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DEAR NUMBSKULL
By Holly Bennett

WE CYCLISTS ARE QUICK to acknowledge our kinship when crossing paths, whether with a full hand wave, a subtle lift from the handlebar of a single finger or a greeting shouted across the asphalt. Whatever the method, the meaning is the same: a nod of fraternity to our two-wheeled brethren. We’re friends by default, whether or not we ever share more than one fleeting moment. But the one rider I purposefully rebuff—the one banned from my circle of trust—is the one without a helmet. For I fail to see the value in befriending a fool. I’m not fanatical about safety. I’m not into rearview mirrors

or neon apparel, and I routinely ride closest to traffic when cycling two abreast. But I won’t so much as pedal to the mailbox on a beach cruiser sans helmet. I’ve had more than my share of unplanned swan dives into the pavement. Two to be exact, but that’s two more than enough to know that I’m forever indebted to a fancified foam bucket. And while wearing a helmet won’t prevent every head injury, it’s a smart and simple way to avoid most. Which is why I penned the following letter to a fellow cyclist after a recent ride up Boulder’s Lefthand Canyon:

Dear Numbskull, Despite your Livestrong jersey and yellow bracelet, you are not Lance Armstrong climbing the Col du Tourmalet. The road you are riding is not closed to traffic. You have no team support car shadowing your every move, nor is a medical crew waiting at the ready should bad luck—or a bad bump in the road—derail your dream of a smooth cruise to victory over the mountain pass. You are more or less alone out here, fending for yourself against the uneven pavement, aggressive and oblivious motorists and your own farfrom-flawless cycling form. Let me offer some advice: That helmet strapped snugly to your aerobars was actually designed for your head. It will do little to protect your pretty bike. By all means, buckle up! Maybe you think you can’t crash riding uphill? You’re dead wrong. Even talented triathlete Tim O’Donnell admits to once biffing on a climb. I’d wager a month’s salary that you are not as skilled a cyclist as Tim. And for the record, cars can hit equally hard whichever direction you happen to be riding. I’m no rocket scientist. But the folks who crafted that dandy little lid are darn intelligent, and they engineered it specifically to keep your head comfortable and cool. They also designed it to save your life, just in case you care. If you insist on riding with a naked noggin, let me suggest some other activities you might also enjoy: Jaywalking on the interstate Stripping your car of its seatbelts Ignoring stop signs and speeding through red lights Strapping yourself to a subway track You get the picture. The value of wearing a helmet is non-negotiable. But if you truly are too cool for school, then by all means bare that brain of yours. Just don’t expect your hearty hello to meet with anything more enthusiastic than my steadfast stink eye. Kindred spirits you and I are not.

- y

Hunter King

56 JANUARY 2012

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