Helmut and Linda of Helimot.

Uneasy Rider: Fear of Missing Helimot

FOMO is an acronym that represents “fear of missing out,” another oversimplification in our increasingly dumbed-down language, probably soon to be replaced by an emoticon vaguely representative of the tension of thinking you might not get a chance at something, whether that thing is the latest Android phone that’s .27% better than the last model, or a tiny, overpriced paper plate of poke at that faux-fringe-branded, cleverly-named food truck everyone who’s anyone is talking about. It’s the urgency that makes going out of business sales work, week after week, even though it’s clear that the business in question ain’t going anywhere.

We fancy ourselves to be pretty bright here in The Bay, but we still fall prey to this sort of thing oh-so-willingly, even as we scoff at the plebes rushing to purchase heavily discounted, designer knockoff chairs at a store that might not be around next weekend—but probably will. We didn’t create it, but we damn sure accelerated the unsustainable flash sale phenomenon, altering perspectives on pricing, creating entire segments of consumers immune to discounts of less than 25%, that wouldn’t even buy required commodities at regular price any more—but ate up unnecessary bullshit all day long as long as it was a deal.

As much as I tend to think that glasses are generally half empty, and probably cracked too, they’re not all filled with haterade. While the FOMO acronym may be a just another halfass hashtag cooked up by the thumb-typing generation, the feeling is real—especially when it’s based in factual recognition that we’ll be missing something for good, for real.

To wit: everyone knows that Helimot is shutting down their retail shop here in California at the end of June. I say everyone, even though I know that some motorcyclists haven’t heard this sad news, just as even years after the original CHP guidelines and Berkeley study, some riders—somehow, still, maddeningly—don’t know the facts of lane splitting.

Anyway, I spent a couple hours down at Helimot a couple days before this issue went to print, squeezing in a few words here and there between the parade of characters coming through as if they were paying their last respects. I heard a lot of people say things like, “My friend has been telling me to come here for years,” before laying down money for some a pair (or two, like me) of amazing gloves or Daytona boots, and I couldn’t help thinking that if more people would have visited the shop before FOMH (fear of missing Helimot) kicked their asses into gear, maybe Linda and Helmut wouldn’t be leaving. But there’s also no denying that there are other factors besides the brutal realities of the Bay Area business environment.

The people making their final pilgrimage to Helimecca are not worried about missing out on some mindless, fabricated trend. They’re recognizing, rightfully, that the experience of trying on a pair of Buffalo Pros or new B-17s, of having Helmut tell you story after story as he makes sure your new gloves fit just right—each pair is a little unique, after all—can’t be replaced by buying gloves online, whether they’re kickass Helimots or some overmarketed, overhyped gloves of dubious origin.

Linda told me that even though they’re not getting things done according to their planned schedule, they’re enjoying the influx of visitors. I replied, “It’s a little morbid to say, but it’s like a funeral. You get to see a bunch of people you haven’t talked to in too long. Parting brings us together.”

Helmut at CityBike's 2016 Ride Friday Give Back ride for Alameda County CASA.
Helmut at CityBike’s 2016 Ride Friday Give Back ride for Alameda County CASA.

I truly believe that Helimot gloves are the best, at least for my purposes, by a substantial margin. On a recent jaunt over 36, I tried switching to lighter summer gloves from a well-respected, premium manufacturer when we stopped in Platina.

Nope. I didn’t even fire up the bike outside the Platina store before grumbling, “Never mind, fuck this shit,” and switching back. Can’t do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.

But it’s just a cherry on top that Helmut and Linda make such good stuff, a bonus to the fact that they’re true gems of the Bay Area motorcycle scene, and some of the best people I’ve ever had the honor of working with in my capacity as editor of this thing, or any other capacity.

They’re genuine, giving, and wonderful, and their departure will leave an unrepairable hole in the community.

One of my most joyful moto-memories is Helmut clutching several pairs of gloves to his chest inside Lanesplitter Pizza, grinning, at the end of our last Black Friday ride. He’d decided to give away those gloves, without being asked, just to be cool, to support our efforts in raising money for Alameda County CASA.

In last month’s CityBike, we printed an open letter of thanks and “so long for now” from Helmut and Linda, which lauded the Bay Area riding community—but the community is just giving back what Helimot has given us all along. We’re honored, as we damn well should be.

Here’s to you, Helimot.

This story originally appeared in our July 2017 issue, which you can read in all its original high-res glory here.