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Helmet-less riding?

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This topic contains 164 replies, has 48 voices, and was last updated by  AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe 1 yr, 1 mo.

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rsprake

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Feb 16 2012 at 2:07pm #

spapperman apparently hasn’t come back to see all of this or participate and you guys just keep on yappin. :)


edmonds59

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Feb 16 2012 at 2:35pm #

Internets version of a dropped cell phone call.


reddan

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Feb 16 2012 at 2:37pm #

Internets version of a dropped cell phone call.

Or getting stood up on a blind date…


jonawebb

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Feb 16 2012 at 3:06pm #

More like a blind group date, where the guy who originally planned the thing didn’t show, but a bunch of other people did, and stood around jawboning.


ejwme

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Feb 16 2012 at 5:29pm #

To the OP… what kind of class?

I can think of a number of reasons to poll “whoever” or mine ideas from here, but the useful answers depend on the question’s context.

There’s psychology – risk assessment/aversion, avoiding the questions, (not) wanting to look like a member of a group, confidence in effectiveness.

There’s physiology – comfort, ease of use.

There’s economics – perceived cost vs. perceived benefit.

When I don’t wear one, it’s because I think that I won’t get pestered about it by the people around me (motorists, cyclists, pedestrians) AND believe the risk of needing its protection is negligible. This is most likely to happen on a trail, and least likely to happen on the streets.


willie p

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Feb 23 2012 at 9:24pm #

@ADAM – you might be the coolest person on this board…EVAR!

FWIW – I generally don’t wear a helmet when I ride. I don’t race any longer, so don’t see the need to “train” with one on, since I am not racing and need to replicate the heat and other itchiness, etc caused by wearing a helmet.

That being said, I do own a nice high buck ($150+) SpecialED race helmet that I occasionally wear (maybe half dozen times a year). Not sure why I choose to, but occasionally do. I now have a fixed gear bike with no brakes and I do tend to wear it when I ride that figuring my chances of hitting a car or something might be increased due to the lack of brakes. I always wear a helmet when I MTB – a hospital trip helped cure me of that. But I tend to crash a lot when I MTB since I am doing jumps and drops, etc.

Noting an earlier post, I think the Bern helmet are really good looking and if I could be sure one might be better ventilated- that might get me into more regular helmet wearing. I like the Watts – but I take an XXL and most shops don’t carry that.

Finally, I’ve known three people personally to have been killed riding their bikes. One guy ran a stopsign and got hit broadside (massive internal bleeding killed him, not head trauma). he was not wearing a helmet. the other who was wearing a helmet, died from severe spinal and neck injury sustained in a race , the last was hit on a backroad by a passing car (was wearing a helmet) and again massive internal injuries.

I’ve generally been of the non-scientific mindset that if you “crash” your bike while riding you probably won’t sustain major head injuries and if you get hit by a car, your injuries will probably extend well beyond head (and quite possibly be fatal), so the helmet becomes less important in both scenarios.

As i may have posted in the other thread – I also own and ride a motorcycle. This is a completely different argument. I ALWAYS wear a helmet, full leathers, gloves and full boots. If you are in a single-bike crash (you) at anything above a relative crawl – you are in for major head injuries at a minimum. And if you get hit by car – forget it. luckily, on a motorcycle (unlike a bicycle) the throttle can allow you to take evasive measure to AVOID getting hit by a car. You don’t have that luxury on a bicycle – bicyclists are truly vulnerable and are highly victimized. this is why I generally think motorcycles are SAFER than bicycles. I know others in this forum feel similarly.


salty

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Feb 24 2012 at 6:36am #

I don’t believe motorcycles are safer than bicycles strictly based on the speeds involved – and the statistics I’ve seen (which I know are suspect) do not agree with you. What is “above a relative crawl”, because that sounds like a speed you can easily reach on a bicycle.

As I posted in another thread, I wrecked my bicycle on ice doing probably 10-15mph a couple weeks ago and basically did a high-side. Pretty sure my knee and hand hit first then my head (right around the temple), so I’m not sure how much impact my head took. It felt like someone sucker punched me and I was woozy for a minute or two but basically fine after that. Not sure how much worse it would have been with no helmet – at the least the scratches on it would have been on my head instead and likely a nice bruise to go with it. Beyond that is just speculation. Does a helmet really have to prevent “major head injuries” to be worth wearing?


jonawebb

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Feb 24 2012 at 2:30pm #

Really trying to avoid saying something that will touch off the helmet wars. I’d like to add one thing to the discussion: your chances of survival of a fall (of any kind, not just from biking etc.) from a height of just 10 feet are 50/50. Above that, you are more likely to die than live. So we are far more fragile than we generally believe.


