Sunday, June 7, 2009

Best Brain Buckets

When racing and riding in my late teens and early 20's, I, like many, never wore a helmet. While attending UC Berkeley I met a guy I used to play poker with. He had been in a bad motorcycle accident, but had been "lucky" enough to survive it with a lot of broken bones - which all healed in the end - and a lot of brain damage.

Like many cases of head trauma, his impairments were very selective. He was a great poker player (he sure played me for a sucker those first few games!), but had many cognitive problems that left him on permanent disability. We know a lot more about these injuries now from vets returning from Iraq with head trauma. These are serious injuries that few make a complete recovery from.

Lucky for me, I bought my first helmet - a Bell - a few weeks later because of his experience. There were a few holes in it, but for the most part it was a solid Kevlar shell with an extruded polystyrene crush liner. About a month after that I had a bad crash on the Berkeley campus when their sprinkler system decided to water the road and not the grass. Wearing double layered canvas duck shorts and a very heavy buffalo shirt, I skidded to within 18" of a 6' round Redwood tree with narry a scratch, and only then realized I had hit my head pretty darned hard. It destroyed the helmet, but I was fine. (OK, opinions vary on THAT subject.... :D)

Since most of us are now getting into the heat of summer, I wanted to give a shout out to the Bell Ghisallo (I think that is pronounced Ga-Saul-O, or maybe Ghi-Saul-O) It is light, provides top-notch protection, and is the coolest helmet out there in my experience. It has 3 H-U-G-E vents in front that really scoop in the air. They are so large you really should wear sunscreen on your forehead or you will get the "Ghisallo Head Striping" on your first long ride. It also has a vent pattern that blows through the top of the helmet when your head is down like in the drops or aerobars. Keep your hot helmets for winter. You'll welcome their poor ventilation when the air is freezing cold.

Mine, pictured a few posts back in blue, is a bit small, but having worn all kinds of helmets in all kinds of sports for 30 years, I know how important it is to have a helmet that fits snugly. Not so tight that you get headaches, but snug. The Ghisallo has a nice fitting system on the helmet that allows the helmet to float on your head, but I still prefer a snug fit if I can get it. You can easily adjust the tightness of the fit on the go with just a roll of the thumb-wheel in the back of the helmet. Nice!

For road riding, visibility is critical. In fact, I now wear a lighted, optic-fiber ribbon on my helmet I pilfered from a Bicycle Planet BRT leg strap I stuck on top at the back with 2 inches of Velcro. When it gets near dark I reach up, push a little rubber button twice and I am visible from the front, back, and both sides up at motorists' eye level where it counts. It weights nothing, is always there, and will run for 200 hours on a single 2032 button cell.

For mountain biking, visibility is also critical, except you DON'T want to be seen. In fact, a courteous mountain biker should dress and select a bike color so as to blend into the landscape completely, and not ruin the wilderness experience for others. If you want to be noticed bring a whistle and a signal mirror (very tough construction on those) and/or flashlight. You don't want to spend hours getting to your favorite wilderness spot only to watch a parade of pimped out cyclists riding by on the other side of your favorite lake, canyon, peak, etc. - so return the favor.

With this in mind, and needing a new lid for mtn biking, I found one I like in the Bell Variant. It goes with olive and earth colored jerseys, and looks reasonably cool. The Sweep looks like a great helmet too, and comes in roughly the same color scheme, but it doesn't look to be much of a bargain to me. Oh, if you do order this from TreeFort Bikes, tell them I sent you. I've done a lot of business with them and they are really good people, with what usually turns out to be the price to beat.


Anonymous said...

I just got a Giro, but I like the grey Bell here a lot. Mine is grey as well, but doesn't have those cool dirt dots! There would have been a time when I would NOT have worn a helmet because I would have felt so ugly, but with getting older I anyhow don't really care about optics any longer;-)

Grey Beard said...

I had you in mind when I wrote this Steph! Bell owns Giro, so I'm sure you have a good helmet.

Uhhh, you too old to be a hottie? NEVER gorgeous! [:)