The Big Picture: Peter Biondo on the Psychology of the Starting Line


So here you are in round 7 of the Spring Fling 20’s against one of the elite racers. Your reaction times in round one to six have been between .008 and .014. The big question; do you make any changes to the delay box?

Conventional wisdom would say no. Conventional wisdom says to “race your own race”. Conventional wisdom says stick with the .011 reaction time average that got you this far. I am here to tell you that I agree with conventional wisdom in a lot of areas of life but racing is one area where I put “playing the odds” before conventional wisdom. By playing the odds I am not talking about overestimating or underestimating your opponent as that is one of the leading causes for people losing rounds. Playing the odds in racing means you put yourself in the best position to win a certain round based on the history and the current situation. If you are in round 7 of a big buck bracket race against one of the best in the business chances are he is going to have a very good reaction time. Taking .003 or .004 out of your delay box would be a smart move and could very easily make the difference in winning or losing that round (especially if it is an 1/8th mile race where reaction time plays a big role). If you are a non delay box racer you can bring your rpm up 100 rpm. You get the point here. You are now setting up “tighter” on the tree based on both what you know of this elite opponent, and the fact that you are deep into eliminations and both you and your opponent have had a lot of looks at the tree. So increase your odds on winning the round by taking some out of the box. In the following journal I am going to get specific and into detail about what I call “situational racing” and how to increase your chances of winning “that round” whether that round be round one at a $200 to win local race or the final of our Spring Fling 20’s. It all has to do with stepping back, looking at the big picture and taking calculated risks with the ultimate goal being turning on more win lights.

A lot of times in drag racing we get in a zone. This is a good thing. But it is not good if we are so much in a zone where we lose sight of the big picture or the current situation at hand. There is a lot to be said to being a robot and zoned into the tree and being one with the car but if you are too extreme and not paying attention, it could cost you a bunch of rounds and can even cost you that one ‘big’ round. Let’s say Tiger Woods has 7 shots to get the ball in the hole to win the US Open. He knows he can most likely make the hole in 4 shots if he plays his normal game. His caddy is going to tell him to take the safe way to the hole and make it in 5 instead of trying for 4 and taking a risk of hitting it in the pond. The caddy is looking at the big picture here for Tiger. In racing, most of us do not have a caddy or coach. We have to “be observant” as Troy Williams once said and pay attention to the situation so that we can better figure out what gives us the best chances of winning “that round”.

Now what if I told you that you can raise your chances of beating a guy who knowingly has more talent and more seat time than you? That’s right. The reality is… he has more seat time, is more talented and can drive both ends of the track better than you. Reality is you have less than a 50% of beating this racer when you line up against him. Let’s say you have a 40% chance of beating this racer when you line up against him/ her.

Let’s put all this talk into a real life scenario:
You are about to race against a heavy hitter (let’s refer to him as HH) who you know holds a bunch of numbers. The big question is “how do I race against HH”. Before I answer this question that is very commonplace throughout the pits, let’s talk about the reasons for “holding numbers” or “dialing up”. The answer on whether to hold a bunch of numbers in general (or dial “honest”) should be based on three things. The first and most important is how comfortable are you doing this and does it fit your driving style? If you aren’t comfortable doing this I would suggest not to do it until you get comfortable and I want you to get comfortable sooner than later because there are going to be rounds later in your career where you can dramatically raise your odds on winning if you have some in your pocket. On the other hand if you are not comfortable doing this you will only lessen your chances of winning the round by making a plan and then not executing properly. Secondly, how good is your car running on a particular day and how well are you hitting the tree? If your car is running within thousandths of a second (the track is tight and the air/ weather isn’t drastically changing) and you are killing the tree then that is less of a reason to hold some in your pocket. In most cases in this scenario, you can put down good enough numbers without doing much at the finish line and let’s face it, this is a numbers game and good numbers/ tight packages is what wins races above and beyond EVERYTHING else. On the other hand if the track is loose and the weather and wind are changing by the minute and your car isn’t stringing tight runs together, than that is a situation where you are better off to hold a few. The third (and probably most interesting factor to most of you) in whether to hold numbers or not would be; who is your opponent on that particular round? Is he/ she a heavy hitter that tends to hold a bunch of numbers and is going to size you up at the finish line? If this is the case and you feel comfortable about dialing where you are holding a few hundredths, you should do so. This is what I call situational racing and it can increase your odds of beating this racer quite a bit. In fact, your chances of beating HH just went from 40% to 60%. That’s right, if you make the right plan (hold some numbers) and execute it properly the odds of beating your bracket racing hero just swung in your favor. Let’s step back and look at the big picture here. The reality of the numbers looks like this. You are running well and your car just ran 7.422, 7.427, and 7.426 in the previous rounds at 180 mph. You are confident you can be between .006 and .014 on the tree. If you dial honest against heavy hitter chances are the race and odds of him winning will look like this:

