Bike helmets are sexy

Life with part of your cerebral cortex missing is, however, not sexy at all.

John Hoff

Smashing into a steel pole made me decide to finally buy a bike helmet.

For a long time, I thought a bike helmet would make me look like a dork, and this was always enough to stop me cold. Everybody else looks fine in a bike helmet, I would think, but I look like I should be belted securely into the far front seat of a short bus.

Last week I was riding with no helmet, like I’ve done my whole life. I was going rather slowly, nearly crawling along like a turtle, but it was time to speed up, so I put some muscle to the metal.

Suddenly, I had a sensation of all my gears slipping, and found my body flying through the air. I remember an object coming at my face, and in that split second it appeared to be the gray trunk of a small tree. Maybe I turned my face, maybe I threw up my right arm, but as the object smashed into my back with a sensation of agonizing, white-hot pain, I realized it was a steel pole from a street sign.

I lay at the base of the pole, on the grass between the street and sidewalk, gritting my teeth, possibly taking the Lord’s name in vain (I don’t quite remember). Then the worst possible thing happened. Two hot, sexy young women ran over to render assistance, and I realized they had seen the whole fiasco.

As they pulled my bike out of the street, dangling its blue basket by one pathetic plastic tie, I wondered why this couldn’t happen in some isolated alley, where nobody would witness me writhing in agony.

Was I all right, the women asked? Did I live nearby? Should they call an ambulance?

Falling into my training as an Army medic, I assessed my own injury, expecting the sensation of ribs stabbing a lung, torn muscle tissue, bones breaking the surface of skin, warm running blood. I was surprised that my right arm had full feeling and movement. There was an abrasion on my right shoulder blade, and a really awful, painful area where I smashed into the pole. I figured I was going to have some degree of pain for a month, at least, but I had miraculously escaped serious injury.

It turned out the chain on my bike had snapped, causing me to lurch forward and lose my balance when I lost all my gears. There had been no indication the chain was bad when a bike mechanic replaced a rear axle just weeks before. With no other vehicles involved, going quite slow on a properly maintained bike, I’d managed to dive into a steel pole. Go figure. The same blow to my head probably would have scrambled my brains.

Do you ever zip along at a fantastic rate of speed, and suddenly wonder, “What happens if my bike breaks while I’m going this fast?”

I’m still uncertain what, exactly, happens at a high rate of speed. I can tell you what happens at an enormously low rate of speed. You smash into something hard and it hurts. Then beautiful beings appear.

I pictured what the rest of my life would be like in some kind of permanent care facility with a debilitating head injury.

There would probably be cute nurses in uniforms, and they’d say stuff like, “Wow, Mr. Hoff, that column you wrote for the weekly newsletter about artificial dyes in the tapioca pudding was really informative! Sorry the part about Aramark being the devil was censored. What? You want something? OK, let’s see, you want me to put your typing pencil between your teeth? Gee, where did your typing pencil go? Did somebody take it away?”

And what would I say to the cute nurses? I might say something like “Grfrrgggrphhhh!”

Maybe it was the painkillers I bought in Dinkytown, maybe it was my body’s own endorphins from the injury, but in the hours after my mishap everybody looked like angels, like photos in a glossy fashion magazine.

I started noticing gorgeous people wearing helmets, people who looked like models and movie stars walking while dangling bike helmets by the straps, casually, like the streets and sidewalks were a high fashion runway. Click, click. Strike a pose.

Bike helmets, I realized, are sexy. Life with part of your cerebral cortex missing is, however, not sexy at all.

I went straight to Boynton Health Service, where they have a great deal on a bike helmet, headlight, and taillight for $20, plus tax. I priced similar stuff in a local bike shop, and figured I was saving about $30 by taking the deal at Boynton.

But who cares about the price? These helmets are so sexy they speak French. When I first met my helmet, this is what she said to me: “Bien lire avant d’utiliser ce casque. NON CONCU POUR VEHICULE MOTEUR. Ce casque est concu pour.”

I fell instantly in love with my sexy bike helmet.

John Hoff welcomes comments at [email protected]