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Posts tagged ‘helmet’

birthday bicycle goodies (Yakkay, PoCampo & Ortlieb)

I just turned 49.  So I bought myself a party hat.

Really, one of the geekiest, least-appealing (to me, anyway) aspects of bicycle commuting is the wearing of the bike helmet.  As I’ve written about before, I AM a believer; I won’t ride without a helmet, but it doesn’t mean I love how I look in them.

Last year I read about a new helmet design by Yakkay – a street-inspired helmet design with interchangeable covers (hats).  I loved the idea, loved the pictures I saw, and I knew I really wanted one.  Sadly, they were not yet available in the US.  As this winter started kicking into gear, colder temperatures on the way, I re-visited the idea of purchasing a Yakkay, and hooked up with a wonderful gal, Lavinia, from LondonCycleChic.  With her help and a few clicks of the mouse, I got my beautiful new “birthday” hat, complete with removable fleecy ear covers and snappy tweed cover.  Even better news, the LondonCycleChic folks tell me that they are working on “opening a little US antenna in March 2010” … which I figure will be just in time for me to order a sweet summer cover. 😀

Anyway, they were great people to do business with, and I really look forward to them expanding stateside.  You can also follow one of their peeps on Twitter (@CazCyclechic), and they have a terrific LondonCycleChic blog, full of great London cycle fashion photos and articles.

Another great birthday gift came from my Dad and his wife – nifty little Po Campo handlebar bag.  Po Campo is a Chicago-based company (my “home town”), and my Dad was kind enough to send me a gift certificate which I used to pick out this great little black and white bag.

Po Campo bicycle clutch

Clip on handlebar straps - Po Campo clutch

Although it’s not very big, it’s just enough to carry a wallet, phone, and a few small essentials for quick commute to an appointment or other errand when I don’t need to carry much.   I also like the front pocket – perfect for easy access to my phone. (Not while riding, of course).  Mostly, I love that it is on the front of the bike – rather than on the back or over my shoulder – easy to see and easy to access.

The final piece of commuting gear I have finally acquired – and really, more essential than the rest – are a set of Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic waterproof panniers.  I cannot count how many times I have been out – at the Y, around town, errand-running – and I have gotten caught in an unexpected rain shower.  Stuff gets soaked – wallet, phone, extra clothes, camera, books, etc.  I can tuck this into a side-loader on the Xtracycle, or I can put it on the rear rack of my commuter bike or the eBike.  And everything stays dry – no matter what I encounter or find I have to ride through.

Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic waterproof pannier

Aside from the waterproof-ness, things I especially like (putting it way ahead of other panniers we’ve owned):

  • Great easy-access top opening – no zippers or flaps to mess with.  Simply roll down the top (constructed much like a typical dry-bag, with plastic strip on edge), and clip the strap over the top.
  • Slim profile, multi-pocket inner organizer – perfect to stash a wallet or phone, doesn’t take away from the main large storage space.
  • Superior rack attachment system – the top hooks can be customized with inserts, to fit a variety of different diameter rack rails. They don’t just “hang” on the rack rails, they actually close around the rail (see photo below).  The 2 top hooks can be adjusted (spacing between the two hooks), and the bottom QL2 hook is fully adjustable/rotatable as well – invaluable features I’ve not found on other panniers.
  • Two large reflective “spots” on both side panels of the bags, making them interchangeable on either side of the rack.  I’ve also found that I can easily attach a Blinky to the top of the shoulder strap when the bag is mounted on the rack – perfect positioning.
  • And did I mention they are fully waterproof?

I love the ease of access to the main compartment when it’s mounted on the bike.  Nice wide opening, quick and easy to access and load.  I don’t know the exact specs on the capacity, but they can hold a lot. And the bag is a breeze to take on and off of the rack.  You simply pull up on the top handle-strap (which is attached to the quick-release tabs on the top hooks), and pull straight up.

Pull the handle to release the top clips from the rack

Finally, a nice shoulder strap (that is secured to the front of the bag when not in use), makes it great to carry in and out of your destination – from the office to a quick stop at the store.

