Interesting article on helmets and road riding- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1

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    Interesting article on helmets and road riding

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?art...94A60E4D9A76B2

    Next time when I'm gnarled up in pricker bushes I'll just remember that its better than being punted by a cellphone soccer mom in a minivan.

  2. #2
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    I know everyone has a story about a friend who would have died if they hadn't been wearing their helmet, but from what I've read, chances are slim that a styrofoam hat will make much of a difference if you get accelerated by an impact with an automobile. I always wear one when I'm offroad, though, mostly for the low-hanging branches that I never seem to see in advance.

  3. #3
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    working in e.r. nursing, i could show picture after picture of why to wear a helmet when biking (road or mountain). for that matter, i could post some pictures of my own "helmet gallery" of damaged helmets that occurred from wrecks in which my melon wasnt split or even scuffed yet the helmet was virtually destroyed or seriously damaged.

    every year there are tens of thousands of serious injuries needlessly endured by bikers who choose not to wear a helmet. (we call motorcycle riders who dont wear a helmet "organ donors")

    even a low speed impact can cause serious injury. bike helmets are made to absorb impact as well as protect. sounds like one in the same, but not really. the brain is a very sensitive mass of tissue, and is easily damaged. it sits in a cocoon of liquid and violent acceleration/deceleration causes it to impact against the inner cranial wall. by absorbing impact it lessens the blunt force trauma and likely hood of severe swelling and subdural hematoma. obviously it cant 100% prevent it, but any reduction is certainly favorable.

    helmets also protect from the obvious sharp rock, abrasion, etc.

    imho ppl who dont wear a helmet while mtn biking make the assessment that theres nothing up worth protecting, so why bother?
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    Quote Originally Posted by monogod
    imho ppl who dont wear a helmet while mtn biking make the assessment that there's nothing up worth protecting, so why bother?
    That's why i never wear a face protector.

    I supose there are not just head injuries to take into account if you are involved in a collision and indeed no helmet will protect you 100%. Although it is an interesting article, i cant say it's a form of preventative action that i would subscribe to.

    I'm thinking that since the cars gave a wider berth when the reviewer was dressed in a wig and pretending to be a woman, then there could be a good market for wigs with a cycle helmet underneath. That way, you still get the head protection, the distance and you can pretend you're Dave Lee Roth whilst cycling.

    Seriously though, I couldn't think of going out without my crash hat - And i'd always put pressure on the people im riding with to do so. I think everyone knows that its safer to wear one, but just choose not to.

  6. #6
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    Wearing a helmet is a wise choice, no doubt about it, especially when riding off-road. But let's not give them too much credit:

    "... helmets will mitigate the effects of falling off your bicycle and striking your head... If a cyclist is accelerated by a car, then the helmet will not work and will not prevent a severe or even fatal injury"
    -- Dr. Michael Schwartz, neurosurgeon and member of Canadian Standards Association Committee establishing helmet standards

    "The "helmet-saved-my-life" stories are mostly hyperbole. A plausible explanation for them is that a helmet is a fragile piece of styrofoam which is larger than the head it is on. A helmet on the head of a cyclist who falls from a bicycle on to a hard surface is almost certain to come into contact with the surface and be damaged. A cracked helmet is not proof of protection but rather of a failed helmet*. It's all too easy then to assume a serious head injury would have been incurred without the helmet."
    *Morgan D.E., Szabo L.S., Australian Transport Safety Bureau, July 2001, Australian Transport Safety Bureau, PO Box 967, CIVIC SQUARE ACT 26
    http://www.magma.ca/~ocbc/hfaq.html#A1

    "Riding so you are less likely to get into accident situations is the first safety measure; watchfulness and skill in escaping them is the second."
    --John Forester, M.S., P.E.Cycling Transportation Engineer Consulting Engineer, Expert Witness & Educator in Effective Cycling, Bicycles, Highways & Bikeways, Traffic Laws http://www.johnforester.com/

  7. #7
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    just cuz some idiot says something doesnt make it worth quoting...

