To Ride and Not Go Deaf

For my mid-life crisis I chose to revisit the skill of driving motorcycle. If anyone is interested I secured a 2011 Kawasaki Versys 650, which makes me look vaguely like a street bike rider, only with classic rider posture which is far more sensible for my frame.

How does this pertain to audio? I had forgotten how hellishly noisy cycles are! My goodness, what a lovely way to go deaf! The wind noise is atrocious, and I can grasp why so many cyclists have hearing problems over time.

I'll do my best not to be one of them. I have been using those foam 32dB reduction ear plugs and have a full helmet, but still the noise is nasty. I've made the decision to seek the best in helmets with noise reduction and a good seal around the neck. Seems the Schuberth brand of Germany is excellent, if not inexpensive. It'll be worth every penny if it reduces the malestrom to tolerable levels. The snarl of the motor and the wind whipping my body is one sort of "music" I want getting nowhere near my ears! It looks like the pro version of Schuberth's C3 gets dBs down to about 82.

Any comments from Schuberth users or those insisting there is another even more worthy brand to consider when it comes to noise diminishing capability? (Yes, I did get a larger wind screen) I have done some searching on the net, now I would like your input.

Now I look at those motoring on the freeway without a helmet and I think not only, "You're dead if you wipe out," but also, "You're deaf, even if you don't wipe out!"

I'm looking for all wisdom in helping me to have a quiet ride so I can grow to a ripe old age (God willing) as an audiophile fulfilled. TIA
Now another reason not to ride a donor-cycle ;-) Seriously, National Institute for Occupational Safety says maximum exposure time is 16 hrs @ 82 dB but drops to 8 hrs @ 85 dB. So it seems that its probably a good idea to stop and give your ears a rest every few hours. OSHA has a more permissive standard but according to Etymotic, neither of these standards is protective of high frequency hearing. See their white paper here
Get the good helmet and also use the foam plugs. Wind noise will be around 58db. Plenty low enough to prevent problems.

I've ridden all my life but only started to use the plugs about half way through. Now I swear by them.
I use etymotic ear plugs when I go to live music events. They are relatively
cheap- under 15 bucks- and depending on how deeply you 'thread' them
into your ear canal, the degree of attenuation can be altered. I used to ride
and would not want to plug my ears with those standard foam plugs
because they mute too much- and I think it is good to hear what's going on
around you when driving or riding, even if it is over the noise of a loud
motor. I wonder to what degree any such plugs affect spatial perception,
since part of balance and knowing where you are comes from your ears.
Granted, a loud bike may overwhelm your hearing, but I don't think that
directly affects spatial perception. Not really an issue when sitting in a club.
FWIW, I'm considering a Morgan 3 wheeler, which is basically a big S & S
motor mounted sideways in front of a vintage style trike (2 wheels in front, 1
fatter tire in the back). I may have to consider using the E-plugs as well.
Ride safe. It is certainly one of the most exhilarating things you can do.
PS. I've had half a dozen mid-life crises so far- they can be enjoyable, and
make for change/adventure.
PPS- can a change in exhaust muffler help? Some bikes, e.g. BMWs, don't
sound nearly as loud as many others. (Maybe it's the boxer engine, dunno).
What I don't get is the full dressers with the stereo blasting at amazingly loud levels. It's good to read your posts about actually trying to protect your hearing as opposed to destroying it.
You guys all have very positive and thoughtful responses. I have heard of the Etymotic brand before, but will check them out.

These two activities are antithetic when it comes to sound, so I have to create the proper environment (head space) so that I can do the cycling without loss of safety, but also without loss of hearing.

One thing which will help is the color of the new helmet will be high visibility yellow, which should help being seen. I figure if I burn the retinas of the car drivers they'll have to see me. ;)
I've been riding most of my life and never go far without earplugs. I'm 67 and my hearing is still excellent, so there is hope.

I almost always use the Etymotic ER-20 earplugs. They attenuate all frequencies equally, meaning you can still hear everything, it's just not as loud. They come in standard and larger sizes and you'll have to experiment to get the right fit. My ear canals are different sizes so I buy a pair of each size and use one of each. One of their best features is that it's easy to attach them to a lanyard around your neck so you don't lose them.

Riding safely is a matter of faith. One, you have to genuinely believe you are invisible, that no one can see you and you have to ride as if that's the case. You also have to believe that everyone you encounter, driver of cars and trucks, bicyclists, nannys with strollers, pedestrians, and roadside animals are all actively trying to kill you.

Good luck, ride safe.
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Mental - I agree with you completely. I want to know what's going on around me, that's why I use the Etymotics. I can hear what's going on around me better with them than without because important noises are not being drowned out by constant, loud wind and motor noise.

The other important safety factor that argues for using earplugs is that if you're riding any distance they greatly reduce your fatigue. I feel a lot more alert and able to react quickly at the end of several hours of riding if I've used the ear plugs.
Here in Arizona it seems that at least one of every three males over 45-50 rides the loud Harley Davidson's (yes some models are less loud than most) and amongst this demographic at least half of those ride without helmet protection as it's not against motor vehicle law to ride a licensed motorbike in Arizona without helmet (or helmet for your passenger) as the motorcycle lobby groups are strong as well Arizona has strong Libertarian leanings. Just don't expect to such freedom of choice from wearing the seat belt in your car/truck. Those so attracted to the exhaust note of the Harley Davidson, the belonging to a 'brand clan' (those hand signals flashed to fellow cyclists so similar to teenage group identity thinking). Whether or not one is oblivious to adding racket to the environment we all must live in, those concerned about their safety and hearing acuity will choose a quality full face helmet. On the plus side one might find their second childhood satisfied upon a Harley less risky than bigamy, or if of a more considerate nature, choose to ride a BMW motorbike like the brand I ride (c:
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Some thought provoking responses; thanks.

