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  1. #1
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    Here's to the Helmet

    I posted a thread awhile back about getting to ride with my big brother, who had just taken up the sport and was using an 80's bike. When we rode together he complained about his seat and, coincidentally, I had an extra Serfas RX with me which I gave him for his older bike. He offered to pay but I told him I would give it to him if he would just start wearing a helmet, and to get down to WalMart and get one the next time he was in town. Even though the roads he rides are very, very remote and almost no traffic, I just wanted him to know he needed it.

    I got an email from him. Last week he was on one of his rides (he's now up to 40 miles) and went to turn around at the out-and-back point on a deserted blacktop. He said he's not sure what happened but the tires came out from under him....bruised shoulder...skinned knuckles, and his head bounced off the pavement....BREAKING THE HELMET without even giving him a headache.

    So...here's to the bike helmet.
    Most economic fallacies derive from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another.....Milton Friedman

  2. #2
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    1+ for giving your helmet to your bro. I fell last year when I touched wheels with a bud. BOOM! Helmet first. No concussion or lasting damage.

    Glad I had it on.

    Tyson
    Cushing, Oklahoma

  3. #3
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    Sorry to spoil you guy's stories but think of this - the PADDING in the helmet doesn't activate until it gets to almost 300 gees. That is a near death experience. If the helmet broke and your brother wasn't unconcious it was a helmet failure and not a life saving experience.

    There IS a chance that a helmet can save your life but it's about as likely as you winning the lottery without buying a ticket.

    Nothing and I mean NOTHING will save you from being a stupid or careless rider. Surely accidents will happen but if you're careful those accidents will likely not be life threatening.

    Remember that WAY BACK when Effective Cycling by John Forester was first published he noted that MOST serious accidents occurred to new riders and although experienced riders have MORE ACCIDENTS these accidents were far less serious.

    I'm very glad that your brother wasn't injured but please don't pretend that it was the helmet and not just human reflexes and some luck. In the last year there have been four cyclists killed in stupid accidents in the San Francisco bay area and all four were wearing their helmets. As have been the great majority of those who suffered serious and fatal accidents all over the USA.

    Now all this said, remember that the human body is designed to protect itself pretty much instinctively and that things occur on a bicycle at about the same speed they occur while walking. This means that in MOST cases you can protect your own body quite effectively simply with your natural reflexes.

    This is why the overwhelming majority (90%+) of fatal and serious accident occur in vehicular collisions.

    Again let me make it CLEAR - nothing will protect you from your own incautious stupidity. Please learn the proper way to act on a bicycle and in traffic and that will be 1000 times more effective than a helmet.

    But of course if you want to wear a helmet as part of that REAL(tm) cyclist uniform that's entirely up to you. I know I do for that reason solely.

  4. #4
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Came off the bike a few years ago on black ice. So not my fault unless you count the fact that I was riding a bike. Couple of miles later stopped because I had a headache. Took the helmet off and it was worn away by the tarmac, and was half way through the foam. At the time of the off- I did not even realise I had hit my head. Then a fast downhill offroad and Off. Long struggle to get back home with a rip in the knee and a very sore leg. I had hit the ground hard and rolled. Back home took the helmet off and a big crack right the way through on one side.

    Perhaps as helmets are so useless- I just ought to save myself the $100 I pay for them every year or so when I damage them.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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  5. #5
    Senior Member gear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclintom
    Sorry to spoil you guy's stories but think of this - the PADDING in the helmet doesn't activate until it gets to almost 300 gees. That is a near death experience. If the helmet broke and your brother wasn't unconcious it was a helmet failure and not a life saving experience.

    There IS a chance that a helmet can save your life but it's about as likely as you winning the lottery without buying a ticket.
    Maybe the helmet in this story protected his brother from having a head wound. Isn't that a good enough reason for wearing one?

