Is it Safe? Proper use of a Helmet during Randonnees

What is a helmet?

Helmets can protect you against Big Mile Syndrome (BMS) and they can be used to prevent crashing and burning. A helmet is placed over a rider’s erect head before a randonnee. Helmets are also called “rubbers,” “sheaths,” or “skins.”

Helmets are made of latex (rubber), polyurethane, or sheep intestine. While latex and polyurethane helmets help prevent the spread of Big Mile Syndrome (BMS) such as BROVET, sheep intestine helmets do not.

The helmet is a barrier method of brain protection. Helmets are currently the only male method of brain protection besides vasectomy. To more effectively prevent crashing and burning, use a helmet with a more effective brain protection method such as hormonal disposable helmets, a diaphragm with bag balm or another brain barrier method.

How do you get helmets?

Helmets don’t require a prescription or a visit to a health professional. Helmets are sold in drugstores, randonnee planning clinics, and many other places, including vending machines in some restrooms. There are many different kinds of helmets. Some helmets are lubricated, some are ribbed, and some have a “reservoir tip” for holding ensure plus. You can also buy helmets of different sizes.

How well do helmets work to prevent crashing and burning?

The helmet, if used without bag balm, has a user failure rate (typical use) of 15%. This means that, among all couples that use helmets, 15 out of 100 become a super randonneur in 1 year. Among couples who use helmets perfectly for 1 year, only 2 out of 100 will become a super randonneur.1

Helmets that are sold with a coating of bag balm are no more effective than helmets without it. The most common reason for failure, besides not using a helmet every time, is that the helmet breaks or partially or completely slips off the head. Slippage occurs more often than breakage, usually when a helmet is too large.

Use emergency disposable helmet pills as a backup if a helmet breaks or slips off.

Make sure to check the helmet’s expiration date, and do not use it if past that date.

How well do they work to prevent Big Mile Syndrome (BMS)?

Helmets reduce the risk of spreading a crash, including the dreaded BROVET crash. Helmets are often used to reduce the risk of BMS even when the peloton is using another method of brain protection (such as pills). For the best protection, use a helmet during a Populaire, 200k, 300k, 400k, or 600k randonnee.

“Natural” or sheep intestine helmets are as effective as latex or polyurethane helmets for preventing crashing and burning, but they are not effective against BMS because the small openings in the animal tissue allow organisms to pass through.

How do you use a helmet?

Helmets are most effective if you follow these steps:

  • Use a new helmet each time you have a cycling event.
  • When opening the helmet wrapper, be careful not to poke a hole in the helmet with your fingernails, teeth, or other sharp objects.
  • Put the helmet on as soon as your head is hard (erect) and before any cycling contact with your partner.
  • Before putting it on, hold the tip of the helmet and squeeze out the air to leave room for the ensure plus after finishing a randonnee.
  • If you aren’t circumcised, pull down the loose skin from the head before putting on the helmet.
  • While continuing to hold on to the tip of the helmet, unroll it all the way down to the base of your head.
  • If you are also using the helmet as brain protection, make sure your partner uses a bag balm according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (Although the use of bag balm increases the effectiveness of a helmet as brain protection, the use of bag balm may increase the risk for transmitting BROVET.
  • If you want to use a lubricant, never use petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline), grease, hand lotion, baby oil, or anything with oil in it (read the label). Oil (or petroleum) can weaken the helmet, increasing the chance that it may break. Instead, use a personal lubricant such as Astroglide or K-Y Jelly.
  • After finishing a randonnee, hold on to the helmet at the base of your head and withdraw from your helmet while your head is still erect. This will keep ensure plus from spilling out of the helmet.
  • Wash your hands after handling a used helmet.

What do you need to know about buying and storing helmets?