Off bike, carrying with the shoulder strap

Using the shoulder strap

And did I mention they are fully waterproof?!

Out of everything next to the Xtracycle, I don’t know how I managed without these for so long.  Indespensible, in my opinion – because you never know when wet weather might hit.  Design-wise, I don’t think I will ever buy another brand of pannier – these are just so well-designed from every angle.

So that’s it.  I’m older now.  But also a tiny bit more stylish (I think) when I’m out on the bike!

brain buckets and noodle bowls




helmet crack (always better than skull crack)

helmet crack (always better than skull crack)

The Kid (Mason) got a very sweet new road bike this week; partially a graduation gift.  He picked it up Wednesday (it was raining) and rode it for the first time yesterday morning. And not very far.  A bit of rider error on his part, and he ended up off the road and into the roadside ditch.  Fortunately, he wasn’t badly injured – save for a bit of road rash on arm and knee – but his helmet tells a story.  

There seems to be a debate, which can often get quite heated, among cyclists – to wear or to not wear a helmet.  I’m a helmet true-believer.  And I think this picture speaks volumes.

The non-helmet wearing crowd presents a number of arguments, including the perception(?) that vehicles will give more passing room to a cyclist without a helmet. I read of one study in Cambridge, England, where someone electronically measured data from passing cars.  They claim cars gave several more inches of clearance when passing a non-helmet wearing cyclist.  For a couple of extra inches, I’ll wear a helmet, thanks.

Anti-helmet folks also point to the great cycling Meccas such as Amsterdam, where huge numbers of people rely on bikes for daily transportation, yet virtually no one wears a helmet. Does this make our own country’s helmet-wearing trend just a plot by American equipment manufacturers to sell helmets?  Personally, I don’t buy this argument.  Infrastructure differences, political will, and decades of cultural adjustment to the bike as real transportation in cities like Amsterdam make the bigger difference.  

Another argument I have read more than once (and always seems counter-intuitive somehow) is mentioned in Jeff Mapes book, Pedalling Revolution:

(Peter Jacobsen, Sacramento public health consultant) has argued against helmet laws on the grounds that they discourage cycling by building the impression that it is a risky activity (and in fact, mandatory helmet laws in parts of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada did seem to reduce cycling).  And he has argued, as have many others, that risk compensation comes into play:  just as drivers in cars with seatbelts and airbags may feel it is safer to go faster, people wearing helmets may be less cautious.

Mapes goes on to cite some interesting statistics, and a very valid criticism of one of the significant differences in attitude toward cycling deaths in the US (versus places like Amsterdam, Copenhagen…)

From 1994 to 2005, the percentage of fatalities involving cyclists who didn’t use a helmet ranged from a high of 97 percent in 1994 to a low of 83 percent in 2004. New York City’s 2006 study looked at 122 fatalities where helmet use had been recorded.  Only four of those killed had been wearing a helmet.  But that New York study also noted that more than a fourth of those who died did not have head injuries.  So the lack of helmet use could also be associated with other dangerous riding.

Still, all too often in this country, news coverage of cyclist deaths has tended to focus only on whether the rider wore a helmet and not other problems that may have caused the crash.  And it’s clear from the experience of the Netherlands, Denmark, and other European cities with high cycling rates that helmet use is far from being the last word in safety.

But even putting all things automobile or traffic-related aside, the simple fact is this: rider error happens.  It doesn’t take much – a little bit of silt or fine gravel on the pavement, a momentary distraction, a chasing dog, some bad pavement… I have talked with a number of seasoned and experienced cyclists who have had the unexpected accident – and who are also helmet true-believers.  I can’t say for certain that his helmet saved Mason’s noodle, but looking at it afterward, I can only feel grateful that it came between him and the pavement.

Personal choice or mandatory helmet laws, maybe it’s a tough call for some?  But I know what I’ll be wearing….


scuffed and dented noodle-bowl

scuffed and dented noodle-bowl


Mason's new one-up (dealer paint sample) Specialized Roubaix, weighing in at just under 17.5 lbs.

Mason's new one-up (dealer paint sample) Specialized Roubaix, weighing in at just under 17.5 lbs.