Adventure Motorcycle Gear and WHY Gear Matters: Helmet Edition

What I Wear and Why: the helmet.

I’ve been riding motorcycles for over eleven years, and while I am not perfect, I will say that almost every time I hop on the bike, I am fully geared up. Why? Because I am an adv rider. There are moments when I am out on my motorcycle and have some gnarly terrain to get through, so in case I made a poor choice on a line or take a gravel turn too fast and tumble down, I want to protect my brain and my body to ride another day.

First up in this series, and probably the most important part of our bodies to protect, are our heads. Because if those go, no more riding. And no more breathing. You catch my drift.

My Bell helmet, post crash.

I wore Bell helmets for years, most notably, the Bell MX-9 Adventure MIPS helmet, because to be frank, if you aren’t adv riding with a full-face helmet, you will lose a jaw or an eye on a fall, no questions asked.

This helmet in particular saved my ass in a terrible fall I had in June 2022, when I crashed on gravel going far too fast (65 mph, roughly). While I endured a mild concussion, that helmet was one of the first things to hit the ground, and saved me from a far worse fate. The MIPS (aka the multidirectional impact protection system) truly came through for me. This helmet, paired with my own crash certification for safety, becomes even more appealing when you add in velocity flow ventilation, a removeable and washable anti-microbial liner, and an integrated anti-fog, anti-scratch face-shield. You cannot go wrong with the MX-9. At a reasonable price point, I would recommend this helmet to anyone looking for a fantastic adv helmet without breaking the bank.

Today, however, I wear what I would say is the Rolls-Royce of helmets: the Schuberth E1. And this thing is like Flowers for Algernon, y’all, once you’ve worn it, you never can go back to what you had before. Well, you can, but it is never the same. Take my word for it.

She’s beauty, and she’s Grace’s 🙂 the E1

So, what do you get with the E1? Well, you get the comfort of a flip-up helmet with above the board DOT safety standards, and the ventilation system is unbelievably rad, particularly for summer riding. Why? Because the ventilation provides a constant flow of fresh air to keep the visor clear and your head cool, with both a chin vent and a top vent to regulate large flows of air when needed. The chin filter is also removeable, so for those gnarly, dusty days, you can simply take the filter out, give it a wash, and you’re all set. This goes for the internal liners as well – all removeable, all washable, and made from COOLMAX® textiles, which keep moisture at a minimum.

As far as the external shield is concerned, there isn’t really anything better on the market: it’s a scratch-proof polycarbonate, and the clear shield passes the optical class 1 standards, meaning visually with face-shields, this is literally as good as it gets. There is additionally an internal sun visor which makes bright and sunny days far more convenient than the swap out for a tinted visor or the infamous sunglass shuffle from the tank bag. And last, though far from least, the E1 is aerodynamic as hell – it was specifically designed in the Schuberth wind tunnel to be stable at high speeds, eliminate buffeting and drag, while simultaneously managing to be one of the quietest helmets I’ve ever owned.

Like I said. Rolls-Royce. But if you live in a helmet like I do, it is absolutely worth the investment.

Last up: dirt days. Not everyone wants a full-face helmet on for dirt, that much I can understand, which is why when I do get out in the dusty desert of Oregon or anywhere in the PNW, I grab my goggles and Alpinestars SM5 Beam helmet. When it comes to being safe and lightweight, this is my constant choice for hitting the OHV area for the afternoon with friends. For me, protection is always number one, and the SM5 is engineered to protect you from injury, with a liner designed for impact absorption and padding to ensure the reduction of forces transmitted to the collarbone (one of the top riding injuries of adv and dirt riders).

And you definitely won’t ever lose the person wearing this helmet.

What else can I say. It’s comfortable. It’s safe. And it’s light. The trifecta for dirt riding.

I realize that today, per social media, advertising, and marketing, we see a lot of motorcyclists, women in particular, riding very nonchalantly with open face helmets, full makeup, and designer sunglasses, smiling and appearing to be having quite a wonderful and pleasant ride.

Anyone who rides consistently rides motorcycles knows this is far from reality. On road days alone, I kill bugs with my face-shield every time I ride. I have also had rocks hit my helmet, debris from the road, one frantic bird who did make it out alive, and worst of all, cinder during the fall and spring months. Not to mention above 60mph, those sunglasses are flying off if they aren’t secured.

My point here, is that while looking cool is awesome, keeping your skull intact is more important. You are already a badass on a motorcycle, why put your brain and body at risk by not protecting yourself? And again, no I am not perfect, I have had my moments of riding around the Alvord desert like a maniac and no helmet – but I wouldn’t do it again. All it takes is one bad crash, and the thing we love most is no longer something we can do.

Put that helmet on. Crank the tunes on your Sena. And go burn some rubber.

Live wild. Ride free.

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