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Fabian Cancellara sparks helmet debate on Twitter, says all cyclists should wear one

Trek Factory Racing rider shocked by number of bare-headed riders — in the Netherlands

Fabian Cancellara has this morning sparked a revival on Twitter of the eternal helmet debate, after saying that all cyclists should wear the headgear – his comments prompted by the sight of bare-headed people riding bikes in the Netherlands, where he is currently taking part in the Eneco Tour.

The Trek Factory Racing rider tweeted:

 

 

Shortly afterwards, he added:

 

 

The fact Cancellara was tweeting about the Netherlands, which together with Denmark has the highest levels of cycling in Europe but one of the best safety records, did not escape attention:

 

 

 

 

Some also pointed out that everyday cycling is an entirely different proposition from racing, where helmets have been compulsory since 2003 – although the speeds that racers travel at means that the velocity of any impact would in all likelihood be well above the maximum stipulated under EU standards for cycle helmets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While Cancellara’s original posts were widely retweeted and favourited, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Twitter users doing that were endorsing his views.

One person who lives in the town where Cancellara noticed the lack of helmets happened to be visiting the rider’s home country, Switzerland, and said:

 

 

Not everyone took exception to Cancellara’s stance. One Twitter user said:

 

 

Another added:

 

 

Finally, this tweet sums up an opinion shared by many:

 

 

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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110 comments

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jacknorell replied to Quince | 9 years ago
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Quince wrote:

One odd thing I've noticed is that people seem to either view helmets as holy life-saving miracles, or as UTTERLY worthless bits of foam.

Would a third option not be simply be to treat them in the same way we treat shinpads, or similar?

You've done it now, there's no sense or context allowed in helmet 'debates'!

BTW, yes, exactly.

I'm kind of happy to wear mine when MTBing, but not for utility cycling. I *expect* to knock into something during the former by headbutting a branch or whatever.

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Paul J replied to philly | 9 years ago
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Previously I poked fun at those who advocated for helmets because their friend crashed while wearing one and so, of course, it must have saved them! However, I had never considered Philly's amazing experience that helmets had saved not just one mate, but a number of mates from head injuries. While one vague friend can easily be dismissed as an anecdote, Philly's "number of mates" have a clear statistical power that can not possibly be discounted.

Bravo to Philly for doing his bit to save heads. His neighbour would have cycled off to a certain death had not her eagle-eyed neighbour Phil spotted her and quickly run from his spot by his curtains and out the door to remind her that she'd forgotten her helmet.

I'm sure he also tells all his mates in the pub about the dangers of drinking without a helmet - alcohol being responsible for *far* more head injuries in our society than cycling. If it saves one head, a beer helmet surely is worth it? And Phil isn't the type of guy to be illogically singling out cyclists, oh no.

Go on, dashing Phil, you hero.

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Paul J replied to tomturcan | 9 years ago
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tomturcan: Quite. The EN1078:1997 standard is pretty pathetic. The Snell standard is a bit better. It's interesting to note that *no* helmet makers make safety claims in their marketing. They seem to be able to find improvements in aerodynamics, or weight, or style, etc., to trumpet, but never any improvements in safety. Kind of strange that, for a safety device, no?

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fukawitribe replied to Northernbike | 9 years ago
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Northernbike wrote:

has anyone from the 'helmet saved my life' brigade considered possibly learning how to ride a bike without falling off? it's not difficult, really it isn't

Sir - alas that particular bit of sanctimonious sniping has already been done a bit further up the thread. Do keep up please.

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a.jumper replied to Matt eaton | 9 years ago
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Matt eaton wrote:

Everyone needs a helmet. Where else would you put your helmet camera?  3

Yeah, strap on a lump that stabs you in the head if you crash.

Or put it on your handlebars.

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noether replied to Kadenz | 9 years ago
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A complicated, that one. Of course Cancellara is free to express his opinions, but he is also considered an "expert" with access to the mass-media, therefore an opinion maker. This makes the voice of contrarians even harder to be heard. His outrageous opinion should therefore be met with outrage. Australian cyclists are already paying the price for daft regulation. Fortunately, many replied to his blog with the necessary vigour. His next tweet will surely read: in Holland, no one wears helmets when cycling through town, and cycling accidents are the lowest worldwide. Why is that? Makes no sense to me.

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Matt eaton replied to chrisc | 9 years ago
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Chrisc wrote:

In April I hit a stone wall descending at 40mph after getting into a speed wobble and slid 25 yards to a halt. Broken shoulder blade, collarbone, 6 ribs, dislocated shoulder and a broken/ground away Giro helmet. I can remember the impact and sliding down the tarmac with my helmet grinding.
I am thankful I was wearing it.

This said, I didn't wear a helmet on my first ride after the accident (almost 4 months later and still unable to ride a road bike) on my hybrid because it was a gentle pace to test things out.

