Oh, man. When I brought up helmets last week, I had this sneaking suspicion it was a better conversation starter than the Giro d’Italia, though in years past I know we would have turned the Giro over and over like a favorite record. 50 comments later, I think we covered helmets pretty well.
In midweek, Padraig reviewed a new pair of gloves, and that got me thinking that gloves have that same sort of personal character that helmets do.
Truth be told, I prefer to ride without gloves, but years of doing so, while spending my days with my paws on a keyboard, have left the nerves that run from my arms into my mitts with less than optimal connectivity. Some days it doesn’t take very long for a familiar buzzing to creep from my palms up into my fingers.
So, I tend to keep a couple or three pairs of gel-palmed gloves in my steady rotation. The right glove can cradle my frayed nerves and dissipate enough vibration to keep me sensate all day long, over road and gravel, up singletrack and down powerline cut. The Giro Monaco long-fingered glove is a particular favorite, with just the right amount of pad.
Padding, breathability, seam-angle and height, materials, they all go into making a great glove, and of course durability is an issue, because we use our hands for everything.
This week’s Group Ride is about gloves. What do you wear and why? As it’s mostly warm most everywhere right now, let’s keep this to warmer weather gloves. The winter variety can be an entirely different beast with a whole other set of challenges.
Until I was about 25, I had never worn a bike helmet. I went through my entire childhood, riding BMX, my soft melon of a head exposed to the predations of pavement and dirt. I hurled myself, full speed, at ramps made of plywood scrap, propped up on loose brick or, on a good day, a couple of cinder blocks. I tore through the woods, whizzing past pine trees and flying off red clay dirt jumps with nary a care in the world. I was oblivious to the very concept of ‘concussion,’ and my parents were equally unconcerned.
Parenting in the ’70s was a much more laissez faire affair.
So yesterday, in the office, we were talking about helmets. None of us wanted to have the great helmet debate, but there we were. And then Neil said, “Here’s the thing. If someone told you, you could never wear a helmet ever again, would it change the way you ride? Would you stop riding altogether? Would you ride different bikes?”
And Joe said, “I would never ride a mountain bike in the woods again. I would probably get rid of my road bikes. I would get a single-speed cruiser, with coaster brakes, and a large basket, and that would be it.”
For all the times I’ve said, “I don’t know for certain that a helmet makes me more safe, but I’m willing to err on the side of caution given the possible consequences,” I’ve never taken the time to consider the question in the absolute terms Neil proposed.
So now I put it to you. Forget the helmet debate. Are they good? Are they bad? Do they make you more safe, less safe? That is not what we’re doing here. All we’re doing is answering the question: If you could never wear a helmet, how would it change your riding?
Follow me on Twitter @thebicyclerobot.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International