    Quote Originally Posted by Godless Communist
    "... helmets will mitigate the effects of falling off your bicycle and striking your head... If a cyclist is accelerated by a car, then the helmet will not work and will not prevent a severe or even fatal injury"
    -- Dr. Michael Schwartz, neurosurgeon and member of Canadian Standards Association Committee establishing helmet standards
    red herring. helmets are not designed to protect from this scenario.

    however, in the event of vehicle impact acceleration would you rather hit the ground bare headed or while wearing a "fragile piece of styrofoam which is larger than the head"?

    "The "helmet-saved-my-life" stories are mostly hyperbole. A plausible explanation for them is that a helmet is a fragile piece of styrofoam which is larger than the head it is on. A helmet on the head of a cyclist who falls from a bicycle on to a hard surface is almost certain to come into contact with the surface and be damaged. A cracked helmet is not proof of protection but rather of a failed helmet*. It's all too easy then to assume a serious head injury would have been incurred without the helmet."
    *Morgan D.E., Szabo L.S., Australian Transport Safety Bureau, July 2001, Australian Transport Safety Bureau, PO Box 967, CIVIC SQUARE ACT 26
    http://www.magma.ca/~ocbc/hfaq.html#A1
    ive worked as an e.r. nurse, have several friends who are also e.r. nurses and e.r. physicians. they, along with i, would wholeheartedly disagree with this "expert" based on first hand experience with bike vs. car patients.

    i also have also had more than one first hand experience of bike vs. car as a participant. the accident i was involved in a couple of months ago i was airborne and impacted the pavement head first just above and forward of my right temple and toasted a giro pneumo helmet. due to the very deep gouges in the outer hard composite shell it is NOT conjecture to conclude that had i not had it on i would have had, at the least, very, very serious abrasions and most likely lacerations at the point of impact, but also much greater contusions and increased risk for closed head injury.

    i may venture to guess youve never destroyed a helmet as the result of an accident.

    this guy is just plain full of it. a cracked helmet doesnt mean the helmet failed, it means it did its job. the helmets job is not to emerge from impact unscathed, but rather to prevent transmission of shock and impact to the cranium.

    im not sure if people have any idea of the amount of impact it takes to damage a bike helmet. when used for the intended application, the styrofoam helmets are not "delicate", by any common understanding and usage of the word. for nascar driving? yes. for motocross use? yes.

    they are designed to further protect the occipital protruberance where a great many of the most delicate functions and mechanics of the brain are housed (vision, for one), so its not just "a piece of styrofoam which is larger than the head it is on". nor is the extra protection at the rear of the helmet just for good looks.

    for those who think a helmet basically does nothing and affords no appreciable protection may i suggest a couple of experiments to conduct...

    human beings run at about 6 mph. (1/3 to 1/7 of the speeds reached biking) find a nice brick wall. pace off 30 feet from the brick wall. put your head down and fun as fast as you can into the wall insuring that the crown of your head strikes the wall. do this first with and then without a helmet. when you regain consciousness inform us of the results and whether or not wearing one while biking gained a little more appeal.

    next test... sit on your drive way (or other concrete or asphalt surface) with your legs straight out in front of you. cross your arms over your chest. hurl yourself backwards onto the concrete insuring that your occipital protruberance makes first contact. repeat with and without a helmet. when you regain consciousness, and if you still retain vision and fine motor coordination, again inform us of the result and conclusion.

    my guess is Morgan D.E., Szabo L.S., Australian Transport Safety Bureau would prefer to have the fragile piece of styrofoam on his head for either experiment.

    "Riding so you are less likely to get into accident situations is the first safety measure; watchfulness and skill in escaping them is the second."
    --John Forester, M.S., P.E.Cycling Transportation Engineer Consulting Engineer, Expert Witness & Educator in Effective Cycling, Bicycles, Highways & Bikeways, Traffic Laws http://www.johnforester.com/
    agreed. helmets arent license to ride recklessly, they are protection if the unforeseen should happen.

    thats why they're called accidents.
    Last edited by monogod; 05-14-2007 at 08:36 AM.
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    I notice that quote is from 2001. Could it not be that helmet technology has improved from when this was written?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pudgerboy
    I notice that quote is from 2001. Could it not be that helmet technology has improved from when this was written?
    without a doubt it has.

    none the less, i would still rather face the prospect of an impact with the ground with one from the quote's period than without.
    "Knowledge is good." ~ Emil Faber

  10. #10
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    I'm curious -- is there anything in the world that doesn't provoke some sort of heated response on your part? Are you even capable of conducting a calm discussion?