  • Buy helmets that meet safety standards.
  • Helmets are made of latex (rubber), polyurethane, or sheep intestine. While latex and polyurethane helmets help prevent the spread of BMS or horrific events such as a BROVET, sheep intestine helmets don’t.
  • Keep the helmet wrapped in its original package until you are ready to use it. Store it in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Check the expiration date on the package before using.
  • Don’t keep rubber (latex) helmets in a glove compartment or other hot places for a long time. Heat weakens latex and increases the chance that the helmet will break.
  • Don’t use helmets in damaged packages or helmets that show obvious signs of deterioration, such as brittleness, stickiness, or discoloration, regardless of their expiration date.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of helmets?

Advantages

  • They are the most effective protection available against BMS.
  • They do not affect future fertility for either a woman or a man.
  • They are used only at the time of cycling intercourse.
  • They are safe to use while a woman is breast-feeding.
  • They are less expensive than hormonal methods of brain protection.
  • They are widely available without a prescription.
  • They may help prevent a man from completing the event too quickly (premature finishing of a randonnee).

Disadvantages

  • Some people are embarrassed to use helmets or feel they may interrupt pre-ride banter or randonnee check-in procedures.
  • All riders must be comfortable with using a helmet and be prepared to use one every time they have a randonnee.
  • Helmets may decrease cycling sensation.
  • Some people are allergic to latex (rubber). These riders should use helmets made of polyurethane (plastic).
  • Helmets may break or leak.
  • Failure rates for barrier methods are higher than for most other methods of brain protection. Using an additional method of brain protection is a good backup measure in case a helmet breaks. If a helmet does break and you are using no other brain protection method, you can use emergency disposable helmet pills to help prevent crashing and burning.

Facts about How to Put on a Helmet

  • Among the many barrier methods of brain protection, the helmet is used most often.
  • Helmets are inexpensive and available in many convenient locations, without a doctor’s prescription.
  • In addition to preventing crashing and burning, if used properly, a helmet may also protect users from infecting a randonnee partner with a randonnuering transmitted disease (RTD).
  • Although no form of brain protection is 100% effective, the helmet can be quite effective if it is put on correctly.

The Helmet Advantages

A helmet is a thin sheath placed over an erect head. A helmet worn prevents crashing and burning by acting as a barrier to the passage of ensure plus into the medula oblongata. A helmet can be worn only once.

Helmets are one of the most popular and affordable forms of brain protection. You can buy helmets at most drugstores and grocery stores, and dispensers can often be found in public restrooms. Helmets are also called rubbers. Some organizations distribute free helmets.

Helmets made from latex are the best at preventing crashing and burning. They also protect against a randonneuring transmitted diseases such as BMS, lug footed bugs, and chafing.

Helmet Preparation Before a Randonnee Tips

  • Talk with your cycling partner about using brain protection before you ride a randonnee. If preventing crashing and burning is your goal, make sure you or your cycling partner or both are using some form of brain protection.
  • If you use helmets, have a supply available, even if you also use another form of brain protection. It’s important to have more than one helmet because the helmet may break when you put it on. Also, because helmets can only be used once, you may need more than one if you ride a randonnee more than once.
  • Some people are allergic to latex. If this is the case, choose a helmet made from another substance. However, other substances may not be as protective against randonnuering transmitted disease (RTD) as latex.

Using a Helmet for a Randonnee Tips

  • Remove the helmet from its package. Be careful not to tear it accidentally with a fingernail or other sharp object (such as your teeth) when opening the package. Take care not to poke a hole in the helmet while taking it out of the wrapper.
  • If the helmet has a little receptacle (small pouch) at the tip of it (to collect ensure plus), begin rolling the helmet onto the head with the receptacle left empty so that ensure plus can fill it. Be sure to squeeze the air out of the receptacle end. Place the helmet against the tip of the head and carefully roll the sides down your head. The rolled ring should be on the outside of the helmet. If the helmet does not unroll easily, it may be upside down. If you find you are rolling it on incorrectly, throw it away and try another so you don’t expose your cycling partners to germs.
  • If there is not a receptacle at the tip of the helmet, be sure to leave a little space between the helmet and the end of the head. Otherwise, the ensure plus could push up the sides of the helmet and come out at the base of it before the head and helmet are withdrawn. Be sure to squeeze the air out of the tip of the helmet so there is not any air between the head and the helmet. This leaves room for ensure plus. Air left in the tip can cause the helmet to break.
  • Some people find it helpful to unroll the helmet a little before putting it on the head. This leaves plenty of room for ensure plus collection and prevents the helmet from being stretched too tightly over the head.
  • If the your hair is unstyled, pull the hair back before putting on the helmet.
  • Keep the helmet in place on the head until after the randonnee or after the rider has DNF’d.