You go .011 on the tree and run a 7.428 on a 7.42 dial (wide open/ no brakes). Chances you win the round against “heavy hitter” is 40%. Heavy hitter is .007 RT and is beside you for the last 300 feet putting a wheel on you and snugs the stripe up to .009 and runs a 7.323 on a 7.32 dial. You get back to the pits shaking your head and telling your friends, “man he made that look easy”. Now let’s step back and look at the big picture here and try to increase your odds on beating HH. Why did he just make that look so easy? The answer is because you gave him a stationary target (and enough room) to size you up making it easy for HH. From HH’s eyes the race and his decision was easy (despite you putting down a good run), in his brain he says this during the race “I am catching him early enough to kill the amount I need to kill and still take the stripe”. And because HH is such a good driver he can do just that without blinking and eye. How can you help your cause here? By first making the race appear different to him, and secondly and more importantly, giving him a moving target to work with. Take it from me, the combination of these two things will make heavy hitters job much harder. Hold 2 or 3 numbers and pick your spot on the track that you (have learned) to kill that amount where let’s say you go mid to high dead on your dial but this time on the brakes. In this case let’s dial up to a 7.45 and hit the brakes (safely of course) 20 feet before the first cone and run a 7.458 on a 7.45 at 166 mph. You have the same .011 tree and he has the same .007 tree BUT you have just dramatically increased your odds on beating HH. Now your chances of winning that round are 60% instead of 40%. That’s right, you are now a favorite to beat your “hero”. Why are you a favorite? Because you made the race look totally different to HH. HH catches you much later in the run, he knows he is dialed to break out and either A) decides to snug the finish line up and does a good job until you dump and give him a “(backwards) moving target” forcing him to take too much at the stripe and break out by .01 or .02, or B) he decides to dump and give you the finish line hoping you break out and in this case he is .01 over the dial and you are dead on. Either way, you have greatly increased your chances on beating the HH. Sure you still have to execute and be disciplined to pick your spot on the track that you have learned to get rid of .03 but taking this calculated risk in this scenario will turn the percentages in your favor and lead to many more win lights against this style and caliber of driver in the long run. On the flip side to this scenario let’s assume you are dialed a 7.30 and you are running against a 10 second car. In this situation, chances are, he is not going to be able to judge you (size you up) because of the mph difference and how fast you are coming on him. Therefore there is much less of a reason to hold numbers and to give him the “moving target” because it’s hard for him really to judge you, “the target” anyway. You are still the target in his eyes as he sizes you up but because you are closing in at such a rapid pace, you are already a moving target. In this situation you can actually decrease your odds on winning the round by throwing the extra variable of you holding numbers/ having to get rid of numbers into the mix. Luke Bogacki wrote some columns on “Spot Dropping”. There, he made a point to harp on safety, and I’d like to do the same. Being able to safely “kill” some ET and “Drop” at a given point on the race track takes a little practice and getting used to. We’re certainly not advocating any method that causes you to lose control of your vehicle. Your particular “spot drop” or method of killing ET can be very personalized. First and foremost, you need to develop a method that you feel comfortable with that does not endanger you or your opponent.