  6. #6
    370H-SSV-0773H linux_author's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclintom
    Sorry to spoil you guy's stories but think of this - the PADDING in the helmet doesn't activate until it gets to almost 300 gees. That is a near death experience. If the helmet broke and your brother wasn't unconcious it was a helmet failure and not a life saving experience.
    - i'm sorry, but the above doesn't make sense to me... could you explain about padding activation?

    - the way i look at it is if the helmet breaks it has done its job... almost same thing happened to me... hit a bump, went down, had three contact points on the ground - one was the right side of my head - and the two-week-old helmet's interior foam split four ways at the contact point...

  7. #7
    Team Poseur Metric Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gear
    Maybe the helmet in this story protected his brother from having a head wound. Isn't that a good enough reason for wearing one?
    +1
    The thoughts and opinions expressed by this poster are his own and should not be misconstrued as gospel. They are and were not meant to inflame, enrage or otherwise tick anyone off, usually.
    2012 Ti Motobecane with SRAM Red 2013~2008 Trek Madone with SRAM Force~2010 Specialized Hardrock 29er~2006 Trek 4300~Garmin 800 CTR
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  8. #8
    bobkat
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    Wonder where you get that number - 300 G's?? In an automobile or aircraft crash, at 20 G's your aorta (the big artery coming off your heart) will tear away from the back attatchment on the back of your chest. This is a well known physiological fact.
    300G's???? I'd love to see the references on that one. Not saying you are wrong, but just curious.

  9. #9
    Code Warrior mwrobe1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobkat
    300G's???? I'd love to see the references on that one. Not saying you are wrong, but just curious.
    He must be in constant "go Lance on 'em" mode and have it dialed in at 400 watts like all the time. Dude's totally hardcore!
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclintom
    .......... the PADDING in the helmet doesn't activate until it gets to almost 300 gees. .,,,-
    ...............and that things occur on a bicycle at about the same speed they occur while walking....
    .........................
    .....There IS a chance that a helmet can save your life but it's about as likely as you winning the lottery without buying a ticket..................................
    .
    What do mean by "activate"? Its not an airbag. The padding in a helmet is a form of passive restraint. I have no test data but feel that it certainly that it takes less than 300 times the wieght of the foam to break the foam.


    300 G? Where did that figure come from? Is that published in some literature?

    My experience from flying is that 300G (or 50 times more force than a tightly wrapped turn in an F-16) would push your eyeballs through your toenails and you would be inside out. This would occur after you blacked out.

    Also, a 10 or 15 mph accident on a bike (not that he was going that fast) is considerably faster than walking. I say from experience....GOOD LUCK on protecting youself with your arms or whatever if you go off the bike at that speed. You can't, unless you are able to catch 200+ pounds with your arms, because that is the effect of the sudden stop (i.e. the G forces).

    Here's hoping you have safe bicycling.
    Last edited by Monoborracho; 10-10-06 at 07:03 AM.
    Most economic fallacies derive from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another.....Milton Friedman

  11. #11
    Coyote!
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    Helmets. . .defensive cycling. . .lights. . .bright clothing. . .maintenance.

    Folks, there's NO SINGLE technology or behavior that's gonna' make cycling [or life] risk free. Every time we throw a leg over the seat we're throwing the dice. Every smart action we take only reduces the chance of throwing snake-eyes. Yeah, my helmet can't defend against many easily conceivable decelerations but I'll keep wearing it. . .it adds a few 'points' in my favor in the dice throw and THAT'S all I can ask of a Forgiving God [or a Cold Universe or Fate or Entropy].

    300 Gs!! Holy-Moley!! I can't think of anything in my immediate environment that would generate that acceleration. 'Course, I don't get out like I used to.

  12. #12
    Recovering Retro-grouch CRUM's Avatar
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    Back in the mid 80's I started wearing a helmet for two reasons. One, my crude and self taught off road skills often caused unplanned exits from the trails and branches would catch my head and glasses. Two, my wife insisted. She was fed up with me cutting my head open.

