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  1. #1
    Senior Member Medic Zero's Avatar
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    Helmet VS hat for touring?

    So, I religiously wear my helmet in the city (I commute via bike every day and often ride on my days off), but I'm feeling like it'd be nice to wear a hat at least part of the time while touring. Not only would better protection against the sun be good, it'd be nice to not have a helmet cinched down on my head for basically all day.

    Anyone out there wear a helmet in the city but not while touring?
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  2. #2
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    I don't wear them for either. I take a helmet sometimes on tours because: I am not adverse to wearing a helmet where it might mater and a high speed downhill during the rain, or something, sounds like a good deal for a helmet. I use a real helmet, not those ones that are made like the packaging a helmet should come in. And I sometimes go through jurisdictions where they are required, so it gets carried. I'm not anti helmet, I just don't wear them because everyone seems to think cycling is more dangerous than driving your car or something. Most of the time I wear a ballcap. My average reading is about 14 mph, and my average speed made good is about 10mph. My top speed is about 18mph when I am not on a steep downhill. I have been past by people on foot sprinting to catch the bus. Touring is not an extreme cycling sport the way I do it.

    I could see the logic to what you suggest, the illogic might be that you don't really need a helmet in the city, but it is perfectly possible that a good helmet might be important, depends a lot of the place.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Medic Zero's Avatar
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    Here in Seattle it is the law to wear a helmet and they DO give out tickets for it. Also, working in medicine for twenty years and having cyclist friends I've seen some **** that makes me want to wear a helmet in the city even if it weren't the law. Maybe even if there weren't any cars around at all just because of the odds since I ride almost every day, most days at least 15 miles.

    That said, I agree with you that in a lot of ways cycling itself isn't that dangerous. If it weren't for the cars and we were on dirt roads I don't think I'd bother with a helmet at all. Here in the PNW I always seem to be making wicked descents too. My next little bike camping trip is mostly on quiet country roads, part of it alongside rivers and sloughs so I'm thinking for once, I could do without the helm for part of my trip.
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  4. #4
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    I carry my helmet along on tour. It's comfortable in the rain and is worn whenever I find there's a risk of getting hit by some blind car driver or in other situations where it might be a good idea, like a steep decent fe. On nice country roads with almost no traffic and good overview, I usually don't wear it. Just strap it on top of the luggage than. Better carry one along than regret not carrying one when you end up on some crappy road with cars passing by at 90kmph with nowhere to go for cyclists...

  5. #5
    Senior Member Medic Zero's Avatar
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    I'm definitely going to bring it, as I have a 7 mile ride through town to get to the train station (and home on the trip back). I guess I want some reassurance that some other folks sometimes doff their head armor on tour!
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  6. #6
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    My philosophy is that if you think that a helmet is a good thing to protect your noggin then wear it all the time. With seat belts I grew up that way and never questioned or thought about it whether to click it or not. I didn't grew up with helmets and they do cause a bit more discomfort, so it's a struggle for me as well. But still wearing a helmet only in more "dangerous" situations doesn't make sense to me since in less dangerous crashes the bike helmet is much more likely to be effective (personal opinion - no scientific research done).
    One man's adventure is somebody else's boring life. These are my adventures: http://adventurelaus.blogspot.com/

  7. #7
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cbike View Post
    My philosophy is that if you think that a helmet is a good thing to protect your noggin then wear it all the time. With seat belts I grew up that way and never questioned or thought about it whether to click it or not. I didn't grew up with helmets and they do cause a bit more discomfort, so it's a struggle for me as well. But still wearing a helmet only in more "dangerous" situations doesn't make sense to me since in less dangerous crashes the bike helmet is much more likely to be effective (personal opinion - no scientific research done).
    This. As it happens I never wear a helmet because the balance of evidence (much of which, including supposedly academic studies, is very poor) indicates that the increasing use of helmets has not resulted in a significant reduction in injuries. And the incidence of head injuries to cyclists was already pretty low, anyway. But if you decide you want to wear a helmet, wear it all the time. The accident in which it is least likely to do you any good is the one in which you are hit by a car. Even the helmet manufacturers will tell you that their products are not designed to mitigate the forces involved in such crashes - the tests they have to pass merely simulate a simple fall to the ground from seven feet from a stationary position, which is radically less impact than being hit by a two-tonne vehicle at 20mph. So choosing to wear one in town but not when off-roading, say, makes little sense.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  8. #8
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    I started out wearing one all of the time on tour, but on long climbs in 100+ heat I started taking it off and wearing just a bike hat. Then I went for a few days without it on my Santa Fe Trail tour and really enjoyed the lack of a helmet. In the Sierras last year it was brutally hot and I mostly did without. On the hottest days with the most climbing I am not sure I would have made it with a helmet on. I have not yet decided what I will do on my upcoming pacific coast tour (September). Since it is unlikely to be extremely hot and the climbs are not super long, I will probably wear my helmet.