I will always wear a helmet on a road bike where I am riding at speed but will continue to ride in a cap on my hybrid when going to the shops or similar.

I'm much the same. If I'm going out for the express purpose of riding my bike I'll put my lid on. Also at the BMX track or trails I always lid up (but not always at the skatepark or on street). If I'm going to the shops or similar I don't really want to have to carry an extra thing with me. It's already a point of pain to have to remove lights etc. and carry a heavy lock (which seems even heavier on the way home with a load of shopping).

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fukawitribe replied to Joeinpoole | 9 years ago
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Joeinpoole wrote:

I've always found 'cycling without falling off' quite an easy thing to do.

You ain't trying hard enough then boiy....  3

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fukawitribe replied to Paul J | 9 years ago
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Paul J wrote:

tomturcan: Quite. The EN1078:1997 standard is pretty pathetic. The Snell standard is a bit better. It's interesting to note that *no* helmet makers make safety claims in their marketing. They seem to be able to find improvements in aerodynamics, or weight, or style, etc., to trumpet, but never any improvements in safety. Kind of strange that, for a safety device, no?

Well.... Kask make quite a thing of safety about their helmets in general, but then they come from a different direction and history to most helmet manufacturers. That aside I have to agree with you that it is certainly strange, bloody ridiculous really, that it is not front and centre in many claims.

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fukawitribe replied to a.jumper | 9 years ago
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a.jumper wrote:
Matt eaton wrote:

Everyone needs a helmet. Where else would you put your helmet camera?  3

Yeah, strap on a lump that stabs you in the head if you crash.

Or put it on your handlebars.

Was there just the teeeeeenyist sense of humour failure there ?  1

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farrell replied to fukawitribe | 9 years ago
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fukawitribe wrote:
Joeinpoole wrote:

I've always found 'cycling without falling off' quite an easy thing to do.

You ain't drinking enough then boiy....  3

Edited this for accuracy.

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Joeinpoole replied to fukawitribe | 9 years ago
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fukawitribe wrote:
Joeinpoole wrote:

I've always found 'cycling without falling off' quite an easy thing to do.

You ain't trying hard enough then boiy....  3

I've always assumed that a detour via A&E would actually *slow* my progress to my destination.

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fukawitribe replied to Joeinpoole | 9 years ago
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Joeinpoole wrote:
fukawitribe wrote:
Joeinpoole wrote:

I've always found 'cycling without falling off' quite an easy thing to do.

You ain't trying hard enough then boiy....  3

I've always assumed that a detour via A&E would actually *slow* my progress to my destination.

Who said anything about a destination ?

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ChairRDRF | 9 years ago
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I yield to nobody in my admiration for Cancellara. Take a look at this, for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxXqQqAc2pA&feature=player_embedded.

Thing is - if he had to come to grief doing this, just how much good would a lid have done, and of course he would have been elss likely to do it lidless.

And should he actually be lecturing those of us who ride in urban areas with a far lower casualty level per time spent cycling than Tour de France riders, even in the UIK, let alone the Netherlands? On cyclist safety?

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Joeinpoole replied to ChairRDRF | 9 years ago
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ChairRDRF wrote:

I yield to nobody in my admiration for Cancellara. Take a look at this, for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxXqQqAc2pA&feature=player_embedded.

Thing is - if he had to come to grief doing this, just how much good would a lid have done, and of course he would have been elss likely to do it lidless.

And should he actually be lecturing those of us who ride in urban areas with a far lower casualty level per time spent cycling than Tour de France riders, even in the UIK, let alone the Netherlands? On cyclist safety?

Exactly. Can I be alone in thinking that a nice wicker basket, mounted on the *front* of his bike, would have saved him from having to reach backwards into his jersey pockets too __ much safer. Mr Cancellara needs to demonstrate safe cycling in his own actions before lecturing anyone else.

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ChairRDRF | 9 years ago
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Fabian Cancellara is not the first racing cyclist to get cycling as transport all wrong. See our beloved Wiggo on helmets here: http://rdrf.org.uk/2012/08/09/why-bradley-wiggins-is-so-wrong-part-three..., here http://rdrf.org.uk/2012/08/03/why-bradley-wiggins-is-so-wrong-part-one-s... and other posts under
http://rdrf.org.uk/category/bradley-wiggins/

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ChairRDRF | 9 years ago
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On the physics of impacts on cycle helmets see http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1209.html

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ChairRDRF | 9 years ago
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For what happens when lots more people start to wear cycle helmets, see http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/12/17/the-effects-of-new-zealands-cycle-helmet-law/ and for the possible explanations, see http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/12/27/the-effects-of-new-zealands-cycle-helmet-l...

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Paul J | 9 years ago
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The UK has 7 times the rate of KSI amongst its cyclists as the Netherlands does.

Clearly the Netherlands is doing something better than the UK when it comes to cycling safety.