    Quote Originally Posted by monogod
    red herring. helmets are not designed to protect from this scenario.
    No red herring; in fact, that's exactly the point: helmets are not a magic shield that will save one from a collision with a car; that's not even their job. Many helmet proponents think otherwise.

    Quote Originally Posted by monogod
    I have several friends who are also e.r. nurses and e.r. physicians. they, along with i, would wholeheartedly disagree with this "expert" based on first hand experience with bike vs. car patients.
    Just because it's your expert opinion doesn't make it more valid than another's.

    Quote Originally Posted by monogod
    i may venture to guess youve never destroyed a helmet as the result of an accident.
    You are not only mistaken, but you also seem to be under the impression that I am not in favor of helmet use. Please re-read the first sentence of my earlier post.

    Quote Originally Posted by monogod
    a cracked helmet doesnt mean the helmet failed, it means it did its job.
    The author isn't saying that the helmet failed to do its job. His point is that when a helmet does its job (by failing), it does not necessarily mean that a life has been saved or a serious injury has been prevented.

    Quote Originally Posted by monogod
    for those who think a helmet basically does nothing and affords no appreciable protection may i suggest a couple of experiments to conduct...
    Seeing as no one has made this assertion, it seems odd that you're refuting it.

    No offense, but you seem to get off on angrily asserting your opinions and knowledge. Perhaps you don't mean to come across this way, but I doubt it.
    Last edited by Godless Communist; 05-14-2007 at 09:26 AM.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pudgerboy
    I notice that quote is from 2001. Could it not be that helmet technology has improved from when this was written?
    That could very well be, but I haven't seen any evidence that ANSI, CPSC, or Snell has updated or upgraded their requirements to reflect these alleged improvements, or even when the last upgrade occured. The most recent one I found from Snell was 1999, and 1995 for CPSC.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Godless Communist
    I'm curious -- is there anything in the world that doesn't provoke some sort of heated response on your part? Are you even capable of conducting a calm discussion?
    im neither aggitated nor was this a heated response.

    you stated your opinion by posting quotes (which, since you didnt refute tend to imply that you agree with them), and i stated my opinion in rebuttal.

    No red herring; in fact, that's exactly the point: helmets are not a magic shield that will save one from a collision with a car; that's not even their job.
    then im at a loss as to why you posted that quote.

    Many helmet proponents think otherwise.
    i am not one of them. from the context of your post and quotes the message was that helmets on the road were basically useless.


    Just because it's your expert opinion doesn't make it more valid than another's.
    i would stipulate that the expert opinion of those in the medical field IS more valid than the experts you quoted simply because we regularly deal with people who have serious head injuries because they listened to opinions representative of the "experts" you quoted and thus chose not to wear a helmet.


    You are not only mistaken, but you also seem to be under the impression that I am not in favor of helmet use. Please re-read the first sentence of my earlier post.
    that is the impression your entire post gives by ending your opening endorsement of helmets with "But let's not give them too much credit" and then posting the quotes you did. im pretty sure im not the only one that got that impression.

    other posters feel free to tell me if thats the case and i was, in fact, the only one that inferred that position from the post and the quotes.

