Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Arcata Bay Trail, Preview

The new trail is still officially under construction but this Sunday morning there it was, gleaming in the early morning light unwalked and unridden. What is there about new asphalt that speaks to every walker and cyclist in town? Dozens of cyclists streamed past the "Do Not Enter" signs followed by walkers, runners, dog watchers and mothers with strollers. Onward to the bay!

My longtime Sunday cycling group "The Latte Warriors" have had only a three or four reliable rides to choose from on our narrow coast. Today we added a new one.

"It's beautiful" said Steve Fox, "but of course it would be." 

Just ahead: install bridges over the various bay estuaries. The first one is already done.  

Official opening day for the new trail is October 29. I'll be there on my recumbent! 

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Humboldt Bay Trail 75 years old I skipped a couple of years on this blog--but not on the bike. When half the people in the obituaries are younger than you, an actual bike ride becomes more attractive than a virtual experience. Yesterday I rode 42 miles with my longtime cycling group THE LATTE WARRIORS. It still beats hell out of any gym routine, meditation, discussion, class, regimen or pill and I still feel good a day later.

A couple of years ago Arcata was making noises about a bike trail through town. We'd heard that before but I took some photos of broken up sidewalk while  a few nearby cyclists smiled tentatively. 

Two years later we've had a breakthrough: miles of dreamy bike trail are actually completed in both Arcata and Eureka and the tricky route through the beautiful Arcata Marsh, under construction right now, has a promised completion date of 9/17 2017 (not 2117). Which means..this Fall we'll be tantalizingly close to connecting the south end of Eureka with Humboldt State University in Arcata. Cyclists will then be able to continue north on the beautiful Hammond Trail which runs along the Pacific. I did that ride today. Here's a photo: 

Behold The Map:

Humboldt County cyclists have been working on variations of a city-to-city bike trail (4 miles of dotted lines on the map between the two cities) for more than 25 years. Ten years ago I sat through a presentation at Arcata City Hall given by a team of "Transportation Infrastructure Consultants" from Sacramento. Beware of any committee that employs the word "infrastructure" in its title.

First, we watched an inspiring film about bike trails in Sedona, Az. Then, a lovely Arcata to Eureka trail appeared on a large white board. We were encouraged draw our wish list right on the board using brightly colored magic markers—like second grade art class. 

I drew a bike rack, a woman on the other side of the table added dotted lane markers. "Hey, you can do better than that." said a smiling infrastructure consultant. "Think BIG, think outside of the box!"  Minutes later a two lane bridge over the Freeway appeared areas with swings and sandboxes, fish ponds, a baseball diamond, a snack bar, bird feeders. Bike racks popped up everywhere. "Wow! Better than Sedona!" exclaimed the infrastructure consultants. Then they packed up the white boards, drove back to Sacramento and billed the city a million bucks.

But now, thanks to Humboldt County trail activists like Rees Huges and Dennis Rael we are dealing directly with Caltrans, builder of 
actual roads, bridges and tunnels all over California. They are at work constructing miles of beatiful bike trail through the Arcata Marsh as I write this. With a community buy-in for the dotted line portion they are prepared to finish the trail. 

Jeff Bezos is a Twitter friend of mine. The other day he asked all of us Twitter friends to suggest a worthwhile social investment project.

Jeff, by simply finishing the Rte 101 bike path through Oregon and tacking on the North Coast of California and Southern Washington you could link Seattle with Eureka. If this were Denmark or Holland, it would have happened twenty years ago. Seriously.

Anyway, Jeff, when the project is finished you're invited to bike down to Arcata and stay at my place while you're in town.

In case that scenario doesn't pan out, you, dear reader, are invited to support The Humboldt Bay Bike Trail.
 On day one after the trail opens life will change permanently around here. Students and workers who can't afford Arcata rents will begin to commute from Eureka, whole families will weekend on the trail, tourists will return to beautiful Humboldt Bay and joy bikers like me will be out there daily. Thousands of car and truck miles will not be driven. The treacherous route 101 "safety zone"will become bike free. Waist lines will shrink. Smiles will happen. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Amsterdam Train Station

Amsterdam train station, 2007. Every Dutch city has a train station with parking for bicycles. Build it, America, and they will come.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Starting Biking at 73, Part !!

