Helmets, helmets and old helmets

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Some riders have two, three, four or more motorcycles in the garage. I have one. But, I have four helmets in the closet. Two of them get used regularly. I decided recently to take the oldest one for a spin, and it re-opened my eyes to a different view.

I bought that open-face helmet in 2004 when I bought my 2004 Honda Shadow Spirit VT1100. Black bike. Black helmet. I even wore a black leather jacket and rode in black cowboy boots. Even though I was wearing a helmet, I looked the part of a biker. I bought a red/black rain suit to repel a little rain.

Good rain gear and apparel, along with waterproof bags, keeps everything dry.

Eventually, I decided that black was not the color to enhance being seen by drivers. And, that open-face helmet was not the best one for riding in the rain. I started to upgrade my gear about the same time I started looking for an adventure bike. At the time, I was writing a few stories for a motorcycle travel magazine, and it never failed. I’d get out there on my tour, and I would end up on a gravel road or riding in the rain. Every ride. I learned that long distance rides in the rain an open-face helmet is not the best choice. So, I upgraded my helmet and jacket before my next feature tour article. I was still riding in the rain, but better protected from the elements.

Intersection of Illinois SR 84 and US 20, east of Elizabeth.

Making the adjustment from an open-face to full-face helmet took a little doing. I like the breeze in my face, and often ride with the visor up. The new helmet provided a narrower view like looking through a port hole. It’s harder to see the full landscape with a full-face helmet, but I knew I was better protected, and decided to wear only the full-face. My old helmet started gathering dust in the closet.

In my search for riding gear that increased my visibility to other drivers, I finally purchased that adventure bike, a yellow V-Strom 650, and a new graphic helmet that lasted about 30,000 miles. The seal around the visor gave out, and so that was was replaced with a new graphic helmet, another HJC. I also upgraded my riding jacket to something brighter.

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When the bug bit to buy another helmet, I decided to try a modular helmet. The modular is very nice. Flip it up, put it on, flip it back down before you start rolling. It’s easy on the glasses, and all of us who wear glasses know what a pain in the butt full-face helmets are if we’re wearing glasses.

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It seems to me, that the visor on the modular has an even smaller portal on the world. It’s probably the design to accommodate the flip-up mechanism. There’s only so much space to work with.

These helmets have taken me safely to beautiful landscapes across the USA—the shoreline of Lake Michigan, the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, the deserts of Arizona, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, crossing Puget Sound on the ferry to Seattle, the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great River Road along the Mississippi River, the Natchez Trace, Tail of the Dragon, the Ohio River Scenic Byway, and the many small towns and farms dotted throughout the Midwest. All beautiful landscapes in their own right. All through the portal of a full-face helmet.

And that brings me to yesterday’s ride, when I decided to dust off that open-face helmet and take it for a ride. I have not worn it since I replaced it in 2006 with my first full-face helmet.  It’s a little worn after loaning it to my brother for a couple of years. The chin strap is frayed. The liner has never been washed because it’s not removable. The visor was replaced at some point, so it is not scratched—clear as … well, clear as glass. In all honesty, the helmet should probably be replaced. What is the life expectancy of a motorcycle helmet anyway?

As I slipped that black HJC CL-33 on my head, I found it to be remarkably lighter than the other helmets. My glasses were not an issue. Because there was no helmet protruding to protect my chin, the field of view was wide, so wide in fact, I could not see the edges of the helmet. It was like having an unimpeded view of the world around me and yet my head protected. Even with the visor down, it was a new view. It gave me permission to look at the landscape differently as I motored down the back roads near my home. I could look down at the map in my tank bag without having to shift my head down—there was nothing blocking my view. Peripheral vision was fantastic. Everything caught my eye, and I wanted to take it all in, breath in the magnificence of being part of and one with the environment.

Now, you may be wondering where I’m going with this. ‘Is he going back to an open-face helmet?’ ‘Is he going to get all religious on us?’The answer is no, but not 100% no. I am still going to tour with a full-face helmet, because its protection is so much better. Wearing the open-face in rain, water comes up under the visor and sprays my face and glasses—not good for a safe ride or tour. And about that religion, it is always a good thing to enjoy and share a spirit-filled ride, and who hasn’t felt some euphoria on a ride some time.

My point is this: Sometimes, we need to go back and review our decisions, to try old things on again. The one thing we all share in motorcycling is the open road, to be part of the environment and the landscape—something we can’t experience within the confines of a car or truck. Putting on that open-face helmet gave me a renewed, different view of the landscape and reminded me why I ride—to see the open road and smell the flowers, the fresh cut hay, the rain in the distance, and the sweetness of the pines as I roll by.

Take time to smell the flowers, and remember the reasons you bought that scoot. And one other thing: don’t forget to wear your helmet.

See you on the highway.

Brent

P.S. While I was out riding yesterday, I saw a guy on a Harley riding past me doing about 30-35 mph, no helmet, talking on his cell phone with his left hand up to his ear, and right hand on the throttle. Yup. I asked myself, “Is he using a smart phone?”

2013 International Motorcycle Show–Indianapolis

It’s a first. The International Motorcycle Show came to Indianapolis with it’s big sponsor Progressive Insurance. It used to be Cycle World, but somewhere along the way, sponsors changed. Anyway, I wanted to write a short report—perspective from an attendee.

Originally, the show was to be at the Lucas Oil Stadium, but the venue was changed to the Indiana Convention Center, which is pretty much across the street, where the huge Dealer Expo was also taking place. More about that in a minute.