    The author isn't saying that the helmet failed to do its job.
    then we have to agree to disagree on that one.

    i, for one, feel that is EXACTLY what he is saying by calling helmet-saved-my-life stories "largly hyperbole" and then going on to say "A cracked helmet is not proof of protection but rather of a failed helmet"

    to me, when one says that they are implying that stories are basically b.s and that there is no proof of protection.

    he even goes on to say "It's all too easy then to assume a serious head injury would have been incurred without the helmet."

    that really is sounding more and more like hes saying false credit is given to helmets. or in other words... "But let's not give them too much credit"

    he said "not proof of protection". a helmets job is protection. so he is saying there its not proof of a helmet doing its job". coupled with the hyperbole statement and then saying a cracked helmet is no proof of protection, it really sounds like hes saying helmets arent really that effective.

    am i the only one that got that out of the quote?

    Seeing as no one has made this assertion, it seems odd that you're refuting it.
    "for those who think..." is who it was directed to. if youre not one who thinks that way, then it wasnt directed at you, now was it?

    btw... "tongue in cheek" is a way of stating an example or making a point.

    No offense, but you seem to get off on angrily asserting your opinions and knowledge.
    none taken. just because people disagree with you doesnt mean they are "angrily asserting" their opinions. it means they are disagreeing with the position you seem to have taken. thats all.
    "Knowledge is good." ~ Emil Faber

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    Quote Originally Posted by monogod
    im neither aggitated nor was this a heated response.
    I'm sorry, but when your subject line uses the word "idiot" to describe the source material's author, and later you asssert that the "guy is just plain full of it" you come off as combative. Given your posting of an "apology" thread elsewhere on this forum, I think you intuitively know this is the case.

    Quote Originally Posted by monogod
    from the context of your post and quotes the message was that helmets on the road were basically useless.
    The you have either misinterpreted the post and the evidence, are intentionally overstating and oversimplifying it to strengthen your argument. See the enumerated list below.

    Quote Originally Posted by monogod
    we regularly deal with people who have serious head injuries because they listened to opinions representative of the "experts" you quoted and thus chose not to wear a helmet.
    Somehow, I doubt that you have polled your patients to see whose opinions they listened to. Moreover, their injuries do not mitigate the accuracy of the other experts' claims. After all, no one, least of all me, asserts it is safer to not wear a helmet.

    Quote Originally Posted by monogod
    that is the impression your entire post gives by ending your opening endorsement of helmets with "But let's not give them too much credit" and then posting the quotes you did.
    The point is pretty simple: helmets are not miracles. They may save lives, but no one can accurately tell how many. In fact, they are not designed to save lives in many of the situations that people think they will.

    The pertinent points being made in the quoted passages are:

    1) If a cyclist is accelerated by a car, then the helmet will not work and will not prevent a severe or even fatal injury
    2) A cracked helmet is not proof of protection.
    3) Riding so you are less likely to get into accident situations is the first safety measure

    That's it. Why you bristle at these assertions is a bit confusing, as I don't think you really disagree with any of them.

  14. #14
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    i like...

    I ride, I wear my helmet.
    I've broken a few on the street and trail out of carelessness. But still, I wear one. Peace of mind. And having a little girl and a lovely Sarah, my helmet gives me a higher chance to live longer in case something happens where if I wasn't wearing one...

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Godless Communist
    I'm sorry, but when your subject line uses the word "idiot" to describe the source material's author, and later you asssert that the "guy is just plain full of it" you come off as combative.
    based on how they were presented, and what was inferred by the quotes, it is my opinion he is an idiot and just plain full of it.

    now if i had said YOU were an idiot and full of it, then THAT would be combative.

    Given your posting of an "apology" thread elsewhere on this forum, I think you intuitively know this is the case.
    nice try. however, the apology was for carrying snipes too far and being downright mean to people personally on the thread, not for giving my opinion of a quote or its author.

    in my opinion darwin, clinton, bush, greenspan, paris hilton, k-fed, and b. spears (among others) are idiots too. that doesnt make me combative, it makes me a person with an opinion based on peoples words and actions.

