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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 10 mos, 1 week.

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stefb

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Jun 3 2013 at 10:22pm #

gg sucks.


cburch

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Jun 3 2013 at 11:18pm #

To go along with Ben,

For me i still consider road riding to be the most dangerous riding i do, more so than downhill, dirt jumping or cross country. And I have ruined helmets many times pushing my boundaries in those disciplines, including splitting a few in half. There’s no way I’d be caught on the road without a helmet. i would be willing to wager that i and many other helmet wearing commuters i know would leave your bike handling skills in the dust begging for mercy. This is a group that includes actual pro cyclists, ultra endurance riders, trials riders, downhill racers, fixed gear freestylers, dirt jumpers and all sorts of other amazing athletes.

The most accomplished cyclists i know always wear a helmet for the same reason that i do, on the road you DON’T ultimately control your level of risk. The drunk, angry moron texting his boss and screaming at his wife while eating a burger and going 10mph over the limit while running red lights to do a no-look right hand turn does, and I don’t trust that asshole.


Drewbacca

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Jun 4 2013 at 2:11am #

I didn’t know gg stood for Gaston Gaston?

No one bikes like Gaston!


Marko82

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Jun 4 2013 at 9:23am #

@byogman, Nicely said.


Mikhail

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Jun 4 2013 at 9:29am #

byogman wrote:I freely admit it was cooler and more comfortable going without.

Ben, I sweat a lot and I found that bandana works really nicely by wicking sweat, evaporating it and cooling my head.

byogman wrote: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.

Yeap.


myddrin

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Jun 4 2013 at 11:40am #

gg wrote: … 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.

Well isn’t that special.

You know, when I was 10 my hobby was walking/running across fences. Around baseball diamonds, ice skating rinks… anything really. Whether they were topped with metal bars, or a 1/2 inch wide plank of wood, I could make it across almost anything. Later, I made my own tight rope rig between two trees. Adults suggested that I look into working the high iron when I grew up.

I was balanced and graceful as child.

In my mid-20s a virus attacked the sheathing that surrounds my nerve cells. I won’t go into details about the illness or the long, long recovery.

But I’ll just say that to the day (15 years later) when I’m tired, I get a little wobbly, my fine motor control is off, and yes I might have some issues concentrating.

So, yeah… when I’ve ridden 50, 60 or a 100 miles it might affect my riding. Although I doubt its anything that people who know me or have ridden with me have noticed. And I take what I feel are appropriate measures to compensate for that, taking into account the safety of myself and others. One of those things is that I wear a helmet whenever I ride. That way if I suddenly decide to turn a 10 mile ride into a 60, I’m all set.

But your statement has made it clear to me that whatever the reasons for my failings, I am clearly unworthy to be on a bicycle. I’ll stop cycling forthwith.


Marko82

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Jun 4 2013 at 12:13pm #

I think as part of Bikefest we should have an event where we can sit in the shade of a nice tree somewhere along gg’s commute. We could then be enthralled by his athleticism and superior cycling skills as he goes by. I think it would be well attended.


Mick

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Jun 4 2013 at 2:12pm #

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

@peterB
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?

Please cut the shit, dude.

Don’t patronize me then cite three paper where two of them are trash. You’re wasting my time here.

I started riding in the 1950′s and, as far as I know, no bicyclists wore helmets then.

The people I’ve known that have died in traffic accidents, and there were many, were all in cars.

If all these guys who”would have died” if they didn’t have a helmet were real, then I’d have known friends to die on bikes. A LOT of them.

I haven’t.

I really believed in the efficacy of helmets until I started reading the scientific literature “supporting” it. Plenty of people have good careers publishing rah-rah helmet papers that are a waste of time and paper.

Peter, one of your papers is actually interesting. It seems to actually show what it proports to show. That is interesting because there are very few (if any) pro-helmet papers for which this is true. I’ve searched befreo and had not found any. (Zip. Zero. Nada.)

So if that paper does hold up, it’s really important. Some signal amongst the copious noise.

I’ll have to look at it carefully later.

The exercise of riding a bicycle is a health benefit that overwhelmingly outweighs the risks. Some minor difference in safety with helmet-wearing, if it even exists, doesn’t change that.