  9. #9
    the bike made me do it oneredstar's Avatar
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    I wear a helmet both in my regular city life as well as when touring. In the last year I can think of many times when I was glad I was wearing it. My helmet fits comfortably and I really do not notice it.

  10. #10
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    In general I believe helmets are a good idea. However, I do concur that switching to a hat isn't going to result in instant death, especially if you're riding at touring paces.

    That said, one option to consider is a helmet with better venting. The higher-end helmets can be a little more expensive, but you can usually get a slightly older model at a pretty good discount, e.g. via Nashbar.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Tansy's Avatar
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    My normal biking headgear is a Sunday Afternoons hat with a nice wide brim and neck protection.

    I'm a slow, cautious rider when commuting or touring. I haven't crashed or fallen off a bike since I was five years old. I have, however, had severe, horribly painful sunburn on my face and ears(right through sunscreen, too). The sunburn feels like the greater risk, most days.

    I'll be getting a helmet to wear for RAGBRAI, both to avoid comments from sneery helmet advocates, and because a helmet probably -is- actually a good idea when riding in a crazy mob. I'll keep it with me for the rest of the tour, if only to protect my melon from falling hailstones.
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  12. #12
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    Medic Zero, I've broken two helmets in crashes, in each was unconscious and suffered a concussion. It could have only been worse for me without the helmets I destroyed. The speeds were about 10 MPH for one and about 18 MPH for the other. Brain trauma can occur at very low speeds to the zero MPH of impact. The microseconds that the helmet is absorbing shock can be critically important.

    I often hear/read that bicyclists aren't traveling at the same speeds as a motorcyclist, making a helmet less important. I ride motorcycles also and one difference is when crashing a motorcycle (without running into a solid object) the rider can scrub speed by sliding, my bike crashes were suddon stops, one caused by a crack in the asphalt that my front tire fell into.

    My family and myself wear helmets, otherwise it's each to their own desires.

    Brad

    PS I have a cycling cap that fits fine under the helmet, if I need it.
    Last edited by bradtx; 07-11-11 at 08:06 AM. Reason: ps

  13. #13
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Cycling cap under the helmet , perhaps?

    hang a bandanna down the back of your neck, for protection in the sun.

    ACA used to sell a summer helmet cover to do that sun off the neck thing.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 07-11-11 at 08:01 AM.

  14. #14
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    It's probably safer on a personal basis to wear a helmet. There may be some stuff at work, like the nervousness I feel without one, that make up for it though. I don't think the risk is why people wear them. Otherwise they would wear a Bell car helmet also. In my area the stats show a 10 fold higher risk of death form head injury in a car accident, in the run of a year. Those people just haven't been shamed and brow beaten into compliance yet. The risk of head injury is minor, otherwise the helmets gladly worn wouldn't be such crap. Can I sell you a single bullet, single use body armor, any takers? My helmet is still the original Bell, before they realized selling non-helmets was a better business.