My Biking Annals #1: Remembering Ornette Coleman At Angel Speed

Biking for me is as much a metaphysical as it is a physical activity. By this, I mean it is bifocal: one part, full (and, if possible, immaculate) attention to the present; the other part, reverie. Of course, you use your “lazy eye” for the second activity because that sector of mindfulness is more accustomed to drifting in time and space. The “strong eye” stays steady and watchful.

Now lest you think I’m bipolar, trapped in some dichotomy of consciousness, let me quickly add that both activities converge on a plane where all is yoga.

Being a second-time beginner to biking, I did not know too much about the metaphysics of this pastime. When last I biked, I occasionally thought up stories and wrote them when I got home. But I never knew that biking could open what Aldous Huxley called “doors of perception” native to this, ugh, “sport.”  

To rewrite Jesus, “Pedal and it shall be opened to you.” And I add that the pedals I have in mind could easily be spelled “petals.”

Before setting out for my bike trip on this glorious post-rainy, low-humidity, mild-climed day, I read about a funeral service held yesterday for jazz giant Ornette Coleman. Coleman was 85 and supposedly in poor health for the last few years. When you’re 73, as I am, that’s young. As far as I know, I’m still in good health and would like to stay that way long enough to leave a legacy of some sort. But I am also aware that my soul is “on loan” and must be returned at some point to the issuer (hopefully, no worse for wear).

In any case, I’ve been listening all week to Ornette’s records, as well as some made by others whom I revere equally who chose to play his compositions. One of those albums which paid tribute to Ornette was made by John Coltrane in 1960, with Coleman’s trumpeter Don Cherry and his bassist, Charlie Haden, also recently deceased. Called “The Avant Garde,” it features three (out of 5) songs by Coleman, and is notable for being the album on which Coltrane took his first-recorded solo on soprano sax.

Fairly soon after starting my usual bike route, I went into reverie mode, remembering listening to Ornette recordings with Gordon Inkeles, the proprietor of this blog. Although I have not seen Gordon since the late 1960s, he is an active presence in my life, linked by our mighty passion for jazz. It was Gordon who first played for me Charlie Parker’s epochal break-thru 1945 recording of “Ko-Ko”--not once but at least five times in succession until Bird’s whirl of notes made us feel like dervishes, spinning, spinning on “the still point of the turning world.”

I always remember that experience because I date my epiphany that the earth’s surface is (or was meant to be) a vast dance floor to that moment when Charlie Parker broke the speed of sound, then light, and ran jazz’s first 3-minute mile. Forget flights of bumble bees, and Lisztian arpeggios. Bird soared and took us with him, as if each note was a footstep to be followed (mind you, at sprint or glide-path speed).

I rejoined Bird in flight today, soaring with Ornette to a celestial sphere far closer to earth than any I have ever imagined. There is a saxophone blues-yelp that summons all angels on patrol of this planet. And Ornette sounded it in my fondest memory as I pedaled along today. In fact, he enveloped me in it.

And that’s when I felt like I entered a seraphim’s tail wind; maybe a whole band of them carrying me along in their beating-wing air stream. It seemed as if I had broken my own personal sound barrier and that I was traveling at “angel speed.” I know this sounds corny, but I was in a deathless place. As beacon, as symbol of all the I love, Ornette was singing through me, using my consciousness as his instrument and sounding board.

I’m sure there other ways and means beyond bikes and meditation mats to “get” to where I “got” today. I urge every person reading this to find his way and means to that place--a place where remembrance of ancestors, gods and heroes becomes grateful (and grace-full) mindfulness of the here and now. “It is all one day,” Tennessee Williams wrote in his last play. I hope to resume that day ASAP, or, at least, the next time I bike. In the mean time, thank you, Ornette; and thank you, Gordon. The three of us are still tuned in to God’s radio.

--David Federman, June 28, 2015

Saturday, June 20, 2015


The beautiful Hammond Trail will soon cross Little River on a separate bicycle bridge, and connect Clam Beach with Scenic Drive, thus permanently eliminating a long Freeway hill for riders to and from Trinidad! This means you will be able to ride from gorgeous Patrick's Point State Park, six miles north of Trinidad, all the way to Eureka without entering a Freeway.

