Helmets in velomobiles

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Brina
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Helmets in velomobiles

Postby Brina » 16 Dec 2019, 1:15pm

I know helmets are always a contentious subject, and I have read as many helmet-related threads on this forum I could find. But I cautiously want to ask about helmets and velomobiles anyway.

I've been dutifully wearing a helmet in my Mango since I got it 7 weeks ago. My helmet is bright safety yellow, and on my head it's the highest feature on the Mango, so it's an easy way for me to increase visibility and win "good girl" approval from friends and neighbors. It also signals "this is a bike!" which is helpful.

But I seriously doubt it's offering any safety protection other than social. I can't fall off my velomobile. I can imagine crashing into something and rolling over sideways, creating an impact, but that type of impact bike helmets are not designed to protect against.

Is it just an illusion that sitting in my low-to-the ground, 3-wheeled Mango, I'm unlikely to ever encounter the kind of scenario bike helmets are designed for?

There are drawbacks to helmets: they catch more wind, make my head wobble, and interfere with awareness of my surroundings. On one unusually cold day I ditched the helmet so I could wear a balaclava more comfortably. Mid-ride I put the helmet on and was dismayed by how uncomfortable it was and how much wind it caught. So I took it off again. But only that day.

When my Toerkap arrives, I plan to go helmet-less under it ("the hood IS the helmet," I will say.)

Is there any way to discuss helmets and velomobiles without starting a helmet war? I really would like to know velonauts' thoughts on them.

And one more question. Anyone have any recs for bike jeans? The Osloh have some nice features (ankle strap on the right leg cuff, for example) but less sure about the pad.

Thanks.
Last edited by Brina on 23 Dec 2019, 8:20am, edited 2 times in total.

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mjr
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Re: Helmets in velomobiles

Postby mjr » 16 Dec 2019, 2:21pm

Brina wrote:Is it just an illusion that sitting in my low-to-the ground, 3-wheeled Mango, I'm unlikely to ever encounter the kind of scenario bike helmets are designed for?

There are drawbacks to helmets: they catch more wind, make my head wobble, and interfere with awareness of my surroundings. On one unusually cold day I ditched the helmet so I could wear a balaclava more comfortably. Mid-ride I put the helmet on and was dismayed by how uncomfortable it was and how much wind it caught. So I took it off again. But only that day.

On top of the drawbacks you note (which are common to diamond-frame bikes IMO), I've been told by a recumbent-riding friend that not only are you much less likely to encounter the unassisted-fall top-of-the-head impact that helmets are designed for, but you are much more likely to encounter the side impacts that some helmets make worse, bending your neck much worse. I don't yet ride a recumbent, so I've not checked for any research.
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pete75
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Re: Helmets in velomobiles

Postby pete75 » 16 Dec 2019, 3:58pm

Most likely the only thing any better than not wearing a helmet on your machine is to wear a motorcycle helmet. Too bloody hot though except on the coldest of winter days.

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Tigerbiten
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Re: Helmets in velomobiles

Postby Tigerbiten » 16 Dec 2019, 9:51pm

Where I'm coming from ...........
I only ride a bent trike, not a velomobile.
I had one for +8 years and have covered over 50,000 miles on them.
I don't/won't wear a helmet on it, but I do wear a baseball cap most of the time.

My take is the only real time a helmet is designed to save my head is if I fall over getting on/off the trike. Low force impact with no twisting forces.
If I crash straight into something then I smash my ankles not my head. The extra weight of the helmet will put more stress on my neck.
If something crashes into me from any angle then my whole body is going to take damage, not just my head. So very 50-50 if the helmet will help.
The only other type of crash where I'll only hit my head is if I roll the trike.
But unless I do something silly and have a pratt crash, I've had a couple, then I need to be going over 25 mph to generate enough sideways force to roll the trike.
The helmet is not designed to work sliding along the road at 25 mph and may cause more twisting damage.
The only time I rolled the trike at speed, my trailer jackknifed the trike over at +20 mph, my front fairing and tail box acted as a partial roll cage and I was able to duck my head enough so it didn't hit the ground at all. The larger size of a helmet would have made that type of move a lot more difficult.

Also you don't legally need a helmet on a motor trike, but it is recommended.
So even if a mandatory helmet law is brought in for bikes, I'll argue that on trikes you still don't need one unless the motor trike law is also changed.

YMMV .......... :D

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Re: Helmets in velomobiles

Postby Bmblbzzz » 16 Dec 2019, 9:56pm

Brina wrote:But I seriously doubt it's offering any safety protection other than social.

This is 90% of its purpose. You've cracked it.

mattheus
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Re: Helmets in velomobiles

Postby mattheus » 17 Dec 2019, 10:23am

If anyone - like me - is interested, I believe this is the vehicle design Brina is using:

mango.png


EDIT to add: http://www.hembrow.eu/personal/sinnermango.html

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squeaker
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Re: Helmets in velomobiles

Postby squeaker » 17 Dec 2019, 6:47pm

Been 'bent tri-cycling for over 10 years, velonaut for 3: can't really see the point of wearing a cycle helmet. Peaked cycle cap to keep the sun / rain out of my eyes, yes 8)

I only wear a cycle helmet off road on my MTB where I do fall off, usually at low speed, from time to time, and there are those tree branches to look out for...
"42"

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The utility cyclist
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Re: Helmets in velomobiles

Postby The utility cyclist » 20 Dec 2019, 7:03pm

Always go with what makes you feel more comfortable physically and what also what is likely to keep you in check situational/risk wise. One of the primary reasons why wearing helmets doesn't increase safety for cycling is because of the additional risks that wearers take when feeling protected, how that might affect velomobile drivers would be interesting, but also going from no helmet riding to having a fully enclosed lid.

