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Posts Tagged ‘protection’

novelty-helmetOn Saturday Andrew Barns, 26, died when a car pulled out in front of him on his motorcycle at 185th and Farmington Road shortly before 7 p.m.  According to Sheriff reports he was wearing a novelty helmet and the medical examiner will determine if the novelty helmet contributed to his fatal injuries.  No citations were issued (at this time) to the driver.

I didn’t know Mr. Barns, but would like to offer my condolences to his family and friends.  It’s a sad day for all motorcycle enthusiasts and one to reflect on our choices.

Freedom and choice vs. safety

We’ve all heard the debate or been involved in a compelling argument on both sides of the helmet laws.  There are some motorcyclists who do, but most don’t wear a novelty helmet as a symbol of resistance “against the man” i.e. protesting lesgislators that require bikers to wear certified helmets.  Full Disclosure: I rode double digit years with a novelty helmet and even paid $2 for the DOT sticker to minimize chances of getting pulled over by law enforcement.

I don’t recall the exact moment, but I decided a few years ago that if I have to wear a helmet it might as well be one that offers some degree of protection and elected to switch to a certified helmet.   Those of you who visit this blog regularly know there are a lot of freedom of choice posts and it was MY choice to purchase a DOT certified helmet.  This may not reflect your thinking and that is your choice.

This post is about reflecting on our choices.

Clearly Mr. Barns accident was the auto drivers fault and I’m not trying to pile on to his tragedy, but it’s important to note that more than 800,000 novelty helmets are sold in the U.S. every year!   That’s about the same number of motorcycles that were registered in the state of California in 2011.

In my view, the vendor/marketers of novelty helmets are like big tobacco–unapologetic, dismissing safety concerns, squelching debate and claiming they simply are accommodating consumer demand.   Most all are made in China or India and even those Carbon Fiber/Kevlar versions are outright fakes.  Sure it’s legal to make and sell novelty helmets as long as they aren’t falsely represented as meeting federal standards, but talk about a poster-child for proliferating cheap ineffective Chinese products as motorcycle crash deaths mount.

And I’m intrigued by the contradiction… Harley-Davidson motorcyclists complain about the cheap China made Harley trinkets or 3rd party chrome parts which they want no part of, but think nothing about buying a $29 “Made In China” novelty helmet believing that ‘something is better than nothing’ regarding its protection.  But, I’ve digressed.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agency has estimated that as many as 754 people die each year in states with mandatory helmet laws because they were wearing novelty helmets instead of certified headgear, which amounts to nearly 1 in 6 rider fatalities.

According to this study based on head trauma vs. non-head trauma deaths, head trauma deaths account for 34% of motorcyclist deaths.  Many would agree that an approved/certified safety helmet is by far more protective and would overwhelmingly prevent serious injuries as opposed to a novelty helmet, but I would also like to see a correlation and follow-up on motorcycle licensing, training and education.

I am sure there are a fair number of riders out there who won’t appreciate this blog post.  They will see my post as advocacy for the U.S. becoming a more repressed, intolerant and regimented place.  More government intervention.  Most blogs just don’t want to touch the topic.  But, novelty helmets just don’t share the same distinguishing characteristics as certified helmets.

If we’re being intellectually honest as a group/industry, its important to spotlight helmet considerations in the ongoing debate over motorcycle safety.

The Barns tragedy compelled me to urge motorcyclists to think different–if you’re going to wear a helmet, why not consider or make it a certified one?

Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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UO Football Helmet

UO Football Helmet — Go Ducks!

Different helmets do different things. There are hard hats on construction and heavy-industry heads; football helmets on athletes’ heads, Kevlar® caps on military heads and DOT certified helmets on motorcyclist heads.

None are interchangeable.  However, the motorcyclist in this photo might disagree.

On the weekend I was driving on Highway 217 and came upon this motorcyclist flashing some new reflectivity protective head gear – a University of Oregon football helmet!

I’m not sure if this “learning moment” is one where we ridicule his fashion faux pas or criticize the multiple color combinations of motorcycle, helmet, shirt, pants, socks and shoes, and how they’ll never pass the Nike-design standard.  But, most concerning is the specific amount of retroreflective material on the helmet and how it may well exceed state standards!

Huh?

Yep, a number of states have exact information on the location and number of square inches of retroreflective material required on motorcycle helmets.  I’m currently researching this fun fact and will report an update when I learn if Oregon has such a requirement embedded in the helmet law.

Motorcycle helmets are very sophisticated and specialized for an activity. They’ve been developed carefully and scientifically over the years and wearing a DOT helmet properly strapped on your head is mandatory in the state of Oregon.  If you want to read more about Oregon helmet laws go HERE.  If you’re interested in helmet standards go HERE.  The NHTSA is proposing to amend several aspects of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 218, Motorcycle Helmets HERE.

But, this is all a moot point, because this “safety-minded motorcyclist” just planted another seed of doubt in the minds of non-riders – some who already question the rationale of motorcycle ownership in general – that wearing a football helmet means motorcyclists are not responsible people; we don’t take ourselves and motorcycling serious and no matter what the law says, it’s about projecting an attitude…

We’ve heard this tune before.  Many call it stupid and other’s will call it living.

Photo taken by author. 

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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In the summer of 1998 I received my first “Gremlin Bell” from a good friend (Santiago).  Some call it a Guardian Bell, Ride Bell, Lucky Bell or a Legend Bell.  

It all started when I bought a new Harley Fatboy motorcycle in March of that same year and was putting on major miles during a summer of riding.  I had never heard of Gremlin Bells or the story of evil road spirits before that time and I found the story interesting.  Santiago passed on the brass folklore.

I’m not a superstitious person.  I did notice, however, a disproportionate number of Harleys sporting the gremlin bell vs. other motorcycle manufactures.  The Fatboy being my first Harley and leery of the reliability (I sat with friends on the side of road working on them not riding) I thought it couldn’t hurt by installing a bell. 

The folklore is so-called gremlins are evil road entities whose focus is to undermine your riding experience while you’re out having fun.  Some of the gremlins are happy to ride along, but some are mean and cause dangerous situations just for the fun of a challenge. A Gremlin Bell is the defense against these mean gremlins, or so the folklore goes. In theory, the mean gremlins who ride with you get stuck in the hollow of the bell and the ringing makes them horrified. They drop out onto the road and off of your bike, perhaps causing tiny potholes, but no longer your concern. The trick is to hang the bell by its leather string somewhere fairly low on the motorcycle, close to the road, so the gremlins drop off easily and can’t bounce back up to cause any harm.  The bell makes a little ringing sound which notifies you that your “protection” is working. 

Another important aspect of the folklore is how the bell is obtained.   Tradition states it has even more power if the bell is received as a gift vs. you just buying it outright. When I upgraded to a Road King in 2006, Kitty passed along the “legend” and supplied a chrome bell for the new ride.  It’s unclear if “size-matters” because most bells are about two-inches. Although I’ve started to see several chrome/brass Gremlin Bells as large as three-inches.   

Gary & Becky Spetzler of Gremlin Bells seem to be the market segment leaders in the “Gremlin” market…I see their displays and bells at about every motorcycle dealer, shop as well as most rally events. 

I already have a winged/fire breathing Dragon tattoo…I hope they don’t conflict?!  Guess I’ll be buying more since I’ll have to throw a lot more than a pinch of salt over my shoulder to offset the hoodoo or get a body piecing voodoo charm.

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