I rarely forget to wear my helmet. This is mainly because I have made a habit of attaching it to either my backpack or my bicycle whenever I arrive at my destination. Chances are pretty much 100% that when I leave I will have the bag and the bicycle with me. But every once in a while I put the helmet down someplace else in my house and then all bets are off. The problem is that it is incredibly easy to just hop on the bike and go for a ride. That’s the whole point of a bicycle as far as I can tell.
At times I have been less mindful of my helmet, resulting in a few rides where I only noticed about halfway through that I had on neither helmet nor padded, fingerless gloves. My handlebars are not the softest, and rather than rewrap with something cushy I keep the classy-as-fuck leather sew-ups and wear the gloves. Now there was a time a couple of years ago when I probably would’ve turned around and gone back…depending on how far away I was at the time of the realization. But I am far past that now and generally just say screw it, while also trying to ride a little more cautiously than I might otherwise do. It’s not a contradiction if you do it right.
But here’s the funny thing, I have had two accidents where I hit my head in a way that, had I not been wearing a helmet, I probably would not have been riding around or even walking for a little while. One was in the winter at five in the morning on black ice, and so while it was quite sudden, you couldn’t really say it was unexpected. The other one was due to a combination of circumstances, all pretty random. But that pretty much sounds like life and to me it implies that such a thing could happen at any time. For that reason I usually try to wear helmet.
Even more than that, when I do find myself occasionally thinking, “I wonder if my head would be less sweaty if I didn’t wear a helmet. Maybe I’ll just give it a shot a couple of times now that the temperature is in the 90s,” I still can’t ever follow through. Just the fact that I’m considering not wearing a helmet makes it feel like the risk of an accident has gone up exponentially. I guess that’s how Big Helmet got to where it/they are today. But if I’m actively feeling less safe couldn’t that translate into being led confident, especially when it matters most? Could such an accident end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy? I’ll probably never know.
The Great Maine Bike Swap is coming up soon! On Sunday, April 22 at 10am the doors of the Sullivan Center gym will open and folks will be allowed to peruse thousands of bikes being sold by Mainers. Every sale will benefit the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, too. There will be opportunities to test ride bikes on site, and there will be helmets to use and mechanics on hand to verify the bike’s safety before you try it out.
This event is always fun and exciting, and it’s such a great opportunity to get ready for the good riding weather. Plus this year you can grab your bike at the Swap, then ride it over to Standard Baking Co where the Portland Gear Hub will have a table set up to do quick tune ups and inspections while you sip coffee, eat pastries, and ask any questions you might have. What a way to get your bike sorted out!
And the Gear Hub itself will be having its annual yard sale that day (and the day before) so be sure to stop by and pick up anything you might still need for your new bike, your upcoming camping trips, or perhaps your upcoming bikepacking adventure.
Basically the weekend of the 20th will be jam packed full of fun bicycle happenings. I hope to see you there.
This is “Dame Judi Dench, the bike, the first”. She is the first bike I ever fixed up, and I spent a whole winter working on her, mostly scrubbing in my living room while binge-watching various shows on Netflix. These are some before pictures. There were some pretty heavy patches of rust, the brake hoods had melted from exposure, there were a few small bits missing. I test rode her before buying, but probably shouldn’t have done so in her condition. Survive and become educated, I guess.
She got the name Judi for a couple reasons. Since the bike came from Japan I asked a friend what is the Japanese word for bicycle, “jitensha”. It sounded a bit like Judi Dench. Plus Judith made sense to me since, when I saw her in that dark Portland basement I kind of lost my head. I paid way too much for her considering the shape she was in and all the work required. But then, I’ve gotten so much joy out of riding her around, and the feel of the handling, the speed that seems to come so easily, I suppose that’s worth the price and then some. After taking a bunch of pics I began the process of disassembling the bike, except for the headset, which I didn’t know came off at the time. Not that I bother with those now for the most part.
More to come…
I got yelled at today, I think for not riding on the sidewalk, out by the mall. I couldn’t make out any words, just a general WAHAAYAAAGAAH! And then the guy missed his turn because he had stayed in the right-hand lane in order to berate me inarticulately for nothing even though he needed to turn left. But it’s okay. He turned around in a gas station parking lot and caught the light.