If you haven’t met it yet, may I introduce you to an outstanding survivor of my many street battles versus biking accidents?
Meet an old friend: a Bell bicycle helmet, bought nearly 20 years ago at Fry’s along Rosecrans Ave in Hawthorne CA (at $35.95 if I remember right). Originally in steel gray, and later repainted a militant red with Igan’s help.
Visiting my first cousins in that car-crazy city called Los Angeles back in 1999, I had realized that due to a return-ticket problem, I suddenly had much free time on my hands for the next two weeks. My cousin Myrna and her husband Robert were encouraging me to roam the vast LA wilds and the nearby beaches. And so, with a borrowed bike from Robert and a helmet bought from a nearby electronics and sports shop, I turned into something like an uncorraled mustang on LA’s side streets.
Being a hardcore bicycle fanatic from childhood, I’ve never felt any need to wear a bike helmet. California law requires helmets only for kids below 18, and so I didn’t need any. But LA being LA, my cousins had wanted me to be extra-safe. The helmet was one of the few items I lugged back to Manila. (Sayang naman the $35.95.)
I’ve been in a few bike crashes before the helmet and since then, suffering minor cuts and scratches here and there. But not once was any part of my head involved, and so never too did this grizzled helmet suffer any bump or scratch. (That ugly motorbike accident in 1976 that landed me in the orthopedic ward is a different story, though.) Anyway, weaving confidently in and out of gridlocked city traffic always gives me that moment of superiority. I am a leaf in the wind, watch how I soar.
However, the shell has now become a bit brittle; it incurred a small hole when I absent-mindedly bumped it into some post while parking my bike. Some parts of the helmet liner are now missing and, as you can see from the pic, the adjustable chin straps are now held in place by rubber bands instead of the original clips.
I know, I know. Helmets that have become brittle with age must be replaced, for the sake of rider safety. And I do have a more recently bought Limar helmet for daily use. You might say that I should just throw away the old helmet. But for weekends when my wife and I ride together, she uses the Limar while I wear my Bell—with a tinge of sentimental pride and glamor, I must add.
And why not, indeed? Saturdays and Sundays are when we meet many bikers on the road, many of them in their not-so-cheap Yeti and Kona bikes and in their bright-neon, sexy-spandex weekend rider’s gear. Given that, I also need to show off my own gala uniform. And so on weekend rides, I wear my old and frayed cargo shorts and kamiseta, my favorite Good Morning towel, leather sandals, and—tuh-duuh!—my 19-year-old veteran protector. My “Bell ghost in the shell.” My survivor’s helmet.
Most early-morning riders are usually friendly enough to nod and smile or say “Hi”, and of course my wife and I greet them back. There may be class inequality among bikers, but we are all a band of brothers and sisters in the Resistance against the Four-Wheeled Behemoth.
This helmet, bought in the maws of Los Angeles, is a survivor and veteran of that Resistance. #