Convincing people that riding a bike is so unsafe that you need a helmet? That is a dishonest and unhealthy message that increases mortality.


jonawebb

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Jun 4 2013 at 2:20pm #

@Mick, I’m not sure if you’re including me in the list of people whose lives were saved by wearing a helmet, but I’m not including myself. I might have died, but there’s a good chance I would just have had brain damage. Which, you know, concerns me quite a bit, too.
If you ask around when you’re on group rides you’ll find quite a few people who have had an accident where a helmet made a difference or would have made a difference if things had gone a little bit differently. My own accident is nothing special, and it’s only the third serious accident I’ve had in a lifetime of riding. And in the other two my helmet didn’t matter — could have, though. So, I’m guessing, if you ride without a helmet the chances are pretty good that it won’t make a difference. But the downside is pretty rough.


JaySherman5000

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Jun 4 2013 at 3:09pm #

Speaking of asinine debates, can we talk about the superiority of circumcision versus not being circumcised?

I’d also like to start some discussions about theism versus atheism, Star Trek (Original) versus Star Trek TNG (specifically, which is better), grape versus raspberry jam, jam versus jelly, Coke versus Pepsi, bacon consumption versus veganism, and the best way to prepare a steak for the grill…

I assume this is the proper thread for all of those topics?


jonawebb

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Jun 4 2013 at 3:13pm #

Seriously? Star Trek TNG is totally better. Also, atheism beats theism hands down, raspberry jam is better, jam is better than jelly, Coke beats Pepsi, veganism is better, and the best way to prepare a steak for the grill is by cooking it sous vide and then finishing it at high temperature.
Ask me something hard.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe

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Jun 4 2013 at 3:16pm #

Star Trek would have been better if it featured bacon.

Bacon makes everything better.


mr marvelous

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Jun 4 2013 at 3:20pm #

Star Trek is a serious subject and should not be taken lightly. I have had many serious debates about the greatness of Star Trek. If you want to make jokes there is always those silly Star Wars movies.


WillB

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Jun 4 2013 at 3:26pm #

Mick, you make a sarcastic comment, and then swear at someone who responds with a little bit of snark an links to three scientific papers – not very constructive. If you think some of those papers aren’t valid then go ahead and say so, but so far the most egregiously unsupportable claim made so far was when you claimed that bicycle helmets are too flimsy to protect a human skull. There may be a debate about whether it’s important from a policy perspective to encourage helmet use for cycling, but the idea that a proper bike helmet won’t improve your chances when your head hits the pavement is ridiculous.

http://www.vitalbmx.com/videos/member/ARF-Presents-Certified-vs-Non-Certified-Bicycle-Helmet-Impact-Test,43560/kylecarlson,363


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe

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Jun 4 2013 at 3:58pm #

@Mr. Marv: I take my bacon very seriously.

And it makes EVERYTHING better.

Even sci-fi movies featuring the dude from Fantasy Island (the one with the accent, not the little dude – although he did have an accent, too.).


Pierce

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Jun 4 2013 at 4:32pm #

@AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe

I was going to suggest a helmetless/helmet/vegan/vegetarian/omnivore debate if we wanted to get into a REAL debate, but since I just watched an episode of Star Trek TOS, I’ll jump on that

TOS is pretty jokey. I watched The Menagerie, where Spock contrives all these things to get to a planet they’re forbidden from contacting and Kirk is like “What the hell Spock, I would have gone, no problem.”

And then the whole reason they went there was to drop off a former Captain who is like the old guy in the wheel chair from Breaking Bad with the bell for yes and no (robot chair can control movement, but not language, makes no sense…) and the old guy meets up with a lady who he previously was like “You’re ugly and deformed, so obviously the only solution is to leave you isolated on a planet of aliens…” and they both go in ugly exile together

Also, the reason the lady gave why she was deformed was “the aliens didn’t know what humans looked like” but the aliens are humanoids and look essentially human with just big craniums
Makes no sense!

