Recently a friend of mine was bragging about his helmet (not that one, he was talking about his crash helmet). “These cost over £600 new, and I got it for £60,” he told me, “And it’s only three years old,” Out of sheer politeness, I ignored the fact that there’s no real way for him to know what condition the helmet’s in, and that at three years old, it’s only got a few years left before it’s passed its recommended lifespan. Even the best kit goes out of date eventually. Instead, I said “Yeah, a real bargain. It was lucky to be in your size.” That’s when he told me that it wasn’t actually his size, and it was fairly loose, but that it’d do. I had to step in. He simply needed telling. I could be polite no more.
Because there is only one thing worse than wearing a knackered old, smashed up helmet. And that’s wearing a knackered old, smashed up helmet that doesn’t fit. In fact, even a really good helmet, a shiny new, top-of-the-range one, isn’t worth a wank if it doesn’t fit.
If you’re absolutely adamant that you don’t want to buy a new helmet, and you’d rather stick your head in something that someone else has sweated and snotted all over, that’s up to you. But please be aware that an ill-fitting helmet doesn’t stand a very good chance of saving your life, should you need it to. Before I go any further, I want to make it absolutely clear that I don’t condone buying second hand helmets; even if it fits well, you don’t know it’s history. It could have been crashed in, dropped, stored badly, who knows? But there’s no law against buying and selling second hand helmets, so if you want to do it, nobody’s going to stop you. But please, for your own sake, don’t ride in a helmet that doesn’t fit.
And whilst it’s a terrible idea to wear a helmet that your head rattles around inside in, it’s not a great idea to wear any badly fitting gear on a bike. First of all because you’ll be uncomfortable and distracted, therefore not focusing on the job in hand. But as well as that, when you crash, your ‘protective gear’ won’t do its job properly.
Why won’t it, I hear you ask? Well if your in a suit that’s not your size, for starters none of the armour will be in the correct place; elbow pads will be halfway down your forearms, knee pads will have spun round to the back of your knees, and the list goes on.
And then when you crash, all the excess material will bunch up, grip and send you tumbling along uncontrollably. That’s rather than sliding along until you stop, which I know also isn’t that much fun, but it beats tumbling. When you start tumbling, you tend to start breaking arms and legs too.
So I really would urge anyone to think twice about buying second hand kit that might not fit very well. Especially if it’s to protect your head, because it might end up being the difference between getting killed and not.
But if you’re one of my mates and you’re absolutely desperate to wear shitty old kit that doesn’t even fit, for Christ’s sake, don’t tell me about it. Because I will shout at you.
I was in a bike shop once at the spares counter, and some guy rode up on an old dog. He parked and came in and put his helmet on the counter. He then proceeded to tell us all, he only paid $50 for his helmet because his bike wasn’t worth much. There’s logic there that just can’t be countered !