Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Is Helmet Use on the Decline?

   I've been noticing what seems to be a decline in helmet use by recreational cyclist. Although my observations are purely anecdotal, it really appears to me that more and more casual riders are foregoing the old brain bucket. The alarming part is that I'm seeing more kids riding without helmets than I remember seeing in the past. I'm really not sure why this is so, and it could be purely because now that I've noticed it, I'm paying more attention to it (kinda like the *white van parked at the corner.)

   Another reason could be that it's summer and therefore more casual riders are out and about biking to the park/pool/store - the type of rider who probably has never owned a helmet. The saddest part is that these are the very riders who do not have the experience or expertise in cycling and are more likely to be involved in an incident.

   Of the "not so casual" riders I see sans helmet it could be due, in part, to emulating the image of the "bike messenger", a more recent fad. Oddly enough it's only been in the past couple of years that professional road racers have begun wearing helmets full time. I was watching a Tour de France documentary and was shocked to see so many riders without helmets ("crash helmets" as Phil Liggett called them), or wearing them on the downhill sections only. I'm glad to see that is no longer the case since so many youngsters (and "not so" youngsters) will emulate the pros. It's like Jonathan Vaughters supposedly said - "Next time your in your car going 50 mph, strip down to your underwear and jump out the window.....that's what a bike wreck feels like."

   All in all, I'm curious if any of y'all have noticed any changes in the public's use and/or perception of helmets...

*Once you start paying attention to vehicles parked on the street you'll almost always see a white van parked at the corner of a street. It's because your brain ignores the many times there isn't a van, but alerts you every time there is one.

Photo Credit

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

You Forgot What?

   I know we've all done it. At some point you get to the trail head or meeting spot and suddenly realize something is missing.

   The other day I saw a guy pull up to the Veloway, get out of his truck, look in the back, scratch his head, get back into his truck and leave. A couple of his friends rode up and were having a good laugh while waiting on him to come back. It seems he had forgotten his bike.

   I don't know if I've forgotten my bike, but I know I'm guilty of leaving the occasional glove, backpack or sun glasses behind. Fortunately it doesn't happen very often since I leave all my bike stuff in my truck. My most recent transgression was leaving my Camelbak at the office so I simply rode without it. As long as the water fountain at the Veloway is working it's not too much of problem. I've also ridden sans gloves and that felt really strange. I've noticed quite a few roadies don't wear gloves, but it's pretty much part of the uniform for mountain bikers.

   Obviously riding without a bike (or a front wheel, which I imagine gets left behind the most) is impossible, but what about a helmet...

   I've only done so once, and it wasn't because it was missing. Instead, I just thought it looked stupid. The people who introduced me to mountain biking insisted on certain decorum from those with whom they rode, and helmets were mandatory. However, since I was riding solo this particular morning I decided that a dew rag was much more fashionable than that big old bulky block of styrofoam strapped to my head. Not sure if it was Karma or what, but (true story) I did not get more than 500 feet down the greenbelt before I hit a rock and flipped right over the handlebars. I limped my way back up Spyglass to the apartment and got that big old bulky helmet out of the closet.

   Secondary to a helmet for me is eye protection. I will not ride without a helmet and I will certainly think twice about riding without eye protection. I've had some close calls with "pokey branches" jutting out along side the trail and one good jab could certainly ruin your day and perhaps the rest of your life.

   If you showed up to a ride and suddenly realized you didn't have your helmet, would you ride anyway? What is on your list of "go, no go" items necessary for a ride?