Let’s Talk Helmets

If you haven’t already noticed, I’m a bit of a noob when it comes to the bicycle lifestyle. The good news is, I’m learning. I’m a a bit overloaded digesting new information right now but, I know that will pass. As my friends and coworkers will tell you I’m a pretty good researcher. It’s one of the things I repeatedly get praise for from my peers and from my superiors at work.

When it comes to spending my hard earned cash on something I tend to go into research mode. My hyper-vigilant nature can sometimes be a bit of a curse. The good news is, when I make a decision, I feel good about the choice I’ve made.

So in preparing to ride again I’m shopping for all the different gear. Probably the most important bicycle accessory you can own is a proper helmet. So of course, I’ve been doing some research. I’ve found a number of websites with good information aimed at helping the prospective helmet buyer make an informed choice.

REI Logo

One site that I have come to appreciate is REI. The retailer has a lot of good and easy to follow articles and helpful videos for the prospective bicycle rider. When I first started looking for a new bike, I read a number of the articles REI has posted on their site. Their article, How to Choose a Bicycle Helmet is a good place to start.

I would like to reinforce one of the important points that REI makes in their guide, one that I think might often be overlooked by riders. If you’re involved in a crash where your helmet takes an impact, it’s time to get a new one. Just because it “looks” okay, doesn’t mean it will protect you properly in a subsequent crash, so don’t take that risk. Hopefully your helmet will remain crash free for years and if it does, you need to remember it still needs to be replaced every 5 years. Things break down over time and your helmet may not protect you properly if it’s very old. I learned these basic rules years ago because they are also true for motorcycle helmets. Think of your helmet as a very inexpensive insurance policy.

If you want to dig deeper for more information about bicycle helmets, then I recommend the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. To quote the BHSI they, “are a small, active, non-profit consumer-funded program providing bicycle helmet information.” They are part of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, a bicycle advocacy group located in our nations capitol. The BHSI website may not be pretty but, it houses a wealth of information.

Of particular interest to me is their information on bicycle helmets for the 2012 season. The primary recommendations of the BHSI for this year are to find a helmet that fits you well and has, “a rounded, smooth exterior with no major snag points.”

Something else mentioned in the article that I believe is worth repeating, is whether you spend $20 or $200 on a helmet, they all have about the same impact protection. Buy what you like but, know that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a helmet that will protect your noggin. I also recommend you have a look at the page BHSI has posted on helmet visors. The takeaway on helmet visors is that they can be problematic and they may cause you harm. On impact they could shatter, the edges could scratch your face, and there’s a chance they will snag in an impact jerking your neck.

Pearl Izumi Cycling Cap

To me, it seems like it would be easier and better to buy a helmet without an integrated visor or just remove the visor if the helmet you like comes with one. Instead of using the stiff plastic visor, that might cause you harm during impact, you can instead ride with a cycling cap, like the one pictured above. The cycling cap is lightweight and many are designed to be worn under your helmet. The material will help absorb sweat and the soft visor probably won’t cause any additional damage to your pretty face should you have an unfortunate incident.

Armed with the recommendations from BHSI, here are a few helmets that look interesting.

Giro Reverb

First there’s the Giro Reverb. The Reverb is smooth and rounded without any snag points like the BHSI recommends. There is a removable integrated visor on this helmet but, it’s made of a soft cotton material. If you’re looking for something that hits all the marks for safety according the the BHSI report, the Reverb looks like a great choice. I think the styling of the Reverb works for both on and off-road riders. There also seems to be a good number of large vents to keep things cool.

Bell Faction

Next up is the Bell Faction. It’s features a smooth and rounded profile but, it’s skateboard / BMX styling may not be for everyone. You might look a little strange wearing this helmet while riding a road bike. Personally, I like the styling and I like that it’s offered in a wide range of colors all with different graphics. However, It looks like the Giro might offer a bit better ventilation.