Having a helmet and a fully enclosed lid would seem to be a bit like going from riding a moped to driving a car with a helmet and hans device.

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Re: Helmets in velomobiles

Postby pwa » 22 Dec 2019, 3:27pm

Looking at that image, the thing that stands out for me is that the most likely accident would be if the machine were rolled. Not your typical cycling mishap, but something a bit more niche. I wonder if something like a climbing helmet might be better suited to the situation.

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squeaker
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Re: Helmets in velomobiles

Postby squeaker » 22 Dec 2019, 4:03pm

pwa wrote:Looking at that image, the thing that stands out for me is that the most likely accident would be if the machine were rolled.
Like this (not me, I hasten to add).
"42"

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The utility cyclist
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Re: Helmets in velomobiles

Postby The utility cyclist » 22 Dec 2019, 5:43pm

squeaker wrote:
pwa wrote:Looking at that image, the thing that stands out for me is that the most likely accident would be if the machine were rolled.
Like this (not me, I hasten to add).

jesus wept, what were they thinking!

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squeaker
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Re: Helmets in velomobiles

Postby squeaker » 22 Dec 2019, 6:57pm

The utility cyclist wrote:
squeaker wrote:
pwa wrote:Looking at that image, the thing that stands out for me is that the most likely accident would be if the machine were rolled.
Like this (not me, I hasten to add).

jesus wept, what were they thinking!

More focused on looking good for the camera, I suspect. The actual dynamics were similar to theinfamous elk test.

The only time I've got anywhere near rolling a conventional 'bent trike was when I borrowed one that had a significantly higher roll centre than the sporty one I was used to - similar lowish speed like the Mango roll, but without the subsequent overdone counter-steering. And I had my WAW up on 2 wheels recently when turning into a side road, again at low speed, and the inside front wheel hit a compressed pile of leaves which I suspect had frozen...
"42"

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Re: Helmets in velomobiles

Postby Brucey » 23 Dec 2019, 10:15am

If you want to find out what can happen to a Velomobile or recumbent trike, I'd suggest that it is worth attending some BHPC races. You will be able to talk to people who have seen and/or been involved in various prangs. Depending on the circuit being used, you might even see one or two as well.

BHPC rules -which AFAICT have not been formulated by folk with a vested interest either way in helmets- in essence say that when racing you have to wear an approved helmet of some kind, unless you are in a fully enclosed machine in which case a lesser helmet (such as a hairnet type as used to used for cycle racing) may suffice. [I have always supposed that In a fully enclosed machine you can hit your head just as hard, but on the inside of the machine instead. What you are less likely to do is slide along the road with your head being a significant contact point to the road surface; the fairing is liable to take the brunt of that load. ] Most riders wear approved helmets inside fully faired machines too, but in a few of them the canopy is so close this restricts your choice of helmet somewhat. Since being inside a machine with the canopy that close is downright unpleasant anyway, most machines are designed with enough clearance for a helmet inside; the difference in frontal area is so small you are into marginal gains and there is normally many other places where the drag could be reduced for less cost/effort.

Anyway plenty of velomobiles are based on a recumbent trike chassis and the CoG is raised slightly when a full fairing is used. Both faired and unfaired machines are raced. The machine's track width is a compromise between packaging, cornering and aerodynamics. Even fairly specialised racing velomobiles are not made very much narrower than road-going machines and such machines are not at all difficult to turn over. Racing is quite a lot like 'normal riding distilled' in a lot of ways, only certain types of accident (eg with other types of vehicle) are of course almost impossible. You are much less likely to have a prang vs almost any kind of two-wheeler but the idea that 'trikes are so difficult to turn over that you need not worry about it' is not well-founded; you might have a machine which normally slides when you start overdoing it, but if something gets in the way of your slide or changes the machine's attitude (rut, kerb, grass verge, pothole, camber change etc) then yes you will be able to turn it over.

As I understand it prangs are not at all uncommon but serious head injuries are rare in BHPC races. Draw your own conclusions.

cheers
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Re: Helmets in velomobiles

Postby pjclinch » 30 Dec 2019, 10:12am

Helmet wearing is primarily a cultural thing (look at this BMJ Editorial by Goldacre & Spiegelhalter for backup on this) and there isn't a clear path through the evidence that says you're clearly better off with/without a lid. So mainly, if you feel happier with one then wear one, and if you're happier without then don't.

What Brucey says is all fair comment but reinforces the degree to which it's a lot about context too. Racing is inherently riskier and more crash-prone than Just Getting About because riders tend to be pushing more, and in the company of others who are pushing it more (which is why despite being a much better bike handler than I am, Cav crashes a whole lot more, even after you factor the greater distances he rides in).

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