Helmet!

While riding with members of the Chinook Cycling club in the Tri Cities last weekend, up in the Horse Heavens Hill, we passed a “euro” (no helmet) cyclist going the other way and one of the Chinooks yelled out, “HELMET!!!” We all laughed at the instaneous response to the helmetless rider, and it also reminded me of seeing Pam slide into a curb headfirst, sitting with her in the hospital while she recovered from a concussion, and how a helmet saved her.

The guy that yelled had a serious Evel Knievel-style bollard accident last year. Cracked ribs, punctured lungs, his story about the accident reminded me of the intro to the Six Million Dollar Man. Dude’s got a right to yell at anybody about not wearing a helmet. If there’s anything that’ll cause me to blurt out a warning, besides seeing a cyclist riding on a busy, congested, blue-collar worker road instead of the more quieter road a block over or the other one with a bike lane, is no helmet.

Modern helmets are light, breezy, and stylish and there’s no reason whatsoever for not wearing them. A few years ago, the pro peloton lost one of it’s one in a freak accident at the start of the race and helmets were mandated. Check this story from the AP about a delivery truck that ran over a cyclist’s head, “leaving him only with a concussion and a mangled helmet,” and tell me how cool you are by not wearing a helmet.



15 Comments

Please explain how the “delivery truck” story shows that the helmet did anything! The helmet was crushed, so it would have only been the cyclists head holding the weight - or look at the picture more closely and it looks like it was only the back of the cycle helmet under the tyres and therefore only the helmet crushing his head and not the tyres.

There is a lot of debate whether helmets actually do help and the spec would seem to indicate they are going to be pretty useless for any serious impact and lesser impacts are ones you are just as likely to suffer when walking. 

Is there any evidence that shows helmets save lives. I would like to see solid evidence on either side, not just staements that “it is self evident”.

So what . . . you’re from the anti-helmet lobby?

No actually, though I admit I’ve probably been reading a fair number of posts from anti-helmet people.

The points are valid

- How did the helmet run over by the delivery truck do anything significant to protect the cyclist?
- My understanding is the energy absorbed by helmets is very low and so insignificant for any accident at moderate speed.

I would like to see any evidence either way - I have seen some from the anti helmet people. e.g. NZ shows no immprovement after mandatory helmet law. What other evidence is there to support or disprove?

Does the guy that yelled wear body armor when he rides?  Sounds like he needs that more than a helmet.  There’s no doubt that it would save at least one life in some accident somewhere, why doesn’t every single cyclist wear it?  How would you feel if my peleton yelled “body armor!” at you from across the road?

I wear my brain bucket most of the time, but I’ve got no illusions about it’s ability to protect me in a serious crash.  I’ve been in a few serious wrecks but, outside mountain biking, I haven’t hit my head yet.  I certainly don’t think cycling is such a dangerous activity that helmets should be mandated by law.  All that does is serve to discourage and penalize casual cyclists, for whom a light, breezy, and stylish helmet can cost 25% to 50% the cost of their bicycle.

Seeing my wife’s head bounce off a curb with a helmet on and survive with a minor concussion is all the convincing I need. As for facts and stastitics, I’ll let the experts at [BHSI](http://www.helmets.org/) speak for themselves or see the costs of [traumatic head injuries](http://www.lni.wa.gov/Safety/Research/OccHealth/Head/default.asp) explained here.

Sure, if you want to not wear a helmet and take the risk, have at it—who can forget when Lance’s team mate died during the Tour . . . would a helmet have saved him? I don’t think that’s the point. Would you both let your kids ride without helmets or even worse roller blade?

The Six Million Dollar man will probably yell at you both and you could def yell back, “body armor” or “fuck off,” but that’s not going to change anyone’s mind. As for myself, I rarely yell at anyone anymore and definitely not cars

I dunno about yelling at folks not wearing a helmet… I think that is self-indulgent. As if to say ” look at me, I know what’s best for you…Now do as I say”
I wear one; but really, it’s your brain. Do with it what you will. I think the PC’ness of ‘to helmet or not to helmet’ has gotten a bit out of control.
Do you yell at people driving cars for polluting the environment and supporting terrorism? Now there’s a behavior that affects others!
;)

People who don’t wear helmets are stupid poopies, so who cares if their little brains turn to poopy mush when they crash?

But, you know, it’s a scientific fact that helmets are useless.  Seatbelts and indoor plumbing, too. 

Right.