    Since then, as my skills increased so did my need to test those skills. Overall, I guess I have destroyed 6 or 7 helmets. The last one not a month ago when I went off an 8 foot high ledge attempting a technical climb on some rocks. A pointy rock put a major indent in my helmet just above my temple. I am not sure if I hit 300 Gees, but I know had I not had the helmet on, the abrupt smack that crossed my eyes anyway would have been way more serious.

    So for all those folks out there blessed with the coordination of Gayle Sayers, be my guest, don't wear a helmet. But being the klutz that I constantly prove I am, helmets are just one more thing to help me make it to my next birthday. Even if they don't work, they seem to carry good karma. And that's all that matters.
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  13. #13
    Resident Old Fart Olebiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclintom
    If the helmet broke and your brother wasn't unconcious it was a helmet failure and not a life saving experience.
    Go back and read to original post. He did not claim that the helmet saved his brother's life.

    In thirty+ years of riding I have bounced my head off the pavement twice. Both times I was glad to have on a helmet if only to prevent scalp abrasions. I think that most of us are aware that a helmet is not going to save you from death in a major altercation with a motor vehicle.
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  14. #14
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Just checked my helmet and guess what- Another $100 down the drain. Don't know where I hit it but similar to crum- I have either hit a rock or the woodpeckers have been having a go- Small hole in the outer casing and inside- a nice bump of loose foam.

    Luckily I keep a spare helmet so I may have enough time to look around the shops for a bargain- but Time to upset the LBS again as it takes me about a hour to sort the one I want out of all the stock in the shop. And he carries a lot of helmets.
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  15. #15
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    The first (or second) time my son rode a bike with hand operated brakes, he grabbed a big handful of the front brake. He was going sloe enough that the front wheel stopped. He and the bike pivoted around the front axel, in slow motion. He landed on the top of his head. He was wearing a helmet, he got up laughing. I needed a defibulator.

  16. #16
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    cyclintom is a shill for the anti-helmet crowd. His figures are rubbish, and even if accurate, have been selectively quoted to support a case that doesn't stand up. There are enough robust anecdotes about the effectiveness of helmets in preventing injury and death to discount this sort of garbage. Interestingly, I see few testimonials from people who crash without a helmet on and suffer head trauma -- because the person has a head or brain injury, becomes incapacitated, or dies as a result.

    It is well known that a force of sufficient magnitude will cause overwhelming trauma (car hitting a cyclist or pedestrian at speed or even another car) and no amount of protection will help prevent that trauma. But helmets aren't designed to be helpful in those situation, because nothing is. Even seatbelts and airbags are useless if the magnitude of force in a car crash is great enough.

    Essentially, helmets serve the valuable function of preventing minor, mild, severe and fatal head traumas at the speeds most cyclists are likely to crash at (often very slow ones at that). Heck, there have been enough cases of people dying outside pubs in brawls after being pushed over and their heads hitting the gutter or pavement to illustrate that low-speed head trauma can be fatal.

    Perhaps people like cyclintom should declare at the top of their posts that they are anti-compulsory wearing of helmets so we can all understand where they are coming from.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  17. #17
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    Last month, while completing a forty mile ride, I was cruising down a one mile 5% hill going about 25mph, when I hit a baseball size rock. I was launched over the bars and landed on my left side and back. My head hit the ground so hard that one of my front tooth fillings was knocked out. The back of my helmet was shredded and split almost exactly in the center rear. Lots of road rash but thats it. I am "certain" that had I not been wearing a helmet, I would have cracked my head open on the asphalt. I have that helmet sitting in my office here at home. It didn't seem like much when I was wearing it, but it is my friend for life now.

  18. #18
    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    I wear a helmet because it helps me keep my thoughts contained.....


    Sorry, a pretty lame attempt at humor. I do wear a helmet, and I hope I never need to find out if it protects me or not. I am pretty simplistic in my evalution of the situation too. I figure I'd rather take the chance that the helmet might work than the chance that I'd be OK without one in an accident like the one described above. AND... on that note.... I'm glad your brother did not have a head injury with his fall.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member Cassave's Avatar
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    Regarding all the talk about 300 g's. It's from the Snell B-90A B-90C spec.

