Safety first, even if it’s annoying

Most of the time when I go for a mountainbike ride, the place me and my friends meet at is like 6 kilometers from my home. I don’t like using the car to get there, so obviously, I go by bike.

The reason we go out to ride are the downhill trails in the woods … and when riding those trails, in my opinion, it is a reasonable idea to wear a fullface helmet. Our rides usually take like 3-5 hours (that’s time we’re actually moving, not counting breaks), but the time we actually go down the hill is most likely more like half or three quarters of an hour (that’s an estimate, I never clocked that). The rest of the time we spent getting to- or up the hill.

So while when riding down hill a fullface helmet makes sense, no one I know wears one when going up hill or when riding on the street. And there’s a simple reason for that. It’s hot, it’s sweaty and you don’t get as much air as you’d need when going uphill. So what do you do? Most people take off the helmet, put it on the bars or attach it to the backpack for the time not riding down the hill, resulting in 75% of the time not wearing a helmet at all.

I’m totally fine with that for the times when you push the bike up the hill instead of pedaling. But riding to the meeting place on the street or using a feeder trail to get to the downhill trails without a helmet simply feels wrong. Actually, it does not only feel wrong, I think it’s a really stupid idea. You can basically crash everywhere and – mostly on the street – it doesn’t even have to be your own fault.

So what do I do? I wear the half-shell bicycle helmet for the street and uphill parts of the ride and put the fullface helmet in the backpack for the trails I want to wear it. Then, once we reach the top of the hill and want to head into the trail, I switch them. Once we reached the bottom of the hill, I switch them back. It’s totally annoying having to change helmets like 10 times during a ride and people tend to complain because they have to wait for you, it’s heavy on your back which makes you sweat even more, but in the end, it’s the only solution that makes me feel good all the way through the ride.

I’ve read about and talked to quite a number of people who rode completely protected down the hill, took off the protection when reaching the bottom of the hill and then crashed with bad consequences. In a magazine I read the other week, a writer reported that he collided with a road race bike rider and had to get surgery afterwards because he did not wear a helmet after a downhill ride. I can only talk for myself, but if possible, I want to avoid that situation.

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