Pierce

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Feb 24 2012 at 3:17pm #

@Adam

“Yet people who ride motorcycles don’t need to wear one. They also get to have the loudest exhaust known to man and that’s cool but I can get a ticket from a pig for an air leak in my car’s exhaust.”

What good would a seatbelt do on a motorcycle? There’s no protective box around it so keeping a biker in place is basically useless. If anything, I imagine the operator might be more likely to get crushed underneath it.

As far as sound goes, I think I’ve heard more people with aftermarket mufflers than I have have noisy bikes and my neighbors used to rev their sports bikes down my street all the time. (Not sure why they stopped recently; maybe because it’s winter or I’m just not around.)

“I think there are more important things to give a crap about this day and age [...]” Can you please allow us the freedom to choose what we want to care about?

Seat belt laws were enacted because they save lives. I bet if you posthumously polled drivers whose lives could have been saved by seat belts, most would have chosen to wear it if they knew it would have saved their life.

As far as helmets go:

That’s from a crash I had last Thursday, going down a hill about 30 MPH. Between my knee, hips, and shoulder I probably have about a four inch square of road rash, excluding the more lightly abraded areas.

Notice how scratched up the glasses are and how scratched up the helmet is. That would have been my forehead if not for the helmet. Also, it’s cracked.

I was able to ride home. I’m not sure that would have been the case if I wasn’t wearing the helmet.

Another time I fell on a patch of black ice and the back of my head hit the pavement. I was wearing a helmet. I kind of phased out for a few seconds and got the tinny ringing noise in my ears. I was able to get up and go to work. If I wasn’t wearing the helmet, I think I would have had a mild concussion.

When I was a freshman in high school I didn’t wear a helmet. One of my neighbors always cautioned me and said I should. One day after a field trip I went unconscious while riding my bike home. My forehead hit the pavement and I just laid in the street like a sack of potatoes until an ambulance came and got me. That time half my face was scabs and I got a mild concussion.

My life may not have been saved by helmets, but I think it’s certainly saved me trips to the hospital, scrapes, and lowered my potential of lost wages.


Marko82

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Feb 24 2012 at 3:24pm #

Wow Pierce, I hope your ok. Were you on 885?


Pierce

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Feb 24 2012 at 3:35pm #

I am indeed okay, just missing some skin.

Yep, the road I’ve been on hundreds of times… Going down Lebanon, got a yellow in the middle, lady hit her brakes ahead of me, then I hit mine (I don’t think I was tailgating either) and it was slippery.

I also realized my rear brake was out of tune, so when I hit the brakes, my front wheel probably slipped out more so because of the inadvertent unequal application of braking


jonawebb

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Feb 24 2012 at 3:59pm #

Glad you’re OK.

Technically I think you had a mild concussion. Moderate concussion is when you lose consciousness but can remember up to the point of the accident (that’s what I got when I woke up in the emergency room after missing a turn. Helmet cracked but not my head). Severe concussion is when you lose memory prior to the accident.


dmtroyer

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Feb 24 2012 at 4:07pm #

@salty:

Does a helmet really have to prevent “major head injuries” to be worth wearing?

+1


ejwme

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Feb 24 2012 at 4:16pm #

re noisy motorcycles: I have a neighbor who I really like, but she’s got a boyfriend who rides a Harley. I know when he comes over (every time). I know when he leaves (every time). I know which direction he turns off of our street, and the next street, and even the street after that.

I don’t want to know these things. I wish them both well and I’m glad she’s happy with him, I just wish the vehicle they both enjoy so much were a little quieter (thank god he’s not one of those people who sits down, starts up, and revs it for half an hour without moving). If they were prone to traveling later at night, I’d not wish them well, and I’d not be able to be friendly.

While the two worlds overlap in some interesting ways, and with some interesting people, I’m not sure I’d call them similar enough for any kind of comparison at all. Besides, motorcycles have more and better paid lobbyists. (this is my impression – is it true?)


reddan

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Feb 24 2012 at 4:24pm #

@ejwme: Motorcycles certainly have scarier lobbyists. For example, Exhibit A versus Exhibit B:

</stereotyping>


Pierce

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Feb 24 2012 at 4:30pm #

PA motorcyclists also have their own lobbyists

http://www.abatepa.org/

I.E. They became lobbyists for their own cause


Kayla

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Feb 24 2012 at 4:53pm #

re motorcycles: A few things. I will NEVER not wear a helmet on my motorcycle. I always wear a full face helmet, gloves, armored jacket, and shoes that cover my ankles. I do ride in jeans, and that’s a tradeoff/risk I’m willing to accept.

