Wednesday, July 25, 2007


My bike helmet had fallen to bits. Not the outside, silly, that's hard foam covered by a chocolately plastic shell. Mmm. It was the inside that was falling apart. The stuff that's supposed to be the soft cushion between my head and the actual hard helmet part. Yes, countless sweat-inducing rides had finally broken down the cushiony stuff, and what was left had become rags and bits of black soot that managed to stick to my forehead when I took the helmet off. And the velcro was now digging into my head, and that wasn't the comfy ride I was looking for.

The hard portion of the helmet seemed fine. And the rule of thumb is that you get one good wreck where you bonk your noggin against the ground, a car, whatever, then it's time to toss the helmet in the trash and buy a new one. But because I hadn't had the one good wreck yet, I figured I might just be able to buy the cushiony inside stuff.

So I went to my nearest bike shop, looked around, didn't find any, then went to the dude at the register and asked if they carried such a thing. "No, we don't sell that. How long have you had your helmet?" I said "I dunno, like four years maybe?"
"Four years, huh?" he said and I knew the sales pitch was coming. Register guy continued, "You might be able to find that inner stuff from your helmet manufacturer, but they're probably gonna say 'Four years, huh? It's time to buy a new helmet.'"

Not to be deterred by his sales pitch, I came back with "Why's that?"
Register guy told me "The elements, you know, they break the helmet down. UV rays, stuff like that."

UV rays indeed. They break down plastic covering hard foam to the point where my helmet might not work after four years of being in the sun a lot less than I am. I better get some stronger sunscreen if that's the case. Well I figured I was either gonna live with black particles and chafing velcro on my forehead every ride or I was gonna buy a new helmet. So I walked over to the helmet area and tried a few on.

This one was too weird looking, that one was too feminine. That other one was way too expensive. One of the bike shop employees saw me trying on helmets and came over and said in some Euro voice "Why don't you try dis one?" and pointed to the more expensive end of the helmet wall. I tried it on and it looked weird. He had me try on 5 more helmets before we found one that fit both my style and price range. He told me he wasn't a salesman, but a mechanic, and he walked over to the register to see if this one was on clearance. I followed him and stood, next in line.

The bike mechanic disappeared. I waited. The guy standing on my side of the register was buying the entire store and trying to figure out what else he needed. It was taking forever, and I really didn't want to buy a helmet that day anyway, so I left the helmet at the counter and walked out the door.

The next day I went to REI and bought a great helmet at 1/3 of the price and used my REI dividend to reduce the price even further. Good times. I tossed my old helmet in the trash. Wouldn't want anybody to mistakenly try to use it after all those UV rays might have secretly broken down the helmets innards.

I rode home wearing my new helmet and I could immediately feel the difference. Not only was there no sense of velcro chafe-age, there was actually more wind flow cooling my noggin! Amazing.

The next day I set out for work with my new helmet on. About 2/3 of the way there, as I turned to leave the Santa Monica beach bike path, my front tire slipped out on a swath of sand. I went to the ground so fast I can't remember it happening. Smacked my right shoulder on the pavement. I can't remember if I knocked my helmet or not. Yep, not even 24 hours after buying my new helmet, I wreck. Funny how that works.