Above I discussed starting line and finish line techniques along with ways of approaching different rounds and different situations. A big question should be “wait a second, what happened to simply playing my own game and sticking to what I do best?” Don’t get me wrong as my philosophy in racing relies heavily on doing what you do best and playing to your strengths. If a pitchers best pitch is a fastball then in most key situations, he should throw a fastball. Above and beyond every starting line and finish situation that I mentioned previous should be that you play to your strengths. BUT, if the same pitcher goes up against a batter that normally can see the fastball so well he normally knocks it out of the park, then the coach signals him to throw a curveball. This is why it is so important to grow as a racer and not get stuck in just one routine. Sure you should try and get the basics of bracket racing down pat before you try these more advanced techniques. If you don’t know how to effectively and safely get rid of a few at the stripe then don’t do it until you practice it enough in time runs where you can do it. Until then, focus on other strengths (in numbers) in your program like your reaction times and getting your car to run more consistent. Either way, good packages have a tendency to light the win light but if you are able to look at the big picture, you will, at times, see different round situations where you can greatly increase your chances of winning by mixing up your game and getting to those good packages in different ways. My suggestion? Challenge yourself. Don’t let fear get in the way of your growth and advancement as a racer. Take chances (at the right times) and you will take your driving to the next level. It’s a lot easier to stay in a comfortable place where you want to take the safe way out but believe me, by doing this you will never advance. If you do lose, don’t make excuses. Look defeat in the eye and learn from it. Look at the “WHY”. WHY did your car just fall off 2 numbers? Why did you take too much stripe and breakout (what was going through your mind and what were you seeing going down the track)? WHY were you late? WHY did you just pick up .015 in your 60’ time? Always look into the why. Most people would rather place blame rather than look into the why because it’s the easier way out and requires less effort (thought). You should be learning something every pass down the track. If you look into the why and honestly answer it, the chances are you will not make the same mistake multiple times. This leads me to my next section- the mental side of racing.

All forms of sports require a mix of mental and physical talent to be successful. I can’t think of a sport that is more lopsided on the mental side than drag racing. There is so much that can be said about the psychology of racing but because of space limitation, I will stick to the single, most important one. The single and biggest barrier that stands between you and the win light… Fear.

I can remember being 22 years old and very new at national event racing when a well known and very successful racer was paired up with me. Hell yes I was scared. On top of that he did everything he could to intimidate me and try to get in my head. He was smart, a good driver and very experienced. He knew well enough the havoc fear would play in opponents minds. Here I was a newbie to the national event scene and I was about to face the best. Yup, David vs Goliath. Fortunately I was aware enough to step back and look at the big picture and that’s when it hit me; “this is a numbers game and I can put up numbers just like he can.” As Jeg Couglin once said “preparation is king” and my car and entire racing program was prepared to do the job. That triggered confidence in me, eliminated the fear, and helped me to win the round. I also took a chance and held some numbers in my pocket, executed the plan perfectly and forced him to breakout. Say those words “this is a numbers game and I can put up numbers just like he can.” to yourself whenever you feel like you are at a disadvantage in a certain round and it puts everything in perspective and will wipe away any fear you may have had to race your opponent. Remember, this is not a wrestling match where you are 90lbs and he is 300lbs. Most of the time the cars are equal or close in the consistency department.

Really, when I speak of fear in racing I am talking about fear of losing. Worried about who you are racing against (that you will lose), scared you may redlight (and lose), worried that you may be late (and lose), scared that you may not have the car dialed in right (and lose). All in all, just the simple fear of losing. Again, when fear enters your mind, step back for a second and look at the big picture. This is a numbers game! Do your homework before the race and before the round and by the time you make it to the staging lanes you should be prepared to lay down good numbers and good numbers can beat ANYBODY! When racing without fear you WILL get MUCH better results, period. Have you ever watched someone during a test and tune go .00 something on the tree all day long? I know I have. It’s because there is zero fear on a test and tune session. The racer is not worried about red lighting and not worried about losing. The key is to adopt this mindset when the chips ARE on the table. Only thoughts of executing your game plan (regardless of who is in other lane) and what your last run was like. The biggest link I see with fear and losing a race is overestimating your opponent. Overestimating your opponent causes your inner confidence to go down and your subconscious tells yourself that you are an underdog which in turn leads to fear. This fear leads you to do things you normally wouldn’t do like perhaps try too hard which takes you out of your zone. Now your chance of winning the round just went down significantly.