Nutcase Stumptown Woody

Another brand worthy of consideration is Nutcase. Just about all of helmets that Nutcase makes are the same basic shape. They, however, offer enough styling options to suit just about anyone’s taste. Nutcase helmets range from simple solid colors to sparkly metallics and feature graphics that range from simple to outrageous. Something unique to the Nutcase helmets is the magnetic closure on the chinstrap. Don’t worry, their helmets are not held in place by magnets alone. The helmet isn’t going to fly off your head when you need it most.

Bern G2

Then there is Bern. The Bern G2 looks interesting to me. The G2 was new for 2011. The eight vents on the G2 seem pretty large and according to Bern they can be opened or closed. Being able to close the vents should offer greater comfort as the temperature changes. Like the Giro Reverb, the G2 features a soft removable visor.

Regardless of which helmet you choose, I believe you’ll be safer wearing any proper fitting bicycle helmet than riding without one. I don’t know yet which helmet I’ll choose. Like buying a pair of shoes, I feel it’s important to go to a local store or bike shop and trying on the models that interest you. If the helmet you choose isn’t comfortable on your head or doesn’t fit properly, chances are you probably won’t wear it.

What about you. Do you have a favorite helmet? Share it with us by posting a comment. I would love to know what recommendations you have.


The Social Todd

Is it just me or have social networks become a little overwhelming? Personally, I think I would be happier if there were fewer of them. I first dipped my toe in the social network waters with MySpace. Just about the time I master the design for my profile with the proper background colors, etc. MySpace changed the rules and came out with something new. It was about that time I got on to Facebook. After I started using Facebook, I abandoned MySpace like it was the Titanic and never looked back. I think it took me a year to close my MySpace account but, I hadn’t updated it in about 10 months.

I’ve been using Facebook since 2008. Facebook and I have an on-again / off-again relationship. Sometimes I think it’s great, other times though, I’m not so thrilled with it. Sometimes I enjoy reading about what my friends are doing, other times it seems like my news feed is full of garbage. At one time my network of Facebook friends exploded but, I’ve trimmed things back since then. I still have over 180 friends in my network but, that number is less than it once was.

Right now, I’m trying to learn more about Twitter. It’s not that I don’t understand Twitter but I’m still feeling it out. I’m conscious of the etiquette of Internet and like a new student just starting middle school, I’m still trying to figure out how I can sit at the cool kids table during lunch time. One of the ways I would like to connect with people in connection with this blog, assuming it garners some interest is via the tweets. So if you’re a tweeter, my username is @stnkpalm

Another social media site that I’ve been playing around with is Pinterest. It feels like Pinterest if for girls. Of course there’s no rules or restrictions on Pinterest that would restrict it to the fairer of the sexes but, it feels like all the people I know that are using it are women. I got turned on to Pinterest because of my job as a DJ. I found out from a friend that a lot of brides were using the site to organize their ideas and links for wedding planning. I thought it might be a way for me to connect with potential clients and while there may be opportunities there, I’m not seeing them yet. Do I wish that my clients would pin my DJ website, yes. Will I start pinning my own content as a means for self promotion, probably not. I am using Pinterest to pin some tasty bicycle morsels. If you want to check out my pin boards, you’ll find me pinning as drrhythm

Follow Me on Pinterest

What social media networks are you using?

Ride. Report. Repeat. I CAN Handle That.

Foundry Cycles is looking for five brand ambassadors and I want to be one of them. If selected I’ll spend a year acting as an evangelist for the brand, a Foundry Tradesman. My duties will include riding their bike to local events, bike races, the grocery store, and just about anywhere it can take me. I’ll also be asked talk to people about what I think of the Foundry bike I’ll be given, answer questions they might have about the bike and perhaps let them take it for a spin. Additionally, I’ll be asked to document and share my experience through blogging, photography, and video. Foundry makes it clear, their ambassadors will have to earn their keep.