    Somehow, I doubt that you have polled your patients to see whose opinions they listened to. Moreover, their injuries do not mitigate the accuracy of the other experts' claims.
    youre right, i dont know who "exactly" they listened to, nor did i say, imply, nor should any sane person infer it.

    i said they "listened to opinions representative of the "experts" you quoted and thus chose not to wear a helmet"

    however, we do ask people why they didnt have a helmet on, and i have heard most of them (the conscious ones, that is) lament not wearing one due to listening to someone who told them that helmets didnt really do that much. listened to them express regret for not having had one on as their scalp is hanging off of their head because of a helmetless impact, or they have major lacerations and/or a cranial breach that would have most likely been avoided by wearing a helmet.

    we hear the fear in their voice as they ask if they'll get their vision back or if their fine motor control will eventually return. we hear people who before had no speech pathology struggle to make simple words and sounds after an impact. we see people who just arent there anymore after a closed head injury.

    i know physical therapists who work with people for months and years because of serious head injuries which could have been minimized or avoided by wearing a helmet.

    would all of them been 100% avoided by wearing a helmet? of course not, and thats not what im saying. would their chances of injury been less and would the probability of a lesser injury been increased with a helmet? in almost every single case... YES!

    so let those "experts" have their "opinions". i do not agree with them, and i do feel that the opinions of the medical community are far more valid than are theirs.

    that doesnt make me angry, or combative, or bristled. it simply means i have an opinion i shared just as you did yours.


    The point is pretty simple: helmets are not miracles. They may save lives, but no one can accurately tell how many. In fact, they are not designed to save lives in many of the situations that people think they will.
    why not just say that the first time instead of posting quotes which seem to contradict that line of thought?

    as i stated before i really didnt get that out of your post and i dont think im the only one.

    like i said, others please feel free to chime in if i was the only one that inferred that the tone of the post was to imply helmets werent all that effective.

    btw, i agree 100% with you on that.

    The pertinent points being made in the quoted passages are:

    1) If a cyclist is accelerated by a car, then the helmet will not work and will not prevent a severe or even fatal injury
    it wont protect against the impact of the car, but it is far better to land on your head after being accelerated by a vehicle impact WITH a helmet on than without
    2) A cracked helmet is not proof of protection.
    i disagree with that one. an impact great enough to damage a helmet but which leaves the cranium intact would have been one to cause moderate to intensely serious injury.
    3) Riding so you are less likely to get into accident situations is the first safety measure
    i agreed with that the first time you posted it.
    Last edited by monogod; 05-14-2007 at 11:46 AM.
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by ernesto_from_Wisconsin
    I ride, I wear my helmet.
    I've broken a few on the street and trail out of carelessness. But still, I wear one. Peace of mind. And having a little girl and a lovely Sarah, my helmet gives me a higher chance to live longer in case something happens where if I wasn't wearing one...
    very well said.
    "Knowledge is good." ~ Emil Faber

  17. #17
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    Lies, damn lies and statistics..

    "The implication," Walker says, "is that any protection helmets give is canceled out by other mechanisms, such as riders possibly taking more risks and/or changes in how other road users behave towards cyclists." Interestingly the only statistics in the article was "Coincidentally, around the same time as Walker announced his results, New York City released a report on bicycle deaths and injuries: 225 cyclists died between 1996 and 2005 on New York streets; 97 percent of them were not wearing helmets."

    In other words Walker has decided that the closer cars come to you the greater likelyhood they will hit you. One of the problems with this arguement is Walker was basing his arguement totally on accidents where bicyclist getting run down from behind. Statiscally the least likely accident encountered by bicyclist. I would agree that in those cases helmets are of little good, however since the most common cause of an accidnet is a car turning in front of a bicyclist, perhaps that would explain why helmets save so many lives.

    1G1G, Brad
    Last edited by aka brad; 05-16-2007 at 09:09 AM.
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  18. #18
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    Well, like I said in the first place, it's a good idea to wear a helmet, and I don't see any reason to split the remaining hairs over whether the severity of a given injury could or could not be reduced, since that's largely conjecture anyway. And if you get hit hard enough by a car to kill you, a styrofoam hat probably won't save you; nor is it designed to. As long as no one tries to mandate their use, I'm not that concerned with what people choose to do with their wardrobe.

    I'm not inclined to rehash this ad nauseum. I think that generally speaking the benefits of using a helmet are overstated. That's it.
    Last edited by Godless Communist; 05-14-2007 at 01:19 PM.