  15. #15
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    I rarely wear a helmet, but I'd take one along for those times when conditions are sketchy or when you come to troglodyte communities with goofy mandatory helmet laws.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  16. #16
    Fraser Valley Dave
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    The first few tours I made were without a helmet. I wore a baseball cap with a bandanna covering my neck. Then I read some disturbing information, similar to "bradtx's" comments and began wearing one all the time. Since then, I have seen, or know of several spills that ended with serious head injuries or death, all within town, that the experts state could have been greatly reduced had the individuals been wearing a helmet. While riding on my longest tour, in Alaska, we met a fellow that had just wiped out while going downhill. He had bad road-rash on his arms and legs, and he showed us his helmet....it was broken and caved in, but he had no injuries to his head at all. These incidents have convinced me to wear a helmet all the time, because no one knows when something is going to go wrong, even at slow speeds or in no traffic. When first getting used to clip-on's, I fell twice, once hitting my head on concrete. (I'm very glad I was wearing my helmet). For those that find helmets uncomfortable, I suggest trying different ones until you're happy. As for the sun and rain, I use a visor and/or a kerchief. (I glued velcro to my helmet)
    Last edited by Big Lew; 07-11-11 at 05:07 PM.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by bradtx View Post
    Medic Zero, I've broken two helmets in crashes, in each was unconscious and suffered a concussion.
    me too, both on tour, one when my trailer destableized me and i high-sided, one hit by a car in a small town.

    at least sign your organ donor card if you're not going to wear one, so someone can benefit from your decision.
    ...

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    at least sign your organ donor card if you're not going to wear one, so someone can benefit from your decision.
    +1. A young friend of mine who was a wrench at a local shop got hit at slow speed when a car pulled out in front of her. She hit her head on the ground. She was not wearing a helmet, suffered a closed head injury as a result and was in a coma for a while. I went to see her in the hospital after she came out of the coma but still had the breathing tube in. It was most disturbing. I almost became ill and needed a stiff drink afterwards. And I have known plenty of other people (including myself) who have hit their heads hard in falls that have had nothing to do with cars or dirt roads.

    I guess a helmet is like a life jacket. You don't need it until you need it, and when you do need it and don't have it on, it might be too late.

  19. #19
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Y'know, I'm sorry to say that I'm not finding the anecdotes -- as unfortunate as they are -- to be all that persuasive.

    First, we simply can't redo the exact same event with the exact same conditions to determine what injuries a helmet would reduce or eliminate.

    Second, helmets are very likely to protect a rider from skull fractures and abrasions, but don't mitigate concussions. Most anecdotes don't acknowledge this limitation.

    Anecdotes are also offered highly selectively (e.g. a pro-helmet person isn't likely to cite an anecdote that supports an anti-helmet position), and are statistically insignificant. Although scientific data may be somewhat unclear on this point, anecdotes are never a substitute for objective data.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    Y'know, I'm sorry to say that I'm not finding the anecdotes -- as unfortunate as they are -- to be all that persuasive.

    First, we simply can't redo the exact same event with the exact same conditions to determine what injuries a helmet would reduce or eliminate.

    Second, helmets are very likely to protect a rider from skull fractures and abrasions, but don't mitigate concussions. Most anecdotes don't acknowledge this limitation.

    Anecdotes are also offered highly selectively (e.g. a pro-helmet person isn't likely to cite an anecdote that supports an anti-helmet position), and are statistically insignificant. Although scientific data may be somewhat unclear on this point, anecdotes are never a substitute for objective data.
    Quite true that this forum isn't a research facility with repeatable testing procedures. Just some folks expounding about their personal experiances, both for and against the use of helmets. I feel better when my kids wear a helmet, and that's good enough for me.

    Brad

  21. #21
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    I speak for myself as a former physical education teacher, and now insurance agent. Ha! Recently I dissociated with a bunch of wannabe tourers - some of whom were dissing me that I didn't wear a helmet during our short 80 mile (estimated, total distance 120km) tour on rural roads. One near accident that could have happened to me (which is FAR RARE) was when one girl in the group was cycling in slippers (heavens forbid!) and one slip dropped off. The guy immediately behind her, say, 30 ft behind, kind of slowed down and shifted left (the roads in Malaysia are right-hand drive) and then he BRAKED TO A HALT... when I was not aware of his intentions to STOP, he didn't give a verbal cue, and I was clueless that was the girl's slipper. It has always been my habit to ride with fingers on the brakes, and I could have collided into the back of his bike at probably 12 to 15 mph with full touring load (3 rear bags, 2 front bags and handlebar bag). The irony of this incident was that the girl, was TELLING me to wear a helmet. And both of them are drivers - when I have no driving licence. By my insurance line of work, it does not matter if the cyclist gets banged on the head from a fall without wearing a helmet, but it DOES make a difference if it's a motorcyclist - being a powered vehicle. The guy later tried to get me to admit that if i got a fall... bah! Both of them are bloody guilty of unsafe practices, and I got away by being situationally aware. This incident happened just under 10 miles into our ride for the day's worth of about 30 miles.

