Giving In

July 1 2008

The writing was on the wall as soon as I replied to the sales associate’s question. “Did you want to include any accessories at the time of purchase?” Knowing that I would likely have this particular bike for a long time, I was thinking of myself perhaps ten years down the metaphorical road when I answered, “Yep, standard size quick detach windshield please”. I had figured that by the time I reached the age of about 50, I would be ready to succumb to that creature comfort; willing to relinquish whatever badge of youth riding without a windshield often seems to imply.

However, after my first four (and rather expensive) tankfuls of fuel this past April–and not without considerable reflection–I’ve decided to surrender to this last vestige of juvenility. Aided by a couple of sandblasted highway romps, it wasn’t that difficult to reach that cathartic moment. After just two years, I had come to realize that the quick-detach shield would not be so quickly detached anymore. At the same time I muttered to myself, “Welcome to your windshield years.” Now if I can just fabricate a quick-detach set-up for this cane…

My flirtations with windshields actually began with a Sportster back in the late 1980s, not so much a result of the bike as a change in riding habits; it was around this time that my daylong and multi-day rides began increasing dramatically. I vaguely remember some cheap handlebar mounted set-up that directed the windblast from my chest directly into my face. By this time I had also begun wearing a half-style helmet, but even my fluorescent green wrap-around shades didn’t help with the turbulence created by this thing. I think it eventually broke, as did an ancient used and yellowed cop-style shield mounted briefly on the BMW boxer that followed the Sportster. The windshield on the sidecar rig that I often ran on the Beemer eventually broke as well, leading me to believe that perhaps I was just a little too rough with my toys to have these fragile attachments bolted to my bikes. The naked sport Triumph triple that preceded my current ride did have a small “flyscreen,” though it was only useful at top speed. Wearing anything less than a full face helmet on this bike made me feel under-equipped anyway, so a windshield was included in the helmet itself.

In weighing my decision to join the windshield comfort crowd, I recalled a few fond memories from my earlier days of fists in the wind, scoffing at mother nature and all she would throw at me, teeth clenched in defiance as my helmet strap threatened to choke me into unconsciousness. Ah yes, those were the days. As anyone who has done any degree of open face shieldless riding will know, one gets used to being peppered with small insects, sand and general road grit. But the feeling of being completely out in the wind outweighs these things, and at sub-highway speeds, a proper fitting helmet is still comfortable.

Nowadays I find myself less willing to undergo the larger, less frequent though inevitable hazards. I suppose it’s the law of averages, but it never fails to amaze me how a bee/hornet/wasp can manage to hit that small gap between the helmet and the ear, cushioned enough that it’s not killed, but evidently really pissed off. Even as my hand flies up, madly digging it out, knocking glasses askew and trying to maintain control in heavy traffic, part of me is thinking, “just what are the odds…” It’s a rare, but regular occurrence; I estimate perhaps three or four times in 23 years of street riding, but unpleasant enough to make me think of a windshield each time it happens. I haven’t had this happen in a few years now, so I know I’m due, it’s just a matter of time.

Of course there are larger species of wildlife to be concerned about, and certainly larger ones of the flying insect variety. We have surely all heard a June bug story at some time or another, maybe even our own. I would share one if I could, though like the remnants of the stinger-endowed arthropod mentioned above, I can rarely identify what brand of bug hits me. There’s either nothing left, or at most a fragment of wing fluttering in the yellowish goo stuck to the lens of my glasses. Do people carry out autopsies on this stuff to determine if it was a June bug or a grasshopper? Personally, I’m just thankful it hit my glasses or helmet rather than my face, in which case the only evidence is a red welt.

On more than one occasion I’ve watched a sizable rock fall from a gravel truck, then bounce, almost in slow motion, toward me as I tried to anticipate it’s trajectory. This is often an impossible task, as these things seem to have some near heat-seeking ability to ultimately end up bouncing off my shin or knee. It’s certainly only a matter of time before one of these rocks of destiny attempts to make impact above the shoulders. I’ve been cheating the odds on this for a long time now.

Another factor in this decision of opting for more protection was that of other drivers. Despite all of the environmental awareness messages we are bombarded with, I am continually following motorists who flick cigarette butts and other refuse from their vehicles. This however deserves an entire column in itself, and as such, I will hold that rant in reserve.

So I consider this my official entrance into the windshield phase of my riding life, sitting smugly in the mildly turbulent, but bearable updraft. I can admit it now, in my third decade of riding, and my fourth overall, that I am indeed feeling too old to not have a little protection from the cold, rain, wind, and missiles – man-made or otherwise. After so many years without one I may even appreciate it a little more. It’s a slippery slope though. Who knows, if I’m still around at 60 I may even consider one of those plush, comfy touring bikes…


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