Forgot Helmet

Some of you might have noticed on my Twitter feed that I had a little issue on Sunday morning’s club ride. One of our A riders is recovering from a bout of sickness contracted during the middle of last week, and so posted a B-level ride on the club’s Yahoo group. The added benefit was that her ride would leave about an hour after the regular club ride, which was welcome, since the temperature was expected to be on the borderline too-cold-to-ride point.

Sure enough, when I got up to let the dog out it was only 33 degrees (1C). Luckily, it was only 6 a.m., and I had three hours to wait for some warming to set in. I had a leisurely and filling breakfast, read the paper, and then got ready to face the chill.

I was counting on it to warm up during the ride, but figured I’d still need to dress more warmly than I usually do. I added a sleeveless base layer under the t-shirt I normally wear. On my feet, I put a pair of polypropylene liner socks on under my woolies. I pulled my headband/earwarmer down around my ears, and a Headsweats doo-rag over that. Then, I got into my windbreaker and made sure I had the needed cell phone and credit card with me.

It looked like the bike wouldn’t need much in the way of prep. I’d lubed the chain the previous afternoon — when it was still warm — and only had to pump three times to bring the rear tire up to snuff. I clipped in my water bottles, started my computer, and I was off.

Yeah, it was cold. But there was a saving grace — no wind. I pedaled easily to the Starbucks where our rides start, turned into the parking lot, and rode across it to the group of cyclists that was already gathered there.

Almost in unison, a shout went up. “Your helmet, Ray!!!” I stopped, looked, and then felt my head. Oh, jeez! After all that prep time (and not even my wife to kid about it this time), I had left the house without wearing a helmet. I know it’s happened before, but always to other cyclists. Not me.

“Look,” I told the group. “I’m only a mile away. I’ll go back and get the helmet.”

“We’ll meet you up there,” said Jordan, waving his hand vaguely up the street I’d be on. I nodded, and set off.

Once I got my helmet, I figured it would be easiest to take a shortcut and try to intercept the peloton at a major intersection in the opposite direction from my house as Starbucks. It occurred to me that I wasn’t really clear what Jordan meant by “up there.” I got to the intersection, was held up by a red light, and saw no one. Hmmph, I thought. They’ve come through here already.

I turned, and headed up the bike lane along the suburban four-lane that feeds traffic into our neighborhood. Up at the t-intersection where the Walgreens is, I could still see no one. I continued on, setting out on the route I knew the group would be taking that morning.

About a mile and half farther, my cell phone rang. It was Debra.

“Where are you, Ray?” she asked.

“Approaching the parkway,” I answered.

“Oh, good grief. We’re back at the Walgreens. Janice had a flat.”

“I’ll wait for you at the turn before the parkway,” I said.

I leaned the bike up against a light pole, and waited. The day was still chilly, but the sun felt good where it hit my jacket. But only on that corner where it hit. I turned every few minutes to position a different part of myself toward the sun.

After a 15-20 minute wait, I saw them, coming up the hill toward me. It turns out they waited for me at Starbucks, and when I didn’t come back for the start of the ride, they set out. By then, I was already two miles ahead of them. “What we should have done, was ride with Ray back to his house and then start the ride from there,” said one exasperated biker.

Yeah, that would have worked. And so would remembering my helmet in the first place.


  1. says

    Never forgot my helmet, but I’ve forgotten, water bottles, locks, gloves, wallet, ect. I call it, “SOMETIMERS syndrom”, some time I remember, some time I forget! Your not alone! 😉

  2. Paul Jakma says

    Or you could have just continued on. Many millions of people seem to do just fine in the Netherlands, the overwhelming proportion of the cyclists there. Evolution has given you a reasonably tough brain helmet already.

    • says

      Yep. Somehow I rode for 35 years without using a helmet, and had no problems. But our club rides go on shoulders of high-speed highways for part of the routes, and our rule is to wear a helmet.

      • Paul Jakma says

        So according to a Canadian study, non-helmet wearers do have a 3.5× higher fatality rate than helmet wearers. However, the rate for the latter is very low, and 3.5× a very low probability is still a very low probability. The study did not look into other factors. E.g. in the Netherlands, cyclist fatalities correlate somewhat with alcohol intoxication, and CDC figures for the US also suggest a correlation. In countries with high rates of helmet use, such as the USA, alcohol intoxication likely also correlates with lack of helmet. Thus, some amount of that extra 3.5× risk in the Canadian study may well be down to alcohol intoxication, rather than the helmet. It may even be a significant amount.

        Other meta-studies, that look at injury generally, have found that overall helmets, while decreasing head injuries, seem to lead to higher rates of other injuries (facial and neck particularly).

        A study in Sheffield found that helmeted cyclists suffer from significantly closer passes than non-helmeted cyclists. Non-helmeted cyclist with the appearance of a woman gets the most room – so wear a wig. 😉 Another study in Florida, USA, using different methodology, found the same effect.

        Also, a helmet of course does not protect any other part of your body. Something to bear in mind when descending fast down hills. A collision with a motor vehicle, particularly at speed, is likely to result in injuries to many parts of the body, potentially major. Injuries to hips, internal organs, spine, etc.. can be just as life-changing, if not more, than to the head.

  3. says

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    or sublingual drops can cost upwards of $800 or more.
    yet another thing our natural metabolisms were not well equipped for.

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