Sunday, January 31, 2010

Helmets, are you man enough?

A friend asked recently what my ideas are regarding helmet use and fixed gear bikes. Would you guess that I'd have an opinion on that?

First, to me there is no difference between fixed or any other kind of bicycle as far as helmet usage goes. Secondly, it is legal for those over 18 years old to go helmetless while on bicycles. I recognize that but, it doesn't modify or lessen my personal opinion on helmet use.

To decide to not wear a helmet on bicycles is a fashion decision. It's a bad decision in my opinion and usually that decision is dressed up as something else. I say that most who do not use a helmet are afraid. They are afraid of what other people think of them. I see that as an inner weakness. That's right, my view is that it is clearly a bad decision to not wear a helmet while riding and, a sign of weakness. A person with a strong self image cares more about his/her safety than whether he looks "geeky" or "uncool" or whatever. Wearing a helmet is a way to "be your own guy".

People have told me that they wear their helmet for certain kinds of rides. They say they use them when they go on longer rides or on the road but not off road or when riding hard but not while just jetting down to the store. My experience tells me that you don't know when you're going to crash so how does that decision make any sense? Maybe they think it makes sense because on some types of rides they won't be around as many cars. Most of the time, it's the street that does the damage to your head and you never know when you'll make a mistake and just eat some pavement. I'm saying that as good a rider as you are, you can still make a move that doesn't work out and hit the deck in an instant. Just because you've crashed lots of times without hitting your head doesn't mean that all accidents will be like that. Some crashes happen within a framework of speed that allows human reactions to control some aspects. Others happen in more of a "slam" fashion and basically put you down so fast and hard that your reactions don't come into play.

Changing someone's mind to the point that they make a better decision about helmet wearing is probably not going to happen in more than a smattering of cases. I'd like to think that people will read this and say to themselves that the only smart thing to do is wear a helmet for cycling; every time they ride. It would be nice if it gave someone the social independence to say "I don't care what others think" and wear that helmet. I doubt that will happen but in reality, it is not dorky to wear a helmet. Not once, never, has anyone ever said anything to me regarding my helmet. I have an idea what my response would be if they did and I'll just let you imagine how much my feelings would be hurt if someone did say anything to me about it.

In closing I'll say that women look better in helmets when they're on a bike. There's something fundamentally appealing about someone who is realistic enough to know that not everything is within their control and cares enough about her self to mitigate the negative consequences if something bad does happen. Yes, I'm saying that helmets appeal to my inner caveman.

Riding a bicycle involves a risk. Take the risk but stack the cards in your favor.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Some of my favorite parts.........older ones this time:

Over the years, many bicycle parts have had an effect on me. Some were on my bikes. Many more were on bikes I repaired. I'll not speak here and now of parts that have made a bad impression on me, but rather, the ones that have earned a place in my heart. It is a simple mind that is fundimentally satisfied by well designed and executed bicycle parts. With that in mind, here we go.

There is a part that, more than any other in the bicycle world, is regarded as the very best of what it is. Far from exotic, but neccessary it is; the rim strip. It's job is to protect the inner tube from hostile nipples (I just wanted to see how that looks in print: "hostile nipples") or the sharp edges of holes drilled in the inner wall of double wall rims. In spite of constant attempts to better it, the Velox Rim Strip is the rim strip by which all others are judged...........and found lacking. You can't do better, and it costs only $3.50 each. Can life get better?!?

Running a close second in the category of being universally regarded as being the best of its class is the Chris King headset. Grant Peterson doesn't like them. Hah! That's more for me. They are the best and they are made in the USA. On a bicycle tour of the California Coast in 1977, I stopped into Chris King's shop, which was in the back of the legendary Hendrickson's Bike Shop in Santa Barbara, to meet Chris King and see his operation. Standing ankle deep in glorious aluminum shavings, he was engaged in making, not headsets, but a flute out of a piece of electrical conduit. My shop had a couple headsets on order from him, and I was patiently waiting, because at that time, they were hard to get. I now understood why. I wondered if he could play the Kinks' "Tired of Waiting" on that flute? After all these years, they're still the best.

Campy Nuovo Record derailluer. I'm not going to argue that it's the best, but it is one of my favorite parts. I remember the first time I held one in my hand. I'd seen them on bikes. I'd held many common derailluers in my hand but had only seen Campys on bikes. Bud, from Bud's Bike Shop in Clairmont, Ca. handed me one to show me how light it was. I was bedazzled. When I got my first bike with one, it shifted better than any other I'd tried. I still love them. They are iconic. They are one of the most beautiful bicycle components ever made. Sometimes I feel like a pirate with a treasure chest full of booty because I've got lots of them. A close second place, and much less available is the Huret Jubilee. The lightest ever made and it also works great.

Campy Nuovo Record seatpost. The old two bolt type. By today's standards, very heavy. By today's standards, there isn't anything else that will hold a seat more securely. Also, the ingenious micro adjust capability is second to none. If you're curious, come by the shop and ask me and I'll show you how it works. Tighten the front bolt and loosen the rear bolt and it will lower the nose of the saddle by however much you want; literally by the width of a hair if you so desire. It won't slip. But, it's not easy to set up. The bolts you turn for that adjustment are on top. Access is difficult because the seat hides them from you. Modern seatpost that has most of the good qualities and is easy to set up and adjust: the Salsa seatpost. I know it has a clever name but I can't think of it right now.

More later.