AdviceLife on bikes

Garages and motorcycle helmets: The answer

Many bikers object to being forced to remove their helmets on petrol station forecourts. If you can’t boycott the garage, here’s a simple protest that could change their policy.

Nobody really has a problem with taking their helmet off at a petrol station, do they?

OK, so taking your nice warm helmet off at 0-5˚ isn’t great, especially when it’s so cold your concentration is lost and you forget to do your straps up. Obviously, it’s not ideal being singled out as a potential criminal just because of the type of vehicle you use, either.*

Whatever your reasons, if you don’t like being forced to take your lid off when refuelling there’s a very simple protest you can make that hits the garage where it hurts: their profits.

You don’t have to boycott the garage, you only have to make sure that following their policy costs them money, and you can do that by going slow.

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Garages need to turn over customers at the pumps as quickly as possible, so when we read this post in a biker forum we knew motorcyclists had a legitimate way to hit back.

“I was asked to remove my helmet on Sunday for the first time in 25 yrs of riding. No problem a few weeks ago? Loud voice over the tannoy. Thought, should I ride off or not? No bother to remove the lid I suppose, so I did. It was very busy with no spare pumps. A couple of cars queuing and by the time I put my earplugs in, helmet on etc. a car had driven off as he couldn’t be bothered to wait. So I guess they lost £70 instead of my £15.”

It’s genius! You are abiding by the fuel retailer’s rules but at the same time making sure those same rules cost them money.

Many bikers move their motorcycles as a courtesy to the next customer waiting for the pump. On stations where you are forced to remove your helmet, we say follow the rider’s actions, stay where you are and take your time (if you have it). You can even point out to the manager what you are doing. He or she can’t object – it’s their rules, but more than importantly, it’s your safety. You need the time to make sure your earplugs, balaclava if it’s winter, helmet and gloves are both comfortable and securely attached.

What the stations will soon realise is that their policy means bikers now have to spend another 5-10 minutes at the pump, making sure they remove and reapply their protective equipment carefully.

This ‘pump waiting time’ is precisely what a busy garage doesn’t need – they need you fuelling at the pump or spending in the shop. A pump where the motorist is doing neither costs the garage money.

Of course, the straightforward answer is for them to instal ‘pay at the pump’ in which case there is no need to remove your helmet, for whatever reason. But garages are now removing pump payment as they have realised these customers go into the shop less, and the shop is where the actual profits are, now that fuel margins are so low.

So try it. Go slow if you are forced to take off your helmet to get served. Don’t feel bad, remember just because you are a motorcyclist the garage owner is treating you as a potential criminal. They don’t treat a car or van driver the same way when they are wearing a hat and sunglasses that hide their identity. No, they discriminate only against you.

*Many garage owners cite requests from local police forces requiring motorcyclists to remove their helmets so they can be identified in any crimes.

For senior police officers that implement these rules, here’s a particular point: It may surprise you to learn that not all motorcyclists are potential criminals. It’s not outside of the realms of possibility that garage employees could just use their own discretion to decide if a middle-aged biker in full protective gear on a £16,000 motorcycle really presents a crime risk, or if a young person with no rear number plate and wearing sweatpants and a balaclava in the height of a 30˚ August might actually be a wrong ‘un.

The image used to illustrate this article is attributed under the Creative Commons Licence. 

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The Author

Paul Vennard

Paul Vennard

Paul is actually a chartered accountant so he knows a thing or two about saving money - and that's one of his roles at Biker and Bike: how to save bikers money.

Like everyone else here he's a full-on biker. He's a year-round rider and never happier than when he's on a track, screaming the nuts of his 675 Daytona.

Paul also loves a trip. Just don't share a tent with him. He snores like a bastard.