    Quote Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
    The accident in which it is least likely to do you any good is the one in which you are hit by a car. Even the helmet manufacturers will tell you that their products are not designed to mitigate the forces involved in such crashes - the tests they have to pass merely simulate a simple fall to the ground from seven feet from a stationary position, which is radically less impact than being hit by a two-tonne vehicle at 20mph. So choosing to wear one in town but not when off-roading, say, makes little sense.
    The above I agree - when one is given a 50 mph wham from the back by a car, it's hard to pinpoint on statistics what the outcome may be.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    In general I believe helmets are a good idea. However, I do concur that switching to a hat isn't going to result in instant death, especially if you're riding at touring paces.
    Precisely!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tansy View Post
    I have, however, had severe, horribly painful sunburn on my face and ears(right through sunscreen, too). The sunburn feels like the greater risk, most days.

    I'll be getting a helmet to wear for RAGBRAI, both to avoid comments from sneery helmet advocates, and because a helmet probably -is- actually a good idea when riding in a crazy mob. I'll keep it with me for the rest of the tour, if only to protect my melon from falling hailstones.
    Yup. In insurance terms in Singapore (that's where i am!) skin cancer is excluded under Major Illness/Dread Disease/Critical Illness insurance, as the odds are stacked fairly high. Imagine my chagrin when I was TOLD by that girl to WEAR A HELMET. Gee... and yes, she and the other guy are my "crazy mob"...

    All that being said... I do practice wearing a sunhat (http://www.frillneck.com.au) for rural/backroad riding or commuting, and a helmet when going through cities or heavy traffic.

  22. #22
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    Y'know, I'm sorry to say that I'm not finding the anecdotes -- as unfortunate as they are -- to be all that persuasive.

    First, we simply can't redo the exact same event with the exact same conditions to determine what injuries a helmet would reduce or eliminate.

    Second, helmets are very likely to protect a rider from skull fractures and abrasions, but don't mitigate concussions. Most anecdotes don't acknowledge this limitation.

    Anecdotes are also offered highly selectively (e.g. a pro-helmet person isn't likely to cite an anecdote that supports an anti-helmet position), and are statistically insignificant. Although scientific data may be somewhat unclear on this point, anecdotes are never a substitute for objective data.
    All true. There's loads of debate, and links to the research, in the "helmets cramp my style" thread in Advocacy and Safety. There's no point, I find, in trying to persuade people. Those who have hit their heads with a helmet on are convinced their helmet saved them, while those (like me) who like data, point to the fact that more people wearing helmets doesn't seem to have reduced the number of head injuries. So either more people are falling on their heads these days (possible) or most people who banged their heads without a helmet on survived OK (probable).

    Either way, I stand by my earlier point. If you believe a helmet offers significant protection you should wear it all the time, not just when you think you're at risk from vehicular traffic. And if you don't, by all means wear a hat. I favour a safari hat when touring in hot weather.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  23. #23
    Fraser Valley Dave
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    me too, both on tour, one when my trailer destableized me and i high-sided, one hit by a car in a small town.

    at least sign your organ donor card if you're not going to wear one, so someone can benefit from your decision.
    It doesn't matter if the discussion is debating pros and cons regarding smoking, wearing life jackets, driving while texting or using a cell phone, or wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle....those that are guilty of continuing to smoke, not wear life jackets, drive while texting etc., or refuse to wear a helmet, always rationalize or make excuses in an effort to continue "doing their thing" for fear they won't "look cool" if they do. (they don't look so cool when you visit them in the morgue or hospital either)

  24. #24
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    I always wear my helmet on tour. Always. I've had my fair share of falls, wipe outs, and getting hit by a car. Safety is nothing to joke around with.
    120 Days, 12000 Kilometers, 2 Wheels - Alaska to Panama for Charity - www.CyclingForACause.com

  25. #25
    Senior Member Northwestrider's Avatar
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    I prefer to wear my helmet, having said that there are occaions I'll it have it tied on the back, i.e. hot day on a quiet road.

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