Dec 7

Bikes and helmets

Taken from the Blazing Saddles Column in the Tayside Courier Weekend Supplement 16.6.12

Scot Tares gives the “heads up” on bicycle helmets

“Let me first say that I didn’t start wearing a helmet regularly until AFTER I WOKE UP FROM THE COMA… Helmets can’t save you from every accident. Nothing can. But they can save you from a lot of accidents, maybe even most of them. If I had been wearing one on Dec. 2, 1988, I might not be taking anti-seizure pills every day, twice a day, for the rest of my life.” – Lloyd Alter

To wear or not to wear, that is the question; and the answer is a contentious issue. From the age of two until I was 32, I rode my bike “topless”, that is, without a helmet. It is only in recent years that racing regulations and club event protocol have determined that I now wear a helmet and it has become a habit. It is, however, not a legal requirement that a cyclist wears a helmet in the UK unlike say, Australia, where it is mandatory. Numerous reports, arguments, counter-arguments and emotive stories have been given for the pros and cons of helmet use and for such issues as whether it puts people off cycling or if they will actually protect you in the event of an accident, the space here is too confined to even dip my toe into such waters.  However, I now wear a helmet and ensure my children also do so and if you choose to do so too, you should ensure that the helmet that is you use is safe.

A helmet that is either too big or too small will mean that it does not protect the head properly; both expose parts of the head that the helmet wearer is trying to protect. Even a correctly fitting helmet can be dangerous, if the straps and buckles are not adjusted properly. Often this results in helmets slipping back on the head and leaving the forehead vulnerable.

Here’s a quick question: how old is your bicycle helmet? If you are not sure then most helmets will have a “date of manufacture” sticker inside. Most helmet companies advise replacing your helmet between three and five years from the manufacturing date. The Snell Memorial Foundation – a non-profit organisation set up in 1956 after the death of racing driver William Snell – are dedicated to the research, education, testing and development of helmet safety standards and recommend you change your helmet about every five years.

It is clear from the evidence that UV light can cause degradation in the structure of the moulded Expanded Polystyrene foam (EPS); also general deterioration can be caused by hair products, sweat and general wear and tear. This can cause the EPS to split, which isn’t easily noticeable, unless you are specifically checking your helmet on the inside.

If you do wear a helmet on your bike, but are unsure about whether it is fit for purpose, then please speak to your local friendly bike shop staff who will be able to give advice.

Cycle Route – Forfar Loch

Grade: Easy
Distance 2.5 miles/ 4km
Start & Finish OS 1:50,000 Map 54 NO446507
Parking: ForfarLochCountryParkVisitor Centre.
The route: The loch is situated on the western edge of Forfar. Opposite the visitor centre a well signed path leads you around theLochwhich is a popular venue for walking, cycling and fishing. Picnic spots are available by the sailing club
Find out more about helmet safety at: Snell – http://www.smf.org/home

And watch a video on correct fitting of a helmet – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzPlRHsPOMk

Copyright DC Thompson 2012

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