The MC Show was small in comparison to other locations I have attended—Chicago, Novi, and Cleveland—but it’s the first time for Indy, and I can understand how it needs to build. Attending on a Sunday, I thought it was very well attended. There was enough crowd to make it seem full, but not so crowded that you couldn’t make your way around and sit on a motorcycle or two.

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One of the bikes that I really wanted to see was the new Honda CB 1100. It reminds me of earlier times and previous motorcycles I have owned—bikes that brought joy and a love for the road. I think Honda has really hit the target with this bike. I thought it quite interesting that the people swarming over this bike seemed to have gray hair like myself, wanting to sit on a little nostalgia. Perhaps that why the Triumph Bonneville and Moto Guzzi V7 have been so popular. Those bikes remind us of an earlier time in our motorcycling when life was simpler and not so connected to the digital age with cell phones, the Internet, and GPS units telling us where to turn. Back in the day, we just got on the bike and rode away, maybe stopping to look at a paper map. That was adventure.

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Although all the big manufacturers were there, and the space seemed full, there were some missing. Kawasaki was not present, nor was Moto Guzzi and Ural. It could have been space constraints for the show, but more likely long-range planning to throw one more show into the mix of marketing budget.

Speaking of space, the Dealer Expo had what seemed like at least four, maybe five times the space of the MC Show. The Dealer Expo has been in Indianapolis for years, and it has always been exclusively for dealers to see new and/or updated products. In the Dealer Expo venue, you could find just about everything made for motorcycles, including accessories and apparel. I was surprised to see a huge exhibit from China, as if they sent all their manufacturing reps to the Dealer Expo to introduce product.

When the show facilitators announced the additional IMS alongside the Dealer Expo, there were some concerns by the dealer exhibitors that the general public was not their audience. As a result, a ticket to one show was not admittance to the other. However, at 1 p.m. on Sunday, the last day of both shows, the doors were opened between the two venues, and people were allowed to roam freely.

I was at that door when the gate opened, and frankly, there was a pretty good rush of people … in both directions! At that moment, I was standing at the Suzuki exhibit trying to Tweet a picture of the 2013 Suzuki V-Strom DL650, and I had to get out of the way for fear of a stampede from the Dealer Expo!

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All in all, the 2013 International Motorcycle Show at Indianapolis was a good start. Hopefully, next year, we’ll see more of the manufacturers bringing their products to this city, the Crossroads of America. I’ll be there.

See you on the highway.

Brent

A Conversation with Liz Jansen

Book: Women, Motorcycles and the Road to EmpowermentLiz Jansen started riding motorcycles when she was a kid, and grew up molded into the norms of society. But, leading up to 2003, she became dissatisfied with the direction her life was taking, and decided to make some changes. In 2003, she took a two-month long odyssey to think and reflect on what her life should be. It’s no wonder that motorcycling played a big role in her decisions.

Today, Liz is a published author, speaker, and coach. She offers workshops and retreats. She writes on her web site, “I help people who are considering change, dealing with change or going through life transitions to create the life they want.”

I reviewed her book about six months ago, and it is a fascinating read, not so much about motorcycling, but about the efforts of women to find empowerment. This book could be about backpacking, or long-distance bicycling, or wilderness trekking. It’s main focus is finding empowerment and self discovery.

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Liz conducts seminars and retreats, and recently started producing webinars, including “Getting Started with Solo Travel” and “Fear Busting.” In January, she will be presenting a seminar on solo travel and the International Motorcycle Show in Toronto. It will be the same presentation given each day of the show. In late January, she will offer a premium webinar on the same subjects. She says the winter months are perfect for planning those summer travels.

And of course, she plans to get in a few of her own adventures this year, destinations yet to be determined, but has a few ideas.

Liz and I had wanted to do this interview quite some time ago, when the first book review was produced. We finally managed to connect using Skype. Our conversation was recorded December 3, 2012.

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You can learn more about Liz at her web site, www.LizJansen.com.

Thanks for listening. See you on the highway.

Brent

Oh, oh! A 2014 V-Strom DL1000 concept

It must be the turning economy for the manufacturers to be putting out new motorcycles. BMW is producing a water-cooled boxer engine and now, when everyone thought the Suzuki DL1000 was history and they were just cleaning out inventory, the company announces a concept bike for 2014 … with pictures at the German motorcycle show Intermot.

Here is their press announcement and photos from Global Suzuki.

Concept model V-Strom 1000 Concept

V-Strom 1000 Concept

The V-Strom 1000 Concept is a reference exhibit model based on the spirit shared with the Sport Enduro Tourer, the V-Strom 650 ABS which is favored especially in Europe and North America. It is equipped with a newly designed 1000cm3 V-twin engine, aluminum chassis, radial mount front brake caliper, ABS, traction control, and specially designed side and top cases. The styling design of the V-Strom 1000 Concept is inspired by the 1988 DR750S, Suzuki’s first big on/off-road machine. With plan to launch it as a 2014 model, it will offer some of the best parts of the adventure bike such as the versatility, the fun of riding, and comfortable long distance travel.

Pressekonferenz: Suzuki, Neuheit: V-Storm 1000, Motorrad, Halle 7

Intermot

Intermot is one of the biggest global motorcycle shows. It will be followed next month by EICMA held in Italy. All the new models show up at these shows, whether the motorcycles come to North America or not.

Is the 2014 V-Strom 1000 a game changer?

See you on the highway.

Brent