The Lost Coast Outpost has details. Take note west coast bike tourists!

Sunday, June 7, 2015


Behold! After 22 years of meetings, studies and consultants, we are finally getting it built!

 Soon there will be bicycles rolling in the wake of these steamrollers. .

This part of the path will lead to a spot near Humboldt State University.

Big, wide and beautiful. Yes, it will be beautiful.

Next up: Connect Arcata and Eureka, a few miles along beautiful Arcata Bay. The old Railroad Easement or a place nearby is the likely route.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

An Old Friend Starts Biking at 73. Discovers "Hard Fun" and "Preordained Gladness"

I haven't seen Dave Federman since we were students at The University of Pittsburgh half a century ago. We've stayed in touch online, however, and continue to share a passion for jazz and poetry. I mentioned my cycling but it didn't go much further. Then...voila!


I'm back in the saddle again. And since this saddle belongs to a Trek Verve 3, it is cushy enough to be 'mindful' of my aging posterior and the woes like hemorrhoids it is heir to. To be honest, I wouldn't be taking my second stab at the bike life if it wasn't for a bike like this that is designed for city streets and straits. You don't have to travel far by car or bike in Philadelphia and its suburbs to encounter simulations of or equivalents to off-road challenges. The makers of my bike must have foreseen the often corrugated stretches of street I must pedal in pursuit of the 'la bell vie ambulatoire'. Thanks to shock absorbers and other components of stress-reduction technology, the winter-ravaged streets pose less danger and discomfort than when I took to these less-ravaged streets a year ago on my oversized racer that I was told would make a man out of me.

To the contrary, my first bike's height nearly unmanned me. After three serious spills, the last of which almost justified a trip to the emergency room, my wife forbade further treks on that macho speedster. Something like a Trek Verve 3 17.5" was a pre-condition for any return to biking.

Ride a stationary bike in the basement...or explore these streets.

My reasons for giving the bike life a second try are typical and sensible for men my age. At 73, I am well-aware of the need for daily exercise. We have a stationary bike in the basement that is ideal for short attempts at physical fitness. But it is boring. So I have broken every resolution for continual usage.

Outdoor biking, on the other hand, adds meta-physical to physical fitness as you become a fast-forward urban/urbane Thoreau whizzing past suburban splendors. Sometimes there are even high-impact haiku impingements of external reality. And I don't mean the bells and horns of approaching bikes, busses, cars and trucks. I mean bird-trills and dog-barks, butterfly and blue jay sightings--things that make you stop hating your neighbor or yourself, and make you feel pre-ordained to gladness. Indeed, I started writing this essay while biking a few days ago--that is, when the Force (of my burgeoning stamina) joined me in a brief foretaste of abundance.

Monique, the author's bicycle muse. 

Stamina is a grand, glorious and, above all, attainable objective of biking. It encompasses things seen and unseen, as well as aids and abets concentration and patience. No wonder I am amazed and embarrassed to see how much of this precious resource I lost between my last bike ride in the Fall and my first this April. Thankfully, stamina returns, or, maybe I should say, resumes. In any case, my wife, and biking partner, is telling me not to push the return to previous fitness levels. "You're not in training for a competition," she reminds me when she sees me in full self-punishing, hair-shirt, endurance mode. Instead,  she advises me to see biking as a mixture of meditation and yoga, not merely a sport or athletic interest.

This brings me to my own private purpose for writing this short essay. During my first biking incarnation, I saw this pastime as hard work. During my second biking incarnation, I see it as what I call "hard fun." So this time I look forward to the exertion rather than dreading it. Hell, I even find myself upshifting on declines to take the opportunity for easy exercise rather than mere gliding. Then when I face the uphill climbs, and the number of my grunts per minute are equal to those on a Perez Prado record, the effort seems as rewarding as learning to dance the mambo and, more challengingly, the tango.

So there you have it: I'm bike-borne as well as bike-reborn. I don't know where it will lead or if it will last. For now, however, it's nice to think I have joined millions of others who heard and heeded the call of the open road disguised as a bike path.

