Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Are Helmets Useful?

It's come up a few times and from what I can tell the basic answer is, meh. Even wikipedia's entry seems pretty ambivalent about their use. There are a few problems. It's almost impossible to build a helmet thats going to provide serious protection while still allowing enough ventilation so you don't overheat your noggin. Another problem is the testing method which makes it so the only way a helmet will pass is if the foam is very hard, which means that your head deforms before the foam. If the foam doesn't deform then it defeats the point of a helmet. From what I read it seems like a helmet is quite good for preventing scrapes and even serious skin damage. The problem is they don't seem to be effective at preventing life threatening injuries. Plus they actually increase the risk of rotational injuries. You don't want your brain to twist inside of your head, its very bad.

To be honest though I'm biased. I hate wearing a helmet, it's uncomfortable and goofy looking. I do my best to ride safely which I think provides far far more security than any lil chunk of foam and plastic can provide.


John Morales said...


I don't have a car license, but have been riding (road-bikes) for over 30 years. On two occasions my helmet has saved my cranium from (probable) fracture, though I still got a bad headache.

I've also had an incident where my visor (I wear full-face helmets) was nastily abraded, and can only imagine what my face would've experienced, had it not been for it.

Kilgore Trout said...

You wear a full face helmet on a bike? Wow, I think I'd pass out from heat exhaustion. I've never seen a full face for a road biking, is it like a dirt/ downhill helmet? It looks like the dirt ones have some ventilation but I'd still think that would be a concern.

I'm not going to try to claim they aren't useful, and I'm sure that type of helmet is particularly safe as either dirt or downhill folks are expecting to test their helmets a lot more frequently than on the road. But like you said, and I'm happy that you admit it, it's still anecdotal. For every person who claims that a helmet saved their life theres thousands of people who have never tested their's.

I don't mean to be dismissive it's just that I'm still kind of an idiot kid at heart. I don't think I'm invincible, hell my dumb ass already hit the pavement once this summer, and given how people drive and where I ride everyday I half expect to get hit by a car at some point. But I still can't bring myself to wear a helmet. Hopefully my mind isn't changed due to a personal anecdote, or due to scrambling.

Nice to hear from a fellow cyclist, have a good one.