Embracing bike safety and your inner dork.

Sara posted this comment regarding the riding of bikes:

But the helmet messes up my hair! I want to ride my bike more and then I am stuck…should wear a helmet…but don’t want to look uncool. And then again I don’t want the contents of my skull spread out all over the road some day. See my conundrum?

It is a conundrum and I would by lying if I said that I haven’t struggled with it myself. The fact is that as cool as bicycling is, to be a safe biker you have to take the deep breath and choose to be the dork. It probably varies from city to city, but in Portland the coolest biker is some hipster chick (or guy) who wears skinny black pants and a dark sweatshirt, both of which gap to show their nifty back tattoo, and rides a fixie (fixed gear, one speed bike) with the wind ruffling though their hip haircut and insects bouncing off their cool black-framed glasses. If they are carrying anything at all, it is just a small messenger bag. If they are riding at night they have no lights.

But with the wind ruffling though their hair they are wearing no helmet and with all those dark clothes, no one can see them and with their back tattoo exposed they are getting cold and with only one gear it is harder to get up hills and if they have such a small messenger bag it can’t possibly hold all that is needed for a day at work and if it is dark outside, people can’t see them.

Me. Not cool. But my motto is that if someone hits me, it is darned sure going to be their fault. When I bike, I wear an ugly, but incredibly visible, jacket I bought off a road construction site, clear glasses and a helmet with lights mounted on it. My bike has 21 gears, more lights, a rack, fenders and a basket. Actually, the hipsters have fenders too. The only people who don’t have fenders in Portland are hard-core racing bicyclists concerned about weight. During fall, winter and spring they always have that wet stripe up their back.

The helmet will always mess up your hair, there is no getting around that. And I believe that you shouldn’t be without a helmet, though some would argue otherwise. I propose two solutions: one is to just live with the helmet hair (my choice). The other came to me from Urban Biker’s Tricks and Tips, a book I recommend any bicyclist read. Go on a bike ride wearing your helmet and get really sweaty. Then go to the hairdresser, take off your helmet and ask the hair dresser to cut it in a style that works with the helmet.

Bicycling, like so many other things, is just like high school. At some point you realize that the cool kids values don’t match yours and your forge your own path that follows you values. And just like high school, people who share your values will find you cool, and 95% of the time you won’t care what the cool kids think. That five percent of the time? You’ll feel like a dork. There just isn’t any way around it.

2 thoughts on “Embracing bike safety and your inner dork.”

  1. I”m all fo the helmet, even though I’ve got an SS MTB in my stable of bikes. ;o) Not wearing a helmet when riding my bike makes me feel naked–and not in a good way!

    I do midday rides at my showerless office and clean up in the restroom afterwards. Of course, I have short hair, so that helps, but with a bit of planning and perhaps fashion sacrifice, one can ride, be safe and look good (and not smell too bad, either!).

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