I don’t bring up this topic every week or month, but this is the time for my yearly reminder to bring the spotlight on the importance of wearing a full face helmet all the time when you are on the motorcycle.
Instead of bringing up stories from fellow riders and studies from scientists, here are three pictures as reminder this time.
If you are into “dual-sport” or “adventure” riding, very likely, I don’t need to introduce to you eveRide. He just came up with a new video on his YouTube channel which has superb pictures of two guys riding KLRs, and a rather “standard” talk about the KLR 650.
“Adventure” or “Dualsport” riding is fun on more than one way.
I would put shopping in the first category because that is the easiest one. Reading different forum posts and websites in the topic and browsing through online stores or stroll down to your local motorcycle stores and picking up gear and gadgets is definitely a fun way to spend time (and money).
In the second category, I would put mods and farkle. Very often these things does not cost much but requires time, tools and a place to apply them. Without some skills in motorcycle mechanics or at least the willingness to learn it on the go, do not get into this category. Changing anything on your motorcycle cannot just improve it, but if it is done on an incorrect way, can make your ride a danger to you and your fellow road users. You must always know, how things supposed to be done and you must get it done on the proper way. If you are in any doubt, please seek professional advice!
The third category on my list is riding and the riding skills. Riding skills are something what you cannot buy, but only earn it with spending time and a great deal of effort on it. Riding skills will improve linearly with the miles and time you spent with riding. Money or technology cannot make up for the missing experience. The only way to build-up skills faster is spending time with practicing.
There are a loads of “exercise” what you can do somewhere in a carpark, an empty lot or on the country side.
For some basic ideas on off-road / gravel road motorcycle handling exercises, check out Everide’s short video tutorial. It is filmed brilliantly and covers some very basic skills.
Slightly more theoretical and through is a PDF guide from the Best Rest Products website. David Petersen is covering most area of adventure riding, from the question of “why”, through “what”, and finishing with the “how-to”. I would say it is a must read for every beginner or rider who is not entirely sure in the how.
Armed with all the knowledge, just team up with one or more of your riding buddies and head out to practice. Believe me, it will be fun with the reward of new skills at the end of the day.
I left the usual warning to the end because I expect it to be obvious for you by now. Don’t go out for practicing alone! If you are committed to your practice, you will drop your bike. This is a fact. Have someone around who can help lift your bike, maybe lift it off from you or get help if any emergency arises.
I have always seen motorcycle riders wearing earplugs. For a long time I attributed it to loud exhaust systems, but the real reason to wear ear plugs on the motorcycle is to block out the wind noise.
A good road helmet can be really quiet while adventure and off-road helmets are way much noisier thanks to the design which did not keep the low noise levels and aerodynamics as a priority.
Some research revealed a set of ear plugs being promising, which was narrowed further down due to the very limited selection available on a reasonable price on New Zealand. I am not questioning the superiority of some custom moulded earplugs but the $200+ price for a pair seems excessive even with built in earphones.
After a visit to the local motorcycle shops and the DIY stores nearby, I ended up with three sets of ear plugs.
Moldex pocket pack
3M Tekk 25 dB corded
DeWalt 33 dB corded
The Moldex is the cheapest in the line-up. $2 for the two pairs in the carry case. These foam plugs does not have any rating on the package. I found the noise reduction performance below my expectations and the foam a tad too hard for me.
Experts recommends not to be exposed to noise louder than 85-90 dB for an extended period of time. Considering the average motorcycle muffler sound being around 90-100dB plus the wind noise, depending on the helmet, I was looking for at least 20-30 dB noise reduction rate (NRR) to stay on the safe side.
The 3M earplugs showing a 25 dB NRR on the packaging, but it was also bearing a sticker saying it meets only 18 dB by New Zealand standards. Since I do not know what is the NZ standard in details and how it is applied on earplugs, I took the 25dB with a pinch of salt and bought this pair. While I did not like the material and the performance of the Moldex ear plugs, it is absolutely subjective and can be questioned, but the 3M is a total failure for me, not suitable for motorcycle riding. It is way too hard and the core is sticking out too much from the ear, which made it impossible for me to wear under the helmet. It was impossible to insert or take it out from my ear without causing pain. Since the 3M plugs failed at the very first steps of the test, I cannot report on how it is reducing noise. $6.90 was wasted (for one pair), and with this pricing the 3M is the most expensive participant in the test.
The DeWalt earplugs are cost the same as the 3M but you will get two pairs and a carry case. These plugs are made from a very soft memory foam which gives a high level of comfort. I cannot complain about any discomfort after wearing these for an extended period of time. The advertised 33 dB NRR did sound correct by my subjective judgement. It made the “high speed” ride in the off-road helmet pleasant. It took a bit of time to get used to the less engine/road noise but I could adjust quickly. On the other side, the gravel ride was way less enjoyable with the ear plugs. On longer gravel rides, I will take out these ear plugs since there is not much wind/engine noise around 50-60 km/h and the feedback on the ride, in the form of the noise from the motorcycle, the tyres and the road, is important for me. Another plus for me is the plastic cord connecting the ear plugs. It gives confidence to me to push in the plugs far as I can into the ear canal for maximal performance without the fear of not being able to get it out again without medical help. The cord also protecting these ear plugs from being easily lost or the need to stuff it into pockets with questionable cleanness when you stop for a short break or a pit stop for petrol.
Lately we have been talking about GPS devices, GPX files and route logging a lot. All these are easy if you have a GPS device, but what if you don’t?
Smartphones are ubiquitous these day and spending a little effort on it, you can find an application for free which suits your needs and runs well on your device.
In my experience the following three applications are doing a good job and I can recommend you to try it. Although, I haven’t used these for a while, so you will need to test, if all the features you want is still present and working in these applications.