Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

19 November 2015

Protecting Your Image

Over the past few years, I've noticed more cyclists--particularly of the commuting and utilitarian variety--wearing "urban" bike helmets.

Now, I get that not everybody likes the look of racing helmets.  But, in terms of aesthetics, our lids have come a long, long way from the days of the "Skid Lid" and "Turtle Shell".  Today's helmets are sleeker and better-ventilated than anything available thirty or forty years ago (save, perhaps for the "Skid Lid").  Plus, they offer at least some choice in colors.  When I got my first helmet--a "Turtle Shell", of course!--you could have it in any color you wanted as long as it was white.

If you have seen my bikes, you know that I'm not apathetic about their appearance.  You have also probably figured, by now, that I don't want to ride with a helmet that clashes terribly with my bike or clothes. 

Still, I try to be at least somewhat practical.  If I had to choose, I'd rather have a comfortable helmet (which, for me, means good ventilation above all else) than one that will get me admitted to the trendiest bike cafĂ©.  I feel the same way about the clothes I wear while riding:  while I usually ride to work in whatever I wear on the job, my skirts are usually A-line or flared and my pants are really pants, not second layers of skin.  Also, my heels are never higher than the profile of the tires I ride. ( I will let you interpret that as you will!)

Back to helmets:  Whether it's finished in matte black or covered with tweed, if it offers any kind of protection, it's still going to look like a helmet.  Thus, for the truly image-conscious, the only solution is one that isn't visible until it's doing its job.



Believe it or not, a Swedish company has created such a helmet.  Actually, the Hovding (which means "chieftain" in the native tongue) isn't really a helmet so much as it's, as the company's website proclaims, an "airbag for cyclists". 

An airbag it is--one that, when deflated, fits into a collar the cyclist wears.  (One can debate how fashionable it is.  Let's just say it's not to my tastes!)  Upon impact, the "helmet" puffs up around the cyclist's head.  Good thing:  Any cyclist who has even half as much fashion sense as I have (which may not be saying much) wouldn't want to ride his or her city's boulevards encased in such a thing.

The idea of the Hovding is, if nothing else, novel.  However, when I saw it, I had this question:  If I'm riding at, say, 40 KPH (which, believe it or not, I still do sometimes!), will the bag be deployed quickly enough?  Also, I have to wonder whether its effectiveness. affected by whether the cyclist takes a tumble on his or her side or hits something head-on.

Let me tell you: Wearing a helmet isn't so bad.  It just takes some getting used-to.  And even the least expensive helmets available today are better-ventilated, lighter and offer more protection than anything that was available when I first started covering my dome.
 

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