Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Knee helmets

On Sunday morning, I was riding in the countryside with a great group of people over some tracks and paths. There was some black ice on the pavement where I took left turn and the bicycle skidded out from under me. (Also, I was going very slow for other personal, physical, out-of-shapedness reasons)
When I hit the ground, I hurt my knee, shoulder and then my cheek. Nothing broken!
Nothing too serious.

By a day later, I've had two (nice) people say to me, "You must have learned your lesson about wearing a helmet."

Unless they make helmets for knees, I have not learned that lesson.

The only lesson I feel confident about is that my tires were not appropriate for the kind of riding we were doing. They were skinny tires from the 80's with very little traction.
And, I'm totally out of shape. But I already knew that.

I'm not sure why there is a "knee-jerk" helmet reaction to an accident. If I had been wearing a helmet, nothing would have been different except maybe my chin would have been angled onto the pavement instead of my cheek. The argument that I might have landed on my head seems weak to me.  I might have done a lot of things.

But just in case my ignorance is complete... Does anyone know... Do they make knee helmets? Where can I buy two? :)

And- as I've stated before, I will always wear a helmet where it is legally required; when I'm in heavy traffic (nyc, etc.), and in the kitchen where I have the most accidents.


  1. They don't make "helmets" for you knees but you can buy padding often used for skating (and also cycling).

    Just search for knee pads on Google Images.

  2. Hi Alicia,
    You can get a set of protective kneepads from Perry / ActiveSport or any sports store like that. There are the generic ones that are used for roller and inline skaters. If you are lucky you could find some specifically for cycling which allow for better knee movement.
    take care and proost!

  3. Wonderful story! I had a nearly identical thing happen to me recently: slipped on some ice while riding, fell off my bike, banged up my knee, told the story to friends, they suggested I get a helmet.

    I'll let you know if I come across any cycling-specific "knee helmets"!

  4. I recently fell of my bike as well, I slipped on some moss on the sidewalk in front of our apartment as I was pulling up to get off the bike after riding home from breakfast on the weekend. I didn't hurt myself other than bruising my palm a little bit, but I did scratch my bike and saddle a little bit. Do they have bike saddle helmets?

    I would wear a helmet where it's legally required if one is provided for me, but personally, I will try to avoid cycling in places where it is legally required, as it's usually not very nice riding in those places anyway :)

    I don't understand the knee-jerk reaction either - I think people are extremely adverse to injury in general, so they try to avoid ANYTHING that could possibly cause an injury, no matter how small it might be - and also there's just the weird hysteria around bicycle helmets in general.

    I've heard stories of *doctors* who, upon seeing a patient who had fallen off their bike and skinned their leg, commented that it was a good thing they were wearing a helmet, even though it had nothing to do with the situation.

    I've also had friends tell me I should be wearing one, and back it up with similar stories: "I know this guy who was going really fast downhill and the bike slid out from under him and he really skinned up his leg, so you definitely should wear a helmet!" or "We knew this person who was riding their racing bike, and went to play with the odometer on the wheel and got their fingers in the spokes and went flying over the handlebars and smashed their face into the ground and had to replace teeth and had a huge lesion on their forehead (implying they weren't wearing their helmet properly anyway)! The doctor said the helmet saved their life!"

    I don't know, it's beyond me :)

  5. I don't think that people who ride upright on traditional bikes tend to fall on their head as much as people who ride with their butt in the air and their torpedo heads forward of their handlebars. It's just physics and balance. I ride about 1500-2000 miles a year in Brooklyn, have fallen after hitting glaze ice, been hit by a car turning into me as he turned right from behind me. I never hit my head. I have stopped to help other fallen bike riders - they were scraped up on legs, shoulder and forearms. Not head. Helmets are similar to St.Christopher medals - wishful superstitious hope of protection. I have also gone down on a motorcycle years ago on fuel slicked roadway, as well as driving team of sled dogs on sharp turn at speed. Never head involved.

  6. I'm curious. Were these people native to the Netherlands?

    Many people in the U.S. are attached to helmets, and weirdly seem to think that every bike crash involves the head.

  7. Great stuff. I've always love what the ladies at the Will O the Wisp blog write about Dutch bicycle culture:

    "Bike Helmets & Lycra

    This is extremely important; do NOT wear a helmet. Three types of people wear a helmet on a bike in Holland;

    1. The English.
    2. North Americans.
    3. The mentally afflicted.

    The English and Americans wear helmets because in their worlds common sense no longer rules and people must be safe from their own actions at all times. Also it is a well known fact that when Americans fall off a bike they fall on their heads, why this should be we do not know. God gave us each an ass, in fact he appears to have given many Americans more than one ass each and yet they do not use them, you have to wonder why. On the rare occasion a Dutchman comes off their bike we fall on our well-padded behinds (and it is ALWAYS the fault of a German motorist !).

    The only time you need to wear lycra when riding a bicycle is when you are a speed rider at a velodrome or riding in the Tour de France, there is not any other occasion when lycra and bicycles should be mixed together."

  8. I commute to work by bike, 18 miles every day, in Minneapolis, Minn., which according to Bicycling magazine is the #1 biking city in America. We bike year-round. I've bicycled to work in –26 degree weather, over huge expanses of ice, through snow packs. I can tell you that if it weren't for helmets, I—and several of my friends—would be dead, and I'm sick of this Copenhagen/Amsterdam attitude that doesn't understand cycling conditions in the United States.

    Yes, European culture is infinitely superior w/r/t how it treats cyclists, but things are NOT the same here. Even in the #1 biking city, we're intensely car-centric, and I would not consider myself safe without a helmet. Zooming around helmet-less, at 30 MPH, with a territorial SUV to your left, and parked drivers who don't usually look before they open their doors into traffic to your right, is pure stupidity, and I look down on cyclists here who don't wear helmets.

    So, please keep the "Americans are dumb for wearing helmets" comments to yourself; they reflect poorly on people who've been granted superior cycling conditions.

  9. Hi Patiomensch- Mikael appears to have put in quotes from the blog that he mentioned, so it isn't necessarily his opinion... I think the original author was trying to be funny, Mikael actually left out one little snippet which begins the paragraph - "To be a little “tongue in cheek”;"
    Also, the author mentions "Three types of people wear a helmet on a bike in Holland"

    IN HOLLAND being the key point.

    You could make jokes about who doesn't wear a helmet in Minnesota. Dead dutchmen. :)