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Helmets or no.

Posted: Fri Jun 01, 2018 4:29 pm
by Robin ... SApp_Other

The attached video gives an insight into the “real” and also “perceived” dangers of not wearing a cycle helmet. It is an important subject and one that some people have a very strong opinion on. Personally, I think the decision to wear one should be down to the individual and whether they think it makes riding a bicycle safer for them. For myself, there are some occasions when I simply wouldn't bother wearing one but, equally, times when I wouldn't consider riding without one. I wear my hard builders hat when I think there is a danger of being hit on the head by a falling object but not when I'm putting up a shelf!
I think it is fine if the organisers of mass participation events insist that all riders wear a helmet. It's your choice whether you ride the event or not. However, Audax UK don't insist riders have to wear a helmet and I suspect that is to some extent based on the assumption that most audax riders are experienced cyclists. And this is an important point - why should cyclists often with ten, twenty, thirty or forty years experience be dictated to by less experienced riders, who have only a perceived idea about the dangers of cycling? Robin

Re: Helmets or no.

Posted: Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:58 pm
by Amanda
Whilst I do agree that it is down to each individual to decide if they are going to wear a helmet or not, I also think that when we cycle as part of a group we could consider others we cycle with.
I have experience of having a bang to the head and was lucky enough to be with the group when I hit the deck. I was really well looked after and thankfully there are no lasting effects. Had I not been wearing a helmet that day, the group would have a more challenging job to take care of me while I waited 50 mins for paramedics. I would not want to be out in the position of having to deal with a head injury while on a club ride.
There is evidence to say that wearing a helmet will help prevent major trauma and reduce fracture, especially in cyclists who’ve had a few pints ... 7518301301

When evaluating the risk, ask yourself how you would feel if you had to live with a head Injury and how it might effect those around you? Would you let your child, grandchild cycle without a helmet?

Re: Helmets or no.

Posted: Thu Jun 07, 2018 9:29 am
by Richard1
As some of you will recall, I was very much a non-helmet-wearer in the past and that was in spite of more than one 'head-banger' at the time - even resulting in more than one visit to Treliske! Eventually I saw sense and have now not gone out on the bike without one. You will recall my last encounter with black ice near No-Man's Land in 2014 - head-butting the road and splitting my helmet. Without the helmet it could well have been curtains! Yes, I still think it is up to the individual rider to make the choice and take responsibility for their own safety - but think of the consequences if you make the wrong choice. I have learnt painfully that wearing a helmet really is the right thing to do! R75

Re: Helmets or no?

Posted: Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:15 pm
by Robin
Thank you Amanda and Richard for joining the discussion. You both agree that wearing or not wearing a helmet should be down to the individual - but then you both add a caveat which, irresistibly, could be expressed as “ be it on your own head”! This does introduce both fear and guilt into the discussion and neither are helpful in encouraging people to take up cycling. Undeniably there are dangers in cycling and protecting ourselves against the consequences of these is just one step we can take - but avoiding the consequences is far more important. So, how good are your brakes and can they stop you effectively in the wet? How good are your tyres and are they the right pressure? Can you drink from your water bottle whilst riding or look behind you to see if all is clear without using a mirror? ( Learner car drivers are encouraged to do this irrespective of having rear and side mirrors ). Can you ride very slowly to arrive at a junction without unclipping or ride with no hands? Riding with no hands indicates you have good balance and more importantly will tell you whether the bike is straight and true and hasn't been involved in an accident. The list goes on and helmets will be there but they are low priority compared to other factors affecting our safety.

Your two accounts and that of James Cracknell in the film illustrate how wearing a helmet can help minimise an injury – or save a life in the case of the latter. However, just by being on a road with speeding traffic greatly increases the likelihood of a fatal accident. James Cracknell was trying to cross from New York to Los Angeles in 16 days by cycling, rowing, running and swimming and he was prepared to compromise his safety by riding on a major road with fast moving traffic in order to do this. I cannot conceive there would ever be an occasion where I would willingly be on the same stretch of road as a lorry travelling at 70 mph.