Also, the latest movie was bleh. Crappy remake; and any remake that tries to reuse iconic lines from the original always fall flat IMO


mr marvelous

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Jun 5 2013 at 8:28am #

@Pierce
No! Noooooooooo!
[Smashes glass]
I will not sacrifice the *The Message Board*. We’ve made too many compromises already; too many retreats. You invade *every thread* and we fall back. You assimilate entire *posts* and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further! And *I* will make you pay for what you’ve done!
Consider that your final warning for insulting Star Trek, go pick on Star Wars it can’t defend itself.


ajbooth

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Jun 5 2013 at 8:32am #

An interesting and timely article in Bicycling Magazine this month:

http://www.bicycling.com/senseless/

And Mick, before you pooh-pooh the article because it came from a source you might call trash, read it.


cburch

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Jun 5 2013 at 10:18am #

mr marvelous wrote:@Pierce
No! Noooooooooo!
[Smashes glass]
I will not sacrifice the *The Message Board*. We’ve made too many compromises already; too many retreats. You invade *every thread* and we fall back. You assimilate entire *posts* and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further! And *I* will make you pay for what you’ve done!
Consider that your final warning for insulting Star Trek, go pick on Star Wars it can’t defend itself.

best captain ever.


buffalo buffalo

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Jun 5 2013 at 10:25am #

“And he piled upon the driver’s white hump the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race. If his chest had been a cannon he would have shot his heart upon it.”


Mick

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Jun 5 2013 at 10:55am #

@WillB <em Mick, you make a sarcastic comment..

If you are taking “I know a dozen people whose live were ‘saved by a helmet’” as sarcasm, maybe you could rethink. I know that many people that have claimed that, and I don’t mean people whose posts I read on forums (which might bring it up into the 3 digit range).

If riding a bike helmetless was really that dangerous, I would have had friends who would have died on bikes

It’s worth some thought.

It intuitively makes sense that bicycle helmets would protect you from head injury. There are serious papers, like that of Dorothy Robinson (or the experience of the nation of Holland, if you like anecdotal evidence), that show pretty convincingly that bicycle helmets aren’t particularly protective.

Why not?

As near as I can see, if bicycle helmets were as sturdy as motorcyel helmets they would protect your head from injury effectively.

Bicycle helmets are relatively flimsy, though.

I wear mine for the same reason I used to wear a neck tie. I expect the bicycle helmet to provide that level of protection, too. It’s unrealistic to expect more.

Also, I haven’t seen any papers at about bicycle helmets and upper spinal injuries. I suspect that is an important topic.


byogman

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Jun 5 2013 at 11:11am #

ajbooth wrote:An interesting and timely article in Bicycling Magazine this month:

http://www.bicycling.com/senseless/

I read the article… VERY interesting. Thanks for posting. I do hope the concussion reducing designs make their way mass market and ideally cheaper before long. We’ll see.

Brings to mind a Simpsons episode where Homer was a boxer successful principally because his head could take an absurd amount of pounding because his (tiny) brain was surrounded by a lot of fluid.


edmonds59

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Jun 5 2013 at 11:15am #

Mick wrote:As near as I can see, if bicycle helmets were as sturdy as motorcyel helmets they would protect your head from injury effectively.

Actually, after reading the Bicycling article, it sounds like the problem is that current helmets are too sturdy. But the bottom line is that, sure, current helmets protect, but not from the most common kinds of injuries that people intuitively attribute to them. They’re still under development. I’m still at “wear one, wear one not…”
If you ride in any manner that you can refer to as “athletic”, if you are tracking and logging your time/speed/distance, paying attention to your Heart Rate Monitor, or trying to get a package across town in 15 minutes, a helmet is probably a good idea. If you’re biking across town to get a double decaf soy latte instead of walking, meh.


Benzo

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Jun 5 2013 at 11:18am #

This topic got me researching alternative helmet tech that is supplemental to existing CPSC standards:

MIPS – which is supposed to mitigate concussion risk by allowing slipage between EPS foam and the head, reducing rotational energy.

ConeHead – Uses dual density foam to provide more protection in less severe impacts in addition to more powerful impacts and still meet CPSC standards.

Cardboard Lattice – Used only on the ABUS Kranium helmet, supposedly works well to slow impacts and may even provide multi-impact protection. Paired with EPS foam for additional protection. Not yet CPSC certified, but now available in the UK.

These are all kind of interesting, I’m considering a mips or conehead technology in future helmet purchases.