The UK has quite high rates of helmet use amongst cyclists - circa 30% if I remember right. This is in the order of a factor of 10 higher than in the Netherlands, where very few cyclists wear helmets (circa 2% overall).

Clearly, the UK's obsession with making cyclists wear polystyrene is, in the grand scheme of things, not very effective at actually making them safe. If the goal is cycling safety then clearly helmets aren't at all the solution.

It's so damn inarguable that helmets are (in the grand scheme of things) shit at keeping cyclists safe, and it's so damn obvious what it is needed. Which makes it so frustrating to have to listen to the "But my friend fell of his bike and his helmet cracked, so he must have been saved!" brigade.

Another tidbit, just over half of the KSIs in the Netherlands are old people. Many of these (I don't have figured) are not dying because of anything to do with cycling, but dying cause they're old, had some health problem and just happened to be on a bicycle. They probably lived several years longer than they would have lived without having regular cycling in their lives.

E.g., this happened to a dutch friend of my mothers this year. She fell off her bicycle because of chest pain, and died later that evening from a heart attack.

But yeah, cyclists wearing helmets, keep obsessing over that UK. So long as you do, you'll never have *actual* safe cycling.

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Beaufort | 9 years ago
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Famously, Merckx & Hinault both died awful deaths racing on the road....except they didn't. Wear or don't wear, your call.

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Colin Peyresourde replied to Beaufort | 9 years ago
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Beaufort wrote:

Famously, Merckx & Hinault both died awful deaths racing on the road....except they didn't. Wear or don't wear, your call.

Well, look at you. Quite the rhetorical master.....it's not the riding it's the crashing. Just ask Casartelli and Wouters, oh, wait, you can't!

But I do agree with you. People seem to talk about safety in absolute terms, but you cannot legislate for it. I don't say you have to wear a helmet, but that you should do so by choice. You take a gamble when you don't, and less of one when you do.

I've never needed a helmet, and hopefully I never do. But I have no problem wearing one.

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ChairRDRF replied to Colin Peyresourde | 9 years ago
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Colin Peyresourde wrote:

[Well, look at you. Quite the rhetorical master.....it's not the riding it's the crashing. Just ask Casartelli and Wouters, oh, wait, you can't!

You mean Wouter Weylandts who died Giro? When he was wearing a crash helmet? There is (admittedly unresolved) argument about whether a lid would have saved Casartelli.

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HKCambridge replied to Colin Peyresourde | 9 years ago
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Colin Peyresourde wrote:

I don't say you have to wear a helmet, but that you should do so by choice. You take a gamble when you don't, and less of one when you do.

Tell me, is walking to the shops without a helmet 'taking a gamble'? You could fall and hit your head on a pavement. A helmet might make a difference to the outcome.

This is where the ridiculousness of helmets and cycling really comes in. The 'if it saves one life' bollocks. The same is true for wearing helmets in cars, but it'll be a cold day in hell before any government in the world even suggests it's a good idea, let alone legislates for it. The disadvantages of doing so would be considered far in excess of the benefits.

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tmz replied to HKCambridge | 9 years ago
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The last serious crash I had, I hit the asphalt head first, I was going about 20mph. Glad I was wearing a helmet, don't really see the disadvantage of wearing one. I think it helped me this time.

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rggfddne replied to tmz | 9 years ago
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tmz wrote:

The last serious crash I had, I hit the asphalt head first, I was going about 20mph. Glad I was wearing a helmet, don't really see the disadvantage of wearing one. I think it helped me this time.

They're dorky and uncomfortable, and if they're only saving me from gravel rash and other minor injuries, and had to use one every day to do so when I've not hit my head in several years and several crashes, I'd say the cure is worse than the disease.

But if your valuation of obviously subjective things like comfort is different, that's fine.  1

Just don't lie and say you know it saved your life, because you don't. And respect the fact that other people's opinion of things like "how dorky they are" is just as valid as yours.

Sorry but bollocks are the two sides as bad as each other - the helmet evangelists commit those sins (dodgy claims, refusing to admit some things are subjective) far more often than "helmet sceptics".

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Simon E | 9 years ago
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Boardman: "Helmets not even in top 10 of things that keep cycling safe"

http://road.cc/content/news/111258-chris-boardman-helmets-not-even-top-1...

I'm with the William Bradley tweet quoted above. Just because Fabian Cancellara says something doesn't mean he is better informed about it than the rest of us.

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Paul J | 9 years ago
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Excellent bike racer (ignoring rumours). Bit of an idiot off the bike, it seems.

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oozaveared | 9 years ago
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Fabian cancellara is sponsored by Bell. he has his name all over a range of their premium helmets.

You should wear a helmet he says.

Call it performance pay shall we?

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gareth2510 | 9 years ago
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ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh not this boloody topic again ffs  102

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Must be Mad | 9 years ago
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Wow, its hard to argue with the anti-helmet brigade when physics are being applied so rigorously..

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