Should our grandchildren wear helmets? Well, I suppose my answer would immediately be yes - until I think about it and realise that they don't when they're with Gill and myself. Most of this cycling is done on our lawn but occasionally we take them along the private lane opposite our house, again without helmets. We remain together and go at a fast walking pace. However when they go as a family to the tramway beyond Devoran they wear helmets. You probably wouldn't get them to ride without one – it's part and parcel of “proper cycling”. Our son wouldn't dream of having them ride on the lanes without them though he himself rides the short distance to work without one. It's how you assess the risk – we want people to enjoy the cycling experience without guilt or fear and it's encouraging that not only Audax UK but also Cycle UK ( CTC ) remain neutral on the subject. The current Cycle UK magazine cover shows three people clearly enjoying a ride – and not one wearing a helmet!

Re: Helmets or no.

Posted: Tue Jun 19, 2018 2:22 pm
by Dean
I would go as far as saying that helmets should be worn on club rides. I think the club has a duty of care to members and should insist that helmets are worn. Amanda’s points are very valid. The risk of falling off is greater when riding together. No matter how experienced you are, me being just in front of you, or behind you if I am on my tricross in the wet and in dolly daydream mode, puts you at greater risk than if you are on your own. Whilst a helmet will not help if I am hit by a bus, I have not been hit by a bus but I have fallen off my bike several times and banged my head in the process. Helmets are cheap and replaceable. I do not wear a helmet when walking or running as my risk assessment suggests that although I am almost as likely to fall over I am less likely to hit my head in such a manner as to suffer serious injury. I also wear gloves with padded palms. These are not likely to help much if hit by a bus.

Re: Helmets or no.

Posted: Thu Jun 21, 2018 9:06 am
by Robin
Welcome to the discussion Dean. I think the more people who contribute to this forum the better and hopefully we can get to the bottom of why it is that helmets have become such a high priority for some people in the cycle safety debate.
I agree that as a club, given the type of cycling we do, which is predominately distance riding on road bikes and usually between 40 and 60 miles, yes, we should encourage people to wear helmets. The head down position, often at speed, immediately makes the head more vulnerable and so, depending on how safe you feel in that position, you may want to take precautions. Wearing a helmet might be one of them. But I suggest that far, far more importantly is how well equipped your bike is and what is your ability to control it.
The best investment you can make regarding safety is perhaps not the plastic of the helmet but the rubber in both your tyres and brake blocks. You will need to spend around £20 if you are going to buy a set of brake blocks that are reliably going to stop you effectively in all weathers.
Perversely, the more we spend on tyres the less durable they are. Cyclists are famous for buying top end components without fully understanding why they're doing it. Really grippy racing tyres keep you safe cornering at high speed – but they don't last very long. Continental 4000's are the favoured choice of many and are a good all round tyre but quite expensive. However, due to the softer compound ( which gives you grip ) they don't wear brilliantly and pick up small fragments of sharp stone. These fragments need to be picked out regularly to prevent them working through the rubber and causing a puncture. Striving for Strava can cost! I have now put Schwalbe Marathon Plus 28's on my Thorn audax/winter bike. The two tyres weigh more than some people's complete frames and the whole bike is in excess of 35lbs but I can usually keep ahead of the bunch because I can get aero and I go to the gym!

Anyway I digress.
You make the point Dean that we have a duty of care to all those who ride with us. And I couldn't agree with you more but, if I am understanding you correctly, you go on to say that one of the possible dangers would be you running into us because you are in “dolly daydream mode” and on your Tricross which is not very good at stopping in the wet? But surely your duty of care is to limit the danger you are to other cyclists by paying attention and also maintaining your bike? As I have said I may have misunderstood you.
So, far more importantly for someone who wishes to ride with us is not, 'have they a helmet' but 'is their bike roadworthy' and could it possibly be a danger to the rest of us. Over the years I have learnt to carry tools and spares in order to carry out work on the bikes of the various people who've pitched up to ride with us. Generally I'd say club members do have their bikes serviced regularly and also attend to wear and tear issues. All of which are fundamentally important.

So why, if I mostly wear a helmet anyway, should I keep banging on about this. It's because I'm saddened by the enmity of so many people, cyclists and none cyclists, who simply can't imagine a world other than the one they perceive. I suggest taking a sideways look at life and try and observe that others are not governed by the fears that restrict themselves. Ask Danny Macaskill to hop up onto, and ride along, a sea wall on his road bike and he probably wouldn't feel the need to wear a helmet. Ask him to perform a reverse flip off the same wall onto the beach below and he probably would!

