When we jump on our motorcycles and go for a ride, we know that breaking through the wind is a sure deal; but if this is all that we can hear, it can become kind of a bummer.
Riding is also about listening to the good notes out of the engine, being able to talk to a partner or even just listen to that perfect soundtrack out of the weekend ride playlist.
So I’ll be sharing some very simple (and logical!) tips to make a motorcycle quieter so you can listen to what you want instead of just that terrible wind noise.
1. A helmet has to fit properly/good quality helmet
The helmet is arguably the most important gear a rider can wear. Making sure it fits properly to your head size is not only a matter of safety, but also influences the noise level. A helmet that is too big is not only dangerous but will allow for too much air inside while riding which means too much turbulence and noise. This will get your ears and neck tired very quickly and make you want to go back home.
When shopping for a helmet, price can represent a lot. Generally, the most expensive helmets will cost that much because they have more hours spent under general development and this includes a lot of air flow studies. The manufacturers goal is to always provide the quietest possible equipment.
Brands like Arai, AGV, Nolan and others will normally offer you a safer and better product with better fitting visors and air vents; plus, a good design for the foam inside the helmet providing a better fit against the neck and consequently reducing the amount of air and turbulence that can run inside the helmet.
If you have a limited budget for the gear, the big brands also offer lower price products and some of them even own another smaller brand targeting a different market share. A little bit of research can take you a long way.
Here is a link with information on how to measure the proper helmet size provided by BELL Helmets. You can also check out this article where we tested the quietest motorcycle helmets on the market.
2. Choose the type of helmet wisely
If your type of riding is highway at high speeds and for long hours, a motocross helmet might look good, but will definitely be the worst option for you. Choose a model of helmet that fits the purpose and this will make it for a better overall product considering it is being used under the circumstances that it was designed for.
A motocross helmet was not designed to be used at the same speeds as you would keep when on the highway or on a sports bike just as a modular helmet is too heavy to be used when flying from one jump to another on the motocross track. One of the consequences of proper model selecting is less noise while riding and higher comfort.
3. Helmet support collar
Helmet supports are like a foam collar designed to help carry the helmet weight and is used around the neck. They are probably not the most comfortable option for a day to day operation as their purpose is to help reduce chances of whiplash – neck injury due to forceful neck movement.
But if you plan on long hauls, a helmet support can help reduce noise levels as they can reduce the turbulence around the neck area. This can also help with better conditions for your neck as it will help support the helmet taking some of the weight off of it. So if you don’t have one already, check out this great helmet/neck support from Amazon.
4. Wear motorcycle earplugs
Some people are comfortable wearing accessories such as earplugs while riding. In this case, these items should help reduce the noise level that you can hear, but beware that you should always look for accessories developed for motorcycles riding or PPE as they were designed to only block certain frequencies.
This means they should block the bad frequencies but still allow you to listen to the environment. This is very important as, while riding, you should always be able to listen to your surroundings for safety reasons, especially if you ride in the streets of big cities with a lot of traffic. The motorcycle specific earplugs will also allow you to listen to conversations or music while you ride.
I sometimes wear these silicone earplugs. They can reduce noise up to 24 dB and they’re pretty comfortable, unlike some other brands that I’ve tried that caused my ears to hurt after a few minutes and the day after.
5. Wear a motorcycle balaclava
A motorcycle balaclava is a multi function item. It can help with the temperature – keeping you warm during that cold day, keeping your hair away from the eyes if you have long hair and also reduce the turbulence around the neck area as some of them include in their design a windproof extension that falls over the shoulders of the riders.
Just like we already mentioned, reducing turbulence in and around your helmet is one of the easiest ways of bringing noise level down. Just pay attention while selecting yours as they can have different grades for temperatures they should be used at.
You do not want to be wearing a winter balaclava in the middle of summer. Having said that, for winter I highly recommend the Alpinestars Winter Touring Bacalava, both for comfort and noise reduction.
6. Adjust your motorcycle windscreen
Nowadays, many motorcycles come with a windscreen option from the factory or as an optional and in most cases this windscreen is also an adjusted one – if your motorcycle does not have one, there should be many different aftermarket options for it.
Adjusting the height of the windscreen makes the difference between having the air flow hitting your chest/helmet area or flowing above you which will have different effects on the amount of turbulence that you will experience.
If you are a shorter rider, most windscreens should offer a range of adjustment big enough to cover your size, but if you are on the tall side of the spectrum, then you might have to buy a windscreen extension – they work like clip-ons that attach to the main windscreen and help deflecting the wind further as their mount is generally a hinge mechanism.
7. Tight fitting of your helmet visor (and keeping it closed)
The helmet visor is the biggest area in direct contact with the wind while riding and it is also a consumable item considering that, as it gets older and scratched, we go look for a replacement. The problem is that not always the replacement component will fit properly and to be honest, sometimes not even the original one has a perfect fit.
Generally, they can have sealing issues as the rubber gets older or just does not sit well against the visor as well as the mechanism of attachment on both sides of the helmet can become loose, offering more play – some have lock options that can also present some problems with time. The consequence of a bad fitting on the visor/helmet coupling can range from air leak to excessive vibration, both being terrible for noise mitigation.
Keeping your visor down is also very important for noise level reduction as it restrains air from coming in. Plus and mainly, closing it is also a matter of safety, as the number one intention of this component is to keep the rider’s eyes capability of watching what is happening outside. If the temperature is too high, open the air vents that almost every helmet comes with instead of lifting the visor.
8. Check your riding position
Believe it or not, your riding position also has a big influence on the amount of noise you can hear while on the motorcycle.
Not only you could be sitting decentralized from the motorcycle, creating bigger turbulence levels when exposing your helmet to more airflow than you should, but also, you could be sitting too close from the gas tank, or touching your legs against the frame for instance.
What these do is bring higher levels of vibration to the rider and consequently increasing the noise and discomfort you feel inside the helmet.
Because of how exposed motorcycle riding is, there are a lot of factors that can generate noise and turbulence. Of course we should never expect it to be as quiet as a luxury car, but we can make our life better while riding. Good gear is not only important because of safety, but it also plays a role on how quiet it feels.
Same line of thought works for the motorcycle itself. A well designed motorcycle will be safer and cut better through air just like the gear we wear. All of it represents extra cost; money applied on all the development hours and materials; the best we can do is to just be wise on how we spend ours by choosing the best gear-motorcycle combo.