to helmet or not to helmet???

So here’s a question?? Are helmets required for Ragbrai?? I don’t generally wear one as they are hot and uncomfortable. Now I know that they are supposed to prevent brain damage (I haven’t got any to damage) and protect your noggin. But when I did some research, statistically(in Australia, I know gravitational pull is different on that side of the world) they have been found that since the introduction of a law requiring helmet use, head trauma has gone up but the number of bikers has gone down. Makes you wonder why? SO, lets start this conversation. To helmet OR, NOT to helmet?

89 Replies

Evin Thompson, December 20, 2018 at 4:40 pm

Great topic,

I don’t care about your choice of helmet or not. RAGBRAI cares, but can’t change Iowa law.

I do hope that all people that operate bicycles on public roads sign up as organ donors. We all take risks, those without helmets a little more than those with helmets, but all that pedal on the open road are healthy, with good organs, and when some bad motorists hits you, lives will be saved by making this decision early for yourself, instead of relying on someone else to make the decision.

Having been in a position to try and convince the Next of Kin (NOK) that organ donation is really a beautiful thing, most of the time the NOK does not agree. Make it your choice and not those that you leave behind as a brain dead vegetable. Make the decision either with a simple DMV annotation or in your will or living will documents.

And to stir the other pot, all EBIKE folks should be required to be organ donors. Maybe some of their organs would be good to help others.


Chad Frana, December 20, 2018 at 6:28 pm

All bicyclists along with everyone else should be organ donors. I don’t agree with the thought that just because I don’t wear a helmet means that I am going to die if I get into an accident. The reality is, if I am hit by a car running 55+ on the roads I ride on, I’m dead with or without a helmet. Your correct that Ragbrai does care. And we are all wanting a safe ride that and all other weeks. But there should not be a law that requires me too wear a helmet or a seat belt for that matter. Yes they may/do save lives. But it should be my choice, it’s my life. Just my thoughts. I’m sure they differ from the rest of the worlds. As for Ebikes, they won’t change ragbrai much. Again my opinion but getting tired of that subject.


Pedaling Pete, December 20, 2018 at 7:41 pm

Sorry for stirring it all up again Chad, but I got what I needed. Thanks so much.


RustyBike Man, December 20, 2018 at 8:37 pm

Perhaps clumsily, or unluckily, in my decades of riding I’ve had 4 accidents where my HELMENTED-head met the pavement in a very forceful manner. One of the times I was riding only 4 blocks to buy a new helmet. I thought to myself “I don’t need a helmet to ride 4 blocks.” As I was about to hop on my bike, my brother’s preaching started haunting me. “ALWAYS wear a helmet” he would sermonize as he told me horror stories of those who didn’t. I walked back into my friend’s house and put on my old-beat-up-helmet. A couple minutes later that helmet saved me, one more time, as a pickup pulled in front of me 200 yards from the bike shop. My bike & I took a nose-dive but luckily my helmet took the brunt of a cement curb. I REEEALLY needed a new helmet then. My brother is a wise guy. Helmet, absolutely no doubt.


Rene Borrero, December 21, 2018 at 12:14 am

it is simple, no helmet no Ragbrai for you. I do not know what cycling event in the United states allows you to ride without a helmet. No one wants to get sued for a little shit like this it is logical for anybody to know. If there is a hole on the ground and you see it, do you go straight in just because you did not see a sing telling you to go around, you just going to walk right in the hole. and then what, you are suing because no one put a sing to tell you to go around the hole.


Amanda, December 21, 2018 at 7:56 am

This is a good topic to discuss in a friendly manner. I do wear my bike helmet every time I am on my bike. I feel I am an experienced rider but I never know what the other biker or car will do. Similiar to driving defensively, I ride my bike defensively by wearing my helmet. I don’t insist that everyone else wear their helmet, this is a free country (thanks to all servicemen and women) and you all have brains to decide on wearing a helmet or not. I do believe that the chance of a crash on RAGBRAI is higher than a regular bike ride. Road surfaces and inexperienced bikers are the main reason, in my opinion.

I do love the idea of being an organ donor – I am one- and hope you all are too, whether you wear a helmet or not.

On RAGBRAI, I accessorize my helmet with my Princess tiara! Say hi when you pass me in 211 days!


mootsman, December 21, 2018 at 11:19 am

I get the original point about helmets not helping but only in some very specific crashes. The majority of serious ones like my brother had with out a bike helmet happen to the frontal lobe in a header although they are not limited to that circumstance. He walked around normally for about 6 weeks before a very slow brain bleed caused him right side paralysis and to be taken by air ambulance to a hospital for emergency brain surgeries. IT took many months to get back close to normal but there was permanent brain damage effecting his mobility. A helmet would have added protection perhaps preventing how serious the injury was.

And then there was my crash on a bridge which I took a steel bridge railing to the jaw and I was lights out for a good 15 minutes. Convulsions followed. I had some memory issues for about a month but recovered. A helmet would not have helped that. Then in my USCF pack racing days in a crit crash the first thing I felt hitting was the TOP of my helmet. It saved me that day and on a few other occasions also.

So I do not agree helmets don’t help. I can only say they don’t always help. I would not be without mine, ever.


SFC JKL 2, December 22, 2018 at 1:08 am

Seat belts are hot and uncomfortable. Your chances of being in a car wreck are minimal. I would avoid using those things at all costs if I was you.