I regularly ride at the velodrome in large groups and on bikes with neither gears nor brakes. Very, very rarely are there any problems and usually, if there is a touching of wheels, it is because of a momentary lapse of concentration. Fish swimming in shoals, or the spectacular murmurations of starlings, are both wonderful examples of animals moving in spacial harmony. Mix a flock of pigeons with the starlings and there's confusion. Oil and water, they simply don't mix. Neither do cars and bicycles and wherever possible I think they should be kept apart. We live in a cycling commuter bubble here in Cornwall and “suicide alley” is probably the most dangerous stretch of road on a daily commute from Falmouth to Truro. However, it's hardly the war that is waged daily with traffic in the country's larger towns and cities. Bikes need to be separated from traffic wherever possible.
This is where we should all be getting vocal.

Re: Helmets or no.

Posted: Fri Jun 29, 2018 9:35 am
by Dean
You might expect that there would be a touch of levity in my posts, Robin, but rim brakes are not as good as disc brakes and tricross brakes are worse than most. That is the reason I always ride at the back, well behind, out of the way. Perhaps I should in fact ride at the front?
You mention the velodrome but didn’t add that you wouldn’t be allowed on the track without your helmet.
Of course everyone should ensure that their bike is safe and well maintained but even then, with good grippy tyres and excellent fitness, there are times when, I believe, riders have been known to run out of road.

Re: Helmets or no.

Posted: Sat Jun 30, 2018 9:01 pm
by Adrian
I was always unsure about wearing a helmet, although I did wear one, until I tried it out on the Tarmac although I was knocked out for a while there was no lasting damage to my head. From then on I've always worn one, if I didn't Theresa would kill me. I must admit to taking it off when hot and going up hill but put it on again for when the road gets faster again.

It's a matter of choice but you have to think about those that love you as well.

Re: Helmets or no.

Posted: Sun Aug 26, 2018 5:05 pm
by Robin
I have a huge amount of respect for Geraint Thomas. He's a popular winner of the Tour de France, both with the fans and within the peloton. His win is good for the tour, cycling generally and, most of all, for Wales who've now renamed the Velodrome in Newport, “ The Geraint Thomas National Velodrome of Wales”. “G Force” might have been a snappier alternative.
Now he's somehow got drawn into the cycle helmet debate! (
I wish he'd consulted Chris Boardman first. Geraint is a professional cyclist who has raced a large part of his life and from a very early age – but he probably hasn't had time for a great deal of social cycling. I think we can all agree, when racing, cyclists should always wear a helmet. But for him to get involved like this is no different to Lewis Hamilton suggesting we should all wear helmets when travelling in a car. In fact there's probably more statistical evidence to indicate that doing so decreases the likelihood of severe head injury, in the event of an accident, than on a bike.
Without wandering too far from the topic, it's worth reflecting why we have accidents in cars at all. In time, driver-less cars will illustrate how safe using private transport can be. Unfortunately it is unlikely to be embraced by everyone as driving a car is seen by many as liberating, an expression of our individuality, giving us treasured anonymity, cocooned in our own sealed capsule. This is a theme often promoted by the car manufacturers in their advertising. Powerful, all terrain vehicles are seen descending mountain scree or are driven on trails through a National Park when all they'll probably ever do in reality is “safely” deliver a few kids to school. Which is surely one reason why we have cars – to move people safely from A to B. Aged 9 I rode to primary school on my bike! And without a helmet. It's a surprise I ever reached adulthood.
Undoubtedly there are safety risks associated with riding a bike, as there are with nearly every other aspect of our daily lives, but the health benefits of cycling are so great it would be irresponsible to deter people from taking it up by “pedalling” a myth about it's dangers.

Re: Helmets or no.

Posted: Wed Aug 29, 2018 8:41 pm
by Dean
I was surprised, when visiting Amsterdam earlier this summer, to see that very few cyclists wore helmets. Segregated from motorists they were safe from collision with 4+ wheel vehicles but with heavy, two way cycle traffic, which included light motorcycles, and with a multitude of speeds, types of bicycle and apparent degrees of attention, I would think that the risk of coming a cropper was as high, if not higher than my current cycling experiences. I don’t know what the facts are about injury rates amongst cyclists accidents not involving motor vehicles either here or in the Netherlands but I think I would still be unhappy riding without my helmet.