Now that warmer weather has arrived in the Pioneer Valley (thank GOODNESS) , I'm seeing more and more cyclists on my regular rides. Which is a really good thing; I like it. What I don't like is seeing the ones without helmets. Frequently, we'll pass each other on a busy road or even a two-lane highway. I sometimes want to do what a well-known ride leader in the Boston area does, and point to my helmet as I pass them. Perhaps say something to put the fear of brain injury in them. What are they thinking?! Answer: They're not.
If they knew, really understood, how risky it is to ride without a helmet, and what could result, they wouldn't do it. For myself, the reality came fully home nearly 30 years ago, after a full mid-air somersault on Highway 1 in California, landing on my head, with a fully loaded touring bike coming down on top of me just for punctuation. I was fine (I was also 17), but if I hadn't been wearing the helmet... well, you know. And at the time, I was traveling only about 8 mph. So, the rule around our house is: You ride with a helmet on. Period.
There are days when I long for the wind in my hair. Yesterday, it was hot out, and the sun was blasting, and I just wanted to feel like that nine-year-old kid on the shiny red coaster again, looking for the steepest hill to fly down, just to feel the wind whistling over my scalp. I think I would be able to sense my relative speed so much more intuitively, and enjoy being on the bike that much more.
Then there's the style thing, the roadie couture. I mean, how cool would it be to get up in my sharpest kit, and then wedge on my cycling cap, brim pulled fashionably down over my brows, and go tooling around town to be the envy of all? I see guys doing the Fausto Coppi thing all the time, and I mutter to myself that they think they're just too cool to get injured. But it's just sour grapes. Let's face it; there was a lot more style in cycling before helmets became de rigeur.
So: Do you ever ride without? Under what conditions will you allow yourself that risky luxury?