Cycle Anti-Chic: The Bike Helmet as an Accessory Platform

To paraphrase Jesus:

The tasteless you will always have with you, but you will not always have Mikael.

I wear a helmet almost every time I bike. I also enjoy provoking the anti-helmet trolls. These are people who believe that bike helmets promote and perpetuate an exaggerated perception of the dangers of cycling, which only serves to deter people from taking up the activity.

They pounce on every pro-helmet page on the Web where it is possible to leave a comment. And when pro-helmet pages do not allow comments, they print the pages out and scrawl “Culture Of Fear” across the paper with a red sharpie pen. Mikael Colville-Andersen is their messiah. (Okay, maybe not messiah. I’m trying to tie in the Biblical quote with which I began this piece. Luminary? Does that work?)

But the reality is, I’m one of them — minus the castigating of our deluded inferiors. Cycling without a helmet is healthier than not cycling at all. Cycling without a helmet is less dangerous than many things that people routinely do without any sense of danger — walking, climbing stairs, riding/driving a car, playing tennis, etc.

Previously, I gave hair-obsessed, would-be cyclists my blessings to bike without a helmet if that’s all that’s holding them back.

Mikael Colville-Andersen’s now-famous TED speech video helped to change my thinking about helmets. If you are unfamiliar with the debate over the value of helmets, that video is a great place to begin.

Another of Colville-Andersen’s contributions to cycling is the popularization of Cycle Chic, which simply means cycling in everyday clothes — better yet: fashionable clothes. This blog was rated last year as one of the top 50 blogs “Celebrating the "˜Cycle Chic' Movement.”

And this is me:

Ted's Overloaded Helmet
My co-workers have started calling me "Cyborg"

Yes, there’s a ridiculous amount of crap mounted to my helmet. No, this is not how I roll — usually. But lately I’ve been trying to address a backlog of products I’m supposed to review. Four or five of those products are poking off my head in the photos above. (So you can expect four or five reviews featuring that image in the near future. I’ve already reviewed the Fire Eye Helmet Light.)

There are people who wouldn’t be seen in this getup. I’m okay with it. I’m part of the problem.

As car culture became pervasive in our society (American society in particular) and driving cars increasingly became what “regular people” did, those who chose to cycle began to include a higher ratio of the clueless, the indifferent, the nonconformist — the tasteless. Some cyclists will always be drawn from those in society who don’t know or care whether they are going against the grain of what conventional people do — as well as those who deliberately choose to go against the grain. Cycle Chicsters and the anti-helmet Web vigilantes want to change that ratio, and I’m cheering them on. Whether they want me to or not.

I’m not so much anti-chic as I am among the indifferent. My fashion sense is about as good off bike as it is on. I understand that in the eyes of some, I’d be a more effective advocate for cycling if I’d dress fashionably and didn’t wear a helmet. They’re probably right. But it ain’t gonna happen.

Edmund Bergler, a Freudian psychoanalyst, said,

Conspicuous tastelessness in dress is mostly an unconscious pseudoaggressive and defensive attack on the enshrined mother image.

I’m not sure what that means. But still, my dressing fashionably ain’t gonna happen.

I like wearing a helmet — I just don’t imagine for a second that it makes my skull and the tasteless brain within much safer than they would be without it. Particularly in a close encounter with a car, I don’t expect the helmet would provide more than a marginal benefit.

The bike helmet makes a great accessory platform, and I’ll be talking about it in forthcoming posts. This is meant as a heads-up to my helmet-hating friends that I’ll be publicly loving the helmet for awhile now. Like you, I envision a future where “normal people” ride bikes in their everyday clothes. In my vision, the ratio of schlumps to fashionistas on bikes will roughly mirror society in general. And some of the schlumps, like me, will be wearing helmets.

Are we cool?

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