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Please take the time to read this article to get a better idea about helmet safety.

A Second Chance
By Jeff Sambur

Late lunch? Bonus miles in Glacier National Park? Early Happy Hour?
These were some of my random thoughts as I huffed up the final pull toward the summit of Marias Pass. I was en route from West Glacier, Mont., to East Glacier on what was supposed to be a mellow seven-to-10-day circumnavigation of the Glacier/Waterton National Park complex. I was a mere half hour from completing these decisions when I was thrust into a cave.
Total darkness … no sound … no brakes screeching … no thud of my body smashing the sedan’s windshield … no noise as I went rolling and tumbling across 35 feet of asphalt and gravel. When I awoke in a ditch, a Good Samaritan was applying spinal traction to my neck. The peripheral vision from my left eye saw the drip, drip, drip of blood oozing from my nose. My right eye was swollen shut.
“What happened?” I asked weakly.
“You got rear-ended by a car. Don’t move!” she answered. She then called out, “He’s coming around. I’ll need some help here.”
I estimated I had checked out of planet Earth for two to four minutes. First responders in civilian clothes assisted me as they poked and plodded my body and took primary and secondary surveys of my injuries.
“Can you move your feet? Can you wiggle them? Squeeze my hands. Are you having trouble breathing?”
The questions came fast and furious: I passed the tests with flying colors. My spinal column was not severed. I was alert enough to pick up a distinct British accent from the crowd gathering above me. I got his attention.
“Was it you who hit me?”
“Yes. I was sightseeing and looking at the mountains and drifted into you.”
I might have said a few choice words to him, but I don’t recall. I don’t remember much, although I remember he never said he was sorry.
An ambulance from Browning arrived and I was placed on an unforgiving backboard and cervical collar. We raced back to the ER with the emergency lights on and sirens blaring. It was a bumpy, rough ride as we careened down the pass and through a construction zone. A paramedic attempted two sticks to get an IV into me and failed both times.
“Please don’t stick me again. I hurt enough already. They can do that in the ER under better conditions. I promise I won’t die before then.”
“OK. We can hold off on it.”
“Thanks.”
At the ER, a doctor made her orders known. “He’ll need a CAT-Scan of his head. Get a set of X-rays for his neck, chest and spine. Set him up with an IV ASAP. We’ll need to monitor his vital signs.”
The nurses and technicians efficiently carried out her orders. I was then in the hurry-up-and-wait mode of emergency medicine. A nursing student gently dabbed the grit, grime and dried blood from my many facial wounds and multiple areas of road rash. I even had road rash on the tops of my feet. Apparently, the force of the impact literally knocked me out of my shoes.
The compassionate ER doctor came to my side to survey the carnage to my face. She held my hand as she said, “Those lacerations and avulsions will need the care of a plastic surgeon. I can stitch them for you, but they can do a better job. Would you like me to arrange a helicopter transport to Kalispell Regional Medical Center? We can have a plastic surgeon waiting for you.”
“Please do. I am not a handsome man to begin with and I can use all the help I can get.” With that sad news, I knew my Hollywood contract as George Clooney’s double would surely be terminated. Shucks!
“We’ll arrange it. The CAT-Scan of your head and brain came out with negative findings. That is a good thing. We are waiting now for the radiologist to evaluate your neck, chest and spine X-rays.”
“Thanks for all the help. Can I get off of this backboard? It is really beginning to hurt me. I’m OK. I can move all of my parts.”
“Please wait a few minutes until we get the radiologist report. This is all precautionary.”
“OK. I’ll try.” The pressure point where my head contacted the backboard was starting to throb.
A few minutes later, (which seemed much longer) the nice ER doctor came back. Once again she held my hand.
“I have bad news. The radiologist found 11 fractures in your first 11 vertebrae. You have a broken sternum, too. There will be a neurosurgeon waiting for you in Kalispell, also.”
“What? How can that be? I can move all of my parts. Are you sure those were my X-rays?”
