Gear Review: “Big Ear” Ear Plugs

This is both a recommendation and a cautionary note.

Last winter, a Big Ear representative made a visit to my local BMW shop, Country Rode Motowerks. I decided to pick up a pair for my summer trip around the country. I thought I paid around $60 for them, but I don’t see anything listed on the website at that price, nor does anything really look like the ones above. I think they might the BE-SP Solid Ear Plugs listed at $84.95, but I’m not sure.

I’ll start off by saying these things work, and they work extremely well. I used them a little bit while riding the Indian (a big, throaty S&S Twin) and the difference, and thus the overall riding comfort, was significant. More telling, I used them on the 6,000+ mile summer trip on the GS with the same results. Specifically, on the trip I noticed a significant drop in wind noise when traveling 40+ mph. This was especially the case when flying west across Kansas on a 600 mile day with 30+ mph winds out of the southwest. I find that extended wind noise increases my mental fatigue, and these plugs helped reduce or stave off that fatigue so I could focus on not being blown off the road.

I do have two rather significant issues with the Big Ears, however. The first is a personal issue… I’ve never been a fan of having things touching my ears. Even stocking caps I’ll roll up and over because the sensation of something touching my ears drives me nuts (oddly, motorcycle helmets are immune to this, thank goodness). I don’t even like wearing headphones. Even the ones that fully surround the ear bother me. And the ear buds that come with MP3 players are even worse. And worse than those are the Big Ears. I’d like to say it took a while but I got used to it, but by the time I broke camp in West Virginia (day three) they were out and in a pocket, waiting to be used on windy days or when I was going to be rolling along at 55 mph for an extended period. Again, that’s a personal thing, I think, and doesn’t really have anything to do with the plugs themselves.

The other issue, though, does have to do with the plugs. I don’t know if they’re just fitted poorly or what, but every time I pull my helmet on and off, the padding would catch on the plug and damn near rip my ear off. I tried cutting and filing down the edges, but no matter what I did, nothing solved the problem. The pictures on their website all show units with a significantly lower profile, so perhaps they’ve altered their mold to resolve this issue. I don’t know. All I know is that I didn’t want to wear them unless I had to because of the issues with the helmet and my own little weirdness surrounding things on and in my ears.

I actually knew I was going to have a rough time with them while they were creating the mold. First the rep put a small sponge deep into my ears to protect the ear drum. Then he grabbed a turkey baster type of syringe and filled my ear with goop. That’s when I knew I was in trouble. We waited about 10 minutes or so for the goop to firm up, after which he pulled them out and put a little dot on the right one (and yes, I totally forgot which one the dot was on and had to experiment with the initial “install”). He took them back to his office in Syracuse to put the final curing solution (he wasn’t amused when I referred to it as shellac), and I had them in my mailbox within 5 days. Awesome customer communication, all handled via email made this a non-nonsense purchase and I wouldn’t hesitate to do business with them again.

But I’m not sure I will, since these (and other models like them) are the only products the company sells. The two issues I had resulted in me using the Big Ears for maybe 2,000 miles of the 6,000 I traveled. Granted, part of this is also because I just didn’t need them the whole time. The vast majority of my trip was spent on 2-lanes (or less!) at under 45 mph and there just isn’t that much noise on the GS at those speeds. Is it worth it to drop $80+ to upgrade an item I’ll use maybe 1/3 of the time I’m in the saddle? Not at the moment, no. Regardless, I’ll still bring the ones I have along on future trips for those days like Kansas, but they won’t be part of my daily riding equipment. They work, and they work really, really well. I just have weird ears.

 

Oh, one last bit… There were a few stops along the way where I was surrounded by snorers (you know how you are!), and the Big Ear worked great in that situation too. Falling asleep initially proved a little challenging, but once asleep I had no problems staying that way.

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