"Hard Fun" in Ardmore

--David Federman, Ardmore, PA, May 7, 2015

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Portland Crime Down in Every Major Category except ONE

Holland has the SAME PROBLEM: everyone has a bike and every bike needs a 15 pound lock!

This beauty had been secured to a heavy duty bike staple which was imbedded in the sidewalk:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Beachcomber Bayside, Parking Lot

My Yelp Review (below) of the Beachcomber Cafe which has multiple racks for bikes and/or Donkeys: 
1602 Old Arcata Rd
Bayside, CA 95524
5.0 star rating

Tasty, atmospheric and beautiful both inside and out. I eat here all the time and always look forward to my next visit. Great staff. Wireless network. Newspapers. Quite bluesy live guitar music on Saturday. Big stack of New Yorkers and Atlantic in the free lending library. Great place to meet for coffee or lunch or just schmooze. No paper cups or junk food. It's an old world coffee house, not a vending machine.

On sunny days try the outside garden patio. Why aren't there more places like this?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The (only) Stein Electric

Beau Seymour had a thought: why not combine a high end German trike with a truly serious electric propulsion system capable of going 50 (!) or more miles between charges? You can't buy anything remotely like the trike he built, but I'm here to tell you it's a firecracker.

It practically flies up hills. I know this because sixty seconds after meeting me Beau handed over the trike for a test ride. He built this creature himself and he's proud of his work.

"I didn't intend to make this electric, says Beau, but I was living in a little town with lots of hills." You haven't seen a bike with chain paths like this because Beau has the only one.

Two minutes after my test ride, Mary Wheatley, a stalwart Latte Warrior, was off on one of her own. Like me, she found it difficult to end the test ride.

Beau isn't a professional bike dealer or manufacturer; just a very handy guy. But when he entered a bike show contest--his homemade creation won "BEST OF SHOW." That gave him the chance to introduce Eco-Speed, the motor manufacturer, to Steiner, the trike manufacturer. Sparks flew, he says, so we may see more "super trikes" soon.

I'll have more on this amazing trike.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Frank Versus The Yukon

When he turned 50 6' 6" Frank Ostertag declared: "Live your dream now before it's too late!"

Frank's "dream" turned out to be flying from Hamburg, Germany to Toronto, Canada with a custom made steel touring bike, then battling north across The Shield though thousands of miles of fierce crosswinds. ("I saw the dark side there. I'm never going back.")  In The Yukon when his rim gave way he asked directions to the nearest bike shop. A local said "Do you realize that for the next 250 Km there is NOTHING?"

So Frank rode south on his broken rim with 20+ kg of luggage and a collection of Canadian license plates that he picked up off the road—all the way back across The Shield. Many, many, many miles later he pulled into my driveway just ahead of the rain, our first Warm Showers guest. Canadian customs had confiscated his license plates but Frank was still smiling.

"Other bike tourists have done much more than me," Frank insisted, "the difference is: I'm willing to suffer."

Step 1: Load bike. 
Step 2 North across The Shield 
Step 3 South across the Shield

Adventure or masochism? 

We served up hot showers, warm meals and two days of rest. Frank makes an interesting house guest who doesn't hesitate to speak his mind. After conquering The Shield, you don't waste time beating around the bush. He's exceedingly polite and will do his best to appraise the value of everything in sight.

The morning of departure,  I rode south with Frank as far as Eureka.

What new adventures lie ahead for Frank? Ride with him on crosscanada2014 which will soon extend to San Francisco,  LA and... ? 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mark Goes Electric

McKinleyville Mark lives just a half a block from The Hammond Trail, Humboldt County's premiere bike destination. Work is 20 miles away on a construction site in Arcata and as Mark puts it, "I just don't have the calories to build all day and bike."

Since he's a resourceful guy he looked around on Ebay and found the components to convert his Cannondale Bad Boy to an electric bike. Mark selected a lithium battery, which weighs much less than lead and last a lot longer. He saved hundreds over a factory built E-bike conversion. In fact the whole conversion cost Mark about $1,000. According to Consumer Reports, a median priced new car COSTS MORE THAN $9,000 A YEAR TO OWN

What could you do with $9,000 a year? 

