06 April 2012

From A Hairnet To A Tortoise Shell

How many of you rode "leather hairnets"?  

I never did, and never had any wish to do so.  I never saw the point of them.  

Now, how many of you rode this helmet?:

If you did, you remember that it was the original Bell "Tortoise Shell."  Actually, I'm not sure that was the actual model name, but that's what everybody (at least, everybody I knew) called it.

When it was introduced in 1975, it was as much an advance over the leather hairnet as a Commodore computer was over an abacus or a slide rule.   I finally started riding with a Bell about seven or eight years after it was first introduced.  My mother gave it to me.  

A few years later, I replaced it with another Bell.  By then, the "Tortoiseshell" seemed like a dinosaur:  My new Bell had more ventilation, was lighter in weight and offered even more protection than my old helmet.

And, most important ;-), it came in a dazzling array of colors:  black, yellow, red, blue and white.  The original Bell was the photograph negative of the Model T:  You could have it in any color you wanted, as long as it was white.

Believe it or not, every once in a while I see someone riding an original Bell.  They were indeed well-made.  The thing is, I get sweaty.  Plus, if I'm going to ride more than a couple of hours, the weight of the helmet matters.

Still, the original Bell helmet is one of bicycling's evolutionary "leaps," along with Mavic's hook-bead rims, the slant-parallelogram derailleur and sealed bearings.

1 comment:

  1. I had a hairnet. I don't recall ever thinking it had any safety value. Had one of those white jobs, too.