Why I Wear My Helmet

Here is an article written by one of my mentors. Bob Megonigal has served our local HOG Chapter as a Head Road Captain and has been riding longer than I have been alive. He has been nice enough to let me publish this article. Bob has strong feelings about motorcycle safety and wearing a helmet. Please read Bob’s story and then decide for yourself whether you want to wear your helmet or not.

Many times I have been asked why I wear a helmet and it is usually asked by the same type of person. They are usually young and inexperienced. This question is usually asked by someone who has been riding less than a year. I never have a chance to answer before they start telling me how helmets block one’s vision and cut your hearing. I want to reply “you must have it on backwards” but I don’t hoping we can turn this into a productive conversation. Sometimes I just reply “when my head becomes harder than the roads, I might consider not wearing a helmet”. Sometimes I tell them my story and my reasons for wearing a helmet, and sometimes they listen.

Now that I have your attention let me bore you with my story and my reason for wearing a motorcycle helmet. I have to thank my brother Walt because he plowed the road for me to get my first motorcycle at the ripe age of 16. He had already begged and pleaded with our parents for his own motorcycle and he was much older than I. The deal with our parents was I would have to wear a helmet! Let me repeat: I would wear a helmet at all times while riding the motorcycle. The year was 1965 and everywhere I rode somebody knew me and my parents, and yep the helmet was on or someone would call home. So as the years, miles and different motorcycles went by I just got used to having a helmet on my head. I was very lucky during the early years of riding, you see there were no safety riding courses to take back then. There was no Riders Edge Course where one can learn the pitfalls of riding in a classroom. You found them out on your own back then, the hard way.

Fast forward to 1978, October of ’78 to be exact when luck looked the other way for me. I was riding a 750 on a back road off Rt. 896. Here’s the picture: a narrow road with a sharp right turn and a corn field growing right to the edge of the right side of the road. As I round the turn there are four kids playing with skate boards on the left side of the road! I cut speed to about 20 mph. At this time I think I am clear because the kids are looking at me. Then it happened! Their eyes grew wide and stared at the the corn field. I look but too late! The biggest damn black lab I have ever “almost” seen shoots out of the field! I hit him with the front wheel and go down! I hit hard on my back. The 750 has crash bars that keep my feet clear. As I slide down the road I am feeling sorry for the dog; funny the things that go through one’s mind during times like that. The dog was fine but a bit sore after the dog/motorcycle collision. “How about the rider?” you ask. Well it just so happens I put on my riding boots, heavy pants, riding jacket, riding gloves, and my helmet that day. Yes I said helmet! You know! That horrible device on my head that impairs vision and hearing! So now I am laying on my back with my left leg pushed under my right one and I am waiting for the pain to start. I slowly start to move all my limbs. They moved so I stood up and started to look at my riding gear. Boots scuffed and tore, but feet were fine. Pants scuffed and tore, but legs legs were OK. Riding coat scuffed and tore, arms and back bruised and sore… but all my skin was still there. My head felt fine. I didn’t think it ever touched the ground. THEN I TOOK OFF MY HELMET! The helmet was a Bell Magnum. In 1978 it was one of the better helmets on the market. The back of that helmet was crushed! When I hit the road my head was slammed back into the pavement with a whiplash effect. Did the helmet save my life? Let’s say this: if it did not save my life than it surely saved a lot of pain and kept me from going to a place none of us ever want to go to!

Looking back on this experience I wonder what really kept me from injury that day? It was my parents insistence I wear a helmet and my having enough common sense to do so. Do you have the same common sense? Do you want the protection I had if a similar freak occurrence happens to you? I have had many good years of riding since 1978 thanks to my parents, my common sense and that Bell Magnum helmet. The choice IS yours! Accidents like that dog/motorcycle collision happen fast! It’s not slow motion like in the movies! One second you are riding the next you are down.

Protect yourself! No one else can do it for you. A lot of us care about you. What do YOU have to lose? Do you want to go to a place none of us ever want to go to?! Then wear your helmet!

3 Responses to “Why I Wear My Helmet”

  1. Good story. Like Bob (and also interestingly in 1965) I was told in no unceratin terms that the minute my folks found out I was on a motorcycle without a helmet that would be the end of my motorcycle riding. I didn’t have the live dog experience as reinforcement (although I did hit a large dead one on a dark road one night) but the message was so ingrained that but for one brief attempt to ride sans helmet back in ’76 I have always worn a helmet when riding. I’ll cheat on all the other ATGATT stuff, but not the helmet.

  2. I’ve done my fair share of crashing on dixie-cup displacement machines, but never needed a helmet, never hit my head. I still wear one, though. Even those low speed crashes could have whipped my head into the ground hard enough to leave my wife with a drooling bowl of oatmeal. Now that I ride bigger machines I can’t imagine going without. I never had anyone tell me I needed one, though, not really. Well, aside from the state of VA.

    Behind Bars – Motorcycles and Life

  3. That dose of common sense should be sufficient.

    The law must presume that citizens will act on common sense, or else we’ll be living under a tyranny.

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