Feb 1, 2006

Listen up

Most Indian bikers are pretty careless. Even those among them that actually have sat down and thought about their riding miss out some not-so-obvious essentials. For instance, I noticed that ear plugs come up often when you're trawling anonymously through international motorcycle fora. You could be in an model-specific site, in a heated discussion on motorcycle safety, or just hanging around in a general chat room with a motorcycle specific conversation unfolding.

So obviously, I had to give it a shot.

Now, earplugs, you'd probably be surprised to know are amazingly hard to come by. Most medical stores won't even be able to grasp what you want from them. The safest bet is to ask a colleague, friend or relation flying abroad to pester the air hostess a fair bit and mooch as many as possible.

But it is all worth it. The first time I rode with them on, I was spooked. I thought I couldn't hear anything at all, felt disoriented and overall, I almost refused to try them again. But I did go back to them. Now, I can't ride without them.

The second time round, I put them in almost fifteen minutes before I got on. I think that allowed me ears to get used to attenuated levels of sound. Surprisingly, on the bike, this time around, I could hear everything. My spatial orientation was pretty spot-on (no sense of someone honking far, far away or any such), and I felt very comfortable. More to the point, the lower noise level felt good. The ride, not slow, felt peaceful, I think I was calmer throughout and when I got off, I practically leaped off the saddle and let off a loud guffaw to celebrate the ride.

They work, and they work very, very well. Emphatically recommended. If you haven't tried them on, do it today, it will change your ride forever in complexion.

There are negatives of course, what doesn't. Don't use them for too long. You can actually wash them in lukewarm water and reuse them if needed. But look close, if you see pits where the sponge has broken off, it's time to get after a new colleague, relative or friend for a new set...
Oh, and physicians say improper use (read dirty brown plugs) make you susceptible to ear infections.

Since I have told you the cons, I must linger over the pros, right? Well, apart from making you ride peaceful and enjoyable, earplugs have a profound long term effect. The lower exposure to loud noises prevents, or should prevent tinnitus (ringing ears). Motorcyclists are regularly exposed to 90 dB of sound level (traffic, not loud bikes) and that can cause temporary ringing, which over time can become permanent, and then regress into permanent loss of hearing.

Do you need more reasons?