HELMET LAWS

Attached here is a booklet I did a few years ago outlining basic motorcycle laws in each State. Unless something has changed recently it still appears to be current. It’s a PDF file, just print it, fold it in half and staple or otherwise bind it in the middle. This Riders Booklet can be downloaded here.

At last look there are four (4) States that do not have helmet laws… Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire.

Twenty (20) States have a mandatory helmet law for all riders:  Alabama, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia. But each of these States’ motorcycle helmet laws may have differing definitions and specifics. For example, West Virginia requires a reflector on the helmet which is in conflict with the DOT code that no stickers or modifications should be on a DOT Approved helmet.  As a visitor, don’t worry about it, just wear the thing.  Likened to tinted windows, if it’s legal in your State it will be overlooked if you’re passing through.

The most common loophole in mandatory laws seems to be the term “on highways”, which leaves the requirement of a helmet to ride down to the neighborhood market open to interpretation. If you want to be a real pain you should research your State’s helmet laws more closely; but remember, if you use such a loophole you better be following the letter of the law otherwise because they’ll probably start watching you.

Nineteen (19) States have helmet laws that exempt adult riders who are 18 years old and over. These are the States of Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.  Delaware wants you to have a helmet with you whether you wear it or not.

And there are seven (7) States that require adult bikers up to age 20 to still wear helmets while riding their motorcycles. These are Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Texas.  Texas has a medical insurance clause.

I’ve noticed that some States are entertaining the idea of requiring the use of a helmet for X amount of time within getting a motorcycle endorsement or while having a permit. I personally find this much more sensible than a full mandatory law since a large percentage of accidents happen in that first year.  Why punish people who have been riding since before anyone had a helmet law?

Me?  Unless I just need a break from it, I wear a helmet on road trips – it’s just good sense traveling that fast; but around town you’ll rarely see me in one (unless it’s really cold or raining or the law). I’m less likely to turn my head or look over my shoulder with a helmet on, for me they are “unbalancing” and distracting. Every accident I’ve had was a direct result of having a helmet on.

Full-type helmets block the very things that have kept me alive all these years – hearing the car next to me, using peripheral vision, being aware of what’s going on around me for safety and quick maneuvers like locating places in a strange city, and most importantly the presence of pedestrians.

In my opinion, nothing is more dangerous than a helmet & face shield in a high pedestrian area – particularly at night.  You need to have all your senses working for you in such situations. Those helmets are also like automobiles, they give you a false sense of security.  You are more likely to travel much faster than you would without a helmet and take chances you might not otherwise take.  Make a note of that, you’ll see it’s true.

But that’s me and doesn’t have anything to do with you.

Safety is safety and if you feel you should wear a helmet – you should.  Don’t ever second-guess yourself about something like that. Wearing one or not wearing one is not going to make you look cool, it’s what you think that’s important… it’s your own personal safety issue.  Anyone who condemns you for wearing one or not wearing one should be considered the Village Idiot.

That’s my 2-cents on the subject.

– Capt. Walker

 

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COMFORT AND THE ART OF TRAVEL

I don’t know about everyone else, but my golden rule is “Relax”.

Half of the trip is already made when you are standing in the driveway putting on your gloves and looking to the sky for weather. Many times its just hard to get started, but once you’ve cleared the traffic and city limits it’s all about the ride. Lean back, set your throttle at a comfortable speed, and enjoy.

I live in the desert, there’s really not much going on in the way of changing scenery, but I always see something new and beautiful every time I’m out riding in it. That’s a good thing because the only way to get out of the desert in one day is to head straight north or to the coast. I’m always happy to get out of it and see trees and greenery once again; but by the same token I often look forward to going back so I can feel that hot air again… it’s a dilemma.

Nothing wrong with traveling in a car, it’s great when you’re trying to make time. You’re protected from the elements, got a comfy chair to sit in, and all you have to do is look out the big picture window and not run into anything. But you miss a lot and you spend most of your time saying “what was that?”.

On a bike you spend a lot of time saying “look at that!”. You are part of the scenery and aware of what’s going on around you at all times … daydreaming can get you killed. There’s a certain amount of exercise involved too, whether you realize it or not your muscles are always at the ready. You may not build muscle, but you can bet that riding 12 hours a day for 3 days is going to have you as toned as you can get.

“12 hours a day? That’s impossible!” you say. No, it’s actually pretty easy once you get into it.

The first thing you have to do is take a good look at your seat. You’re not getting anywhere if you’re not comfortable. Most stock seats will give you “butt-burn” inside of 2 hours. Not good. Take a good long ride-around without stops sometime and see how yours stacks up. If you have to stop regularly just because your butt hurts, then cough up that $300-$400 and get a new seat! If you do nothing else to ensure the success of your trip, you must do that one thing.

When you have pain you can’t focus, you are constantly trying to get comfortable or looking forward to the next place to pull off. And every time you make an unnecessary stop you are wasting time. It’s the difference between a 300-mile day and a 600-mile day. Even if you intend to only do 300-miles, do you really want a sore butt to be the reason?

I met a young lady last year (2011) who went to Washington State to buy a Ducati and was riding it home to New Mexico. Where I met her she could have been home that night (or maybe not, there was a storm up ahead), but the seat on that Ducati was getting the better of her. I don’t know what the after-market seats are for that kind of bike, but they do make pads that will fit onto any bike which will make a trip a lot more tolerable‚Ķ I felt bad for her. Nevertheless, I was quite impressed with her for pulling off that trip, it was her first.

Yes, comfort is important. There are many “little things” you can do to customize your bike to make it “yours” without spending a great deal of money. It’s actually something you need to think about when you buy a bike, but getting a new bike can be exciting and we don’t always think that far ahead – or are willing to make sacrifices to get what is otherwise the perfect ride.

But keep in mind, if you’re going to take any kind of road trips a good seat is a necessity.

I’m sure there will be links popping up here & there – probably mostly in the Forum – and there are many already out there on the internet; so look around and then ask around what other people think about their seats.

Good questions to ask yourself: Will you need a backrest?  Lower lumbar support (like myself)?  Or just something simple that’s not going to make you wish you could go home?  Spend an extra dollar and get it right the first time.

– Capt. Walker

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