Its happened to me more than a handful of times. Attired in my daily riding gear (1 KBC Bulldog helmet 12/10 for style, 1 black DSG Nero jacket which adds 2 inches of shoulder width and makes me look like Im 10 pounds heavier than I actually am coupled with a pair of admittedly catchy black and white Cramster full gauntlet TRG2 gloves) I pull up at a signal alongside a bus full of school kids. The bike has always been the star but with me sitting astride it looking like Im about to join Valentino Rossi on the starting grid of the next race, the excitement level in the bus noticeably increases. Kids by the windows call their friends. I can hear oohs and aahs. I pretend not to notice. A faint hint of a smile creeps across my face. 5 seconds to go to green. I thumb the starter, give the throttle a couple of twists of the wrist. The kids are impressed by the grunty exhaust note. More oohs and aahs. Green. The bus is ahead of me. I can see the kids in the last row staring intently. I get excited waves. I wave back. They have big smiles on their faces. Unsurprisingly, so do I.
Riding gear doesnt elicit the same reaction from other people though. At signals Ive had people ask me whether I was going to participate in a local race. Some jerks take this as an open invitation to indulge in reckless riding to show off that they have more skills and / or a better bike than me. A cold shoulder is all they get and the retards lose interest in 30 seconds. Did I mention that these guys are retards?
A couple of days back I was talking to my office colleagues about the new KBC helmet which I had bought on a closeout sale in the States. Doing some back of the envelope calculations, one of them mentioned that I couldve made the down payment for a mid size sedan instead of buying a bike and spending a lot of dough in riding gear. I on the other hand prefer to look at it as investing in riding gear.
In my 8+ years of riding a bike Ive had a couple of spills that have proved to me that accidents can happen to anyone however careful they are on the road. The first time I was introduced rather harshly to our tarred roads was on a regular ride through traffic way back in 2002 when I was trying to shift my bike into 1st gear (which it stubbornly refused to do) while I could see in my rear view mirrors a honking bus bearing down on me with full speed. All of a sudden my bike decided to be obedient, shifted directly to 2nd gear & up popped the front wheel. 2 seconds later I was sprawled on the road with intense pain shooting up my right leg. I was relieved cause the bus wasnt anywhere close but seeing the bikes piping hot silencer on my leg was a cause for serious worry. I had a torrid 1 month as I slowly recovered from the burn wound but emotionally the scars lasted for much longer as it took me a few months to get my confidence back. Ive still got a scar on my ankle which I look at as a war wound.
Late in 2009 I was on my bike on a rather deserted stretch of road with just a guy on a moped pottering along slowly to the right of me constituting traffic. I spot an incoming truck in my rear view mirrors (habit of mine this, looking in the mirrors) and give way to let him overtake. The truck driver blows his airhorn to get the moped guy to get out of the way & the petrified chap on the moped obliges by cutting across the road and lands directly in front of me. Twin disc brakes and years spent perfecting careful riding techniques cant help me as my handlebar knocks the box that he is carrying on his moped and I fall over. Fortunately I had shed most of my speed and my jacket and gloves get in the way of me meeting Ms Tarmac again and all I suffer is a slightly bruised knee.
To me riding a bike without my helmet at minimum is impossible. In fact, Ive always been super careful about my head since the day I bought my first bike all those years ago. I still recall the guy at the helmet shop trying to get my head into those tiny local helmets & I was actually getting hurt cause the helmets were too small (actually my ears are too big but thats another story). In the end he rather reluctantly took out a good branded black helmet that was my size and told me it was Rs 500 more expensive than the other ones. After years of seeing people penny pinching when it came to helmets, he got the shock of his life when I bought it. A couple of years later it was time to replace my helmet & I had come down to Mangalore to look for a suitable replacement. So I went off to Big Bazaar & found Helmie. Helmie was attractive, to put it mildly. Helmie had all the colours of the rainbow on it (except pink which someone actually threatened to add to it!!) and was an ever so faithful companion. Every morning helmie would be found on the rack outside our classroom & whenever I went out Helmie was given a chair of its own (no being dumped on the ground business).
Over the years, my bank balance has grown and so has my riding gear. Now I do understand that not everyone feels the need to spend so much on saving themselves in case of a fall (not really, but I like to live and let live) but a couple of things do bug me when it comes to this. I cannot fathom why smart educated and normally sensible guys fall for the typical Indian retarded line of thinking – Im just riding my bike to the nearby shop & back, I dont need to wear a helmet for that. Even more annoying is when I see people riding their bikes with their helmets on their elbows and not on their heads.
So is it easy riding around with all this everywhere ? Of course not. But I would rather live life arriving in office with a slightly crumpled shirt and a distinct lack of a hairstyle than be a chocolate hero who rides around without a helmet on so that the ladies can admire my pretty face (the fact that I do not possess a pretty face has nothing to do with it). If 2 dogs were to decide to run across the road in an attempt to reach doggie heaven, Im pretty sure our chocolate hero would have crash landed with a splat. Followed by a trip to the mortuary. While I would probably suffer more from my dented pride. This is not to say that wearing riding gear will save someone in every instance. The fact is they do make a massive difference between a one way trip and a two way trip to the hospital.
If you have read till here, well helmets off to you. You do have some patience. But in all seriousness, if you do know someone who is important to you who rides a bike regularly, ask them to think about investing in riding gear. At least request them to wear a helmet at all times when they are on a bike. Even if they are a pillion. The following ad for Bell Helmets says it best “If you have $10 head wear a $10 helmet“.