Essential Motorcycle Gear – My First Helmet
As you’ve no doubt seen from my previous post, I headed down to Carter Powersports yesterday to check out a few bikes and I’ve pretty much decided that the Kawasaki KLR 650 is the one I’m going to buy in a few months I had other reasons for heading down to the dealership though. I needed to get some vital gear for my upcoming MSF course. You know – the one that starts on Friday I’ve got a pair of gloves that are more for off road, but they’ll be fine for the class. I also usually wear boots that cover my ankles which also meet the class requirements. I made sure to confirm that my usual black fatigue pants will be OK as well. That just left a helmet and either a long sleeve shirt or a jacket. I’ve found an acronym for a saying that pretty much describes how I plan on riding my motorcycle – ATGATT. ATGATT stands for All The Gear All The Time. As the old saying goes, dress for the crash – not for the ride
I thought about going down to Wal Mart and getting a long sleeve shirt, but then I thought better of that idea after my little incident with the Kawasaki KLX250s where I ended up on the showroom floor along with the bike and found that my elbow was bleeding a bit. Sure I can legally ride in a T-shirt, but I’m not about to do that. No, I’ve been down on the ground enough due to stuff going wrong on bicycles and rollerblades to know just how bad road rash sucks and how long it takes to heal. I’m not about to get on the road with just a shirt between my skin and the pavement if something goes wrong. I may as well just buy the jacket now. And I would have bought it on Saturday if they’d have had my size in stock. I’m calling Heather in the parts department tomorrow morning to confirm which color I want and I still haven’t decided between white and bright, screaming yellow. Either way, I’ll make sure to post pictures and such once I get it later this week
The school will loan you a helmet, but I wanted my own and I’d have to buy one anyway before I could ride my new motorcycle. I figured I’d just get one now
There were quite a few choices when it came to which helmet I wanted. First there was whether I wanted to get a street helmet, a dual sport helmet, or an off road helmet. All three choices are DOT rated and legal for street use. The street helmet is the one you see here. I was intent on getting a full face helmet for protective reasons, especially considering the fact that I’m a complete novice when it comes to motorcycles. The full face street helmet has a shield that can be opened or closed and a chin bar. It’s great for the road as it keeps all the weather out, but dirt can get into the shield’s hinges and cause problems. An off road helmet has a big chin bar, but no shield as it’s intended to be used with goggles in dusty and dirty conditions and they usually have a visor or “peak” to keep the sun out of your eyes and possibly help keep branches out of your face. Dual sport helmets are a cross between the two and can accommodate goggles under their shield if needed. Some have removable peaks as well.
I would’ve loved a dual sport helmet which is a cross between street and dirt, but there were problems with that. I wanted to buy my first helmet at a brick and mortar store where I could try it on and make sure it fit right. The only dual sport helmet available locally was a good helmet, but it just didn’t fit my head shape all that well. With the dual sport helmet out of the running, I was really leaning toward an off road helmet as I plan to leave the pavement quite often. I changed my mind after I realized I’d be paying about $110 for the helmet and another $40 for the goggles. OK, the money wasn’t the real problem. The real problem was that I tried all the gear on and it was fine, but for much of my street riding and the class I’m taking I realized it would be a real pain in the ass to have to deal with getting the helmet on, then the glasses, and finally the goggles. Oh yeah, that “peak” would also probably catch some decent air and add drag to the helmet when I’m on the highway.
