Use your head, by protecting it

In the last 10 months I’ve spent more than $1000 on new hemlets. That’s a nice set of race wheels. A pretty decent track bike. Three pairs of top notch shoes. Two new Garmins or Scion bike boxes. Or about 500 gels. But having just hit the deck for the third time in 2013 – smacking my head rather hard every time – I can vouch that none of these things come even remotely close to offering the same value for money as a decent helmet.

As I lay on the side of the Landsdowne crit circuit this morning after flying over the handlebars at about 40km/h and landing on my head, I remember thinking (once again) “boy, lucky I’m wearing a good helmet.” Just as when I was hit by a car last month, yes, I have a headache and a sore neck which will no doubt be even sorer tomorrow. But without that impact protection, it’s a pretty safe bet I would probably be in hospital with, at the very least, serious concussion.

It’s these ‘mortality reminding’ moments that leave me truly horrifed when I see riders out there without helmets. Illegal or otherwise, it’s just plain crazy. You only get one brain. Protect it.

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15 thoughts on “Use your head, by protecting it

  1. Mate glad you are OK! I do ride sometimes (rarely) with no helmet and it is magic. Obviously sans helmet riding is TOTALLY different to what a lot of roadies/people think cycling is all about.
    Stay safe!

  2. Remember too that thanks to the AUS/NZS standards the helmets you get at Big W for $17 meet the same standards as ones costing $300. Not as cool, either in ventilation or looks but it gets the job done.

  3. Whatever the cost , a HELMET is the ONLY piece of equipment that will keep your head from serious damage . Whilst Aus/Nz Standards must be met , a cheap helmet is just as good as the ” Top of the Range ( Snob Value ) Helmet “!

    3 helmets broken by 3 different causes this year , proves that you cannot ride anywhere , without having it firmly strapped in place . Glasses are also a necessary requirement in my view .

    Riding with care can still be too easily undone by ” Murphy’s Law “!

  4. IT IS HARDER TO LEAVE A COMMENT ON HERE , than it is to strap on as HELMET !

    The past season has seen me break 3 Helmets in three different ways in 3 Countries . You will not see me without a helmet , when with a bike , throughout the 16 seasons of Pro World Tours .

    Glasses are also part of my Safety regime .

    Regardless of how safely , YOU ride , ” Murphy’s Law “, has a habit of biting your ass !

  5. Great reminder Pete, as you know my helmet saved me as well today. Ended up with a huge crack, that could have been in my skull rather than the impact absorbing foam.

  6. This is bollocks. I’ve been riding, touring, training, racing and commuting for over 25 years and covered in excess of 250,000km by bicycle, and never damaged a helmet or my head in a crash.

    A feeble foam hat that is designed to *help* when your head hits some arbitrarily shaped anvil at 20 km/h is hardly useful protection when your head hits something or is hit by something at more than double that speed. It is simple physics and engineering.

    If the foam cracks it has failed. The foam is supposed to cushion an impact by compressing, not cracking.

    More recent research shows that rotational injuries are what cause traumatic brain injuries, which is why a favorite knockout blow in boxing is a punch across and upward to the jaw. It causes the opponents head to rotate violently, which facilitates a knockout. Foam bicycle helmets are prone to increasing the chances of this type of injury.

    Let’s be clear, a bicycle helmet *might* help you avoid a bump, bruise, cut & abrasion in a limited range of circumstances. It might even reduce a slight concussion, but it is unlikely to save your life. Most cyclists who die from a crash also have severe injuries to other parts of their body, and/or their head suffered far more damage than a bicycle helmet could have saved them from anyway.

    A bicycle helmet can reduce sunburn in summer, and can help keep your head warmer in winter.

    1. Based on my last month I’d say you’ve been really lucky then mate. Congratulations. I never said it saved my life and clearly a helmet isn’t going to save you from plenty of potential impacts – but I’m sure glad I was wearing it yesterday and also a month ago when I was left flat on my back after smashing the back of my head on the road after getting cleaned up by a car at a local roundabout. Totally appreciate yours will differ, but my own view is why not wear one, just in case? Unlike back when you would have been first riding, modern helmets are lighter, stronger, better ventilated and generally pretty adjustable/comfortable.

      Ps. Doesnt take much of an impact at all to the head to kill you. Right now in Sydney there’s a court case where a guy is up on a murder charge for knocking a guy to the ground with one punch – the punch didn’t kill the guy, he hit his head on the road (0km/h) at an awkward angle and died.

      1. Oh, and just in case this is turning into a debate about mandatory helmet laws… I totally disagree with such laws. As I’ve said several times in the past 24 hours I personally choose to always wear a helmet and will make my kids do the same until they turn 18. But I also feel adults should be able to weigh things up and make their own choice on the issue.

      2. Bicycle helmets are designed to reduce the severity of an impact from a fall from a height of 1.5m – about how high your head is while you’re riding a bicycle – to a level that will not cause a traumatic brain injury. I’m 1.9m tall, so if I was standing and fell backward and the first point of contact was my head on a kerb, It’s quite possible I’d suffer a traumatic brain injury even if I was wearing a helmet.

      3. James, it’s quite possible yes, but still less possible than if you had no helmet at all. That’s the point. They’re not a magic pill to fix all injuries at all speeds and in all conditions, nobody claims they are. You’re making strawman arguments against them, arguing points that people are not making.

        My personal stance is that cyclists should be allowed to ride in parks and on footpaths up to a certain speed (say 15kph, though this is arguable) without a helmet. Then, if you wish to go faster you should go to the road, and if you’re on the road (other than at a crossing) you should have a helmet on.

        This is where I’d like to see the laws go as it means cyclists can travel up to roughly the speed of joggers, there’s less discouragement from a quick jaunt to the shops or from families by forcing helmets on kids, yet still the safety required for roads and arsehole drivers. Plus it means slower cyclists can escape the roads at times they need to (especially if they’re working up to being bike fit) such as when going up hills and inclines on roads that have no adequate shoulder.

      1. Strange. The article has pictures of bicycle helmets and claims about the protective abilities of bicycle helmets, but from what I can see, the journal that is cited as the source is;

        Journal Reference:

        Andrew S. McIntosh, Adrian Lai. Motorcycle Helmets: Head and neck dynamics in helmeted and unhelmeted oblique impacts. Traffic Injury Prevention, 2013; : 130401122251001 DOI: 10.1080/15389588.2013.774083

        There was no mention of bicycle helmets in the abstract, and to view the entire paper requires spending money – so I’m not inclined to bother.

        It is well known that motorcycle helmet construction differs significantly from bicycle helmet construction, and are designed for far larger impacts. Motorcycle helmets also have a very hard and slippery shell that is unlikely to grip the road surface and impart rotational forces to the head – unlike a typical bicycle helmet.

      2. That whole study was about bicycle helmets Jimbo. Read the words they tested bicycle helmets, you clutching at straws there fella. Maybe one too many head knocks for you

      3. Tommy, you missed the bit where I acknowledged the _article_ is about bicycle helmets.

        The problem is the cited journal reference is _not_ about bicycle helmets. How can anyone consider the claims in the article as valid or not, without access to details of the study that produced them?

        You also missed the bit where I said I’ve never damaged a helmet or my head in a bike crash, so no knocks to the head at all for me. You however are displaying symptoms…

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