There is a lot more that could be said about starting line, finish line, dial in, race strategies, and the part psychology plays in racing. For now, regardless of how new or seasoned you are to the sport of drag racing, my hope is that you will be able to tie this column together to your racing program. When you are about to line up for your next round, remember to step back and look at the big picture, run a game plan through your mind on how you are going to turn the win light on, race smart, and race with zero fear. And above all, play to your strengths. You will be surprised how many more times the win light shines in your lane.

Peter Biondo


Shoei Giveaway: Time to Pick Your Fav

Thank you to everyone who is participating in our Endless Summer Shoei Giveaway! The contest ends tonight at midnight.  If you haven’t entered yet, you can enter here.

We are excited about the grand prize: The choice of any Shoei helmet from the internal sunshield family!

The Shoei GT-Air, the Shoei Neotec and the Shoei J-Cruise are designed for different riding styles and each one provides an advantage depending on how and what you ride.

It may be an easy decision. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try the flexibility of a modular helmet so the Neotec would be an obvious choice. Or maybe you’re ready to upgrade the coverage and go full face. The GT-Air is one of our best full face helmets and has a streamlined aerodynamic design; if full-face helmets are your thing, you won’t be disappointed. Or if you want to freedom of less coverage, the J-Cruise might be the best style for you,

Let’s take a closer look at the features so you can make a more informed decision about which one you would add to your collection. It will be up to you to pick the best looking color on that model.

These three models round out Shoei’s “advanced integrated sunshield” family by providing a full face, open face and modular style all with the same state-of-the-art technology.  The integration of this sunshield was done without any compromise. They didn’t thin out the shell or the liner to accommodate the retractable shade. It’s perfectly seamless with the design of the helmet.

The built-in dark smoke visor provides instant relief from sun glare in one quick motion with an easy to reach switch. It’s operated with a steel cable which was built to withstand heavy use. This drop down visor is the only one on the market that meets the ANSI standard for non-prescription eyeglasses. It’s distortion-free & blocks 99% of harmful UV rays.

All these helmets were developed in Japan using Shoei’s in-house Wind Tunnel to maximize aerodynamic performance. They all use Shoei’s Advanced Integrated Matrix - a high performance fiberglass/ organic fiber blend that creates an ultra-lightweight, rigid and resilient shell structure. The ventilation system on these helmets is exceptional. The front and rear vents work together by scooping the fresh air in from the front and creating a vortex to move the air out of the back of the helmet for maximum cooling.  There’s also an exhaust port in the neck roll.

Each helmet uses the 3-D Max-Dry liner which is antibacterial and wicks 2 times more moisture than standard nylon liners on the market today. The foam cheek pads provide a secure fit, which means less road noise, and are eyeglass compatible. They also feature removable ear pockets to accommodate a communication system, if needed.

Now some specifics.

The chin bar of the Shoei Neotec is held in place with an easy-open lock release button. It feels solid, as do all of the moving parts. It truly has a full face feel when the chin bar is down. It feels very secure. The Neotec comes in all the Shoei solids: White, black, anthracite, light silver, wine red, and matte black. It also comes in one “hi-viz” accented graphic, the Borealis TC-3.


The shell of the full face GT-Air was sculpted specifically for the US market with a focus on aerodynamics, stability and ventilation. The GT-Air comes with a chin curtain, breath deflector, the CNS-1 pinlock ready shield AND includes a clear pinlock lens.  The base plates on the shield are self adjusting and draw in the gasket when the shield closes for a better seal than we’ve ever seen. The dual ridge, rubber beaded eyeport seal is exceptionally airtight. The GT-Air comes in Shoei’s solids but it’s also offered in 3 Journey graphics and 2 Wanderer designs. (We personally are drawn to the stunning good looks of the Shoei GT-Air Journey TC-2, but don’t let that influence you.)