I also want to address another factor in my helmet choice overall – Color. I’ve noticed that helmets come in so many different colors and patterns it’s enough to make your head spin. For some reason though, I see a whole bunch of ‘em in black. Call me crazy if you want (actually, you’d have to stand in line to do that), but I refuse to wear a black helmet – especially on a motorcycle. A rider’s helmet is the highest thing on the bike and right about at eye level with car or SUV drivers. It’s one of the most visible things to them. I’d much rather be noticed and avoided than look “cool” in a black helmet and have a driver hit me. No, it’s not the only thing to consider, but helmet color can be a big factor. I also wanted a solid color helmet that wouldn’t have as much camouflage effect as some of the graphics I’ve seen and would look better with the reflective decals I’m dreaming up. OK, solid color helmets usually cost a bit less, too
After weighing the strengths and weaknesses of the different types of helmets, I came to the decision to go with a street helmet. No, it’s not the greatest thing in the dirt for many reasons, but I realized that I’d be on the road quite a bit more than the dirt at least while I’m starting out. I also figured that doing the exercises on the motorcycles in class and working with the ridercoaches would be much easier with a flip up shield than if I’d had to use goggles
The helmet I finally chose is the HJC CL-16 and I think I’ll be happy with it for quite a while The price was right – It only cost $135 and less expensive is better with everything else being equal. It’s DOT rated and if I’d fit the XXL instead of XXXL I’d have a SNELL rated helmet as well. Oh well, I don’t feel under-protected with it and it fits right, so that’s good enough for me. All the other choices around town were somewhere over $200 and didn’t offer any better protection so I think I made a good choice.
Once the decision on the model of helmet was made there was one more decision to go – which color did I want? The CL-16 comes in quite a few different solid colors but there were only two in stock to choose from at the dealer. I could have flat black or gloss white. Remember that bit I just wrote above about visibility? Yeah, it didn’t even take any thinking about which one I liked better. I’d also been leaning toward white as it’s visible against so many different backgrounds. I’d have gone with bright, screaming, neon yellow or green if they’d had it in stock but white should do just fine I’m already coming up with some designs to have made into reflective decals, too
Price was far from the only factor I took into consideration when it came to the thing I’m trusting to protect my brain. Yeah, all the helmets I considered are DOT certified and rated, but protection to DOT standard is a must for a helmet that’s going to see any miles on the public highway. A big factor was how well the helmet’s venting system works. I’m in a place that’s known for hot summers and a helmets vent system is the only thing that’s going to keep me cool.
Some of the other helmets I looked at have what appear to be small vents on the front and very small or no vents in the back. That’s just not going to work – especially the part about small or no vents in the back. It might sound counter-intuitive at first, but think about just how much drag a round object has going through the air. While the front vents do give some airflow, it’s the turbulence and vacuum behind a helmet moving through the air that actually suck air out of the back vents. The CL-16 has good vents front and back. I could’ve had better venting, but I can’t really spend the money right now for something better.
OK, so it’s DOT rated and has decent venting. There are a couple of other features that drove me to the CL-16. That shield in the pics above has a few really cool things going for it. For one thing it takes about five seconds to remove it and another five to install it. That’s great if you want to switch shield colors and tints But that’s not the whole story. It’s also got a shield lock button on the left side that prevents the shield from opening at all while it’s engaged. I don’t know just how much this feature’s going to mean to me on the road, but I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it as it doesn’t add any appreciable weight
That’s not the end of the shield’s great features either! HJC is now including a really great product with the CL-16 known as a Pinlock shield. If you look closely at the pictures of the shield, you can see what looks like a secondary layer. That’s the pin lock shield. It’s held in place by tension against two plastic pins in the main shield which makes it very easy to swap out which is nice as it comes in several different colors and tints. The Pinlock shield itself also has a silicon bead that seals it against the main shield which creates a trapped, insulated air space just like you’d find in a double pane window in your house. That dead air space along with the Pinlock’s porous plastic pretty much put an end to any trouble you might have had with a visor that fogs up. Fogging will probably be a non-issue here in Vegas with our incredibly low humidity, but I’m not planning on staying in Vegas all the time. In any case it was included at no extra charge and doesn’t cause any problems for me at all, so I’ll take it and be happy
I’ve done the best I can right now to show off my cool new motorcycle helmet and to explain why I chose it among many other competing for my money, but I’m just a guy who’s new to this. Here’s a video that was made by someone who deals in helmets for a living that shows off the CL-16 better than I can
Trying to describe the Pinlock shield and how it works isn’t the easiest thing on the planet. I found this video that should give you a better idea of what it is and how it works
Well, that’s all I have to say about helmets for tonight. There might be more stuff in the future as I’m still considering adding a couple of accessories to my CL-16, but I’ve got to call it a night. Have fun and try to have a great Monday everyone
And before I forget, I also hope you had a great Easter as well
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