Having to wear a helmet during this road trip seems to have become one of those "damned if you do, damned if you don't" kind of things since this road trip. Thus far, in the states we visited, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado, helmet have been optional.
So when I jump on my bike, it's always a question of "Should I wear it, or should I not?"
Yeah, I know what some of you are thinking, I should always wear a helmet. But there's something about the wide open country here in the Rocky Mountain states, the mountain air, maybe the altitude, or even the eternal lyrics of John Denver ringing in my head, that takes motorcycling into some higher form of consciousness when not confined into a brain bucket.
When coming from a state like California, where riders are required to wear helmets, riding a motorcycle in a helmet-optional state presents that question. That's when I struggle between safety versus freedom.
Wearing a full face helmet, however, gives me that sense of hiding myself. I often feel indoors, even though my body is completely outdoors in the elements. People can't see my face, see my expression, know that I'm happy or sad, or if I'm talking to myself. They can't even see me mouthing the lyrics to "Rocky Mountain High". Yet, by contrast I'm actually outdoors in public. It's kind of like walking outside naked with a paper bag over your head.
And what goes on in my head when I'm wearing my helmet riding down the highway?
About the half the time, it's the same shit that goes on in my head when I'm driving a car. The other half, though, is a hodge-podge of anything I see that triggers a thought in my mind. Riding a motorcycle is perhaps where I get most of my creativity. What sucks is that I can't remember the really creative stuff, you know, the stuff I could really make money with, or impress my friends and readers.
Sash thinks that motorcycling is a time when I think of nothing. More like where I decompress from reality and reduce my stress levels. Yeah, riding a motorcycle is indeed a stress-reducing activity for me, but it's really the time when I'm completely alone, when no one can reach me, and when I don't have to think about what to say or what to do. It's when I can really be within myself. That usually happens when I'm wearing a full face helmet. When I don't have my helmet on, I feel like everyone is looking at me.
Interestingly, Sash just got herself a new helmet from Motorcycle House. It's a Nolan N90, and you can read her review on Biker News Online.
For her, a helmet is more about compliance with the law than anything else. As a woman, she has additional concerns about helmets, such as messing up her hair and ripping off her earrings. But, her full face helmet is also about cutting down the wind noise and mounting speakers inside so that she can plug into her MP3 player. And in those moments, she's also alone in her helmet.
But even the smaller helmets, whether you call them "skid lids", "biker helmets", or "brain buckets", is a reflection of your collective characteristics, when you want some protection, but you still want that exposure to the outdoors.
In any case, after having ridden throughout Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado without a helmet, I miss the privacy and solitude of hiding inside my helmet. There are times when I want to wear my helmet just for those reasons.