A recent comment seemed to criticize me for using a certain pro-helmet argument in a segue.
I said: It is said that a rider who doesn't protect his brain with a helmet has nothing to protect anyway.
This would seem to imply that the commenter does not believe helmets are effective. Yet the argument that non-users have not thought about the problem thoroughly seems like a valid one, if one believes that helmets have a beneficial effect.
Interestingly, in almost all of my serious crashes I was not wearing a helmet, and it didndidndidndidn hurt me none. I'm perfectly fine AND WHERE DID THOSE BATS COME FROM?!?!?!?! GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!
Seriously, though, I have hit the ground hard a number of times without benefit of brain bucket and come out of it no more addled than I went in. Which isn't necessarily saying much, but I have not displayed any strong indications of permanent damage. Honest. I was this flaky before.
But wait: my most serious crash ever occurred before I went into third grade. I felt a little under-motivated in second grade, but I actually hit the pavement hard enough to be knocked unconscious in the big crash, and had trouble paying attention in school (or much of anywhere else, truth be known) ever afterwards. Hard sayin' at this point, but maybe a crash hat would have taken the edge off and put me into Phi Beta Kappa later on.
I made somewhat of a career of smashing into things throughout my childhood. Through cycling I was able to carry this pastime on into adulthood. Except for crashes in races, where helmets were required, I always went down bare-skulled. In more than one instance I felt my noggin bounce off the tarmac.
I started wearing a helmet somewhat regularly when I commuted on a busy four-lane road. On quieter streets I had talked myself out of the geek dome, but my new wife put pressure on me to wear it. That and the mechanized meat grinder nudged me over the line. I became a helmet guy.
I did lapse. I wasn't wearing it when a passenger in a car stopped in traffic threw a car door into my left leg as I rode by at 20 in a marked bike lane to the right of where her chariot stood in line with a hundred others in a traffic jam. The edge of the door drove into the muscle of my thigh, bringing me to a rapid halt. But most of the time I felt naked without it, as if this might be the day my luck finally ran out.
One time when I crashed in a race, tee-boning a rider who had rolled a tire in front of me, I flipped over and landed head first on the frontal area of an old Bell Biker. That impact probably would have been a skull-crusher. It was a tight field and I don't recall being able to get my hands out of the drops before going over the falls. I was not able to assume the perfect tuck-and-roll position in the time and distance available.
I do feel safer in traffic than in any race field of low-level licensed riders. Even at high levels, tight fields and hot sprints can lead to some chaotic situations. Cars are usually easier to evade. But people throw things out of them, pedestrians dart out from behind obstructions, front wheels get knocked around by a variety of things. Would you go to sea on a ship with no life boats?
One customer complained that if he wore a helmet he would linger in a coma, whereas without it he would die cleanly. If only you could count on things to work out that tidily. But you don't really know. Others say they don't need a helmet because they ride slowly. Yet at slow speeds you are more likely to fall straight down instead of sliding in. And slow riders who may be timid may be more likely to fall, and fall stiffly.
Our local bike path offers many opportunities for unsteady riders to bite it. The rails are still there on this rail trail, because a rail car club uses it from time to time. The path runs between the rails in some areas, and beside them in others. That means riders have to cross the rails many times. The crossings get scuffed out. The rails are fiendishly slippery when wet. The path surface is not uniformly firm, so a bike's tires suddenly wallow into unconsolidated sand. Many other sketchily paved or totally unpaved venues present opportunities for less experienced riders to go down.
Sure, many generations did very well with no head protection at all. Maybe I picked up my initial prejudices from some experienced riders I respected a great deal. Why worry? Something gets you eventually.
My employers can get pretty pushy about the helmet thing. Mostly they're afraid of getting sued. So whenever a renter turns down the helmet there's a lot of clucking for some time afterwards. Likewise with helmetless Mitt, who has been a mobile tourist attraction around town for several years.
Incidentally, I didn't seriously think Romney's choice in this matter made much of a difference. He has other positions with which I disagree. I just thought it was funny two helmet objectors would turn out to be his staffers.