Some Cycling Headwear Fashion Advice

Carmel Cammack, an Army helicopter pilot since 2006, has been riding since 2010 and been participating in Triathlon since 2012.  The following event happened during a ride on a road where she rides on almost a daily basis.

My latest and greatest life lesson came on May 28th during a morning training ride.  Without much consideration for the effect of the sun on the drivers with whom I share the back country roads, I set out eastward at 6 o’clock for an hour and a half ride with Princess, my bike.  I remember getting situated along the right shoulder of the road and tucking my head to keep the sun out of my eyes.  The next four and half hours remain only in fragments.  I woke up lying on my back looking up at a man on a cell phone standing beside a Chevy Suburban.  A second person was kneeling beside me and I remember trying to recall a phone number before riding to the hospital in an ambulance with an EMT sitting beside me.  I have snapshots of memories of being taken in and out of x-rays and CT scans once I arrived at the hospital and panicking slightly with the thought of a possible torn left shoulder, as I had torn my right shoulder three years prior coming off a horse.  These recollections say nothing of the fact that I was talking and acting in my normal upbeat manner as I lay on the side of the road insisting that my boyfriend take pictures of the incident.  I have no idea when he arrived to the scene, but the location of the collision was 1.6 miles from my house, and thankfully he must have arrived quickly.  For the next four hours I looped through a repetition of about five questions and statements, which are apparent signs and effects of severe head trauma.  I was finally able to carry on a complete conversation about the time they received the normal results from the x-rays and CT scans and sent me home.  The killer headache lasted for the rest of the day, but my banged and bruised hip, elbow, and shoulder were bandaged for a couple weeks.

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What had me the most stunned about the whole ordeal, was not the fact that after a close encounter of the Suburban kind, I had no broken bones or life altering injuries usually associated with a car/bike collision; but that landing on my head, my only lingering issues were an intense headache that subsided by the next morning and some bruises and cuts.  It wasn’t until a few days later when I was going through my damaged gear for insurance purposes that I realized how much impact my helmet had taken and how it had functioned.  I have always been one to wear my helmet for the implied safety benefits, because it’s the accepted thing to do, and because after riding with it for a couple years I feel naked without it.  I say implied safety benefit because I had never seen a crashed helmet and didn’t have any idea what they are capable of.  Seeing the obvious pavement impact, point of scuffed plastic, and flattened Styrofoam along with the large pieces held together only by the outer plastic shell of the helmet, put the severity of the impact and possible damage to my head into perspective.  The pieces and the spider web of cracks throughout the helmet made me think of the grade school analogy of dropping an egg to the ground with and without bubble wrap protection to demonstrate the benefits of wearing a helmet.  I would have been a splattered egg on the side of the road without a helmet.  I am in awe of how much impact reduction a simple bicycle helmet can provide.

After learning that the driver who knocked me off my bike, struck me from the rear with the passenger side rear-view mirror, and analyzing my injuries I was able to theorize what actually happened.   I’m comfortable saying that my helmet did in fact make the initial contact with the road and in fact saved my life.  I am certain that without a properly sized, fitted, and correctly positioned helmet I would have many more significant injuries than a throbbing headache, a broken bike, and some road rash.  Wearing a helmet when riding a bike of any kind for any distance is not something I will take for granted.  I am living proof that helmets work and I urge every cyclist, regardless of skill level, distance, or riding terrain to always ride with one.  It saved my life and will certainly save yours if it is called to do its job.