I will also admit to having a slightly noisy exhaust on my bike. The stock exhaust is pretty quiet, and on the highway especially, there’s no hearing it over wind noise. My aftermarket one helps me to be heard by drivers a bit more, maybe making me less invisible to them. I also like the way it looks and sounds. That being said, it’s nowhere near the noise level of some of the Harleys and other bikes you hear.


Kordite

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Feb 24 2012 at 5:20pm #

I like graphs. This one shows a steady decline in motocycle fatalities until states start repealing mandatory helmet laws. Then the rate begins to immediately start a steady climb. I should like to see the data from before 1993 but it is fairly clear.

Freedom. But at what cost?

The libertarian in me says that people should be free to do whatever sort of moronic things they want but the socialist in me realizes that as more people kill and severely injure themselves because they are not wearing helmets the more hospitals fill up with patients, the more trips the ambulances have to make, the more police we need to manage traffic while the mess is cleaned up, the higher insurance premiums go up, the higher medical costs go up as hospitals have to manage the increasing levels of carnage. At some point society decides that they don’t want to keep paying for everyone else stupidity and institutes restrictions for the good of all. It happened with seat belts and other automobile safety features. It happened with motorcycles as well but society forgot, influenced by a powerful special interest.

The cycle continues.


brian j

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Feb 24 2012 at 6:37pm #

@Dan: I thought that was a ‘bent lobbyist, actually.


reddan

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Feb 24 2012 at 8:03pm #

@Brian: Why are you dissing Scott like that?


jonawebb

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Jun 3 2013 at 12:13pm #

Something new on this: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/03/really-the-claim-cycling-is-the-top-sport-for-head-injuries/
Not trying to start a helmet war, just thought people might like to know.


peterb

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Jun 3 2013 at 12:54pm #

So, I’ll follow the tangent and speak up for the motorcyclists here. There are two types of people that ride motorcycles: people that don’t wear helmets, and people that actually know how to ride a motorcycle.

Generally speaking, the people you see cruising on their Harleys are amateurs who ride short distances a few times a year. Motorcycles are extremely deceptive in that they feel very easy to ride, until the moment that they don’t. Anyone who has ridden a motorcycle for any appreciable length of time eventually experiences the moment when they learn how quickly their control over the vehicle reaches its limit in terms of its ability to avoid an accident.. That’s why anyone who has ridden a motorcycle for any appreciable length of time wears a freaking helmet. (It’s also why such a large percentage of the MSF’s excellent motorcycle safety course is firmly focused on using attention-focusing techniques to try to minimize the chances of getting into an incident in the first place, rather than just talking about recovery techniques.)

Yes, it’s completely stupid that motorcycle helmets are not required in Pennsylvania. Please don’t use that as a reason to not wear a bike helmet. Because the people riding motorcycles without their helmets are basically playing Russian Roulette with a semiautomatic. It is not a question of if they will be seriously injured in an accident; it is a question of when.


byogman

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Jun 3 2013 at 1:08pm #

I lost my helmet last week and did a couple days of helmet-less riding before it showed up. I freely admit it was cooler and more comfortable going without. It felt freeing, even. And if I were just riding the GAP or something I’d probably go without.

But I felt indulging that line of thinking too much would be dangerous. I put a time limit on things… if I couldn’t find my helmet that weekend, basically, I’d just buckle down and buy another. Fortunately, I found it. I was relieved, and I found slightly to my surprise I didn’t mind putting it back on again.

Perhaps it’s that being klutzy and not all that confident, I just come up against the edge of my feeling of control a little more often. But ultimately, I think it’s the same story for anyone… it’s fine without until it isn’t. And maybe that never comes, maybe even for a majority of riders. But if it does, dunno, the perhaps slightly elevated risk of a rotational neck injury doesn’t scare me like THUNK head hitting the pavement.


ajbooth

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Jun 3 2013 at 1:38pm #

October 15, 2008. ER doctor to my wife: “If he had not been wearing a helmet, he would most likely be dead.”

