Cyclists typically compete in only one discipline. In recent years, several high-profile riders have emerged who compete at the highest level in multiple disciplines including road, cyclocross, and mountain biking. Among these riders are Tom Pidcock of Great Britain, Wout Van Aert of Belgium, and Mathieu van der Pohl of the Netherlands. In the 2023 UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale), van der Pohl won the 271.1km (168.5mi) road race and was favored to win the mountain bike race. In the first kilometer of that race, van der Pohl crashed, completely unexpectedly, as he rounded what looked to be a routine turn. He was injured badly enough that he had to abandon the race.
During my outings on the Little Miami Scenic Trail, I encounter many cyclists riding without helmets. Were I to ask why, I would likely hear a variety of explanations. “I just haven’t gotten around to buying a helmet.” “Helmets are too hot.” “Helmets are too expensive.” “I don’t ride fast or far.” “Helmets are for serious cyclists, and I just ride occasionally.” “Helmets are great for kids to wear, but adults don’t need them.”
I would respond by sharing what happened to Mathie van der Pohl. If one of the best bike handlers in the world can crash unexpectedly, then so can you, too. In the event of a fall, a helmet may well make the difference between scrapes and bruises and a serious head injury.
While preparing this article, I participated in a Zoom call with Matt, a work colleague who is an extremely experienced cyclist. He shared the story of his recent unexpected fall and showed me the scars from his broken collar bone. He also shared the picture of his Smith helmet, which absorbed the impact and spared his head. A friend of his told him, “If this can happen to you, it can happen to anyone.”
Bicycling can be very enjoyable, but bicycling involves risk for you, for me, for Matt, and for Mathieu. Respect your head. Always wear a helmet when riding.
by Erick Wikum