In my dream cycling world, we’d all cruise round the streets with impeccably elegant headgear: perhaps a trilby topping off a classic suit for the gentleman about town, and a chic headscarf or beret worn at a jaunty angle for the well-dressed ladies. Something like this:
Thus attired, the ever-so-elegant bicycle rider would cruise effortlessly through their equally elegant city, perhaps with a baguette tucked nonchalantly under the arm, en route to sip espresso at a bohemian cafe with their impossibly handsome and charming friends.
And then I wake up. It’s 7am, pouring with rain and with that howling wind, my tres chic beret would last about 2 seconds before being swept off to some remote hillside in the next county. So it’s a ratty old fleecey thing on the bonce for me, which although looking like it’s been chewed by a dog, does at least keep my ears warm. And then – despite hating them with a passion – the helmet goes on top.
Helmets are a bit of a contentious one. At one extreme there are the people who don’t wear a helmet because it’s not cool, end of story. At the other, there are those calling for helmet-wearing to be mandatory for a jaunt to the paper shop. And in between there are the people like me – the people who really, really don’t want to wear one, but their self-preservation instincts won’t let them do otherwise. There’s not a lot of evidence suggesting a helmet will afford much protection in a really serious crash – let’s face it, if you’re gonna get hit by a truck, there probably isn’t much a bit of polystyrene perched on your head is going to help you with.
But it’s in the lesser spills that I reckon helmets show their worth, the sort of spills that tend to happen occasionally on our sadly pothole- and traffic-addled roads. In cities properly set up for cycling (think Amsterdam and Copenhagen) no one wears a helmet, but then it’s all so much safer generally with all those well-maintained segregated cycle lanes all over the place. I’ve come off my bike a handful of times, on one occasion landing hard enough on my knee to turn it blue for several weeks. Bruised limbs are all very well, but hitting my head on the road with a similar level of force would have resulted in a pretty nasty concussion – or worse. So for that reason, the helmet goes on.
Recently, I’ve ditched my ugly old helmet in favour of one of the exciting new breed of women’s helmets which are designed to NOT make you look like you’ve signed up for Le Tour. It’s a Bern Lenox and is super lightweight, comfy, doesn’t give you awful helmet hair, and (best of all as far as I’m concerned) comes in some lovely colours. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was elegant, but I’ll make do with something that does at least come in purple… My noggin-protector came from the good folks at Cycle Chic, who have a really impressive selection of nice-looking helmets. There are even helmets that are cunningly disguised as proper hats (though disappointingly no-one seems to have yet figured out how to make a Parisian beret version….)
So in conclusion: use your head and wear a helmet, folks. But please, remember that these days. it doesn’t have to be an ugly one.