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Adventure bike riding questions answered by our team of experts

Do you have a question for Adventure Bike Rider’s panel? Email it to [email protected] or post it on our website forum. If we don’t know, we’ll bribe the answer out of someone who does

Q. I’ve ridden for years without using any kind of ear protection besides the padding in my helmet, but a mate of mine reckons earplugs are an essential piece of kit. Why are they so important, how do they work, and what are the best Akind of earplugs for ABRs?

A. Ear protection expert Rob Piddington of Sensorcom Ltd (www.proguarduk.co.uk) says: Noise induced-hearing damage is non-curable and prevalent in the motorcycle fraternity; that ringing sound in your ears is a sign you already have it. It’s largely caused by ‘wind noise’, a generic term for the turbulence produced around the head while the rider is travelling. As the turbulence increases, the inner ear is exposed to high sound pressure levels (SPL) which are compounded every time the rider ventures out on their bike. The consequences will generally result in irreversible hearing damage.

To give you an idea of exactly how bad wind noise can be, the UK Health and Safety Executive states that a worker can only be exposed to 80dB for an eight-hour working day. However, when the sound levels exceed 100dB (the equivalent of riding your bike at around 65mph), suggested exposure time is significantly reduced to two hours. When sound levels exceed 115dB (equivalent to riding at 100mph), your safe exposure time is drastically reduced to just 15 minutes before hearing damage can occur. It now becomes a very serious matter; wind noise at motorway speeds of 70mph can measure up to 103dB (a 3dB rise in sound is equal to a doubling of noise), and is equivalent to that produced by a chainsaw in operation. At these levels the rider is likely to fatigue physically from the excess noise exposure. It’s also likely they will need a hearing aid later in life.

There are numerous hearing protection devices on the market; a fully custom-fit pair of earplugs is the best answer in suppressing noise and attaining an excellent degree of comfort when riding for long periods. Fitted with attenuating filters, these will allow a certain level of noise to come through, to help keep you in tune with your environment, while reducing the overall level and significantly lowering the high-frequency energy which causes hearing damage. Some are even available with premium grade transducers, which are compatible with a standard 3.5mm jack plug, to allow the rider to listen to music or a satnav. The initial outlay for custom-fit products usually starts at around £100, including ear impressions. But don’t forget these will last you a long time.

If your budget doesn’t run to custom fit, foam plugs will do the job, but be sure to check they are CE-marked and have an SNR (Single Number Rating) figure. For motorcyclists I would recommend a SNR of 25dB at least. This means it will reduce the incoming noise by 25dB, so if you’re riding at 70mph for extended periods then incoming noise will be reduced to around 78dB, a safe level. Of course this figure is only true if the earplug is fitted into the ear canal correctly as per the manufacturer’s instructions. A great selection of earplugs is available at www.earplugs.co.uk

Q. I’ve done a couple of short two-week blasts around Europe with mates, and had a fantastic time, but I’m dying to get out there and live the dream, to go away for six-months, or even a year, and just have the freedom to ride wherever I feel like going to next, but it’s only become a real possibility since retiring in November last year. Unfortunately, my wife doesn’t see the point of this. She doesn’t ride herself and won’t even ride pillion with me down to the local Tesco. It’s never been a problem before, but now every time I try and broach the subject of going further abroad on the bike, she becomes totally unreasonable. She’s even started getting the hump about me going for a Sunday ride-out on ‘the bloody bike’. I love my wife, but this is really starting to take a toll on our marriage. How can I make her see this is something I just have to do?

A. Chartered Counselling Psychologist Dr Harriet Garrod says: Retirement is often seen as one of life’s stressful events
because suddenly, as part of a couple, you’re both constantly in each other’s space 24-7 and may have too much time on your hands. Your wife appears to resent you riding and I wonder if this may be related to her feeling abandoned when you go out for a ride. As an effective means of containing, managing and reducing resentment that leads to arguments and deceit I would strongly advise you to encourage her to develop some interests of her own that she finds as exciting and as rewarding as you find biking. That way, your wife can engage in something she enjoys while you go off for a ride. This will effectively improve your time spent together as you will have more of a balance in your relationship and less feelings of resentment or abandonment. Encourage your wife to understand that engaging in hobbies is a big part of personal development and go together to the library to see what’s going on locally in the way of classes and courses. Remember, personal satisfaction from enjoyable activities promotes excellent physical and mental wellbeing and this has regularly been documented in stress, anxiety, depression and marriage guidance research.

You never know, she might become interested in something like Italian cooking and end up going on a cooking holiday to Tuscany, which would mean you could have your bike holiday while she is happy engaging with something she finds just as enjoyable. Good luck and remember, it’s all about equality, balance and wellbeing.

Dr H L E Garrod MBPsS, BA (Hons), MA, MSc, P Grad.Dip, D CounsPsych. Harriet is currently taking referrals. For assessments and appointments, call 01892 514907 or email [email protected]. Assessments range from £250-400 and therapy sessions are £150 for on hour.