Charging an E-Bike costs pennies and can be done at normal AC outlets. If Mark visits you, he'll probably recharge.

The bike did get heavier--and since Mark cruises at 20mph on rough roads-- he modified  the seat to smooth out the ride.

Brooks seat plus serious suspension system. 

The electric motor spins the rear wheel, when needed. Pedaling while it's on extends your range.

The lithium battery. Not beautiful but it works! 

This handlebar mounted control is all you need. Push the up arrow to go faster, down to slow down. 

Mark in motion. His E-bike is easy to ride and exhilarating. In Europe, where gas costs $10 a gallon, E-bikes are everywhere

Sunday, July 27, 2014

"The bikes, they completely explode"

For years Rivendell and a few other steel bike manufacturers have been sounding
a lonely alarm on the potential dangers of making critical bike parts out of carbon fiber. Generally, they were dismissed as hopeless reactionaries. Sure maybe a few very early carbon fiber bike frames failed now and then and an occasional fork collapsed without warning, but that was decades back in the "developmental" period. Not only were today's Carbon fiber frame sand forks completely safe, they were "stronger than steel" and weighed a fraction as much! Carbon fiber bikes finished ahead of steel every time.

The Lance wannabes rushed forward, credit cards in hand. Carbon Fiber spread from forks, to frames to wheels. It became difficult to find a serious bike that wasn't built from carbon fiber.

Turns out Rivendell was right all along. And it doesn't take a crash like the one below to provide evidence. " Mark Greve, a sports medicine physician who studied 3,500 accidents found that virtually every part of a carbon fiber bike is dangerously unstable.

 “Anyone in a team who’s being honest with you will tell you how frequently their bikes are breaking; everybody knows." 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Kyle Jensen, Bike Tourist

Walking down Old Arcata Road yesterday evening I ran into Kyle Jensen, who had just started thinking about a camping spot. He started his trip in Bodega Bay, California a few days back and was heading north--against the wind--to Portland. Dusk was gathering and the nearest campground would have sent Kyle backwards on the road he had just biked. Kyle looked tired and he had good vibes. So he spent the night at my place.

Here's Kyle on The Hammond Trail taking off for Redwood National Park and points north this morning. Bon Voyage! 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ride in the shade all day: Da Brim

Cyclists must fend off an ever-increasing flood of "essential accessories" all of which demand space on our handlebars, frame or in our pockets. Here's one you shouldn't ride without.

If your helmet provides imperfect crash protection, it offers virtually nothing at all in the way of sun protection. I live in coastal California where I can ride on just about on any day of the year. I draw the line at heavy rain; a few determined riders simply dress for it. But even when it does rain, balmy summery weather is rarely more than a week away. And then I really need sun protection well beyond the ribbon of shade that's provided by a clip-on helmet visor.

When it comes to skin protection, Physicians repeat a familiar mantra which cyclists should take seriously: sun exposure damage is cumulative and every little bit counts against you. Before you leave on a bike ride cover all exposed skin--including the scalp and especially the tops of the ears--with an SPF 30 or higher sun screen. Reapply every two hours.

The clip on visors that some helmets include are little more than cosmetic enhancements. A two inch ribbon of shade may cut a bit of glare if the sun angle is right, but don't count on a visor for skin protection, shade or significant glare reduction. For all that you need Da Brim.

This photo was taken on my Northwest tour last summer. As you can see the sun was directly overhead and there was no shade to be had anywhere except on my face, exactly where I wanted it. Thanks to Da Brim my whole face, ears and neck stayed out of the sun. This is the larger "Classic" model with a wide brim that provides 360 degree shade. The optional front stabilizer fastener is particularly useful for recumbent riders since it helps keep the larger unit in place on fast descents. I particularly appreciated the significant glare reduction that lasted all day long.

The smaller clip on version does a nice job shading your face. Steve Sipma (above) toured Washington and Oregon on his ultra light Bachetta wearing a Rezzo Helmet Visor

Noreeen Sipma managed to shade her whole face at midday with a Rezzo. Note the rider behind her had to put up with full sun on the face. And it was HOT!