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    Truer words were never spoken..

    Quote Originally Posted by Godless Communist
    Well, like I said in the first place, it's a good idea to wear a helmet, and I don't see any reason to split the remaining hairs over whether the severity of a given injury could or could not be reduced, since that's largely conjecture anyway. And if you get hit hard enough by a car to kill you, a styrofoam hat probably won't save you; nor is it designed to. As long as no one tries to mandate their use, I'm not that concerned with what people choose to do with their wardrobe.

    I'm not inclined to rehash this ad nauseum. I think that generally speaking the benefits of using a helmet are overstated. That's it.
    You can't legislate intelligence.

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    My God!

    I swear the arguments hilarious!

    Regardless of weather this is taken as an offence or not (I don't care) my statement is based on my personal feelings and therefore is irrefutable.

    When I see someone riding without a helmet, I formulate an opinion. It is not a positive opinion.

    If you believe that you are safer to not wear a helmet...fine. That is your choice. My choice will likely be to not ride with (or near) you (I am sure you are not bothered much by this).

    Why do I choose this? I have witnessed a man die on a ride, and I don't want to see it again. May be I will, but I believe that my chances of seeing someone die on a ride decrease when all riders are wearing helmets....and decreasing those odds are what I choose to do...selfish? I guess so.

    BTW, you know that is worse than dieing on a ride? Ask my childhood friend Robbie...better yet, ask his parents who still do everything for him at age 34 (he can walk though)...BTW he was traveling at less than 10 MPH when his unprotected head hit the ground.

    One last thought...if you have loved ones...let the decision of weather or not you wear a helmet be their choice.

  21. #21
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    Maybe, but..

    Quote Originally Posted by Pudgerboy
    I notice that quote is from 2001. Could it not be that helmet technology has improved from when this was written?
    The foam absorbs impact the same way it did in 2001. One of my personal experiences with a helmet doing its intended job (cracking & deformation) occurred before that time, in 1994 or '95. I hit the pavement at 20+ mph, head and shoulder into the asphalt (I high-sided landing upside down 25 ft from where I'd caught a pedal, not much deceleration until impact). There were 5 breaks in the styrofoam. I'm certain that there would have been serious head injury, at least, in this incident. As it was, I just had a dull headache for a couple days. I got another helmet immediately.
    Having used four other helmets up, I am a huge believer in the use of them.

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    Stats

    I'd be interested to see some statistics which compare trail riding to road riding as far as serious injuries/death are concerned. My gut feeling is that off-road is safer wrt the big stuff that lands you in the hospital or funeral home.

    I have crashed more on the trail than I ever did on the road but it was because I was riding like a squirrel, and fortunately every time I have walked away. Having landed on my head a few times too, I am a firm believer in helmets and glasses (for the pokey things).

    I have since sold my road bike as I became convinced that something bad was eventually going to happen to me on the road. The last straw was 2 yrs ago when I was smacked by a Yukon's mirror going about 20mph and there was no reason the driver could not have given me a wider berth as there was no car coming in the opposite lane--he did not even slow down after he clipped me. I am convinced there are some angry drivers out there who couldn't give a crap if they hit you. I still ride my mtn. bike on the road to get to the trails by my house, but I am always relieved to get off the road. Bottom line, I'll take my chances with oaks and maples over Yukons and minivans--if I hit one its my own fault.

  23. #23
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    This is a helmet ouchy


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    Cause and effect???

    What this study tells me is most male drivers are farsighted.

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    A man's got to know his limitations.

    Quote Originally Posted by henrypennry
    I have since sold my road bike as I became convinced that something bad was eventually going to happen to me on the road.
    That's why I gave up motorcycles.

    Brad
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  26. #26
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    yeah, those low speed impacts can happen even fooling around riding around in the neighborhood. I had my old helmet on during a slow motion trip over the bars onto pavement. I heard the foam crushing...the sound conducted thru my skull. Memorable sound. I walked away.

    Wear it!
    the time is right for violent revolution

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