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LETS TALK HELMETS 30.09.2020


A well designed helmet that protects your head and gains respectable attention from drivers


What is a helmet? It’s a head gear that protects the head from injuries during an accident. So why wear a helmet? It’s plain simple: prevention is better than a cure. Try curing a burst skull and that’s when you’ll learn that you cannot get a spare brain after yours has been damaged. During Belac’s Memorial Ride held on 19th September, I was a sweeper marshall ensuring that the oncoming traffic was diverted away from the gathering of the more than 500 cyclists that came to pay tribute to a great fallen soldier. As I delegated my duties, I had to remind the motorbikers otherwise known as nduthi guys and their passengers to always wear a helmet. The look on their in-a-hurry face told it all, that they do not value their own safety. A bicycle and motorbike’s body is the rider, there is no way around it than to protect it by wearing the correct cycling and riding gear. In any accident, the brain is the only body organ if damaged cannot be replaced or treated easily as the rest. A bullet through the cerebral can impair the human nervous system, what about a head collision on a high impact incident?

On a personal level, I get much more respect whenever I’m riding with my helmet on than when I’m not. There’s that respect I get for drivers who are now getting the picture of what a serious cyclist looks like thanks to the dedicated sensitizing efforts made by Critical Mass Nairobi over the years. Back in 2010, as I was descending down Mamlaka Road, I made a left turn as I usually did with extreme mad offroad skill. My chain slipped off the drivetrain and went under my rear wheel, making me skid leftwards as the ground rolled right in front of my eyes. I woke up, missing my right shoe, torn at the heel. Had it not been for the cap that I was wearing, the stones would have dented my scalp. I walked away with a focicle scratch on my head. If I had a helmet then, my head would have been protected.


Some knowledge about the gear that keeps your head in place. Bike helmets consist of helmet liners, shells and straps. Bike helmet liners are usually made of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam, Expanded Poly-Propylene (EPP) or Expanded Polyurethane (EPU or PU). The shell for cheaper helmets is stamped PET, ABS, polycarbonate plastic or other plastic, while some helmet shells may include layers of fiberglass or Kevlar (Watch The Dark Knight 2008 for some insight). Helmet strap parts are made of nylon or polypropylene.

Lets dive into the materials that make your helmet a protective body gear shall we?


Materials


ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)

Used frequently for hardshell helmets given its tough and impact resistant qualities. This is the same stuff that Legos are made of!


Aramid/Kevlar

These are also used in bulletproof vests and case of biking helmets, it is added to enhance the strength in specific locations for added durability and protection.


Carbon Fiber

This is used to make helmets sturdy and durable. The material is super strong and lightweight. It is commonly used in manufacturing full-face mountain bike helmets.


EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) Foam

If you remember the old-school picnic coolers, those used to be made out of material that is quite similar to EPS foam. This is the foam that gets crushed upon impact. The only downside is this foam is not re-usable and post-crash, cannot be reinstated to its original shape or position. It is for this reason that a helmet should always be replaced after a crash.


EPP (Expanded Polypropylene) Foam

This foam is more widely used for manufacturing ski helmets and looks similar to EPS. This foam can withstand multiple impacts and rebounds after impact. It is more expensive than EPS and gives the helmet a thicker feel as compared to EPS.


Honeycomb / Koroyd Straws

Honeycomb provides an alternative to the standard foam that helmet liners generally have. They’re formed by applying pressure as a result of which it squeezes and creates an energy absorbent structure that takes the shape of a honeycomb, and hence its name. This material gets crushed in a controlled fashion and allows for an efficient energy deceleration post an impact. James Ouma of Lifesong Kenya has a helmet of this make.

Polycarbonate

This material is used to construct current in-mold and hard shell bike helmets. The molding process of polycarbonate involves the bonding of the shell to the liner that produces a sturdy helmet. This material is of strong quality but lightweight at the same time.


Conclusion

As much as helmets are still expensive to beginner cyclists for low income households, it is a much needed necessity that anyone cycling on our wacky roads must have. You can get them for as low as 1500 kes, a small price to pay visa vie an eternity of brain damage and immobility on life support system that will cost your dear ones loans rounding up into millions. Helmets are available at bicycle shops across the city, for more insights check Kenya Cycling or Kenya Cycling Trading Market pages on Facebook.

Reference links:

https://www.bicyclefun.com/what-are-bike-helmets-made-of/#:~:text=More%20cyclists%20are%20now%20wearing%20helmets%2C%20giving%20them,PolyPropylene%20%28EPP%29%20or%20Expanded%20Polyurethane%20%28EPU%20or%20PU%29.

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