Buying a new cycling helmet is a tricky business – it’s something that most of us only buy once every few years and so it’s a decision you’ve got to get right.
As with buying any piece of new kit, there are a number of standard considerations; colour scheme, budgetary constraints, brand, peer pressure, style, and a million and one online consumer reviews from people who may or may not know what they are talking about. But frankly, there’s only question you really need to know the answer to: will it make my head look like ‘un grande champignon’?
Looking like a mushroom head is to be avoided at all costs as, apart from anything else, the style and sophistication you have achieved from the rest of your carefully chosen apparel is rendered null and void by the huge bulb balanced on your bonce. To complicate matters further, even when you largely avoid this pitfall, the problem with a helmet is that it is a fundamentally un-cool piece of kit; even an expensive helmet will never look as good as no helmet.
Of course the holy grail of headwear – the item we would all rather be wearing – is the mighty casquette; the peaked cotton cap seen gracing the heads of the likes of Simpson, Merckx, Anquetil, Fignon, DeVlaeminck and Hinault. On the bike the casquette is effortlessly cool, peak upturned or not, and is de rigueur for the style conscious cyclist.
The only time we modern cyclists get to wear this natty piece of kit is pre-ride whilst we are getting kitted out to go into battle, under the helmet on a wet or chilly day, or post ride as we sip a cappuccino and regale anyone who will listen with our tales of derring do. It is said that in years gone by, when cycling was in black and white, one traditional way to keep the head cool was with a cabbage leaf tucked neatly underneath the casquette – you certainly couldn’t do that with a modern helmet; cabbage poking through the vents in your lid is not a good look.
So the obvious problem with the casquette is that we value the integrity of our cranium and it’s contents. If you come a cropper wearing a thin layer of very stylish cotton, it won’t do much to preserve the senses – and anyway, the wife assures me that riding whilst wearing a casquette would surely invalidate the life insurance, and thwart any chance of a big payout.
Personally, I’m waiting for the advances in nano-technology that would allow construction of an imitation cotton casquette with the strength and skull protecting properties of a modern helmet. Admittedly there is no sign of this innovation on the horizon – and my knowledge of nano-technology comprises entirely of the phrase ‘nano-technology’ so don’t quote me on any of this.
So remember, if you spot a flash new helmet in your local shop, or are tempted by an online deal with an apparent 40% discount, try it on and ask yourself one question – do I look like a mushroom head? If the answer is yes then put it down, or send it back, and move along. This is not the helmet for you.