Bicycle helmets. They are the subject that I just can’t seem to leave alone. As my daily commute has significantly changed, so as my approach to that commute. One of those changes – without any specific intent that I am aware of – is the fact that I’ve shed the helmet for more of my commutes than not. Perhaps it is the influence of all of the urbanite riders I come across. Whatever the reason, I’ve mostly been without ye ol’ brain bucket lately.
My wife, on the other hand, is a stanch helmetarian. She is often gently (or not so gently) ribbing me about my cycling-cap-only head. I was this ribbing that prompted me to put on the helmet before I left for work the other morning. As I’ve said before, I’m not against helmets, so riding with it is not something that really has to be forced on me. This wasn’t a big deal. Grab it, throw it on my head, strap it around the chin and forget about it.
The ride to work was uneventful. It was on the ride home from work that things got interesting. I was cruising with traffic down 19th street. This route has stop lights nearly every block, so I’m usually able to ride at about the same speed as the cars during the evening commute. The car on my left had passed me, and a large truck was slowly passing by me. I could hear the engine. Then I could see the front tire rolling by. Then…
I honestly don’t know how I reacted so fast. It was clearly one of those instinctive reactions done without conscious thought. No, the truck didn’t veer into the bike lane I was in. It did, however, manage to somehow toss a rock out from under its tire at high speed, bounce it off of the parked car on my right, and ricochet straight at my face. I quickly ducked my head and heard the smack of the rock against my helmet. I could feel the impact through the helmet. Wow.
Now clearly this was not a life or death type scenario. I doubt the rock would have even broke the skin if I hadn’t had my helmet on. I’m betting it would have stung like hell though. I’d say that helmet probably saved me a significant amount of head rubbing and distraction as I weaved through the cars.