    The spec states, quote "E4.4 Impact Test Interpretation
    The peak acceleration of the headform shall not exceed 300 G's for any valid test
    impact. Similarly, the helmet's protective structures shall remain intact throughout the
    testing. If, the Foundation's technical personnel conclude that the headgear has been
    compromised by breakage, the sample shall be rejected."

    That means that the compressability and modulus (stiffness) of the foam lining cannot be to so stiff that
    the headform (the buck placed inside the helmet) sees a negative acceleration greater than 300 g's.
    Really compliant foam will crush further under the impact force and slow the headform at a slower rate, meaning lower g's for a longer duration. The 300 number is the maximum that the test allows.
    The test requires an impact force of 100 joules, equivalent to a 2.2m drop of a 5kg headform. That's dropping a weight of almost 5 lbs. from a height of 7 1/4 feet.

  20. #20
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    300G is a considerable amount of force. The foam inside a helmet is design to crush to slow down the deceleration process. Part of that process includes crushing of the foam structure, and in many cases, disintegration of the foam.

    If anyone (except the hardcore disbelievers) has any doubts whatsoever about the effectiveness of this, do what I did regularly with kids -- get two watermelons about the size of a human head. Dress one in a helmet; leave the other bare; funny faces are optional. Lift both to chest height and with the helmet pointing towards the ground. Drop. The result is pretty dramatic, including the spread of red bits all over the place. Guess which one the red bits come from.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Joe1946's Avatar
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    Anyone who thinks hitting your head with or without a helmet on the pavement is the same does not need a helmet since there is nothing in there to protect.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by gear
    Maybe the helmet in this story protected his brother from having a head wound. Isn't that a good enough reason for wearing one?
    The only good reason to wear a helmet is because you WANT to wear one. Never should you believe that it gives you even so much as an edge because the advantage of a helmet is so slight that about all they're good for is saving your head from minor wounds. If you treat a helmet like that you're not likely to take more chances than a helmet can make up for - a practice that's commonly known as "risk compensation".

    Let's make this clear - I'm NOT against helmets. I'm against the phoney practice of falling off of your bike and then telling everyone that your life was saved by your helmet when you should be ashamed that you were too stupid to stay on two wheels.

    Very few accidents are truely accidents and it's time that we stop excusing the nitwit who rides down a hill at 45 mph from bright sunlight into shade and then can't spot the pothole in the road at that speed and lighting conditions.

    Furthermore there are sorts of sociological problems being caused by helmets. Motorists tend to think of cyclists wearing helmets as "professional" or at the very least competent. They give helmeted cyclists less room when passing. All it takes is a bump, narrowing shoulder or flat at the wrong time and now you're MORE likely to have a fatal accident because of this silly interaction with traffic.

    Children have pretty much stopped riding bicycles because more than half the states have helmet laws for minors and there's nowhere to store a helmet in schools anymore (not that there were any when I was a kid either but we also didn't have a 40 lb book load to carry back and forth every day either).

    Locally almost every kid rode a bike to school up until the first day the helmet law came into effect. Now there are NO bicycles at any of the local schools in my area where once there were hundreds.

    There are a couple of studies that report that helmeted cyclists apparently take more chances that non-helmeted cyclists or that helmets add so much to the size and weight of the head that they CAUSE more injuries than they mediate. (R.C. Wasserman, "Bicyclists, Helmets and Head Injuries: A Rider Based Study of Helmet Use and Effectiveness". AJPH September 1988, Vol 78, No 9, pp 1220-21., M.M Dorsch, "Do bicycle safety helmets reduce severity of head injury in real crashes". Accid. Anal. & Prev. Vol 19, pp183-190, 1990.)

    Bottom line - helmets are nothing more than an item of apparel. They MIGHT save you from a relatively minor injury but there are serious question that they might not cause at least as many injuries as they prevent.