Now I never ride without Da Brim. If it did nothing more than reduce glare, it would be worth your consideration. But it also provides useful protection from the sun--and looks cool too.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Is Your Bike Destroying Your Health?

Richard Wolf M.D. (retired) has completed 15 century rides and many long tours. He rides both upright and recumbent bikes and has done so for decades. Cycling is one of the great pleasures in life.; we all know the health benefits. Richard knows the risks too, has seen the consequences of ignoring those risks and can tell you how much the surgeries cost.

Hopefully you have already considered the safety basics. But stuff, as they say, happens. Perhaps the numbness you've noticed in your hands, across your neck and shoulders and throughout your crotch is, as you've been telling yourself, only temporary.  If it isn't, Dr. Wolf has some advice for you.


The human wrist structure is not designed to support half the weight of the body under constant vibration for hours at a time. If you ignore this inconvenient anatomical fact of life and try to "ride through the pain" something can--and will--give way.

Carpal tunnel surgery runs about $5--10,000. But if the tiny and quite vulnerable Hamate bone is stressed to the point of fracture, you're faced with a more complex and expensive surgical repair.

Then it's back into the drop position on the new Trek, right? Yes, your bike is faster if you bend forward. But after Carpal Tunnel surgery that speed boost comes at some cost to your wrists. With luck you might be able to repeat the surgery once; with lots of luck twice. After that your wrists and hands stop functioning.

Consider the drop position minus a bike. To gain speed and efficiency you sit well above the handlebars, bend over double concentrating half your body weight on your wrists. The ergonomics--adapting yourself to the needs of a machine for the sake of speed and efficiency--couldn't be worse.

Can you imagine assuming this posture without a bike for a four hour exercise session?

Recommendation: Set up your handlebars level with your seat with the bar ends pointing toward you. To reduce stress on the neck with drop bars raise them 3 inches. Vary your hand position frequently during a ride, especially when riding with drop bars. 


The SPF ratings on skin protection creams levels off at SPF 30 (30X more protection than no cream). You can certainly pay more for "higher" SPF  ratings but you won't gain any significant protection. Protect your skin by reapplying skin cream every two hours, something few cyclists bother to do. Don't stop with the body parts you see in a mirror. The top of the scalp and ears are particularly important.

If you notice scaly deposits on your face, scalp or the tops of your ears take it as a warning and see a dermatologist. You may be able to intercept a pre-cancerous condition. Costs for removal are about $500.

Recommendation: Use a broad spectrum  sunscreen--SPF 30 or more--with protection against UVA and UVB. Don't stop with your face. Cover the back of the hands, back of the neck, ears and scalp. Use a helmet liner or cap to cover your scalp. Reapply every two hours. 


Riding fast or into headwinds greatly increases the risk to your eyes.  There are nasty bugs out there and you will get in their way on a bike.

Only you can protect your eyes from insects. As for your head, see the rider above. 

Recommendation: Wear wraparound eye protection and a helmet. 


Food supplements are not food, may not be safe and are not regulated. To put it bluntly, when you swallow an unregulated supplement, you have no way of knowing what you are putting into your body. Don't waste your money and take needless health risks by consuming weird substances that make wild promises. Pills, "supplements" and snake oil "remedies" don't belong in a "health food" store. 

Skip the vitamins especially if the prefix "mega" or the words "beta carotene" appear anywhere on the label.

Recommendation: Eat real food. 


Your ultra light, extremely narrow, super firm racing seat is pressing hard against some of the most delicate tissue in the body. At no time in evolutionary history have any of our ancestors managed to stress the perineum for hours at a time so it remains soft, exposed and packed with surface blood vessels.  Neither male nor female cyclists should tolerate pelvic numbness while riding a bike. Set up your handlebars and seat to relieve perineal pressure--even if doing so slows you down.

Recommendation: Cyclists who ride in the drop position should consider a split saddle to relieve pressure on the perineum.  Make sure your knees are not fully extended while riding. A well adjusted saddle reduces chafing and side-to-side hip rocking, both of which can cause saddle sores. Wear a clean, seamless chamois to minimize chafing. 


If your seat is too high, your pelvis will rock, likely leading to back pain. It can get really bad fast.