End of discussion in my world.


Mick

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Jun 3 2013 at 1:42pm #

I heard of doctors saying that. More than anything, it is an indication of lack of rigor in medical education.

For the most part, bicycle helmets are too flimsy, and skulls too thick, for the helmets to make much difference other than as a fashion object.

If it is unsafe to do without a bicycle helmet, it is also unsafe with a helmet.


Mick

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Jun 3 2013 at 1:48pm #

Something new on this: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/03/really

Why are they comparing bike head injuries with sports injuries? The hundreds of thousands of car-related head injuries are not listed as “sports injuries,” are they?


ajbooth

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Jun 3 2013 at 1:52pm #

I got hit, thrown over the hood of a car, and landed on my head. The helmet cracked. As it was, with the helmet, I suffered a concussion, and don’t remember anything for ten minutes after the crash. Including getting my phone out of my seat bag and calling home and work to tell them what happened. I came to in the ambulance, and it was ten minutes before I could tell them my name, where I was going, and how old I was.

Would it have been worse without a helmet? I believe so. Dead? I’ll never know. But I’ll also never take that chance.


jonawebb

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Jun 3 2013 at 2:09pm #

@Mick, the danger is not in the skull cracking, it is from a brain bleed. Helmets are flimsy so they absorb the impact of the crash and prevent the shock to your skull that would result in this.
I was riding my bike to work one morning, with new panniers on the back, missed a turn and hit a curb because of the unfamiliar handling, and woke up in the emergency room. Helmet had a nice crack right over my right temple.


myddrin

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Jun 3 2013 at 2:22pm #

jonawebb wrote:
I was riding my bike to work one morning, with new panniers on the back, missed a turn and hit a curb because of the unfamiliar handling, and woke up in the emergency room. Helmet had a nice crack right over my right temple.

This. Like @byogman, I went for a while w/o a helmet due to forgetting it at my sister’s house in CT. I actually ended up stopping wearing a helmet for several months… but, I eventually realized I wear a helmet because I am 1) clumsy and 2) tend towards the obliviousness side of the spectrum.

If I get hit by a car, a helmet may or may not save my life/mitigate the damage. But it’s already saved me from two serious falls and a one low hanging branch.

YMMV, more graceful/observant cyclists could very well be fine. But for me this is a choice that works.


sarah_q

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Jun 3 2013 at 2:23pm #

Picture of my son’s helmet after going down on the perfectly flat jail trail moving around 18 mph on a misty morning when his foot slipped off the pedal and into his wheel, causing him to endo. He bent his steel frame, buried his chainring into the frame, and warped both wheels.

Had this been his scalp, I can’t even imagine…


buffalo buffalo

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Jun 3 2013 at 5:35pm #

I occasionally forget my helmet, but I try not to make a habit of it.

I don’t have a story of my own, but I do have this: My mother had a college friend who, around the time I was born, was hit by a car while riding without a helmet. I was 20 or so when he died, having never regained consciousness.


screbner

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Jun 3 2013 at 5:42pm #

Bike helmets SAVED MY LIFE TWICE in ONE YEAR. Well worth the sixty bucks each one cost. Both times no cars were involved. ‘Nuff said.


Mick

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Jun 3 2013 at 6:02pm #

How is it that I know over a dozen people whose lives were “saved by a helmet”?


buffalo buffalo

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Jun 3 2013 at 6:34pm #

Related: Washington Post asks, Do bike helmet laws really save people?

(For my own part, I find that when I do end up without my helmet, I ride more carefully and am given more space by drivers, such that I seem to be marginally less likely to need that which I am without. Perhaps only confirmation bias, though somewhat borne out by Ian Walker’s research into motorist behaviour around male- and female-appearing cyclists with and without helmets…)


gg

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Jun 3 2013 at 7:39pm #

I am a very good athlete, so I really just don’t understand the need for a helmet. As I watch other cyclists riding about in a fashion that is… well not exactly smooth and fluent, I would have to agree, most people should not only wear a helmet, most probably shouldn’t be on a bike and should consider walking instead.


peterb

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Jun 3 2013 at 7:39pm #

Mick wrote:How is it that I know over a dozen people whose lives were “saved by a helmet”?

…because you know lots of bike riders who wear helmets, and it turns out that the research shows that bike helmets are effective at saving lives?