As far as I can see the most stringent standard is Snell B-95 (see below). And that is only a straight forward drop test. 2.2m is higher than a cyclists heads are when riding, but remember that does not allow for any additional energy e.g. from the forward motion of the bicycle.

While I fully appreciate your personal reasons for wearing a helmet (I will probably wear one to stop my wife worrying), they are personal feelings and not evidence. And so to then shout at someone who has different personal reasons/conclusions seems very lame.

The statistical evidence is not compelling from what I have seen and the technical data, would seem to suggest that it is only going to make a difference in low speed crashes, or perhaps in a very, very few cases that are right on the edge of more significant damage. And certainly not any affect on a non-impact crash e.g. truck running over you.

“The Snell Memorial Foundation sets a somewhat higher B-95 standard with a 2.2 meter drop, but most helmets with a Snell sticker meet only their earlier B-90 standard, with a 2 meter drop comparable to ASTM. Snell tests helmets independently to certify them and retests field samples.”

As I said, I may well wear one. But I don’t think they should be mandatory and you should not be yelling at those who see things differently. They are not “stupid poopies” - let everyone make their own mind up.

Me,

The intent of my post wasn’t to impinge on anyone’s personal freedom, that’s not what we do here, we’re much more zen about the sport. I also don’t yell at anyone, ‘cept maybe if they chop my wheel . . . So sure, I agree with the commenters that are saying why yell?  I don’t know if the Six Million Dollar Man always yells or if that was a on time exclusive, but at the time it was funny.

That being said, as I’ve noted in previous comments, I’ve seen serious crashes and I don’t ride anywhere at anytime without a helmet—I think motorcyclists have these same debates. In another [recent post](http://bikehugger.com/2007/05/specialized_sworks_tarmac_sl.htm), I talk about Markee and I was out training with him, back in the day, and rode into his rear wheel (didn’t know what to do at the time) and went down right on my head. Dazed for about a day, I have no doubt it wouldn’t be way more serious without a helmet.

I think this anti-helmet person just wants to make himself feel better about being crazy enough to not wear what he admits MIGHT help in a crash and to somehow make those of us who wear them feel badly about his precious freedom which, as you said, no one is trying to take away.  I thought the poster stated clearly that HE did not yell at anyone, but it seems like Mr. Antihelmet ignored that part.

The bottom line is that there are a million ways to get a head injury on a bike, and anything that might help a little is worth it if you care about your brain at all.  Personally, I care about my brain and wear a helmet accordingly.  But I would certainly never MAKE anyone who does not care about his or her brain wear one.  Of course. :)

it’s kinda funny. this whole helmet-no-helmet argument reminds me of the seatbelts-no-seatbelts argument. last i heard about that one, seatbelts = good. don’t believe me, ask a certain governor from new jersey to explain.

so we’ve got folks riding around with no helmets and some don’t even have brakes. this is nothing more than folks being macho. period. tell me how important your macho-ness is after you’ve been doored and your naked head hits an inanimate object at speed. not very important, right?

have any anti-helmet folk ever known anyone with a serious head injury? i have. no thanks! a broken arm will heal, a broken brain will not.

you want to not wear a helmet, fine. but don’t whine when something bad happens, not that you’ll be able to anyway. this is your choice.

I’m not anti helmet, I would say currently agnostic and looking for real data that shows the effectiveness of helmets. Not just anecdotes or “it’s self evident” statements.

I guess the concept “better safe than sorry” is lost on people who won’t wear helmets until it’s a scientific fact that they can save your brain? 

I repeat—I care about my brain too much to wait for such reassurance. 

And what good would such science be to a brain that has been smashed against a curb, anyway?

The call for scientific thinking is a good one. The trouble with bike helmets is that the figures don’t show that they work -  helmet laws have stopped a lot of people cycling and have done nothing for head injury rates, see Robinson DL. No clear evidence from countries that have enforced the wearing of helmets. BMJ 2006;332: 722-5.
http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/332/7543/722-a .

It appears that helmets break easily, but don’t absorb the impact, see the engineers quoted at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_helmet A bro.ken helmet has simply failed, and the widespread anecdotes on the theme of “a helmet saved my life” seem to owe more to wishful thinking than to science. The only known connection is that helmets have strangled a few young children who were wearing helmets while playing off their bicycles.

As for “a car ran over my head”, see the pro-helmet site http://www.helmets.org/smush.htm If a .car actually goes over your head, I’m sorry to say that you won’t be sitting up and praising your helmet.

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