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What it's Like to Crash a Motorcycle

“Damn it. John Burns thinks I’m a dick.”
That was one of the predominant thoughts going through my head as I slid down a Florida highway at 60 mph back in March.
It’s weird how the mind works. Time slows in a crash. Every tiny image burns into memory, so your brain can replay it over and over and over at night for the next who knows how many weeks.
In the moments before I crashed, I was riding the Harley-Davidson Street Rod along County Road 34 in central Florida. I’m not sure which county. The accident report simply records it as “County Code 61,” but the internet can’t agree on which county that is. Maybe I was in Indian River County; maybe I was in Suwannee County; maybe I was in Flagler County; I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter; I was somewhere. The road passing through that somewhere was long and straight – not the sort of place where one usually crashes – and the weather was perfect.

“My God, I am so happy,” I was thinking. “I am so incredibly lucky to be here – to live t…

Gear review: BMW Sport helmet

According to the description in this video, BWW Motorrad designs and builds its own helmets. Helmets that look and, apparently, perform a whole hell of a lot like Schuberth helmets. Considering that BMW outsources for all manner of things on its motorcycles, it seems strange and, indeed, unlikely that helmets really are an in-house concern. Have a look around ye olde internets and the truth of the whole thing seems illusive. Maybe BMW helmets are Schuberth helmets, maybe they're not. What's relevant to me, however, is that I feel I've got a top-quality lid.

Admittedly, I haven't got that much experience upon which to base my claim. Perhaps, indeed, quite possibly, there are better helmets out there that can be bought for as much or less, but I haven't encountered them. The BMW Sport helmet is easily more comfortable than the cheap, no-name, head-pinching thing I bought almost 20 years ago, when I took a training course in the United States. Equally, it fits better to my particular skull than the Arai and AGV models I tried on at Riders of Cardiff. Not surprisingly, the same is true of the BMW in comparison to the cheap Spada lid that Jenn wears (a).

It is snug but not painful and holds well to my head. That is to say, it never moves around, nor does it move my head around, even when travelling at motorway speeds.

Increasingly, if I know I'm going to be moving above 40 mph for any sustained amount of time (b) I try to wear earplugs when I ride, because they help reduce fatigue. But on those occasions when I have forgotten, the high-speed noise within the helmet is perfectly endurable -- quiet enough that I can still talk to myself using my "inside voice."

A major reason for that quiet is the presence of pads that run along the neck and under the chin, blocking out wind. These pads are removable -- in fact, the helmet came with the pads removed -- but installing them was such an incredible pain in the ass that I have never attempted to take them out again. When the weather has been anything approaching warm, however, I have given it some serious thought. 

Those pads were quite handy in the winter, helping to keep my head warm enough that I didn't have to struggle with the complicated balaclava routines deployed by many UK riders. But in legitimate summery weather I have found myself desperate to keep at least 30-mph airflow moving through the helmet's vents.

There are only three vents on the helmet: one at the chin that pushes air up onto the visor, and two at the top of the helmet that allow in air you can (almost) feel toward the crown of your skull. In hot weather I have thought I'd like more vents, but I'm guessing that removing the neck and chin pads would create plenty of airflow. And more noise, which is another reason I've not bothered. I'd rather have a sweaty face than ringing in my ears after a ride.

Additionally, the visor can be opened to several different positions. Which means that you can open it just enough to get in more air but still protect your face somewhat against bugs. The same visor position also worked well for riding around the city in the winter, helping to insure against fogging.

Not mysterious enough.
The visor's anti-fogging pinlock insert works about as well as can be expected. Indeed, I have far more complaints about the fogging I get from sunglasses I wear. Though, I do wish the helmet had one of those mask bits that direct your breath away from the visor. I feel like that would help prevent fogging, and I think it looks cool. 

One of the things I like about a full-face helmet is the anonymity it offers: you don't know what I look like. You don't know my age; from behind you don't even know what race I am. Get close enough to peer through my visor (c), though, and you can see my distinctively crooked nose. You can see that it's me in there. And for some reason that makes me a little sad; I'd prefer to remain unknowable -- masked.

With the visor closed, the helmet seems to hold up well in the wet. I have ridden in steady rain a handful of times and no water got in. As far as I know, at least. Admittedly, when your gloves are soaking through, the issue of wet helmet hair isn't high on your list of concerns. But the fact that I've not noticed water in the helmet probably speaks enough to its quality.

The helmet is also lighter than any other helmet I've tried. As such, I can wear it all day long without headaches or fatigue. Indeed, the greatest aspect of my helmet is the fact that, by and large, I pay it no attention. I forget about it and am free instead to take in all the things that are outside the helmet.

And ultimately that's the point of any piece of kit: it should facilitate or increase your enjoyment of motorcycling. The BMW Sport helmet does just that.

---------

(a) Side note: It turns out Jenn loves riding on the bike, so she is on it more often than I had originally thought. As such, I am presently saving up to buy her a better helmet.

(b) I find that if I am doing a lot of city riding and wearing earplugs my riding is a little sloppier. I think this is because in a British city the situation around you changes very quickly, and having the full of my hearing helps me respond to these changes better.

(c) Tinted visors are effectively illegal in the UK.

Comments

  1. And how much did this BMW helmet cost? It's just that cost is always a major concern...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It wasn't cheap, admittedly. Mine was dramatically discounted from the £350 price I've seen online, but it was still a hefty investment. But I really do feel it was money well spent.

      Delete
  2. Being able to forget about the gear is crucial! I need to replace my gloves because the interior seams are annoying. I shouldn't be paying attention to my hands while riding.

    I need a new brain bucket, too. I admit, I'm kind of hesitant to go helmet shopping, because I love my old Shoei so much. However, it is over 8 years old, so it's probably time to let it retire to the old helmet farm...

    Could use a new jacket. And I've never even had armored pants, should really get some of those. New boots... Jeez. Time to go shopping. Never mind that I need new tires (and a battery) desperately.

    Awesome that Jenn loves riding with you!

    ReplyDelete
  3. The all-important little mask bit! I dunno why they still make helmets without them. Wear a lid with one of those and you're just a bulbous visor and air hose short of feeling like a fighter pilot.

    You could always try one of these. They even come in a variety of colours.

    http://respro.com/store/product/foggy-mask

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey Chris, is that silver chin vent cover removable? Or do you just slide it open for air to get in? I'm in really hot weather & would like to have lots of air come in that chin vent :-) Thanks for the nice article!

    ReplyDelete

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