Yesterday morning I put my cyclocross bike into the back of my Jeep and headed out to my favorite off-road bike trail. After I got the bike out I put my helmet on but I couldn’t get it buckled—so I took it off and noticed that one piece of the buckle was missing! I started to drive back home to get a different helmet (I have more than a few of them), but finally decided to just “ride safely” and pray I didn’t hit an oak tree at 30 MPH. Riding without a helmet made me feel like I was riding naked—or at least a lot more exposed than I’d like to be. The funny thing is that the day before I saw a graphic on Facebook that said, “Deciding to ride your bike without a helmet is a beacon of hope for those in need of new organs.” The graphic on Facebook was rather pixelated, so I decided to create a new one for your enjoyment.
Yesterday was only the second time in the past twelve years that I rode without a helmet. Last year I started to go for a ride with a young woman when the heat index was already over 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 Celsius) at 6:00 in the morning. The woman said she was not going to wear her helmet because it was just too hot, so I decided I wouldn’t wear mine either. My wife said it was OK to go without my helmet because we were both probably going to die from heat stroke anyway! Well, we survived the ride but we both ended up riding slower than normal (and not just because of the heat).
One of the reasons I don’t like riding without a helmet is because a 17 years ago our middle son nearly died in a bike crash. Even though he knew he wasn’t ever supposed to ride without a helmet he didn’t put one on because he was only going a few houses down the street. Unfortunately, just two houses away he hit a rock in and fell off the back of his bike and his head hit the pavement. I’ll spare you the details, but he suffered from multiple skull fractures and had to be airlifted to a trauma unit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He eventually made a near-perfect recovery, but the surgeon who worked on him said he would have trouble with math for the rest of his life (I guess that means he could work in the Congressional Budget Office). As a result of his accident I just don’t like to see anyone, child or adult, ride without a helmet.
By the way, when I got back to my Jeep after my “naked” ride I found the missing piece of the buckle in the grass. The only damage done by riding without my helmet was a sunburn on my forehead (before I left home I put sunscreen on my face, but not on my forehead since it was going to be covered by my helmet). According to the Snell Memorial Foundation, “95% of bicyclists killed in 2006 reportedly were not wearing helmets.”
Do you ever ride without a helmet? If so, why on earth would you do that?