Low Rider, December 22, 2018 at 8:11 am

A reminder, please don’t feed or engage the trolls. It only encourages them.


Anonymous, December 22, 2018 at 8:50 am

It only takes one spill on a bicycle to end your helmet issue. I chose to wear a helmet. I am a wise old fool. When I first began riding my helmet was uncomfortable because a friend gave this newbie his old helmet. He and his wife said, “don’t buy a new one until you decide you want to keep riding”. That was on my $75.00 bicycle I bought from my sister-in-law. Many miles, new bicycles, helmets, tandems, child trailers, bicycle (really frigg’in loud) stereos have passed since that day. Purchase a comfortable helmet. I even used to be one of “those people” that had to take my helmet off to look cool and hansom when parking your bicycle for a break. I just leave my comfortable helmet and bandana on my head all day long. Anything looks good on a good looking guy my Mom said as I wore hand me downs from 3 older brothers. Your local bike shop will take endless hours to make sure every one of your miles in the saddle is pleasant. The LBS wants you to come back as a customer. My helmet only helped me three times. I don’t know the outcome of weather it helped me not become a wheelchair or bed bound old fool. God only knows. Peace on Earth. Merry Christmas. See your friends and family this holiday season. Wear a skid lid. You can be a fool elsewhere than on a bike without a helmet.


Evin Thompson, December 22, 2018 at 6:34 pm

Iowa does not have a bike helmet law, quite frankly I do not thing any state has a bicycle helmet law.

Maybe someone from Bike Law can chime in an provide some input.

But as a member of RAGBRAI nation should we not make recommendation?

As part of our registration process should we not be required to either say we will wear a helmet and/or be a registered organ donor? Simple question, not sure it should stop anyone from getting a lottery number. Just a good data point for discussion.

Nothing we will change for RAGBRAI 2019, but maybe something for the leadership of RAGBRAI to consider for the future.

I am an organ donor as designated in my resident state. My IA resident parents transport coronas from DSM to Iowa City every month as part of a Lions Club program. I believe we can give back when we may not know or am able to give back if we make the right decision when we are capable.

Happy Holiday’s to all in RAGBRAI Nation


LawnchairMan, December 23, 2018 at 2:09 am

Hey Steve S.
Just playing devil’s advocate, but it sounds like if you had not taken the time to put on a helmet, you would have been to the bike shop before the pickup got there. You would have avoided the accident. Of course there is always the old saying “One often meets destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.” You may have avoided the pickup only to be hit by a bus. It was good you had the helmet!

Only once did I test my bike bare headed at the bike shop parking lot. I felt REALLY uncomfortable. I always ride with a helmet. I have crashed with no cars involved and broke my helmet. Glad it was not my skull.


Pedaling Pete, December 23, 2018 at 9:50 am

“But as a member of RAGBRAI nation should we not make recommendation?”

Sure. It’s the aggressive nature of the recommendations that are so interesting. I’m not sure why people take this so personally. Surely you can see the whole “organ donor” thing is extremely passive aggressive. The best thing to do to spread the wear a helmet argument, is to wear your helmet. Helmet sales went through the roof when they started forcing Tour de France riders to wear them. Before that we all wore those little funny cycling caps…just like they did. We are all primates that want to fit in.

I’m not a fan of the one size fits all rule. If you’re speeding along on a road bike perhaps a helmet is a good idea. A leisure ride on a cycle path might make you think otherwise.

One thing I know for sure, no amount of aggressive nagging ever made anyone stop smoking, stop eating bacon, wear their seatbelt, etc. It only made people dislike the person nagging.


LawnchairMan, December 23, 2018 at 1:47 pm

Accidents happen when you least expect them. If I knew today was the only day I would crash, then I would only wear my helmet today. (or not ride) Once I was just making a slow U-turn not knowing my front tire was flat, and I was down before I knew it. Hit my helmet hard! Didn’t break it, but it would have hurt my head had I not worn the helmet.

There was a study, Michigan I think, where they found five times more accidents with cars when cycling on the sidewalk than on the street. About ten years ago a lady hear in Vegas was killed by a pickup truck coming out of a shopping center. She had been riding on the sidewalk, and I assume she thought she was in a “safe” place to bike. I don’t think she had a helmet.

I had a brief argument with a helmet-less rider that went something like this:
“You should wear a helmet.”
“I don’t crash.”
“The trick is to get the helmet before you do.”

A few months ago I was riding a trail with another rider. I got to a corner before he did and discovered the oil on the path. I was down fast and hard. Size and placement of the spill looked like sabotage. I wasn’t riding fast either, since I was coasting to let my buddy catch up. So even a casual trail ride can be dangerous.
Just last week I was preparing to turn left at a traffic light. As I came to a stop I put my foot down apparently in oil. My foot slipped out and down I went.

You just never know. Wear your helmet! Always!


RDaryl Daryl, December 23, 2018 at 7:27 pm

I think RAGBRAI nation makes such strong statements is because RAGBRAI nation truly cares for the well being of other cyclists.


Viewing 15 replies - 46 through 60 (of 89 total)

The forum ‘RAGBRAI XLV – 2017’ is closed to new topics and replies.





Gatherings & Meetings

Lost and Found


Clubs, Teams & Charters

Friends of RAGBRAI