Where to spend money as a new motorcycle rider (Part 1)

Introduction

Today’s ride made me consider some points I wish I had known earlier as a motorcycle rider. Those who know me can attest that I am slightly frugal when spending money on toys and gear. Not that I don’t buy stuff, but I usually want to be really sure that it’ll do what I imagine before committing to a purchase, especially when it comes to stuff with large price tags. This planned series of articles will contain information that wasn’t readily available to me before I actually bought the gear. My hope is to be able to share what’s worth its price and perhaps some stuff that I bought which quite frankly is a waste of money.

Hearing protection

Get custom molded ear plugs. Really.

Earplugs
In the package: One set of earplugs, a cleaning tool, and a mild cleaning agent (not shown).

They will set you back a bunch – the ones I bought at Hear Nordic, the HearSafer HN9 (Blue) cost around SEK 1700, or almost $200. True, you can buy quite a lot of plugs for that kind of money. But having tried all cheap and not-so-cheap kinds for almost a decade, and then riding with these more expensive ones during this season, here are my arguments for this investment:

Molded plugs are not painful to wear for extended periods of time.

Foam plugs will heat up to your body temperature. This can have one of two effects: Either, they will expand slightly, creating pressure inside your hearing canals, which will become extremely painful after a couple of hours. Similarly, the baffles of “christmas tree” style ear plugs will create painful pressure points in the hearing canals. The problem with wearing hearing protection that hurts, is that after a while you won’t – you will need to rest your ears for a while every couple of hours. Unless you’re disciplined enough to drive so slowly that the wind noise stays at a safe level, you will cause temporary or permanent hearing damage. This isn’t a matter of opinion. It’s a fact.

Molded plugs in contrast are made from a hard resin which doesn’t lose its shape over time. Since they are individually molded exactly to the shape of your hearing canals, there is nothing which will create pressure points, and only large jaw movements like yawning can flex your ears enough to let some unwanted sounds in.

Molded plugs won’t move around with your helmet

A constant problem with both foam plugs and baffle plugs are that they will move around in your ears due to the movements of your helmet and your jaw. Some rides, you simply won’t be able to get them to fit properly to block sound as they should, and that’s really just as bad as not wearing hearing protection.

Molded plugs are manufactured to end flush with your ear hole. A small ridge or depression in the end allows you to fit a finger nail to pull them out, but that manual intervention is what is required to pull them out. Since they follow the natural curvature of the canal, they won’t accidentally move into a position where they let unwanted sound through. Even large jaw movements like yawning only temporarily extend the hearing canal enough to let some noise pass on the outside of the plugs.

Molded plugs will let some frequencies through easier than others

Professionally molded plugs come with a “vent” that a) allows a little air through so you don’t block it in when inserting the plug, and b) allows for a selectively filtered frequency band to pass through less obstructed than other noise. This ensures that you hear other traffic noise and even human speech to a better extent than massive plugs would.

Pros and cons

This really is a no-brainer: The single negative of molded ear plugs are the price. Save up and get a pair if you ever plan to spend more than about an hour on your bike in a day.

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