Helmets: some alternatives

It seems as though when you start a new hobby, it’s easy to stumble upon never before realised controversies that were lurking all along, under the surface of everyday life, completely unobserved by everyone else. For fans of foreign TV programmes or movies, there’s the dub versus sub debate. For bento box lunch enthusiasts, there’s some snideyness amongst people who only use ‘proper’ Japanese boxes, versus those who use western lunchware like Tupperware or Laptop Lunches. With vintage dressing, I know there’s some debate about repro clothing versus authentic, really from the era vintage clothing. To be honest, a lot of these are more to do with perceived elitism and snobbery than anything else, which I guess you get in the cycling world too. I was expecting a similar debate around lycra/safety clothing versus streetwear to crop up quite early on in my enthusiastic web surfing, but I must be dodging those sites completely. The one thing that keeps jumping out is helmets versus no helmets, and I’ll explain why that’s a bit of a shock for me.

As a child, the school laid on cycling proficiency lessons for us, which mostly seemed to involve dodging between traffic cones and being able to hold your hand out to signal right and left. The one thing that was totally gospel was helmet-wearing, and I guess, due to a lack of real cycling between then and now, as an adult, the idea that helmets were an essential part of cycling has always stayed with me. I see a lot of cyclists on the roads now, especially as I’m looking out for them, and I rarely see anyone without a helmet. Those that do are generally quite obviously making smaller, neighbourhood journeys. In order to get to the next shopping area from me, you have to travel down and up a rather large hill, and all the cyclists I’ve seen tackling this are wearing helmets.

For me, personally, as a new cyclist, I feel compelled to buy and wear a helmet. I don’t feel confident enough in my ability to cycle, in the roads, or in the traffic flow, to go without one. That could change,but in the meantime, I’ve been researching the most stylish options available for cyclists, and I’ve found some pretty neat ones!

Perhaps the most traditional looking helmet on my lust-list is the Nutcase, a cool-looking solid type of helmet from the US which resembles a BMX biker or skateboarders helmet.

Love the cool Union Jack design – and although it doesn’t have as much ventilation as the average aerodynamic helmet does, it still has some airholes there to keep your head cool. Priced around £45.

I also really like Sawako Furuno helmets, which you can buy at cyclechic.co.uk.

They’re quite pricey (from £60 up to £73) and I haven’t seen one that I’ve fallen in love with – yet. The colours are very pastel, so if that’s your style, you’ll love these! They’re very subtle and girly.

My favourite find so far has to be the cool Yakkay helmets, which come with interchangeable soft covers!

I’ve heard they can make your head sweaty, but it seems like a small price to pay for such stylish and protective headwear!

They come in three different sizes, so I’d have to purchase them in person to be sure I was getting the right size for me. They’re a bit pricey to buy sight-unseen, and I’m sure they’re not really waterproof either. But, they look great! They range from about £30 for a cover to £104 for a cover and helmet, depending on the style.

By far the most intriguing of my finds is the Ribcap.

Made from an amazing material which hardens when struck with a hefty force, the Ribcap looks like a soft beanie type wooly hat, but the manufacturers claim prevents head trauma. Sounds good to me! They look a little hefty for the summer, but I can imagine them being really good for the winter.

The Jackson may not look much on the mannequin, but it looks great on the model!

Again, they’re quite pricey (£50-60), but they do look good, and seem like a less restrictive choice if you don’t like the feeling of a traditional helmet. If you’d like to see the Ribcap being put through its paces, and want to find out more about what it’s made of, check out the Youtube video below of the Gadget Show.

If you’d like to see some more amazing helmets, I found this excellent site which has some really cool examples: Helmets Rock Hard.

New to biking

Sunday Ride

Image by Josh Koonce via Flickr

I’ve always enjoyed cycling, especially when I was a kid. One of my happiest memories was cycling round and round my block on my bike (pretending to be a train for some reason…), but as an adult, as I guess a lot of us do, I stopped cycling so much, and now I don’t even have a bike.

I currently work from home and so I don’t need  a bike to commute. When I used to work the other side of town, I briefly flirted with the idea of cycling, because I had to catch a bus that took an hour to make what should have been a 20 minute journey. Unfortunately, I live at the top of a hill (which leads to another hill), so it’s very off-putting to think about travelling up it first thing in the morning. Also, at the time I was considering this, the weather was awful and it was really dark in the mornings. And, I was totally broke. My dad took me to the tip and we found a bike which was rideable (for £5!), and we got a helmet and some lights from the local bike shop, which cost about ten times more than the bike itself. The bike was pretty hard to ride, but to be honest, it wasn’t until I tried another friend’s bike several years later that I realised just how hard to cycle it was. Anyway, I told my boss I was cycling to work, and he was pretty keen that I didn’t, citing how dangerous it was and how tiring it would be. When I say pretty keen, what I mean was he basically said ‘No way’ and suggested one of the other guys from work give me a lift. Not wanting to make a fuss or try to circumvent him, I quietly nixed the idea, secretly glad I wouldn’t have to face that monstrous hill, and carried on commuting by bus.

Fast forward to last year, when my friend Rachel got a Trek mountain bike. It was summer, and I saw adverts for the SkyRide, which is where they shut down the roads in city centres across the country so that cyclists can take over the streets and generally have a blast. We did a couple of laps, her on her fancy bike, and me on my dump-cycle. I noticed she was having no problem tackling even slight hills, whereas for me it was like trying to pull a tractor on the back of the bike. So, we swapped bikes – what a revelation. I could actually cycle and it felt effortless. (Meanwhile, she could barely get mine going). I have to say I cycle on my exercise bike a lot – at one time, on average an hour a day at least four times a week – so I have no problem with fitness. I could have cycled around the city all day but eventually we had to go home… Even so, it was that that really made me realise that the enjoyment I got out of cycling wasn’t lost to me as an adult.

So, all it really took was another nudge to get me into the right direction…