Foundry Cycles Router

So let’s see, I’ll be given a fantastic, high-tech, lightweight bicycle which I will spend a year riding. As a result, I’ll reap all the health benefits such as, increased strength, enhanced muscle tone, improved cardiovascular fitness, and better heart health. I’ll also be “required” to meet new people who share a passion for cycling and spend time talking to them about my cool new bike. Finally, I’ll have to spend time taking photos, making videos, and sharing all the fun I’m having with the world through this blog.

It really doesn’t seem much like work to me.

Foundry want’s to know why I should be selected to ride for them. Why they should choose me as a finalist to for this program? I’ll be up against other entrants that will likely have more experience riding bicycles. Perhaps, people who have spent a good part of their lives riding bikes and competing in bike racing. There will also be individuals who have more connections in the world of biking. Maybe people who work in the industry, lead bicycle tours, or put on events. None of that means I’m not a good choice for Foundry.

I’m committed to this project, I’m committed to immersing myself in the bicycle lifestyle and I’m committed living up to Foundry’s expectations for their Tradesmen and women. I’ll turn my dream into a reality and 365 days later, I know I’ll be proud I’ve done it.

What’s my dream? With the help for a few friends and family members, I’ve created a video to illustrate just that. Michael Bay, Peter Jackson, nor even Kevin Smith are worried about my freshman foray into directing. Still, I think my video turned out pretty good and more importantly, I had a lot of fun making it.


Old and Busted

While you all know I’m dreaming of the new hottness, I though I would post a few pictures of my current ride. This is a Univega Rover 304. It was purchased by my Dad on August 22, 1996. He used it off and on for several years but ultimately lost interest. I borrowed it sometime in 2000 or perhaps 2001 and rode it quite a bit for about a year before returning it to my Dad. After my Dad passed away, I got the bike from my Mom but, never really rode it. I wanted the bike but, I wasn’t really interested in riding it.

It’s been sitting in a shed in my backyard until I started working on this video project. I had to get it to the point where I could ride it at all before I started working on the video. The freewheel mechanism wasn’t working properly when I first tried riding it again. After looking around online, I found a solution and tried it. I took the wheel off the bike and sprayed it with a little WD-40. After letting that soak in a bit, it worked. Amazingly, the tires both held air. The derailer is however messed up, I can change between a few gears on on the rear but, not all of them. I can’t change cogs on the crank but, the middle cog has been fine for the very limited riding I needed to do. The foam grips are all cracked and about ready to fall off. I doubt the chain has ever been lubed. The breaks were misaligned on the front wheel. I managed to adjust them so that one pad wasn’t rubbing on the wheel. I also made certain that I could pull the break levers, both front and back, while pushing the handlebars forward and the bike would not move.

Now, I’m certainly not recommending you head out to your garage and start riding a 16 year old bike. On the contrary, before riding any bike you need to make sure it’s road worthy. Inspect the bike and fix what needs fixing before you ride it on the streets. If you don’t have the skills or the time to do-it-yourself, take it to a local bike shop for a tune-up.

I’ve basically only been using the bike as a prop and to do a tiny bit of riding, off the streets. I knew the risks I was taking riding this bike before I threw my leg over and I did what I needed to do so I felt comfortable it was safe enough for my limited needs.

So I thought you might be interested to see a few photos of what I’ve got to “ride” today. If I don’t become a Foundry Tradesman, I’ll purchase a new bike to get back into riding again. In addition to buying a new bike, I would like to strip down my Dad’s old Univega and put it back together again replacing or repairing the required parts myself. It would be a fun project, a good way for me to learn some bike maintenance and repair and a nice way to remember my Dad.

So here are the photos I took this afternoon. Enjoy.


This post is reserved to provide credit and attribution to the photographers who’s images helped make my Foundry Cycles Tradesmen video possible. I want to thank all these individuals for making their works available to the public under a creative commons license. All creative commons licenses require attribution be given to the original owner or artist. The following is a listing of all the still photos used in my video. No credit is given to website screenshots, licensed stock photos, or images provided by Foundry Cycles. I’ve included the title of the work, the photographer’s name and a linked image to the original posted on flickr. I’ve organized this list in the order that the photos appear in my soon to be released video.