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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by linux_author
    - i'm sorry, but the above doesn't make sense to me... could you explain about padding activation? - the way i look at it is if the helmet breaks it has done its job
    You're quite wrong. While a helmet does absorb some energy in order to fracture it is a tiny portion of the energy that would be absorbed if the foam were compressed instead of fractured.

    There are a lot more things going on with helmets that you'd not like at all if you understood the science behind it.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cassave
    Regarding all the talk about 300 g's. It's from the Snell B-90A B-90C spec.

    The spec states, quote "E4.4 Impact Test Interpretation
    The peak acceleration of the headform shall not exceed 300 G's for any valid test
    impact. Similarly, the helmet's protective structures shall remain intact throughout the
    testing. If, the Foundation's technical personnel conclude that the headgear has been
    compromised by breakage, the sample shall be rejected."
    Thanks for the reference.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cassave
    That means that the compressability and modulus (stiffness) of the foam lining cannot be to so stiff that the headform (the buck placed inside the helmet) sees a negative acceleration greater than 300 g's. Really compliant foam will crush further under the impact force and slow the headform at a slower rate, meaning lower g's for a longer duration. The 300 number is the maximum that the test allows.
    The test requires an impact force of 100 joules, equivalent to a 2.2m drop of a 5kg headform. That's dropping a weight of almost 5 lbs. from a height of 7 1/4 feet.
    Bad math - 5 kgrams is 11 lbs. That's the weight of a head that has been disconnected from the body.

    For the record, helmets are designed THE VERY BEST that materials science allows. The limitations is not in the helmet companies (though indeed there are production standards at some companies which make even poor standards worse) but in the design of the human body. If you make helmets larger or heavier they cause more head injuries. Remember, a light helmet is about 5% of the "standard" head weight. That is a LOT of weight. Now think of a half pound of helmet weight at 300 gees - Duhh - that's 150 lbs - do you suppose your neck could support that or maybe you might tend to let your head droop a bit more than usual?

    Anyway it's sort of an academic exercise. There have been sufficient well managed studies that demonstrate that helmets do nothing measureable. Perhaps they help in one sort of accident while hindering in others. Surely the numbers haven't changed for cyclists injured and that should tell you something.

    AGAIN - I'm not saying not to wear a helmet. I'm saying that putting phoney faith in a myth helps no one.

  25. #25
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    I continue to be entertained by people who still reference Australian "research" material gathered 20 years ago when the anti-compulsory helmet-wearing lobby was in full swing, both politically and with its distortions to suit its ends. Bruce Robinson is one who steadfastly continued to grasp at wafts of information that he thought could support his claims. There were all sorts of suggestions, from the notion that riders wearing a helmet were encouraged to take unnecessary risks, and therefore were at greater risk of injury than if they didn't wear a helmet, to saying that more facial injuries resulted from wearing helmets (what they didn't say was that superficial facial injury might be far more acceptable than brain injury). And of course, the old saw -- that a helmet won't help when you're hit by a car at speed. Well duh... being helmetless won't either!!!

    Let's get it clear. The Australian "data" is outdated. The anti-complusory helmet-wearing lobby lost its battle to prevent compulsory helmet-wearing laws to be introduced Australia-wide. The medical experts who see and treat injuries in hospitals advised the government, and knew better than the anti-compulsory lobby. The motivation behind the "data" manipulation by the lobby was simply because these people didn't want to be told by government what to do when riding a bicycle. The whole political cycle is, I believe, being repeated in Europe now... so the old, outdated, irrelevant data has resurfaced as gospel.

    There *are* people out there who need protecting from themselves. Frankly, I couldn't care less whether there is compulsory wearing or not -- I like the protection and it has worked several times for me. And as for the swipe about falling off and riding competence -- if you haven't fallen off your bike, then you haven't ridden very much. Or your day is coming and I just hope you can tell us about it.
    Last edited by Rowan; 10-10-06 at 09:51 PM.
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