I’m a believer in voluntary helmet use – I live in New York State where the law demands helmet usage but I believe that adult riders are capable of deciding for themselves. While I often times don’t wear a helmet outside of NY (because I do love the wind in my face and through my hair), I strongly suggest that you determine how much risk you are willing to accept, because regardless of what type of accident you may become involved in (hopefully none), your chances of survival are increased by helmet usage.
During a recent trip, I passed through 14 states that don’t require motorcycle helmets. Some mandate them for the passenger. At times, I wore my helmet and chose not to wear it at other times. Why? Well, for me, helmet usage is determined by how I will be riding that day. For instance, whenever I’m on the highway for extended periods of time, I wear a helmet. I do it more for comfort than safety, but I also believe that wearing it increases my chances for survival in an accident. While it may look “cool” to cruise down the interstate at 75 mph with your hair blowing in the breeze, what’s not cool is the wind blasting your face for extended periods. This causes your eyes to water (even with a windshield and/or sunglasses) and after a while, they dry out and get itchy, which in turn is very distracting. You dehydrate more quickly because wind is blasting your eyes as well as your nasal and oral passages. Another consideration is the noise level, even with earplugs. When you wear a helmet, it is much quieter and the chance for long-term hearing loss is reduced. Wind noise is also just plain annoying after many hours on the road.
Although I have several helmets, I knew that the 6,000 mile trip I was planning would need a special one. I wanted something that would fit perfectly, give me a great view of my surroundings (eliminating a full face or modular helmet), had a built-in sun visor so I wouldn’t need to fool with sunglasses and regular glasses, give me excellent hearing protection (meaning a thicker internal padding system) and protect me from wind buffeting. After a lot of research, I decided on the new Shoei J Cruise because it has everything I wanted and more.
It’s an open face helmet that has an optically correct face shield, giving me a full picture of my surroundings (unlike a full face or modular helmet) while still protecting my face, eyes and ears from wind and other elements. For those of you who get a little claustrophobic inside a full face or modular helmet, this wide face shield really opens things up. Another great feature is the retractable, optically correct sunscreen, allowing use of prescription glasses while offering full protection from glare. The Shoei sunscreen is special because it doesn’t smack into my glasses when I lower it like most full helmets with this feature. Shoei designed the shell around it … they didn’t just add a sunscreen to an existing shell. Thick padding provides excellent protection and the best noise reduction of any helmet I have owned. It has outstanding ventilation even on the hottest days (I wore it on a 104 degree day in Oklahoma).
Whether you are a fan of helmets or not, there are times when it makes very good sense to wear one. Whatever brand you choose, make sure it offers everything you’re looking for, regardless of price.