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Ode to a Helmet

Recently I purchased a new-to-me mountain bike that has considerably better components and much better geometry for my size than my old bike. The good news is that this bike lets me ride rough terrain lots faster. Some would say that's also the bad news.

On a recent ride, I was enjoying taking some little airs hitting the whoop-dee-dos of the water bars intersecting the trail. The first few little jumps felt  good so I ramped up the speed. The next few water bars felt good, so it was time to try flying a little farther still...with more speed.

OK, you see where this tale about flying is headed, don't you?

Naturally, I quickly came to face to face with the Peter Principle. Extra speed combined with a water bar that had a much steeper pitch than the preceding water bars sent me flying over the handlebars.

The flight itself was awesome. Unfortunately it was a horrible two-point landing distributed equally between the lefts side of my head and my left shoulder. It was so violent and with so little rolling to dissipate the force that I was sure serious injury had ensued. Frankly, I thought a broken neck was going to be the aftermath of this incompetent landing.

I lay there for a minute taking stock. Hmmm, no tingling in the fingers or toes like the last time I broke my neck six years ago. But the headache was intense. I waited to see if a contusion in the skull would apply pressure to the brain and black me out.

By now my partner had turned around, found me in a heap, and was checking my pupils. "Any oddity in dialations probably has more to do do with my Heroin addiction than this fall," I told him.

Ray figured all was well if I was joking around but informed me all was not well with my helmet. It was squashed and the left side was fractured into six pieces.

So let me give thanks to a helmet that had been with me for over 15 years and, that on this day, sacrificed its welfare to protect mine. It took the bullet. Without it, I'm certain I would be typing unintelligible sequences of letters right now rather than words.

You don't need a bike helmet often, but when you do it can definitely make the difference between being beat up (as I was for the next several days) and becoming a vegetable.

In the past 12 years this is the second incident where a bike helmet probably saved what little IQ I possess. The last time was a fall on a steep sandy trail where I pitched over the handlebars, kept rolling down the hill, and tried to ring the bell of a tree trunk with my head. The tree was unfazed but bells rang inside my skull.

Most cyclists are clued into the wisdom of protecting their wisdom with a helmet, but I still see people (a few on the trails, more on the roads) riding without them. One school of thought says if you're not smart enough to wear a brain bucket you obviously don't have much to protect. More often, however, the absence of a helmet is a case of misplaced confidence in one's control over life.

Most of the time you can control the knocks you take. Yet out on the trail and even more so on the roads, where the actions of motorists must be factored in, the unexpected happens. The unexpected may not happen often,  but once without a helmet can be once too much.