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23706604 (Bicycle Helmet Laws Are Associated with a Lower Fatality Rate from Bicycle-Motor Vehicle Collisions.)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23377086 (“Helmet use was associated with reduced risk of head injury in bicycle collisions with motor vehicles of up to 74%, and the more severe the injury considered, the greater the reduction. This was also found to be true for particular head injuries such as skull fractures, intracranial injury and open head wounds”)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23071369 (“Not wearing a helmet while cycling was associated with an increased risk of dying as a result of sustaining a head injury”)


edmonds59

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Jun 3 2013 at 8:19pm #

Eh, wear one, don’t wear one, it doesn’t really matter to me. Helmets are out there and available, everybody knows helmets exist, it’s up to each individual to decide whether to use one or not. Sometimes I wear one, sometimes I don’t, it’s not really anyone’s business.
I see dozens of people out toodling along on cruiser bikes at 8 or 9 mph without helmets and I don’t think they’re in particular mortal danger. The best thing is that they’re out riding.
At this point in history, I do find evangelizing about helmets incredibly freaking annoying.
This is one of the most rational statements I’ve seen about the issue: http://momentummag.com/features/moving-the-conversation-beyond-helmets/


buffalo buffalo

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Jun 3 2013 at 8:29pm #

I do wonder how much it depends on how fast you’re riding. If you’re “toodling along” at single-digit speeds, even if you fall over you’re probably not going to get hurt particularly bad; you might even manage to not hit your head at all.

On the other hand, if I’m riding to work at 20mph and go down, there’s a good chance I’m going down head first or nearly so, and I like the idea of at least having something between my scalp and whatever I land on.

I don’t support helmet laws because, yes, they scare people off, and the people they scare off are the people who aren’t likely to need them. I support wearing helmets because you never know when you _will_ need one, and, well, better safe than sorry.


cburch

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Jun 3 2013 at 8:31pm #

gg wrote:I am a very good athlete, so I really just don’t understand the need for a helmet. As I watch other cyclists riding about in a fashion that is… well not exactly smooth and fluent, I would have to agree, most people should not only wear a helmet, most probably shouldn’t be on a bike and should consider walking instead.

trolly troll troll troll. Thanks for the valuable insight into your superiority. If i was as amazing as you I wouldn’t waste my time complaining about every god damn thing under the sun on a message board, I’d be outside being totally pro.


byogman

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Jun 3 2013 at 10:12pm #

@cburch, true, but let’s pick this apart anyways. It’ll be fun!

I am a very good athlete, so I really just don’t understand the need for a helmet. As I watch other cyclists riding about in a fashion that is… well not exactly smooth and fluent, I would have to agree, most people should not only wear a helmet, most probably shouldn’t be on a bike and should consider walking instead.

Maybe you are very athletic. You know what? So are a lot of people who get nailed. Whether they do comes down to a complex stew of riding style, luck, where they ride when and in what conditions, and how much.

From an old thread I seem to recall that you had no interest in the behaviors statistically proven to be safer, and that your appraisal of your riding style markedly differed from another who rode with you. Your statement was then that your fellow rider “couldn’t understand” your riding style because you used a mirror. Well, a mirror is a nice aid, but not a mysterious one. It does not make much of any difference in what basically is and is not a safe way to ride. And nobody is especially objective about themselves. I’ll take his assessment over yours any day.

I also recall later in that thread you were hot on a brakeless fixi and riding in that style because it’s so fast (reading only the tiniest bit between the lines, I’ll take that to mean that you don’t plan on stopping much when you ride the thing, which is a dangerous plan). And then you acknowledged the danger of it, but said it’s your choice. Indeed it is, but when you make plans like that, and broadcast that you’re throwing caution to the wind there’s no reason anyone should think later that you really care about safety all that much.

So then, if safety isn’t your thing, why post on this? To brag about yourself, or to down people who go about their business in a slower, less skillz oriented way? Cause that’s all that’s left.

Look, athleticism and skillz can help in some situations, but many of those situations can be avoided in the first place by riding in a way that’s more visible to and predictable for drivers. Most riders who aren’t elite still manage to ride in a perfectly safe way. Being willing to stop, and generally not expecting skillz to get them through any dumb situation they put themselves in (and therefore not putting themselves in dumb situations) helps with that.

And lastly, those that are not athletic are the ones that much more to gain in terms of years to their life and life to their years by taking up riding. It takes character to put yourself out there, damn the appearances. When I see someone who’s badly out of shape struggling hard and very slowly up a hill, I give a nod of respect. You should learn to do the same.

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