The Shoei J-Cruise “leaves absolutely nothing to be desired,” according to one reviewer. He goes on the say:

“The aerodynamic design and thick padding deaden wind noise and make the inside this helmet far quieter that with any other helmet I have owned. The aerodynamic windscreen design really does redirect air down from the rider’s neck and also helps provide a quiet ride. The optically correct screen and sun shield really do seem to render a clearer picture of the surroundings. The sun screen mechanism is extremely smooth and the shade itself does not hit my eyeglasses which is a very annoying aspect of many built in sun screen helmets. Everything about this helmet says “quality”, from design to fit/finish to performance. It is the most expensive helmet I’ve ever owned and well worth the extra bucks. The J-Cruise comes in all the standard solid colors offered by Shoei: black, white, wine red , anthracite, brilliant yellow, matte black and matte deep grey.

That’s a very high recommendation from a serious long distance rider.

If you are torn, don’t hesitate to call us and discuss the features of these three models: 888-343-5638. We hope that even if you don’t win, you will consider adding one of these quality helmets to your collection.

Good luck and ride safe.

Scorpion EXO-900 Transformer – Rider’s Review

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: The CE rated Scorpion EXO-900 is really a Swiss Army knife sort of helmet with a variety of features and plenty of versatility. The price seems more than reasonable to me too.

I took note of the Scorpion EXO-900 when it came out but I didn’t focus on it because I wasn’t interested in a modular unit. Now that I am an eyeglass wearer (see my previous post entitled Eyeglass Update) I have taken a closer look at the whole modular helmet scenario. I like the Scorpion because it is versatile, well thought out, CE rated and (absolutely mandatory for me) comes in a hi-viz flavor.

My head girth rings in at 60 cm.  This usually puts me right on the cusp of the medium and large dome sizes. Scorpion’s size chart steers me to the large. I popped it on and found, voila, the best fitting helmet I have ever had. The EXO-900 fits my head perfectly. I am what is known as a medium oval and this helmet feels as though it was custom crafted for my skull bone.

Ok, let’s start going through the features. The EXO-900 has a drop-down, fighter pilot, style of sunvisor. You work it with a modest push or pull on a left side lever and its easy with a gloved hand. The action is quick and smooth. When the visor drops down it pops gently off of your nose and then back up a little. Your nose may vary but for me it was just a gentle tap and then it was resting without contact. It retracts pretty easily too. The visor never got in the way of my eyeglasses. The visor is not polarized but it is dark enough to cut down on bright sunlight and its a neutral grey color. I would have preferred a nice brown lens but that’s me.

The whole modular unit hinges up and down by pulling outward on a red button on the chinbar. This too is easily done with a gloved hand. The chinbar moves up and rests on the top of the helmet. The motion is easy and sure. Scorpion goes you one better and once you have positioned the chinbar in the right place and pulled back on the 2 safety catches you can remove the chinbar unit in its entirety thereby leaving you with an open-faced helmet (with the drop-down sun visor.) That’s a neat trick. The mounting points are two bayonet style tabs in the chinbar. The tabs work in combination with the spring loaded safety catches that open up the receiving holes a bit so that you can insert the tabs. This whole operation is a bit tricky at first…and second … but by the fifth time I had it knocked. Please note that I have a bit of a hard time with shield swap outs and I have always found my Arai shields a bit of a test so I am clearly not the standard by which this process should be judged.

When you have finished removing the chinbar its time to install what Scorpion calls the “3/4 Peak Visor.” This is a plastic crescent that sits atop the upper ridge of the helmet’s face opening and snaps down along the sides of the face opening of the helmet. This makes the helmet look more like an open-faced helmet with a mini-bill, like the Shoei RJ Platinum-R. The Peak Visor uses the same bayonet and latch points that the chinbar utilizes. Once you suss the lineup, and with some practice, it also pops on and off pretty quickly. Make sure its all fully seated before you put the helmet on.

There are only two vents on the helmet and that makes sense – if you want more air take the chinbar off. Both vents open and close easily with a gloved hand: a top vent and a rear vent. I rode with the chinbar down and both vents open on a 78° day and it wasn’t stuffy inside the helmet.