“Yes, those were your X-rays. You will get the best of care in Kalispell. I have a special place in my heart for bicycle riders. My son was killed by a driver 20 years ago when he was riding a bike. We will take care of you.”
No wonder she was holding my hand.
The helicopter flight crew came and checked me out. “We will hold off on the morphine drip until we get him to Kalispell. Jeff, we are going to give you a scenic ride over Glacier National Park. I am sorry to say you won’t get a chance to enjoy the views.”
With little fanfare, I was loaded and airborne. They had placed painkillers in my IV, so I became groggy, blurry and disconnected. I remember peeking at the snowcapped mountains briefly. Alas, I would not get to enjoy my $11,000 taxi ride to Kalispell. This was all business.
Upon arrival to my second ER of the day, a plastic surgeon went to work on my tenderized face.
“I will try to stitch you to minimize the scarring. However, there will be some scarring no matter what.” All in all, 20 stitches were applied to my eyebrows and right cheek. When she was done she asked. “Would you like to see my work in a mirror?”
“Sure!” I steadied myself for the view. OMG! I was staring at a mini-version of Frankenstein. My mug was enough to make a child cry. Dating would truly be more challenging in my future.
It was time to get past the cosmetics. A large neurosurgeon with sandy-colored hair and a stoic bedside manner approached me. “We won’t be operating on you. With all of your breaks, we would not even know where to start. Your spinal column is intact and not being impinged upon. We will place you in ICU and monitor your X-rays. We will hope there are no radical changes or shifts in your column. Now it is time for you to go on a morphine drip …”
“One question please. What is my long term prognosis?”
“We don’t know. We don’t see many patients like you.”
“Why is that?”
“Because they are usually dead.”
I whispered a lame, “Oh!”
The next few days on the morphine drip were a haze of dreaming and snippets of reality thrown in. Concerned friends and family members phoned me. I have no recollection of the conversations. I do recall the nursing staff getting me up and out of bed. I even walked up a flight of steps under their watchful eyes.
Best of all, my older brother Mike arrived from New York City to take care of his “baby” brother. I wept shamelessly as he entered the room. He went on to prove once again why he is the best brother in the world.
Four days after the impact, I was discharged from the hospital. My post-discharge orders were written out and terse. “Do Not Remove the Brace!” It looked like sponge baths and partial shampoos would be my method of hygiene for awhile. Gross.
Mike and I began a 1,000-mile journey south to my old hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado. He drove and I navigated. The plan was for me to get a second opinion from neurosurgeon number two and to convalesce in familiar surroundings.
I told Mike a few times: “I always wanted to take a road trip with you, but this is not what I had in mind.”
Eight days after the accident, Mike and I listened to neurosurgeon number two, a no-nonsense, no-sugar-coating doctor who calls it like he sees it. He does not believe in small-talk. I suppose after 35 years in the game, he has that right.
“Your vertebrae fractures are mild. You do have a definite broken sternum. I believe you will heal OK. We will take another set of X-rays in a few weeks to see if there are any changes. I doubt there will be. I’ll see you again in three weeks.”
In my former life, I worked for 28 years as a firefighter/EMT for the city of Fort Collins. In emergency services, the term “mechanism of injury” is bandied about to predict the outcome of an accident.
A small, 138-pound man being struck from behind by a sedan traveling at more than 50 mph is an obvious assault upon the body. Humans are not wired to survive such an ordeal. During my career, I went on calls for three similar bicycle accidents. For those unfortunate victims, there was no tomorrow. The one and only thing that separated me from them was my use of a bicycle helmet.
Now in Fort Collins, I meet former lovers, friends and acquaintances on the street. I smile grandly as I maneuver in to hug them. If the hug lingers long enough, I usually score a life affirming squeeze at the end. I make sure to pay back that squeeze in kind.
Second chances in life are precious. I do not wish to squander this one.

