Essential Riding Tip: ICON’s GM Justin Knauer

Expert Advice -



This week on RideApart‘s Essential Riding Tip we ask ICON’s General Manager and all around awesome dude Justin Knauer for his best riding advice.

What’s the one tip you found most helpful when you began riding and how did you learn it?

“The best piece of riding advice I’ve ever received was to wear a full face helmet. Growing up in the Midwest with access to many 2 wheeled, and occasionally 3 wheeled (ATC anyone?), motor vehicles put me right in the high risk category of entry-level riders. No helmet, or helmets without a chin bar, was the norm and I watched people literally eat pavement/dirt on more than one occasion. It only takes seeing someone spit out there teeth once to make you thankful for heeding an experienced rider’s advice.”

“What troubles me today is the new crop of riders hitting the streets who either have not heard the full face words of wisdom, or just choose to ignore them for the sake of fashion or a perceived factor of coolness. I see them everyday, either on the streets of Portland, or on the Internet. They’ve subscribed to the fashion side of the motorcycle lifestyle but haven’t tuned-in to the fact that even a CB350 can put you on your face.”

“The picture above is of myself and three of the ICON helmets I’ve crashed in. I’ve had get-offs both on the track and on the street. My street incidents were short rides where, by some people’s standards, it would have been totally acceptable to be riding in an open face helmet. We were, “Just riding a short distance to a lunch spot not even going fast…. what could happen?!”

“Note the heavy chin-bar and shield damage. Yes, I wore a pink helmet at the track.” — Justin Knauer

RideApart’s Essential Riding Tip is a new series featuring real world riding tips from notable riders.

Related Links:
Essential Tip:
Angel’s Pitcher CJ Wilson
Gear Roundup: The Best Street Motorcycle Helmets Under $300
Riding Tips: 10 Motorcycle Riding Tricks You Don’t Know, Yet
Gear Roundup: The Best Street Motorcycle Helmets Under $800

  • Justin McClintock

    Can I just go ahead and “like” this whole article?

  • HellomynameisAG

    totally agree and they look badass, oh and nobody can recognize you so diamond heists are that much easier.

  • motoguru.

    I approve this message.

  • akvamme

    yep. my faceplant without a helmet was just a whip it around in the alley… that turned into a burnout… that turned into a crash… that gave me stitches where my glasses dug into the pavement and my face. i got lucky, it could have been way worse. full face is the only thing that makes any sense.

  • Guzzto

    If you google image search ‘open face helmet ‘ the first few images are a great warning.

    • Mr. White

      Yikes… I did the search and ouch! Yeah, I’ll stick with my full face lid.

  • Mr. White

    The riding class I took emphasized and re-emphasized the importance of a full-face helmet. I might hate wearing mine when it’s 90 degrees out, but better to sweat than losing teeth or a broken jaw.

    • Beju

      One of my MSF instructors asked us, “You can live without a chin, but do you want to?”

    • Bill Manewal

      Or breaking teeth and losing a jaw.

  • Mark D

    This lesson should apply to scooter riders, as well. There are far too many good looking women riding around on Vespas in 3/4 helmets, not knowing that an errant taxi or oil slick could result in expensive, painful, and only moderately successful reconstructive plastic surgery.

    For the rest of you ugly mugs, some asphalt cheese-grater action would hardly be noticeable, but won’t somebody think about the beautiful women?!

    • Piglet2010

      I compromise when riding a scooter by wearing a Bell Revolver EVO – with the chin-bar closed while in motion. Maybe not quite as good as a fixed chin-bar full-face, but then I am not going over 50-mph unless I ride off a cliff.

      • Bill Manewal

        Only under 50? I filleted upper and lower lips, knocked front teeth parallel to the roof of my mouth and severed nerves so I have no feeling in my lips at 15 mph on a bicycle with a helmet on. Full face for me forever, brother.

        • Piglet2010

          The scooter is not going fast than 50 mph due to gearing and power limitations.

          And this is what my lid looks like when fully closed:

        • UrbanMoto

          Crashed at about 35-40, missed a curve and drove into a dirt embankment. Five broken vertebra, bunch of cracked ribs, exploded wrist and some busted teeth (from clenching on impact – my head was wrapped in a full face.)

          From an otherwise dumb article recently making the rounds on the tubes:

          “Last fall, while visiting friends, I dropped a Vespa on my leg,
          shattering my knee quite dramatically. The weight of the machine broke
          my Tibial Plateau, tibia and fibula. It was one of those injuries that
          caused the admitting nurse to exclaim and the X-ray guys to congratulate
          me for having broken myself so thoroughly. I spent three weeks in a
          “sub-acute care facility”—a nursing home where my roommate thought she
          met me fifty years ago and where most everyone else there was in decline
          rather than recovery. Lying there with bolts protruding from my shin
          and thigh and a tinker toy-like halo of titanium encircling my knee I
          was acutely (not sub-acutely) aware that life as you know it can change
          as quickly as lightning strikes.

          Now everything from my knee to my ankle is titanium. I will never be the same.”

          That’s a scooter at zero miles an hour. Do what makes sense, we all could do better; I know I could. But man, the scooter riders I see, especially here in NYC, seem to just totally ignore the risks. I don’t get it.

    • Ayabe

      Most scooter riders in my area wear zip, nothing, flipflops+shorts+no helmet.

      Watching them take turns is a cringe worthy bit of entertainment.

      I’d also be willing to bet the vast majority do not have an endorsement.

  • Jorn Bjorn Jorvi

    Has icon ever made any comments that they might move into the off road/MX market?

    • ICON Motosports

      Check out our sister company Thor: They handle the MX side, while we handle the street side. With our Patrol Gear, though, we are starting to make a footprint in the ADV market.

      • Travis McCartney

        Awesome to see industry reps here participating. I had no idea that Thor and Icon were related companies.

        • Mr.Paynter

          Me either!

          • disqus_SB5uBoEFy2

            I knew Icon was a brand of Parts Unlimited. I guess Thor is too.

      • Jorn Bjorn Jorvi

        Thanks for the reply! Thor’s stuff is great. My local dealer is a big PU dealer, so if I’m buying street it’s icon and if I’m buying dirt it’s Thor. Kepp up the good work guys!

  • E Brown

    I’ll open by saying I wear a full-face helmet. It makes sense to cover all the bases you can when riding. But I thought the numbers were that in open face helmet injuries about 15% or so could have been prevented by a chin bar – about one in 6 or so, putting it in the possible but not probable range for most folks.

    • jonoabq

      ~34% of helmet impacts are to the chinbar.

  • Pablo Perez

    Words of wisdom. Most the Brothers I ride with refuse to wear full face helmets (some insist on novelty helmets). You can lead a horse to water – but if that horse is stupid, it better be tough (and have great insurance).

  • Piglet2010

    But people will commit crimes if they are allowed to hide their faces by wearing a full-face lid!!!


  • Mr.Paynter

    Aaaand I feel better about my Biltwell Gringo as opposed to a Bell 500 or similar.
    I wopuld still dig open-face, but I like my face too much it seems.

    I just feel like a fool riding around on a TW200 or an old CB500 in modern/sport-bike looking helmets!

  • Kr Tong

    You should interview Keith Code and what he thinks about nutrition.