Sunday, February 1, 2015

To Helmet or Not to Helmet, that is the Question

An interesting question was asked during the Bicycle Touring Pro webinar that I listened to this evening.  Darren Aalf is the moderator of the bicycletouringpro.com, and a listener inquired as to why he, Darren, would not wear a bicycle helmet at times since it may set a poor example for children to emulate. 

I would like to discuss this question of bike helmets.  Is it really necessary?
Thinking back to when I was a child, there were no helmet laws for children. As a matter of fact, we didn't even think about wearing a helmet. We just rode our bikes. Our parents placed little to no restrictions on where we could ride never mind thinking about us wearing a silly helmet.  Hell, back then we didn't even put seat-belts on while riding in our parents car. Our parents wanted outside, playing, having fun, and being kids.
 
We rode our two wheelers to friends' homes, to the store like the 5 and 10, or the bike shop Sally's Cyclery, or other places of childhood interest such as  the pizza shop, and the ball fields.  We even rode randomly from town to town without any thought of getting hurt or struck by a car.  We lived the life of kids and used that devil may care attitude to our advantage and explored our community, the hamlet of West Islip and nearby villages. 

When we were young teens, I can even recall a trip I made with a friends across the bridges to Fire Island.  We hung out at the beach and drank a few beers while listening to AC/DC chilling in the dunes. Never, not once, did we ever think of wearing a bicycle helmet. It was silly.Could you imagine a couple of teenagers jamming to music on their boom box riding with "protective gear"?  Not me, never.  I wanted to look cool.  And believe me, I was coll. LOL.

I did get into several accidents with my bicycle.  I ran into parked cars, flipped over the handlebars while riding in dark alley ways, and I was struck by a mail jeep too.  Not once did wearing a helmet ever enter into my mind nor my parents.  I survived all collisions including that incident with the mail jeep.  Yes, a mail jeep sent me into the air landing me abut thirty feet away from where we had banged into each other.  I was bleeding bad, the left side of my face was practically gone, and I tore a huge hole on the top of my forehead.  It was horrible.  I was admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital and stayed for three days.  Over the next several years I had surgery to open my scares on my face to remove pebbles from beneath my skin that rose to the surface.  I truly had "rocks in my head."  I was twelve years old.  I started riding again and still no one, not even my mom, ever thought about putting a helmet n my head.

So where do I fall on the helmet scale?  on a scale of 1 to 10? With 1 being not to wear a helmet and ten being to always wear a helmet, I would fall in the middle.  A solid 5.

Young children learning to ride while their dad holds the back of the bike, I say it depends on the dad, but I would say, no helmet.  Its a safe environment, and the helmet bothers kids and distracts from focusing on balance and having fun.

Young, pre-adolescent children ought to wear a helmet because they start to get less cautious and begin demonstrating their independence by doing stupid things like riding off ramps and riding with little regard for the rules of the road.  While teens and adults should make the call for themselves.  For example, if you are riding to a buddies house or to the library after school, no big deal, but if you are riding for sport, whether road racing or mountain biking, a helmet, is essential.

Helmets these days are considered cool because kids want to look like the pros and parents are over protective. But the cool is what sells.  So wear a helmet.  It may be too hot, yet its cool.  Make your momma happy too.

See you on the road.
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