The helmet has Scorpion’s air pump “Airfit” system that inflates segments of the padding around the lower part of your chin. There is a rubberized, red, circular button on the rear helmet padding: push the button – inflate the air bag. Press a small button next to the big button and release the air, hey presto. You do this with the helmet on your head and you stop when it feels right. The action on my test helmet was pretty minor so I took another Scorpion off the shelf to check it out. Apparently the inflated bag isn’t huge and the effects are subtle. I assume it will work to keep the helmet in place when you land and I can’t find any reason not to like it as long as it holds up. This is yet another clever idea from Scorpion. I have been an Arai person for years and years but I am starting to like these guys. I recently reviewed one of the Scorpion jackets and I liked the way that was put together too.

Having said that I must note that because the helmet is a modular it is necessarily heavier than my Arai. Because the Scorpion EXO-900 is a modular it is also noisier than my Arai full-face. I wear custom molded ear plugs and I also have tinnitus (life takes it tolls) so I may not be the most critical evaluator of wind noise. My testing equipment has been repeatedly and foolishly placed next to too many mega-concert speakers and has been hung out in the wind on too many unhelmeted motorcycle rides. Ahh, that’s all behind me now – sorry, what did you say?

I have two bikes, one has a moderate sized windscreen (bigger than a sport bike thumbnail but smaller than, say, a Vetter) and the other has no screen at all. The wind coming off of my screen at freeway speeds hit the helmet at an angle that seemed to catch under the ¾ Peak Visor and push my head back more than I am accustomed to. I am going to go for a ride without the chinbar and Peak Visor just to see what the wind does to the helmet on both bikes. The wind thing is tricky and you really have to match the helmet to your bike as well as to your head.

The padding material is wicking, removable and washable and feels like flannel pj’s. against your delicate skin. No, really.  As I said at the top the helmet’s interior fit me perfectly and yeah, way comfy.

The visor is billed as super strong and optically correct. From what I hear Scorpion has the visor thing down. It is also equipped with an anti-fog treatment called “EverClear” (no, not the same stuff) that they guarantee for a year. I have just gotten used to my Arai Pinlock system and fog is a thing of the past for me but riding around with EXO-900 I noticed no fogging either with the sun visor up or down. There is a chin curtain that snaps into place as well.

There are a variety of colors but quite frankly all I care about is hi-viz. They have it – I like it.

Oh – lest I forget, there are also external ports built into the helmet for a communication system. Just pop out the cover plates and install the comm.system. Scorpion does not make its own proprietary system but a host of manufacturer’s have designed adapter plates for this helmet. If you want a comm. system this should be a straightforward alteration.

All in all this is a dandy helmet and it is another of those products that I find to be well made and feature packed. Helmets keep getting better every year.  If you are already a modular wearer this one is a fine replacement and if you wear glasses this is a strong candidate for your next helmet.

Gerde Applethwaite

When To Rehelmet?

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: How long should you hold onto that old helmet before you let it go?

My assignment this week was to write an honest blog piece about when it is the right time to ditch your helmet and re-up for a new one. There are some obvious answers and then there are some that seem not so much.

Before I started working on this post I had to bicycle over to the store to get some more apple juice. The ride took me onto a bridge over an estuary. I walk the bike over that bridge because I like the water. I find it enjoyable to stroll the bridge’s length and watch the world go by. There was a seagull flying slowly about 30 feet over the drink: it tilted one wing toward the water and the other straight up into the sky. In that moment she had dumped the air from her wings, lost most of her air speed, did one cartwheel and pitched straight down toward the water head first. in the descent she pulled her wings in about two thirds. When she was only a few feet off of the water she snapped her wings out full in a braking and gliding maneuver and then bobbed her head underwater to grab a small redish fish. With but two big flaps of her wings she avoided crashing into the drink and was back up in the air again. Its an astonishing feat of skill and grace to witness. There was a short stuttering motion as she flew off: she had just slid the small fish down her gullet. Done and done, the fish never knew what hit it.

