hampshire have no such legislation. Florida recently repealed its helmet laws, and shocker, traumatic head injuries across the state rose by 67%.
While it is important to get helmet legislation passed throughout the rest of the country, it’s also important for riders to go beyond just avoiding a fine, and understand that helmets have the ability to save your life. So long as you invest in the right one.
When first learning to ride, it’s easy to head over to your local shop or online and pick up a cheap helmet. It’s DOT-certified, of course, but it only cost you $50. Or you buy the wrong one, that A) doesn’t fit properly, or B) doesn’t protect your entire head. This friends, is the wrong way to buy a helmet.
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Over the years, helmet technology has come a long way from its inception. You now have access to helmets that use carbon fiber, Kevlar, and carbon composites that make the helmet incredibly rigid and strong, but light enough not to wear on your neck. My Shoei helmet had a multi-layer design, including a composite shell, multi-density foam, and a few layers of organic composites to make it super strong as you can see from the diagram above. But not every helmet is built to these exacting standards.
Companies like Icon and Shoei, along with a host of others, sweat the tiny details and build helmets that are not only going to last, but also save your life when you need them. Just look at what goes into one of Icon’s helmets in the image below. Like the Shoei I wore, it’s a multi-layer design that’s been built to provide absurd amounts of protection for your head.
Additionally, riding with a full-face helmet is the way to go. Not only will it protect things like your chin, cheeks, and nose, but it also blocks things hitting you in the face such as bugs, rocks and grit thrown up by cars and trucks. Seriously, who wants a face full of that?
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What Does It All Mean?
Throughout this article, I’ve posted some of the pictures of my own helmet after my wreck. Without the multitude of layers, and the strength built into the helmet, a couple of those scrapes could have easily been the rock that had killed me. Cheap helmets are just that. They’ll offer you more protection than just a baseball cap, but not much more. Investing in a good, solid helmet could mean the difference between getting back up after a crash, or spending the rest of your days in a hospital or a coffin.
I’m sure that many out there will still ride in shorts, a t-shirt and no helmet, but I hope that my own personal tale will sway at least a few of you to start wearing your helmet, and not just having it on the back of your motorcycle. As a parting shot, I'd like you to check out the image below:
For those that didn’t know, 40% of all accidents on motorcycles tend to be face plants and this helmets graphic help to break that number down further to exactly where you’re more likely to hit in the event of a wreck. The graphic was created by Dietmar Otte, and was based on a study he conducted on motorcycle safety. The helmet presents a truly stark image, and one that hopefully gets you to ride safer.
Photo Credit: Shoei, Icon