TRAVELLING STRANGER

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Giovanni’s Five essentials for a bike tour

 

Pangong salt water lake, Ladakh, India Posing at Pangong Lake, Nubra Valley, India

Helmet, jacket, trousers and boots are ready to don, your bike is clean, full of fuel, serviced and fitted with bulging panniers, navigation gizmos and action cam technology. All is in place with insurance, road side assistance and the itinerary.  You just need  to fire up your beloved motorbike, lock the front door to your house and ride off to that far away destination of your dreams. But hang on…wait a minute. There are some less obvious accessories to take along that  should not be overlooked. Consider these if you want add to the SAFETY and long term ENJOYMENT of your ride.

Ear Plugs

As per a very recent paper  (March 2018) published on the Journal of Fundamental and Applied Sciences, it appears  that riding a motorcycle at even moderate speeds (60km/h) whilst wearing an open face helmet, exposes the rider to wind noise levels above 90 dBA which, if repeated and prolonged in time, is more than enough to cause permanent hearing loss at any age. It goes without saying that higher riding speeds induce greater wind noise and hence potentially greater damage to our hearing as well.

Although there is some controversy over how sound levels should be measured beneath a helmet, most studies in the field of motorcycle audiometry agree that helmet induced noise is a real threat to our hearing and one that should not be taken lightly. What to do? Are there helmet designs that care about wind induced noise? Should wind shields be made compulsory on all bikes to reduce the hiss of flowing air around our ears?

The experts so far have conjured little in the way of remedies or techniques to protect riders from the dangers of hearing loss. It appears that the only tried and tested method to lessen the menace of wind noise on a motorbike is adopting a set of quality ear plugs.

There are a variety of designs available as far as ear plugs go, ideally however, the safest and possibly the most comfortable option are custom plugs moulded to fit extremities of our ear canals. Many companies specialise in this sort of product and although a set of custom plugs like these can cost around £100 (GBP) they are generally durable products that can be worn comfortably for hours. I guess they’re cheaper than a quality hearing ade as well.

 

Custom made ear plugs Custom made ear plugs. Red is for right.

 

Sun Block

The sun, especially in warmer countries is a biker’s fiercest yet most overlooked foe. Exposure to the sun causes dehydration, sweat, exhaustion and UV radiation is responsible for lasting damage to the skin and eyes.

The face, neck and nasal bridge in particular are parts of our bodies that are exposed to the sun most of all while we’re on the road and protecting  these areas is of paramount importance for our well being.

A few drops of high factor sun block cream on the nose, the cheeks, forehead and back of neck should be part of a biker’s daily routine before climbing onto his/her machine for a day on the road. Slapping on sticky cream before a ride can sound like a chore but it goes a long way in avoiding unsightly and painful sun burn, peeling skin and chronic blemishes (especially after the age of 40) caused by the sun’s rays. 

There are sun block ointments designed especially to be used on the face.  Some family run pharmacies sell their very own products that can be more effective than better known mass marketed brands. It’s worth doing a little research and figuring out what works best.

 

Gloves

As remarkable as it might seem, not everyone wears motorcycle gloves whilst riding a bike. Some find them cumbersome, others claim that they have lost too many pairs of gloves to want to spend any more cash on another purchase.

There are of course, plenty of reasons to justify the use of gloves on a bike. Falls, for example, are unpredictable and scraping unprotected hands on any length hard tar in the event of a spill hardly seems appealing.  Gloves allow a firmer grip on the handlebars especially when riding off road and it’s also been said  that gloves help lessen the numbing effect of engine vibration when travelling at motorway speeds.

I would argue however, that most of all gloves are essential to protect our mitts from the elements and the sun, once again, most of all. 

Falls don’t happen every day and neither do we always need the firmest of grips on the bars of our bikes however, the sun works relentlessly all the time, every time we ride, it’s rays beaming down on us mercilessly. Covering up the back of our hands is the best way to lessen the damage from the UV rays on our skin and avoid visually unpleasant freckles, cronic solar lentigines and melasmas, that in time and with age typically appear on our forearms and on the skin just below our knuckles .

Always pack a pair of spare gloves (even the cheapest ones) in your panniers and do not get caught riding without gloves for any appreciable length of time, ever! 

 

Light weight motorcycle gloves. Motorcycle gloves, essential to protect your hands from the sun.

 

Safety Specs

Visors on helmets do a great job in protecting our faces from the dust, the elements and colliding insects. Occasionally though, especially when it’s warm, we all like to keep visors open so we can enjoy some cooler flowing air on our faces. Our eyes however, need constant protection and a good pair of quality sun glasses are advisable. But sun glasses can be excessively expensive and some designs frankly aren’t suited for motorcycle travel at all. A cheaper option to costly eye wear is safety specs, readily available in most hardware stores in any town, all over the world.

Safety specs come in a variety of shades, from tinted, to mirror, to clear. What’s more, they’re tough, easily replaceable and usually come with adjustable temples which makes them ideal for use under a motorcycle helmet. 

A tinted or mirrored pair of safety specs are just fine for riding in the sun and clear ones are great for protecting our eyes when riding after dark or on a cloudy day. I personally don’t travel anywhere without them any more (even if it’s just as a back up) .

 

Interesting geology in Nubra Valley, Ladakh, India Doing my high-vis neck scarf at over 4500m on the Himalayas in India. The sun was so intense I needed to cover up as much as possible exposing least amount of skin I could.

 

Neck scarf/warmer

Neck warmers are a versatile piece of kit that can serve different purposes. They can increase insulation and keep our necks warm in the cold and protect the back of our necks and faces from the sting of piecing sun during hot days. Equally, neck scarfs pulled over our mouths might help filter some of the dust and fumes from the air we breath in heavy traffic or when riding the white top roads of this world.  They also can be used as bandanas during road side rests. A bright colour neck scarf also increases a biker’s visibility on the road. 

 

 

 

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