H*lmets

Thought I’d treat you to an exceptionally dull summary of a post I made on YACF, pondering whether helmets offer any real benefit on a low recumbent.

As an initial disclaimer, this is not intended to sway you opinion one way of the other.  Helmet wearing on bicycles is one of (if not the) most contentious issues that comes up on every forum vaguely related to cycling.  Personally I’m not fussed.  The lack of any proper evidence as to whether there’s any benefit either way bothers me and as such for convenience if nothing else, I tend not to wear one.  As a brief summary of the prevailing opinions, wearing a helmet appears to make it:

  • more likely that you’ll hit your head in the first place
  • more likely that you’ll suffer some kind of torsional injury to your upper spine
  • less likely that in a very specific yet non-negligible scenario you’ll end up with a severe head injury
  • less likely to have abuse hurled at you by drivers and the general public
  • possibly less likely to risk contributory negligence being used against you if you are involved in an accident.

Please insert your own [citation needed] throughout.

Anyway, for low recumbents only, I believe the following arguments also apply.

In favour of the helmet there’s all the usual stuff about some protection in low speed falls, arguably less abuse from drivers, avoiding the chance of contributory negligence or similar, somewhere to mount lights/mirrors/cameras, etc

Against gets more interesting.  The main way me and my beloved will part company is me binning it with no outside assistance, in which case I’ll be neatly placed on my side.  Huge gravel rash yes, but a helmet would only serve to increase the chances of my head actually being hit (greater volume) and as I skid along the risk of bits of the helmet catching and placing a twisting load on my neck.  In addition the speed this is likely to happen at is well above that which cycle helmets have any proven benefit (generally held to be walking speed)

The other ways are going to involve some other object, probably a car.  Assuming head on, my weight is below the impact point (chainset), so the chances of me flying over the top are negligible.  No helmet benefit.  From the sides or behind is a complete lottery, but again I can’t see any huge advantage I’d receive.

Effectively the low ride position seems to add a huge lump of safety in an accident, and the helmet nothing further.

As a result, I’m currently wearing the fetching cap, and have left the helmet behind.  So far, all brain cells are accounted for…

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