Share The Love
By Kaia and Tricia Szulewski
I’ve always enjoyed taking passengers and sharing my passion of riding motorcycles. But when my young daughter Kaia started asking me to take her for rides, I would immediately dismiss the idea. It’s one thing to accept the risk of injuring my own body, but to put my own daughter at risk was unimaginable. I’d tell her that if she couldn’t reach the footpegs, it was out of the question. Well, that only lasted for so long. She’d sometimes visit me on the range where I teach motorcycle safety classes, and I was surprised at how she paid attention and picked up on the little things that even some of the adult students missed. She demonstrated a level of maturity normally found in kids quite a bit older, so I eventually began considering the idea of taking her out for some two-wheeled fun.
As with any passenger (or kid), the rules had to be established. My first and most important rule is that quality gear needs to be worn at all times by anyone riding on my motorcycle. So in order for Kaia to be properly outfitted, we needed to go shopping. I’d settle for nothing less than the highest quality helmet and jacket I could find. I’d also require gloves and boots but those didn’t have to be quite as technical as the gear I wear. I searched online to get a feeling of what was available. Most of the gear I found was made for kids’ motocross; however, I found a few manufacturers producing DOT-approved, full-face, street youth helmets but just one youth-sized textile jacket. My helmet picks were from Scorpion, AFX, and HJC, but I didn’t want to order anything until Kaia could try it on.
All of the web searching in the world meant nothing compared to the trip we made to the local dealership. Unfortunately, inventory was pretty limited, but we got a good feeling of what kind of full-face helmet would work best for Kaia’s 8-year-old head. While the fit on the largest HJC Youth helmet we could find was pretty tight, the shell was noticeably smaller than the adult XS that she could also fit into. I
remembered how bulky and awkward helmets felt when I first started riding, so I figured the smaller shell was the way to go for now.
The CS-Y Hellion that Kaia chose sports layers of tribal/angelic graphics in red, black, white, and Metallic Silver. The padding is plush enough, and the shield ratchets to five positions. You need a flathead screwdriver to remove the shield, but HJC provided an extra set of hardware. A chin vent and two top vents can be closed, and two rear exhaust vents are permanently open. Kaia needed some practice to learn how to use the D-rings to fasten the strap. She did complain about the position of the strap, which sat a little too far back toward her throat. I’ve worn helmets with that same problem and sympathize with how uncomfortable that can be. Like a good mom, I told her to just deal with it.
As for a jacket, as I mentioned earlier I was shocked to find only one real, full-featured touring jacket in a youth size. The Tourmaster Jett 2 textile jacket is
identical to the ones available for adults. I confidently ordered it in silver/black, knowing that this company makes quality jackets, as I have several in my own riding closet. The 600-denier Carbolex waterproof and breathable shell comes with a full-size, zip-in, quilted liner. Zippered vents near the front shoulder, sleeves, and across the back provide some cooling when opened. Soft microfiber material on the collar and cuffs provide comfortable protection in just the right areas. Getting a good fit on the sleeve is accomplished with three snap positions on the bicep, a hook and
loop take-up strap on the forearm, and cinching the wrist. An adjustable belt finishes the fit at the bottom. Besides protecting my daughter with a good fit, the Jett 2 comes with removable, CE-approved armor in the elbow and shoulder, and a triple-density back pad. Reflective piping and panels are found throughout the front, back, and sleeves for great low-light visibility. All things considered, the Jett 2 makes a good jacket for a rider or passenger of any age.
As luck would have it, I found a set of MX-style gloves to match the jacket. I decided that the Cortech DX glove would suffice for Kaia, since its soft, flexible material is comfortable and fits
her hands well. I’ll keep searching for gloves with more protective qualities, but for now Kaia’s happy with her coordinated outfit. And Mom is happy that her little girl is protected while sharing the love of two wheels.
I first wanted to go for a ride when I was 5 years old. But I waited three years because my feet couldn’t reach the pegs, and I didn’t have gear. Now that I’m 8 and my feet reach the pegs, my mom prepared me to ride by buying a helmet, jacket, and gloves for me. My suit is really comfortable.
My first ride was amazing. I was nervous at the beginning, but I knew it would be fun. When my mom rode around curves, my stomach tickled. The gear makes me feel safe because if we crash, I will be protected. It makes me feel cool to wear all the gear and go riding because I feel like not every kid in the world gets to go riding on a motorcycle. My favorite part about riding is feeling the air blow through the vents in my helmet. —Kaia Szulewski
Harley-Davidson is the only brand I found with street riding footwear in youth sizes. “Patches” is an engineer boot with fun H-D patches covering the 7-1/2″ shaft. Ankle and cuff buckles give the boot a classic look kids will love. A full-length, cushioned sock lining provides comfort, while a YKK locking inside zipper makes getting the boot on and off easy for the kiddies. Available in youth 9-3, whole sizes only. Patches, $50, 888/637-7001, www.Harley-DavidsonFootwear.com.
Another important aspect of putting a child on the back of your motorcycle is how the bike is set up for passengers. I decided that I’ll only take Kaia on bikes that provide something behind her, like a top case or a backrest. If you’ve got a sissybar on your ride, you may want to go a step further and try out these Love Handles from Enchantment Motor Sports. Giving a nervous passenger something solidly mounted to the bike to hang on to can be a real stress reducer for both of you. A relaxed passenger means less weight on your shoulders and a safer, more enjoyable ride. Love Handles, $329, www.GetLoveHandles.com.
CS-Y Hellion, $94.99
Youth Jett 2 Jacket, $109.99
Youth DX Glove, $19.99
Originally published in RoadBike magazine, December 2010