Mick

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Jun 5 2013 at 11:41am #

ajbooth wrote:An interesting and timely article in Bicycling Magazine this month:

http://www.bicycling.com/senseless/
And Mick, before you pooh-pooh the article because it came from a source you might call trash, read it.

That article is good because it addresses the fundamental problem: Why AREN’T bicycle helmets effective?

It takes what the author refers to as “studies from Seattle” more seriously thatn he should. i wouldn’t believe Thompson, Thompson and Rivara if they said “hello. ” They each have had multimillion dollar carrers promoting helmet use on evidence that is a flimsy as the devices.
***

Also, I want to reiterate how very important this paper, cited by Peter B is.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23071369

This appears to be an honest, well-designed study and appears to show a protective effect from helmets. That is really imporpant to me because I haven’t seen such a study before (and it isn’t because I haven’t looked).

If this the results of this study are replicated in other honest, well-designed studies (which are extremely rare in this field), then it has to be taken seriously.

Trust me, I will be looking carefully at the study and any critiques of it.

Other than DL Robinson’s great study (which showed no protection) I haven’t seen good papers on bicycle helmets.

http://www.bmj.com/content/332/7543/722.2

It seems to me to be a serious problem with science. As long as you show a protective effect, you can get published with some not-very-good helmet studies in peer-reviewed journals.

***
On another forums, someone wrote that in certain neighborhood (presumable including one I travel through twice a day), people assume that if you are on a bike, you are a kid or a crack addict. My helmet effectively protects me from that impression. I wish it provided similar protection in the event of a crash.


jonawebb

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Jun 5 2013 at 11:55am #

@benzo, very interesting. The problem I have with these helmets is there is no way for me to know if the technology actually works. That’s why I’ve written to the CPSC asking them to update their requirements. Who knows, may work…


edmonds59

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Jun 5 2013 at 11:59am #

I did like the “neck tie” comment.


ajbooth

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Jun 5 2013 at 12:19pm #

Articles and science and everything else aside, I go from personal experience. I was wearing a helmet, landed on my head, and wound up with stitches, a concussion and a broken helmet. Given my state immediately after my crash, I shudder to think how much worse my injuries would have been without a helmet. Therefore, in my little corner of the world, helmets are good, and helmets protect.

I liken it to health insurance. It protects you from the catastrophic, but for the little bumps and bruises, you’re on your own.


jonawebb

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Jun 5 2013 at 12:22pm #

@mick, having read both papers, I think you’re misunderstanding the question we are asked to answer. Our question is something like: “Given that I’m already doing everything reasonable to protect myself, should I wear a helmet?” The BMJ study was directed to a very different question, which was “Do helmet laws reduce head injury?” Helmet-wearing interacts with a large number of other variables that influence safety, as the study points out. The study says, given all these variables, there isn’t justification for helmet laws, which impose a significant expense on riders, discourage riding, etc. But that question isn’t one we individual cyclists have to answer for ourselves.
And the NIH study does address that issue — by looking at post-mortems of cyclist head injuries. According to that study, wearing a helmet does reduce your risk, because cyclists without helmets had a much higher rate of head injury.
So the first study addresses a public policy question, and the second study addresses a question relevant to us here. And confirms that helmets do, in fact, protect against head injury in an accident.


durishange

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Jun 5 2013 at 12:47pm #

I agree with those who feel this is a personal preference. I wear a helmet most of the time. I use the same theory I use for wearing plaid pants and white shoes for golf. The more look and act like I’m dressed for the activity, the better I think I am at it. Seriously, I wear the helmet on commutes, road rides and mountain biking. I simply feel safer and I can attach my lights and such. It’s also reflective. I wear a bike specific helmet in warm weather and a snowboarding helmet in the winter I rarely wear it on the GAP in the on the crushed lime stone. I wear a baseball hat or something only to keep the sun off my bald dome. I don’t care what you wear, just get out there and pedal.


buffalo buffalo

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Jun 5 2013 at 1:01pm #

Related, via Greater Greater Washington: Feds will stop hyping effectiveness of bike helmets

Two federal government agencies will withdraw their longstanding claims that bicycle helmets reduce the risk of a head injury by 85%. The decision comes in response to a petition the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA) filed under the federal Data Quality Act.