One of the campfire rituals with riders is the exchange of harrowing accident or near accident stories. These stories run the gamut from hitting the headlight frozen deer on the back country road to being struck by some  #%@ing texting teen making a left turn. Most of the time riders say stuff like “he/it came out of nowhere.” These accidents happen so quickly and there is often no time to react. We’re not the bird – we’re the fish. If they were very lucky there were no, or minimal, injuries and the gear took the brunt of it. You may not need to get rid of your jacket or riding pants but if your helmet had an accident impact it has to go. No no – it has to go. The combination of stress fractures in the shell combined with compression of the inner EPS liner foam render the helmet useless for anything other than a planter* or a bird house. The liner is incapable of protecting you from impact injury after it has suffered one impact. There is a nice video shot at the Nolan factory that shows the helmet testing procedure and the most interesting part for me was the moment when they restruck a helmet and looked at the dent in the surface. After one impact the helmet loses its ability to adequately distribute the force of the blow over the surface of the helmet. It really brought home the idea that you cannot reuse your helmet after you have had an accident with it. Even a small impact is enough. Not a ding like dropping it off of the cocktail table or the seat of your bike but certainly when you have a get-off and strike your helmet. How small a get-off? Good lord man just get a new helmet! How much is your brain worth? Replacing your helmet after an accident is a pretty clear choice for most riders but the rest of it is not so clear.

You can find lots of advice from people who want to sell you a helmet (yeah – like us)  about when a helmet ages out. It becomes difficult to get the straight dope. The most widely accepted idea is that you replace your motorcycle helmet every 5 years. Why? Well uh… because it wears out, that’s why. Well, what wears out? The uhhh, EPS liner foam interacts with your sweat and that diminishes it structural reliability – yeah, that’s the ticket. Really? Can’t they make a liner that doesn’t interact with your body oils or sweat? Well, yes, in fact the whole thing is a canard. The liner isn’t affected by your sweat or scalp oils. Your helmet may stink but the EPS liner isn’t necessarily diminished.

Many of the helmet manufacturers will talk about liner degradation from body oils or sweat but this information is the subject of some serious question. There is a nice article by the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute and among other things it addresses this issue. The bicycle helmet liner is made of the same EPS foam material that is used in motorcycle helmets.

Can your EPS liner be diminished by solvents or cleaning agents. Yes, it appears so. If five years isn’t the standard for degradation what is? There is no hard and fast rule here. Other sources are as generous as eight years. If you notice that your helmet seems to fit more loosely on your head than it used to it is more likely due to abrasion of the liner and/or reduction of the liner by cleaning agents and not because your head is shrinking. In either case its time for a new helmet.

Your helmet’s integrity is indeed reduced by the ultraviolet rays of sunlight. The helmet is plastic and plastic does not play well with UV.  How long does it take to render your helmet unsafe? It depends upon the materials as some of the composites resist UVA and UVB better than others. What are those composites? I do not have a danged clue. I have read that many manufacturers are putting UV inhibitors into their shell plastics to slow this decay. This reinforces the notion that your helmet has a use-by date regardless of its impact history.

Alright let’s sling some product.

Helmet quality gets better every year and the prices are remarkably low for a helmet that offers more than reasonable protection for your brain case. You can get a perfectly nice Scorpion EXO-400 for a mere $110.00. I like that helmet. Too much for you? You can get an HJC-5N Open Face (solid) for an astonishing $68.00.  A Bell Arrow (either solid or graphic) for one Benjamin. How about a an HJC CL-16 (solid), a workhorse of a helmet, for only $117.00. I don’t often go into sales pitch mode but the point I am truly trying to make here is that you do not have to spend a lot of money to be allowed the opportunity to convert your old helmet into a bird house.  Why risk a concussion or more serious damage for a mere hundred dollars?

Step up another hundred bucks or so and you can get higher quality shells, more comfortable wicking liners, more durable face shields or in some even drop down sun visors.

Look into the Shark S700 (solid) for $210.00 or the Nolan N-90 N-Comm (solid) for $220.00. They are both very good helmets. Lots of choices – one brain to protect.