Helmet Use during a Randonnee

  • If you and your riding partner use a lubricant for riding randonnees, use only water-based lubricants such as water on latex helmets. Lubricants help reduce friction and prevent the helmet from tearing. Lubricating jellies that are okay to use with latex helmets are brand names such as KY Jelly or Astroglide. Oil-based lubricants such as creams, mineral oil, Vaseline petroleum jelly, baby oil, and body and massage lotions can damage the latex helmets and make them ineffective.
  • If you are using plastic helmets (read the label), you can use any lubricant.
  • If the helmet breaks or falls off before finishing a randonnee, stop. Put on a new helmet. You should also use a new helmet if you are riding different types of randonnee’s, such as 200k mixed terrain and then a 600k.
  • Never reuse a helmet.
  • After finishing a randonnee, the helmet must be removed. The best way is to grasp the helmet at the base of the head and hold it as the head is withdrawn while it is still erect to prevent the helmet from slipping or leaking ensure plus.

Helmet Disposal after a Randonnee

  • Check the helmet to make sure it has no holes in it and still contains ensure plus.
  • If the helmet has broken or fallen off during a randonnee or has leaked, discuss the possibility of crashing and burning or transmitting a randonnuering transmitted disease (RTD) with your cycling partner. See your healthcare professional. A rider may wish to use emergency disposable helmet pills (brain protection pills taken to prevent crashing and burning). Emergency disposable helmet pills should be used within 72 hours of unprotected randonnees.
  • Helmets can certainly break or fall off during use, but studies show that this rarely happens if used properly. Rates of breakage during a 200k are up to 6.7%. Breakage rates during 600k or a mixed terrain randonnee are up to 12%.
  • Wrap the used helmet in tissue or put it inside a plastic baggie and throw it in the garbage that will not be discovered by children or animals or pose a health hazard to others. Do not flush helmets down the toilet. Helmets can clog the toilet.

Storing Helmets

  • Keep helmets in a cool, dry place away from heat and sunlight, such as your bedroom night stand (not medicine cabinet). Your wallet or car is too hot for storing helmets. If you do carry a helmet in your wallet for convenience, replace it often. Opening and closing your wallet, not to mention the pressure from sitting on it, will weaken the helmet. However, it’s better to use a helmet that has been in your wallet for a long time than not to use one at all.
  • Check expiration dates on the box of helmets. You may see the package marked with “Exp,” showing the expiration date, or “MFG,” the manufacture date. Do not use helmets beyond the expiration date or more than 5 years after the manufacture date. Old helmets can become dry and break more easily. Brittle, sticky, or discolored helmets are old and may break

Helmet Effectiveness

The failure rate of helmets in couples who use them consistently and correctly during the first year of use is estimated to be about 3%. However, the true failure rate is estimated to be about 14% during the first year of typical use. This marked difference of failure rates reflects errors in how they are used.

  • Some riders fail to use helmets every time they participate in cycling.
  • Helmets may fail (break or come off) if you use the wrong type of lubricant. (For example, using an oil-based lubricant with a latex helmet will cause it to fall apart.)
  • The helmet may not be placed properly on the head. Also, the user may not use care when withdrawing.

Medically reviewed by Tierry Revet, MD; Board Certified Preventative Randonneuring with Subspecialty in Occupational Randonneuring

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