I believe I am at this point going to invest in the expensive, but supposedly world class noise diminishing Schuberth pro helmet. Combined with foam ear plugs at 32 dB reduction they should provide substantial protection.

As regards riding, perhaps it is my inexperience, but I would believe that your eyes will save you when riding, not your ears. My philosophy would be that I must see literally all that is going on around me and never rely upon hearing other vehicles. I would suspect that sloppiness and casual lane changes, etc. would creep into driving habits if I thought I could "hear trouble" coming.

I believe that if I know I have reduced hearing I will be more dependent upon my vision and not slack in terms of looking to be constantly aware of my surroundings. If I'm wrong, I guess I die.

Seriously, I would rather wear a helmet and ride with the disadvantage of diminished hearing than to ride with no helmet and hear more noise. I do not believe that the ability to hear approaching vehicles would be improved without a helmet, as the noise level is so much greater.

Anyway, the discussion is good here. In the not too distant future I may migrate to a more substantial bike with faring and larger windscreen. I was hoping the new Honda CTX would fit as it has a flared front to block wind, but it was dinky, not a hope of my riding it. I would have to get into a larger sport touring bike.

I will be very curious how the noise reduction goes with the new helmet. Ponying up four times the cost of my first helmet, it had better be good! I believe that if the noise is not much reduced, then I likely will be forced to look for a different bike/design with a lot more blockage of wind.
Doug, not to turn this into a discussion of riding, rather than noise, but if you are new to bikes (I started riding in my mid-40's):
1. Take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Course
2. Practice constantly in big parking lots- the safety course doesn't equip you to ride on the street- it barely scratches the surface.
3. gear up- not just helmet but body protection and good boots with ankle protection that aren't too clunky to manage shifter;
4. check into sticky tires- makes a huge difference in grip and have the bike gone over by a competent mechanic.
5. ride with a buddy- not to compete but to learn and have a wingman
6. don't go beyond your limits
7. be careful in the wet (those first twenty minutes or so, when all the oil leeches out of the road surface) can be deadly
8. don't ride when fatigued.

All excellent points and suggestions by Whart. Doug, you can sell a lowest end cable and get a state of the art helmet. Safe riding :)
All riders should enjoy the camaraderie above all. It doesn't matter what brand you ride. I respect Doug from his many posts, etc. I learned about a great helmet brand through this thread. When I was ending high school in 76' I had a 74' Kawasaki H2, 750 2-stroke. 3 cyl, 3 carbs, 3 pipes, and expansion chambers to boot!! Loud and obnoxious!! I can't really complain about open pipes now. I have a Ducati MH900E. My friends who are lifetime Harley owners make fun of it. (Harleys do run better these days) Why do Harley owners always rev their throttles at red lights? Cause they won't idle. HA What is the difference between a Harley and a Hoover? The position of the dirt bag. HA Just jokes! Back to audio: My amps quieter than your amp! HA
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"I've been turnin wrenches and moddin scoots for a very long time. Probaly why I ended up in the oil patch/shipyard industry instead of some panty waist office environment."

I was believing you making a point until you went south and denigrated office workers. Me I was always a blue collar worker so no crisp, clean shirts for me. The older I get, the more the increasing incursion of noise gets on my nerves. That was my point and I went about making it poorly. Anyway good to know you're a blood 'n' guts, tough Texas fellow. Tony Lama's and Lone Star's know 'em well. Six years of my life spent in Grand Prairie and San Antonio. Agree with you about let's back to audio.
..and I bet those twin tower office workers wouldn't appreciate being told they worked in panty waist office environments. My bad, couldn't resist last dig.
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Riding cycle is inherently dangerous, as the old saying goes its not if you crash its when you crash.
Good hearing and riding don't mix, up to you.
When I rode, I respected 'em all, and they did me. I love 'em all too- had a
Ducati, a MotoGuzzi and a blinged out chromed V-Rod showbike that I de-
glitzed and upgraded with brembos, sticky tires, better seat, got rid of some
of the cheesy stuff, better bars, etc. Out of all of them, the Harley was the
easiest to ride, even though i was a heavy motha. (That engine was
glorious, endless torque and headroom, i just wish the chassis had been
stiffer). I think the BMW may be the most advanced for general touring (and
gather their sports bikes are no slouch). I have proper respect for any
sports bike, but I'm too old to be crouched over one, belly to tank.
Funny story. I was out years ago, and there was this big ol' boy, hillbilly
lookin' mofo, with the zztop beard, lot's of ink, etc. A row of bikes stood by-
we were all stopped at a well known place where riders take a break. I
figured the good ol' billy was good for one of the old school harleys, maybe
a full dresser. Nope, he got on a Hayabusa with a trick exhaust. So,
apperances can be deceiving.
Make sure you're properly fitted for your helmet. It should be noticeably snug.

I wear plugs when riding alone and have done so for decades. When riding with my spouse we use helmet to helmet communicators and I forgo the ear plugs. The ability to talk to the other motorcyclist more than compensates for the increased noise level.

The inflight noise level of a commercial jet is around 80dB. A turboprop is in the 90+dB. A NYC subway platform is 95dB and 110db when a train arrives. A car at highway speeds in the 70-75db range. A convertible car at highway speeds is close to 90dB. Gunshots typically measure over 150db. Crowd noise at an NFL game averages 95-105dB. In short, there are any number of activities that can damage your hearing. As a defense you could live in and never leave a cork lined room, or you could practice some common sense precautions.