I recently demo’d a Scorpion EXO-900 Transformer [ed. that review will be posted soon] helmet because after my last eye exam, came the mandate that I wear glasses when I drive/ride. Modular helmets have now become more interesting to me. I liked that helmet. It has an amazing assortment of bells and whistles and it is CE rated. It fit my head perfectly too. Switching to a modular for my next purchase is definitely in the cards. It makes the whole eyeglass thing so much easier.

For years I rode with Shoei helmets. I wore out two RF200′s and had no complaints about either those helmets or any later Shoei head buckets I wore. I respect the Shoei name because they held me in good stead for many years.  Shoei has my attention once again because of their modular Neotec and also their full-face GT Air. When its time for me to go helmet shopping again they are high on my list.

I currently ride with an Arai RX-Q. The RX-Q is a replacement for my then five year old Arai Corsair. I followed the five year rule. I might not have had to but I figured I needed to do what I could to protect what few brain cells I have left.

Helmet integrity is reduced by an impact, by ultraviolet radiation and by abrasion of the interior liner and/or the liner’s contact with some solvents or cleaning agents. The decision to replace your helmet is, so to speak, a no-brainer. The decision to replace due to insults other than impact are a bit less straightforward. I would err on the side of caution. Take a gander at our helmet offerings and take another look at your helmet. Yeah, sure you can replace your helmet because you want something matching your gas tank color and we’d be tickled sideways to have your money but more importantly if your helmet is compromised surrender it to the finches or the orchids and get a new one.

* There are some wild and wondrous planters made from old motorcycle helmets (they will lend your garden something of the je ne sais quoi magic of a hubcap farm) and a quick tour of the interwebz will provide many ideas for other substantial and neighbor confounding things to do with your old helmet. Don’t throw it away, re-appropriate it. ‘No Madge – I’m re-appropriating it.’


Gerde Applethwaite


Stay Safe: Riding in The Wind

In all different weather conditions and climates, riding a motorcycle is a beautiful experience.  Windy riding conditions can be tricky and that’s why it’s important to pause to consider technique. It can be precarious on two wheels when gusts of wind begin to pick up.

Here are some suggestions for windy conditions:

1. Make sure to relax. Tensing up while being buffeted by the wind does you no favors.

2. Lean into the wind while understanding that the wind may die down suddenly.

3. Stay on the throttle during a strong gust.

4. Lean forward letting your arms do more of the work. This will improve your ability to react.

Remember that these are merely suggestions and it varies from rider to rider what works best. Let us know what works best for you from your experience.

And make sure you have the latest in motorcycle helmets too as reduced wind noise can help keep your focus. We recommend the new Shoei GT-Air helmet. Shoei created a nice aerodynamic shell shape on their latest creation and you will feel the benefit on the road. The GT-Air graphics are now back in stock so check out a Shoei GT-Air Wanderer or Shoei GT-Air Journey helmet today!

Ride safe and have fun,

Dave at Helmet City

ABS or No: The Great Motorcycle Debate









Some motorcyclists believe that learning how to brake properly is a rite of passage; a badge earned by putting in the time. But for novice riders, who generally have the highest number of motorcycle accidents, anti-lock brakes (ABS) are quickly gaining ground as the next biggest safety measure next to motorcycle helmets.

That isn’t to say veteran riders can’t reap the benefits of ABS – especially in wet conditions when reducing the stopping distance is crucial.

All in the Numbers

One study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) suggests that motorcycles with ABS are 37 percent less likely to be involved in a fatal crash than those without ABS.

Interestingly enough, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports the overall risk of dying in a motorcycle crash is reduced by 37 percent when riders wear motorcycle helmets.

Coincidence? We think not.

What this data tells us is that wearing motorcycle helmets and purchasing bikes with anti-lock brakes can help riders decrease their chances of a fatal accident – by more than just a small margin.

Antilock Brakes Coming to U.S. Motorcycles

Europe already has a pending rule to bring ABS to motorcycles by 2016, but the U.S. lags in such regulations (not surprising considering the helmet laws in this country).

Some manufacturers, like Honda and Kawasaki, do offer models that either include or can be modified with an anti-lock braking system.

And it appears that other manufacturers could soon follow suit.

What are your views on anti-lock brakes? Yay or nay?