Post crash, one of the hardest things for me is saying goodbye to a helmet. You see, for me, throwing away an old helmet is like saying goodbye to an old friend. It sounds strange, but there's something intensely personal about a helmet, almost moreso than any other piece of kit. Sure, someone will point out your bibs are more personal, and they may well be from a physical standpoint. But from a mental standpoint, I think the helmet is your closest confidant.
Think about it: it protects your most valuable asset (your brain) and it has an inherently intimate contact with your body in the process of doing that job. Nothing in cycling is worse than the feel of a poorly fitting helmet, which can dig into your head, pinch your skin, chafe or flop around. Finding the perfect fit, the perfect colour, the perfect shape are a time-consuming process that leads many to purchase several of the same helmet to ensure a steady supply of them.
But spending a little time with your helmet can change it from a piece of kit to a trusted friend.
The helmet is an ever alert sentry, waiting for an opportunity to defend it's owner. Throughout its life, it sits upon your head, a silent sentinel constantly guarding your skull from harm. It may shrug off tree branches, bees and other hazards. It dutifully holds your glasses on those long climbs when you flip them and stick the earpieces in the vents. It even helpfully funnels air onto your head to help keep you cool in the searing heat. And throughout its life, it becomes more than a piece of kit. It almost becomes a friend.
So what happens when that helmet gives up it's life to save yours?
Upon returning home from the hospital and examining my old friend, it became immediately clear that she was dead. Crushed on the right temple, with broken supporting ribs and plenty of road rash, she had done her job of shielding my skull from the pavement. Upon the dawning of that revelation, a wave of sadness washed over me as I contemplated having to say goodbye to my old friend.
We'd been through so much together. A couple of different jobs, tens of thousands of miles of training rides, two different team kits and dozens of friends come and gone. She silently witnessed centuries, hill climbs, white knuckle descents, mountain bike rides, charity rides and probably a half a dozen different bikes underneath her owner. She was the consummate teammate, racing with me in no less than 100% of the races I entered. She's seen sprints, narrowly avoided crashes, been with me on the podium and in the pack.
She's been my most trusted confidant, my biggest constant…but now, it's time to say goodbye. She gave her life to protect mine, a last noble sacrifice and last act of devotion. There will be another to replace her, and the cycle will begin anew. I'll form a new relationship with a new helmet that will stand tall, willing to give her life to protect mine once more. And the cycle will continue to repeat as long as I'm willing to assume the risk of riding. At least I'll have a trusted confidant with me at all times…
See ya old girl. Thanks for everything. You were with me for everything in the past couple seasons, witnessed it all, but ultimately did the job you were chosen for, and I thank you a million times over.
Without you I may not have been able to ride again, let alone write your eulogy.