An Absolute Beginner, no practice, no experience, not even a regular cyclist! I must be crazy :)
Stephen Peel

Stephen Peel

Cycling Around the World

Bicycle Helmet or Not?

Understandable and widely excepted, is the feeling that wearing a safety helmet when mountain biking trails and woodlands, could save your life if you went flying through the air and into a tree, or over the edge of a large drop to the ground below, but what about cycling on ordinary roads? Some say it is safer not to wear a helmet, and other of course do, so why is it safe not to wear one? Of course, if the law says you wear one, you wear one.


The same's been said for high visibility clothing, some say its safer to wear it, others say it isn’t, and of course if the law says you wear it, then you wear it.


I've read a lot about how safety helmets are not necessarily safe, and how brightly coloured clothing, a helmet, and lights during the day, might make it worse for your safety.


Hard to imagine that I am even discussing this, but its been shown in some studies that the more protection you have on and the more visible you are to a driver, the less the driver feels he has to give you more space or take extra care with you. It is widely accepted that there is no real evidence to say that a helmet has saved more lives than cyclists without helmets.


Its been said that if you look unsafe, then people are more likely to avoid you. Isn’t that just crazy? Its hard to believe that you can pad yourself up and light yourself up like a Christmas tree, only to make yourself more vulnerable!


Being on some forums, every person I read about who had been hit on their bikes, was wearing at least some hi-viz clothing and a helmet. Knocked down by an articulated lorry as a pedestrian, I was wearing hi-viz leggings and jacket.


Now surely, if the police and ambulance drivers all wear hi-viz, it has to work right?  


A helmet has been shown to protect your head when you hit your head on the floor or other hard surface when you’re not moving along at speed, but at speed a helmet has been shown to catch on things and cause the head and neck to suffer damage they wouldn’t have done if there had been no helmet, but maybe the head might catch instead. That’s not to say you will not receive injury, you likely will, but in a different way to not wearing a helmet.


Myself, well I am lit up like a Christmas tree, and I do wear a helmet on the road. I feel better protected and I do feel safer for wearing the helmet and I do feel much safer feeling I can be seen from a distance. I get that I could be making myself a target to those that don’t feel they have to give me much space because I am so well protected, but I can’t help but feel that I would be asking for trouble if I didn’t wear a helmet or high visibility clothing.


During the day too, I wear a bright yellow cycling top and a helmet. I have a mirror on my handle bars to see what is coming up behind me and I also have a bright yellow vest that I put over my yellow cycling top, that has its own LED lights flashing on it.


Whether some say its safer without safety clothing or with, I will be wearing it, I just feel much safer and feel that at least I will be seen from a distance.

How my first cycle tour changed me

After 3300 km's through the UK, France and Spain, my intention was to always wear my lid, but as it turned out, I only put it on in towns or built up areas, on highways or the faster busy roads, for big downhills, or on roads with little or no hard-shoulder. For everything else, the lid was off. Now I'm not suggesting you do the same, it was just what I felt comfortable with.

It was the same for a yellow vest or or jacket, I just didn't wear them very often. I wore them on the busy highways and on fast roads with no hard shoulder, or if it was dark, but that was it. What I found myself doing though was if I didn't wear my Hi-Vis jacket or vest, I would have it strapped across the op of my rear Rack-Pack so that it could be seen from a distance. 

Some places insist you wear a helmet and Hi-Vis clothing, but for the others it is really down to you. I would of course recommend you wear it.