Recommendation: Have your local bike shop show you how to set your seat height. A small change can make a big difference. Proper seat height is essential if you have back issues.


Recommendation: If you use clip-in pedals choose a set with some lateral play or "cleat float." Avoid clip ins with no cleat float because they have been linked to knee injuries. 


Let's say you live in Copenhagen or Amsterdam and have at your disposal the world's best cycling infrastructure. Everyone you know rides a bike, to work, to the market and to the park. Helmets? Do we wear helmets for a walk in the park? If you were seen wearing a helmet you'd be ridiculed by all your friends.

Even worse, you could be mistaken for an American tourist!

But before you blithely ride off to the office bare headed consider this: if you fall just once during a bike ride it's decidedly not like tripping in the park. Your helmet offers imperfect but essential protection: it will prevent life threatening fractures, not concussions. But you do have to wear it correctly if you expect to be protected.

With no rear retention system, this helmet shifted back under impact.

The head is a heavy object and will usually land first in a bike accident. It makes little difference whether you fall in Los Angeles traffic or on a protected bike path in Copenhagen; the the most likely place you will land is on your head. The question is: can you afford to slam your head against pavement even once? If you survive such a fall--many do not--reconstructive face and head surgeries run $50-100,000 or more.

A few sobering statistics: The Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance reports that "When worn properly, bike helmets can reduce the risk of brain injury by 88 percent. Only 8% of Minnesotans wear a bike helmet consistently....Each year, about 567,000 people go to hospital emergency departments with bicycle-related injuries; about 350,000 of those injured are children under 15. Of those children, about 130,000 sustain brain injuries...The average bicycle injury in Minnesota costs $49,000, including hospitalization, loss of productivity, and pain and suffering."

Recommendation: Wear a helmet with an easy-to-adjust rear retention system. Read this or let your bike shop show you how to adjust your helmet straps. Stay well away from trucks, taking extra care to avoid riding in their back drafts. 

Wounds heal faster when exposed to the air. This is false. Keeping a wound dry slows the growth of new tissue. Any open wound is more likely to become infected. And open wounds provide a tempting place for flies to lay eggs. (That actually does happen)

Recommendation: Pack a few bandages (small to large) on your ride. If you fall and sustain "road rash" washing it out asap to get rid of cinders and road debris will minimize future infections. 


  • Unexpected persistent chest pain
  • Unexpected, rapid or irregular heart beat
  • An allergic reaction after a bee sting. The symptoms can accelerate rapidly. 
  • If you are diabetic: marked thirst and increased urination may indicate not only dehydration but low blood sugar. Hunger and mental confusion may also be a sign of low blood sugar.

  • deep knee lacerations (if a cut penetrates to the knee bursa it will get infected) 
  • a broken bone 
  • a collar bone fracture
  • lost and regained consciousness
  • unexpected persistent chest pain
  • fallen hard on your head even if you were wearing a helmet 


You feel different and can't explain why. Something has changed. Find out what it is. 

Pack on every ride: your name and address, a list of your significant medical conditions and medications,  the name and phone number of a reliable contact person. 

Addendum: I'm getting flak on Dr. Wolf's helmet recommendations from the European anti-helmet brigades (see the comments below). A word about the science involved and the sad statistics on childhood bicycle-induced head injuries: first, when it comes to bike injuries, the most vulnerable individuals are small children, many of whom are still learning to ride. Secondly, the science on bicycle related head injury is all too real. If you really believe the studies are faked by unscrupulous helmet manufacturers in the hopes of forcing cyclists to buy a useless product, you’re either terribly gullible or delusional. You've bought into a conspiracy theory. 

a tip of the helmet to Dick Van Hoose for this chart

Again, if you fall off your bike you will very likely land on your head. I've fallen three times in the past 30 years. Each time I landed on my head and was able to ride home afterwards only because I had been wearing a helmet. President Obama (above) is not wearing a helmet because he is on the payroll of the bike helmet lobby. It simply makes good sense to protect your head when riding a bike.  Go ahead, if you must, and ride bareheaded through the English countryside, through downtown London and across Amsterdam but have the decency not to make yourself into a role model. You’re putting little kids at risk and a lot of adults as well.