BE SAFELY LOUD AND PROUD MONEY FOR SOMETHING
Bling may be king, but buying safety gear is smarter
John L. Stein
Not everyone is made of money, and as such, life holds that some needs inevitably get fulfilled while others are back-burnered. Perhaps too often then, for motorcyclists, safety equipment takes a backseat to more glamorous purchases like an exhaust pipe, suspension upgrades, or accessories. After all, safety isn’t loud or proud, sparkly or shiny—and spending money on it usually doesn’t feed our egos.
In its simplest form, safety is bisected into two categories: “active safety,” the technologies (and skill sets) that help us avoid an accident; and “passive safety,” the equipment that protects us once the day’s gone all sideways. Active safety begins with rider training, risk assessment, and control skills, and it extends to bike features like traction control, ABS, LED or HID lighting, and more. Even bright clothing contributes to active safety.
Except for Honda’s optional Gold Wing airbag and oldschool accessory “crash bars,” motorcycles unfortunately offer precious few passive safety features. This department is instead covered by the apparel industry, whose advances have ironically outpaced those of bike builders. Witness the latest helmet technologies that better attenuate energy from common glancing impacts; neck, wrist, and knee braces for dirt riders; and microprocessor-controlled airbag vests, jackets, and race suits.
Probably no one budgets exclusively for safety upgrades, but if you did, what would you buy? Here are four ways spending a couple hundred to a few thousand dollars can improve both confidence and safety.
TRAIN UP. Google “motorcycle rider training” and the discipline you’re interested in (dirt, street, track, adventure, etc.), and zero in from there. From $200 to $2,600 should buy you from a day to nearly a week of advanced skill building.
MAXIMIZE GRIP. Whether on dirt, street, or track, when you need grip you need it instantly—not whenever that hard old rubber feels like working. Hence, invest from $120 to $400 per pair of new dirt tires and $150 to $600 for street rubber.
UPDATE YOUR LID. New
engineering for helmet liner systems allows the shell to rotate slightly around the head during an impact, helping protect against brain injury. Several companies offer dirt helmets with this protection for $600 to $700, while commensurate street helmets run from $850 to $1,300.
GET AIR. Various firms now offer airbag-equipped vests, jackets, and roadracing suits. Equipped with an accelerometer, microprocessor, and inflator, the gear senses when you’re getting pitched and inflates to protect the upper body. Prices range from about $600 to $4,400.