Mikhail

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Jun 5 2013 at 2:11pm #

ajbooth wrote:An interesting and timely article in Bicycling Magazine this month:

http://www.bicycling.com/senseless/

And Mick, before you pooh-pooh the article because it came from a source you might call trash, read it.

Well, the article itself is kind of useless (I receive a paper copy of the magazine). But some references are much more interesting but rather hard to get if you don’t have access to databases and subscriptions.


Pierce

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Jun 5 2013 at 3:47pm #

“This helmet saved my life”

I think what Mick is saying is that, “no, it did not. Your head would have been about the same helmet or no helmet.” I don’t know the research, so I cannot say either way, concussion-wise.

From my previously mentioned crash on this thread, where I was wearing a helmet, which cracked, I now have to wear reading glasses, have short term memory issues, and sensitivity to light on my computer monitor. (Initial concussion evaluation at UPMC was $1k alone)

And that being said, I think my skin would have been in a LOT worse shape if I wasn’t wearing the helmet. I have this weird protrusion of scar tissue on my shoulder and it’d look kind of hideous on my face.

Proper bike maintenance, maintaining a lower speed, and allowing a greater following distance all would have helped prevent the crash in the first place, so for whatever that’s worth…


edmonds59

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Jun 6 2013 at 5:10pm #

Another sector heard from. Awesome. If I may, this may actually better represent where Mick is coming from, as it does I:
“I’m not anti-helmet, but I am anti-propaganda when it comes to companies capitalizing on fear and the perpetuation that bicycling is or even should be perceived as a dangerous activity.”
Plus I’m going to start following this guys blog.

http://georgehahn.com/2013/05/30/so-i-dont-wear-a-helmet-get-off-my-ass/


Mick

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Jun 6 2013 at 5:51pm #

edmonds59 wrote:“I’m not anti-helmet, but I am anti-propaganda when it comes to companies capitalizing on fear and the perpetuation that bicycling is or even should be perceived as a dangerous activity.”

I’m Mick Young and I approve of this message.


Mikhail

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Jun 6 2013 at 8:26pm #

Mick, look — everyone is in helmet! :)


gg

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Jun 8 2013 at 6:57am #

stefb wrote:gg sucks.

I don’t know why, but this post had me laughing all the way to work on my ride. It is short, to the point and well stated. My post was my twisted sense of humor that doesn’t have a very good effect in typed form. Actually, it doesn’t have a very good effect spoken either. Sorry about that post, but I did like this reply. Why say more?


byogman

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Jun 8 2013 at 10:05pm #

Why say more?

Because I LIKE writing essays dammit!

Except when I’m tired. G’night!


MichaelCycle

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Jun 12 2013 at 10:03am #

Mick wrote:
If riding a bike helmetless was really that dangerous, I would have had friends who would have died on bikes

Has no one here actually had a friend who died while riding helmetless? Because I did. And he would still be alive today if he had been wearing his helmet.

That’s why I’ll always, always wear a helmet, no matter where I am or where I’m going.

I really don’t give a crap if people wear helmets or not, just like I really don’t care if people decide to play Russian roulette or not. In both cases, it’s perfectly senseless if they die, but they made their choices and understood the risks. Likewise, I certainly have my own opinion on whether people who fail to wear helmets or decide to play Russian roulette are fools or not.

I’ve made my own choice. My choice will never bring my friend back to life, but maybe it will prevent me from joining him sooner. That’s good enough for me.


helen s

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Jun 12 2013 at 12:09pm #

I started wearing a helmet after reading a letter to the editor in Bicycling Magazine many years ago. The writer was describing the struggle they were having learning to ride a bike again after a helmetless fall on a quiet ride on a deserted street two years earlier. They could not remember the fall, just that they were riding and then they were waking up in the hospital with minor brain damage. That was good enough for me. I figured at the time my brain was worth the $35 insurance.
I did have a fall a few years ago- I think I slipped on wet leaves. I only remember waking up lying on my back with some cyclists standing over me saying “Are you ok man?” Bent my glasses, broke the plastic strap holder on the helmet, and scraped the side of my face pretty good- had a nice black eye. The helmet was scraped worse than my face. I figured with that sort of damage, it could only have been worse without the helmet.

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