Throttle Therapy: Motorcycle decorations need not be boo-ring

Britt Santowski is the motorcycle columnist who offers occasional advice safe riding. Santowski is a former Chief motorcycle instructor.

On my way to work the other day, I chanced to pass a motorcycle with a side car. The passenger of the side car caused me to do a double-take. What the … ?!

Indeed, it was true. The passenger was a decked-out (or, I guess, more accurately, a bare-boned) skeleton.

Which leads me to this week’s column: safely adorning your motorcycle for the Halloween season. Or any time for that matter.

While it’s not a common occurrence, when adding any adornments to your motorcycle or your gear, there are certain things you should keep in mind.

Stickers and helmets

Helmets are built to include a smooth skid factor. Which is to say, should your helmet come in contact with the pavement, it is important that your helmet slides smoothly. Should anything cause the helmet to abruptly come to a stop, that sudden jolt could ultimately lead to severe spine injury. Or worse.

If you have a sticker that you are contemplating placing on your helmet, make sure that it is approved for helmets.

This same logic applies to painting your helmet. Don’t do it unless you know that the paint is actually intended for motorcycle helmet.


Do you remember the time when geeks were relentlessly tormented? Now those same geeks have the high paying jobs, and being a geek in school is the new cool. The same shift has happened with motorcycle gear. There’s delight in bright.

It probably has something to do with the greying of the bikers, along which has come the desire to live as long as one possibly can.

Backrests, fenders and tanks are places where you might see personalization going on.

Akin to getting a tattoo, though, if you’re going to add something permanent, you might ask yourself the question, “Can I live with this for as long as I own the bike?” And akin to contemplating property value, you might also ask yourself, “Will this  particular feature increase or decrease my bike’s resale value.” Of course, if you intend to be the forever-owner of said machine, that second question need not apply.

Do not even consider decorating your forks. Just saying.

LED lighting

LED lighting can be used to add intrigue to your bike. Keep in mind that blue lights are prohibited as they may be seen as intentionally (or unintentionally) imitating a police vehicle.

If you are installing decorative lighting, be sure to follow all instructions. If you find a left-over screw or an unattached wire, undo what you have done, and redo it again. If you have maxed out on patience, then either get a professional to do it, or trust that your own natural halo will provide all the additional decorative light that you need.

Things that dangle

Be very careful when putting on things that dangle. Consider worst-case scenario. If you go down, will this dangling thing catch on anything? Can it tangle you up in it? Can it get caught in movable parts (tires, steering, engine parts, etc.). If it becomes detached, does it pose a safety hazard for you? for the person travelling behind you?

If you can see the potential for danger, then rethink the dangling bits.

Things that don’t

If you are going to attach anything to your bike, attach it firmly and securely. Again, think of the damage that could be done should the item of adornment become unattached.

I feel a bit like Saturday Night Live’s Debbie-downer. But I’m not, really! The point here is not about dwelling on the negative, it’s about proper planning. If you put in the proper effort up-front, then the execution of whatever follows can be incident-free, giving you the joyful experience you so  deservingly need. Or want.

Like one article I read online said, don’t dress for the ride, dress for the slide.


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