Helmets

Don't Be a Sore Head
By Patrick O'Grady
  |  Gorp.com
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Who needs helmets?

C'mon... bicycle helmets are just one more project undertaken by the shadowy Committee to Outlaw Everything that's Fun In America, the same wimps who brought you the campaigns against drinking while driving, smoking in bed, and off-color jokes in mixed company (Do you smoke after sex? I never checked, ahaw haw haw).

We never wore helmets when we were kids, unless we were playing football or Army, and we turned out all right. Well, except for Scooter. But it was never proven whether it was the three tours in 'Nam, the skag, or that 30-mph header into the monkey bars on his banana bike that did the damage.

What do helmets really do, other than give the bike shops something else to tack onto that giant credit-card bill you're running up on that full-suspension bike you just have to get for those big-air roosts to the 7-Eleven when the beer runs out on Monday Night just as Dennis Miller is starting to get a handle on what the big guys are doing with the ball down there?

Helmets mess up your hair, if you have any, and give you Maori-like sunburns through the vents if you don't.

The pros don't wear them unless a helmet sponsor is watching, though they make handy missiles if you find yourself in a fistfight with a disgruntled Dutchman at the end of the Tour de France.

And there's no guarantee that one will save your life, especially if you ride like my buddy Gooch, who's fond of wobbling along no-hands on an icy two-laner after an all-night bout of margarita-sipping, half into his rain jacket and one sleeve flirting with the spokes.

Besides, chicks love scars, especially when they get to stitch them up themselves at the emergency room. Auguring head-first into a parking meter is a great way to meet hot nurses, maybe even a cute brain surgeon. Talk about hitting the jackpot... there's more than a couple of quarters for you in that meter, Bubba. I mean, you just know she's got a great medical plan.

There's just this one little thing, though. If you stack it while riding bareheaded and crack open your skull, don't expect me to tear my jersey into strips for bandages, flag down a passing motorist, or call 911 and hold your hand until the ambulance arrives. Just wave bye-bye to the back of my helmeted head as I roll away, if you can still raise one arm.

Someone's got to be the lifeguard for the gene pool.


Writer and cartoonist Patrick O'Grady is a contributing editor to VeloNews and Bicycle Retailer & Industry News, and has freelanced screeds, scribbles, and the occasional piece of straight journalism to the likes of Bike, Outside, Inside Triathlon, and Dirt Rag. An unhealthy fascination with the obscure led the 46-year-old lactic-acid addict from freestyle swimming events through road and mountain-bike racing to cyclo-cross; in 1999, he won the Masters 45+ competition in the Colorado Cyclo-cross Series. In 1996, O'Grady helped edit the second edition of Cyclo-cross, Simon Burney's classic how-to work on the discipline. His own book, a collection of cartoons titled The Season Starts When? was published in 1999 by VeloPress. Patrick has also written for GORP about Cyclo-cross and Helmets.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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