The Helmet Debate. Again
On the last day of August I fell off my bike. Again.
I had driven to Sledmere to meet up with a couple of friends for a 30-mile loop. (The weather forecast was – as so often is the case – far more pessimistic than reality, but it did rain almost continually all the time we were out.) I was freewheeling down Settrington Bank when it dawned on me I was going too fast for the conditions. There is almost always a patch of gravel at the bottom of the hill and, I suppose, I had been thinking ahead to that and ignored the more immediate threat of the twisting road and its wet, greasy surface.
Last year the rear Mavic Open Pro rim on my Kinesis bike shredded on a long North York Moors descent when I had held the brakes on for too long. Perhaps with that in mind I had let the bike gain too much momentum on that hill last August rather than avoid unnecessary wear on the braking surface. (Mavic Open Pro rims are notoriously thin. And, yes, I replaced the worn-out rim with another Open Pro...)
I have been reading about the effectiveness of disc brakes found on an increasing proportion of road bikes, but the combination of my long drop Shimano BR-650 calipers and those Mavics worked well enough to lock up the rear wheel. Perhaps disc brakes offer greater modulation. Dunno...
I landed heavily on my left side. My hip seemed to take the biggest knock. I didn't have time to put out a hand to break my fall; the knuckles on my left hand were skinned and thankfully afforded some protection to the costly STI lever. I picked myself up, inspected the bike and limped across the road to pick up my water bottle and tool box that had been dislodged in the fall. I could barely walk, but finished the ride as I was less than ten miles in to a thirty mile route.
More than any other accident it did make me think about my safety on the bike. My head took quite a bang. If I hadn't worn the helmet would I have done little more damage than grazing my ear because the impact wouldn't have been so great – the thickness of the helmet might have meant my bare head wouldn't have come in to contact with the road surface? Certainly I had a sore neck – and head – for days afterwards. The right side of my neck suffered something like whiplash.
Was I going so fast because I was wearing a helmet? Without one would I have tempered my speed? I don't know, but I have come off my bike three times since upgrading to mainly Shimano 105 kit and now both shifters are badly scraped.
Anyway, since my accident the following popped up on road.cc – it was written in response to an apparent newbie and his seemingly innocent question on whether or not he or she should wear a helmet. It made me chuckle...
'Otis Bragg' wrote:
Just to save everyone else the time and effort as well as repetitive strain injury I am going to summarise the entire crux of how these responses will go:
Someone will kick off with an anecdote about how they or a friend's life was supposedly saved by wearing a helmet.
This will be followed by a post saying it isn't much use wearing one when getting driven over by a HGV.
Someone else will then link to the University of Bath research.
Following again with another anecdote where a helmet was ineffective or lead to more injury.
Now someone is going to come and call everyone else morons and telling the other posters to stop pressing for mandatory helmet wearing- despite the fact no one has done so.
Someone else will now make an observation about why car drivers or pedestrians don't have to wear them.
Mr "Stop-making -me-wear-a-helmet-despite-no one -actually-calling-for-it-to-be-law" will then quote the Australian experience before again insulting those imaginary posters no one else can see who want to make it illegal to ride without a helmet.
Someone who hasn't read the previous comments will again post a link to the University of Bath research.
A sensible post will then mention Chris Boardman but this will be ignored as the pro and anti-helmet debate hots up.
Someone makes a reference to "noddy hats".
Someone makes another sensible statement about not forcing anyone to wear one, that it should be personal choice and they choose to wear one. That will then be ignored as the rest of the posters get nasty and call into question each others moral and intellectual standing, again despite NO ONE ARGUING IT SHOULD BE COMPULSORY.
Another person again posts about making pedestrians wear helmets.
These same comments will then be repeated ad nasueum until suddenly there are hundred of posts all saying the same thing and mirroring the exact same helmet threads that seemingly appear every few days which no one then reads because once you have read one, you have read them all.
Apologies if this is flippant (and welcome to Road.cc by the way!) but do a wee search on the site and you will see what I mean.
To view the (inevitable) comments go to road.cc – remember to click on the 'All' button to read those comments in the correct sequence