Cleveland Welding Co. Skiptooth Chainring – Arturo Sotillo
Cleveland Welding Co. Skiptooth Chainring

Coyote Hills Regional Park – Nina Stawski
Coyote Hills Regional Park

Coyote Hills – Jim Bahn
Coyote Hills

Univega Rover 304 – 1,2 & 3 – Todd Barber

Foundry Router Studio – Composition by Todd Barber

Kim & Alexis – Richard Masoner
Kim & Alexis

Todd & Dan – Kathleen W.

Land Park Criterium – Todd Barber

Bike Lane – Michelle Barber

splended morning – Robert Couse-Baker
splended morning

Margaret biking – Russell Brennan
Margaret biking

Umpqua River Mountain Bike Trip 6/11 – Gabriel Amadeus
Umpqua River Mountain Bike Trip 6/11

Mountain Bike Wilder Ranch – Richard Masoner
Mountain Bike Wilder Ranch

Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz – Richard Masoner
Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz

Sunset at the Bike Park – Todd Barber

Todd at the Post Office – Michelle Barber

Mailing a Letter to Foundry – Michelle Barber

City Bicycle Works – Todd Barber

Madcat Bicycles – Todd Barber

Heading to Roseville – Thirteen Of Clubs
Heading to Roseville

I would also like to give some extra recognition to Richard Masoner he has over 10,000 photos posted on his flickr photostream. Richard is also the primary blogger / owner of cyclelicio.us. I don’t know Richard but, he asks that inviduals using his images link to his website and I’m more than happy to oblige. From what I have seen, both his blog and all the fabulous photos he’s taken are a great contribution to the bicycle loving population. Thanks Richard.

Land Park Criterium

Yesterday morning, I headed out with my camera to attend the Land Park Criterium. The Wikipedia has an article on criterium events that’s pretty spot on. While I was there I was able to watch 3 different events Women 4, Elite 4 (Men) and Women 1,2,3.

I found out about the event from a friend’s post on Facebook. Thanks for promoting the event, Reed. The Land Park Criterium was promoted by the Sacramento Golden Wheelmen (SGW) a local racing team. SGW was founded in 1973 so it’s members have been riding together for as long as I’ve been living. This was the 39th annual Land Park Crit. The weather forecast was a bit sketchy and it did end up raining some yesterday but, while I was out at the race the track remained dry and there was very little wind. It was a bit cool but I don’t think any of the racers were complaining about the temperature.

Yesterdays event was only the second in the season for the Northern California Nevada Cycling Association (NCNCA) Premier Series.

I enjoyed watching the races, connecting with an old friend to talk about bikes and meeting some riders and racers. I took a lot of photos and many of them looked good on the 3 inch screen on the back of my Nikon D70 but, it turns out many of them were either soft or blurry. I’m not used to shooting subjects that are on the move. I should have bumped the shutter speeds up a bit. It was a rookie mistake, I guess it’s been awhile since I’ve taken some action shots. Had the skies not been so cloudy, things would have been better.

Regardless of my mistakes, I still managed to capture a few halfway decent shots. I’m looking forward to attending some more events this season. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll have a nice lightweight carbon fiber conversation starter to take with me to future races.

Bicycle Photography

One of the things I enjoy is photography. I try to snap photos whenever I can. I just noticed that Dirt Rag posted a follow-up to an article they ran in their latest issue regarding Mountain Bike photography. There are some good tips included in the Q&A follow-up.

If you’re at all interested in photography you should also check out Dan Barham’s blog as mentioned in Dirt Rag’s article. Dan is posting some great tips in his series Ten Steps to Better Mountain Bike Photos. While you’re there, have a look at Dan’s Portfolio as well, he has a lot of fantastic bicycle lifestyle photos on display.