Chopper Charlier: Needing A Helmet And The Louisiana War Zone

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Article And Photos By: Charlie Weisel

Originally Published In The May 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

I’d begun to massage my lower back with a grimaced face as I glanced behind me towards the police officers now approaching on foot alongside the interstate approaching New Orleans, the flashing blue and red lights providing a dramatic backdrop. Before I even bothered to ask why I was being pulled over, because at this point I didn’t really care as I was more concerned with the condition of my spine, I couldn’t stop myself from commenting on the absolute atrocity Louisiana considered a road, with a smile and a laugh of course, as to not incite the idea that I was in some way insulting the beautiful state they call home. Not surprisingly, because it would take a blind man with a rubber spine to not agree, they returned the sentiment. Now, I’ve never been to a war zone, I’ve only ever seen what is portrayed in the movies and on TV, but I had to imagine that the bombed-out roads of Kuwait must look something similar to those of Louisiana.

The Officer agreed with me, not something I’m used to, and even mentioned that himself and his wingman had witnessed me catch more than a comfortable amount of air, not once, but a few times as I went colliding through potholes and over the mammoth heaves in the pavement. This was about the time they both gave my rigid chopper a once over with looks of utter amazement on their faces, then a glance my direction, then back at the bike. I’m not sure they knew what to think of me. I imagine it was a combination of curiosity, jealousy and an overwhelming need to run my record while clutching the handcuffs just in case. But, as I always do these days, I just smiled, respectfully told them where I had come from and where I was going and asked politely as to why I was being pulled over. I’ve always found that approaching law enforcement and strangers alike with a smile and respect is a sure way to diffuse any tension there may be.

They answered my question with a question, very political I thought to myself. They asked if I had seen many other motorcyclists on the road, in which I returned that I had not. Odd question I thought. He then asked how long I had been in the state. I replied that I had entered from Texas near the coastline. It turned out that he was leading up to why I had not been wearing a helmet and how I could not have not known that Louisiana was a helmet law state. I blamed the internet for false information. You see, this was back before I started wearing a helmet on a regular basis and despised every  moment I was forced to wear one, my attitude on that has since changed, and I now wear one on every ride. I apologized to the officer, made it very clear that it was an honest mistake then reached for my Rootbeer brown Biltwell that had been haphazardly strapped to my sissy bar for that last couple thousand miles. With a twinge of irritation, I strapped it under my chin and off with a warning I went.

If I’m being honest, it wasn’t until Kayla, and I made our trip to Europe a few years back that I had ever considered wearing a helmet by choice. I had always been one of those people that preferred the wind in my face, bugs in my teeth and, I suppose, a hint of anti-government beliefs about there over imposing laws on the choices we should make. That being said, I still don’t think there should be a law requiring us to wear helmets, but I have certainly seen the upside in doing so. In Europe we were required to wear helmets everywhere we went which inspired us to invest in highquality full-face lids. Our logic was that if we would have to wear them for three months, knowing full well, we would hit plenty of rain, then we had might as well get ourselves the proper gear to stay comfortable. This was the turning point for both of us regarding the pros and cons debate. We quickly discovered that with a full face we were dramatically less beat up at the end of a long day then we were when opting for an open face helmet or none at all. You really don’t realize how much the wind in your face and ears is taking it out of you after a 500-mile day until you opt for a helmet with a visor.

Couple that with added protection from the rain, less bugs in the face and a dramatically quieter ride and I now find it hard to see a downside, and I say all this without even touching on the obvious protection side of the argument. At that time, I chose a Bell full face, one of those hipster helmets with the fancy leather interiors and chrome piping, but I have since moved up to the Schuberth C3 which I absolutely love. This helmet is about as quiet as anyone can ask for, incredibly comfortable, has options to add speakers and Bluetooth connectivity so you can rock out to your favorite 80’s hair band and I don’t feel like my vision is restricted in any way. Plus, it doesn’t feel like a sail on top of my head like most 3/4 helmets I’ve used, it cuts through the wind like butter. No, I’m not a Schuberth salesman or a sponsored rider, just trying to relay my experience. Now, I know what a lot of you might be thinking, 3/4 helmets look way better. Yeah, I tend to agree, especially the vintage ones, they look great. But, if you are interested in a helmet that will actually provide a little protection and leave you feeling a hell of a lot better at the end of the day then maybe consider a full face. And just think about how happy your mom will be when she hears you started wearing a helmet!

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