109 comments

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Gkam84 [9108 posts] 4 years ago
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felixcat wrote:
notfastenough wrote:

@felixcat
Frank Bruno's punches were measured and found to be comparable to being hit by an elephant at 30mph. How many orders of magnitude do you want?

I find this very difficult to believe. People hit by cars are sometimes thrown many metres. Boxers hit by another are not even knocked across the ring. If Bruno's punch had as much kinetic energy as a car doing 30 mph he could stop it dead with his fist.

He is right enough about Bruno's punch strength though

An oft-cited 1985 study of Frank Bruno, who'd go on to be WBC heavyweight champ, showed he could punch with a force of 920 pounds in the lab. Researchers extrapolated that to a real-life blow of 1,420 pounds, enough to accelerate his opponent’s head at a rate of 53 g — that is, 53 times the force of gravity.

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Stumps [3496 posts] 4 years ago
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Lets face it, there are people on here who will never ever wear a helmet, even if its made law, and no amount of points made for the wearing of one will ever change their minds.

Of course any accident involving these people who end up with a head injury will see them running (or being carried) to the nearest A&E dept for a check up.

Lets hope it wont be anything serious.

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felixcat [486 posts] 4 years ago
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stumps wrote:

Lets face it, there are people on here who will never ever wear a helmet, even if its made law, and no amount of points made for the wearing of one will ever change their minds.

Of course any accident involving these people who end up with a head injury will see them running (or being carried) to the nearest A&E dept for a check up.

Lets hope it wont be anything serious.

Your strength of feeling does you credit. Your clarity of thinking does not.

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Saved by a helm... [26 posts] 4 years ago
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To the cyclists of Great Britain,

I never meant to start a flood of controversies on this forum. I sent my "Second Chance" story in to give people a first-person account of what it is like to wake up in a ditch, sustain major injuries and to survive.
To me the idea of helmet use is a "no-brainer" (pardon the pun.)
Whether you ride with or without a helmet, I wish you all smooth roads, tailwinds and no encounters with careless or distracted drivers.

I'll even include a lighter tale below: The only controversy is one of the main characters and it is not me!

Giving Lance “the Look.” by Jeff M. Sambur

In the furnace-like summer of 2002, I rode my bicycle 1,650 miles along the borders of Colorado as a fundraiser for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. I called my ride the “Perime-rado LAF a lot Bicycle Tour”. I groveled, pleaded and cajoled donations from friends, family members and complete strangers at Wal-Marts. A few generous folks even gave willingly. After it was all said and done, I had attained “Polka Dot Jersey” status in the LAF’s Peloton Project. For my efforts, I was rewarded with a few perks, one of which was a private ride with Lance Armstrong prior to the LAF’s main fundraiser, the Ride for the Roses. I have to admit I was nervous and excited about sharing asphalt with “The Man.”
I began to fantasize about cruising the hill country of Texas with the five-time winner of the Tour de France. We’d be motoring along at a mellow 23 mph speed, all the while conversing about race strategies, Shiner Bock beer and the new significant other in his life. Unfortunately, this was only a dream; 150 other Peloton Project groupies would be tagging along as well. I now had to set my sights on different goals for the ride. Maybe, just maybe, I could ride by his side and for one moment pass him! Now, that would be something to tell the folks back home.
In the month prior to our fateful meeting, I received information concerning the private ride from a LAF coordinator. He waxed on about the secret location of the ride, even going so far as to state that we would be blindfolded en route. (That didn’t happen.) He also mentioned that we should eat a big breakfast, always a good idea before a ride with Lance. He said that all of our other needs would be cared for beverages, mechanical support and snacks. (This was all true.) As a final note, he issued this warning: DO NOT TRY TO RACE LANCE! He added that Lance would be able to beat us while riding a one-speed bike and wearing a lead suit. This, too, is probably true. However, I was not going to allow a threat or two deter me from my mission.
On the afternoon of the ride, the weather in Austin was steamy, air so thick you’d need a broom to sweep it aside. There was a strong breeze coming out of the southeast. We boarded the buses and were dropped off at Emma Long Park on the banks of Lake Austin. The Lance rumor mill was overheard saying that he had just arrived back from Paris after the unveiling of the 2004 Tour de France route. Hmmm! Maybe he’d be tired and sluggish from jetlag. We waited like children anticipating Santa’s arrival on Christmas morning.
Later, with no fanfare, we were told to ride off and that Lance would meet us along the two-and-a-half mile circuit. The route was a tight, hilly and potholed affair. Volunteers advised us to slow down on the treacherous downhill portion. Up in the distance, I thought I spotted that familiar piston motion of Lance going uphill. After two laps, I was beginning to see my dream deflate like a slow leaking tire. Then an apparition appeared, he was there right in front of me. I approached him on his left flank. Lance Armstrong has features that could easily be drawn with a T-square. He is that angular. At the base of a small hill, I launched my bike with its 48-year-old, 5-foot-4inch, 145-pound cargo upward.
On the 10th stage of the 2001 Tour de France, Lance became famous for giving what in the future would be immortalized as “The Look” to Jan Ullrich. This was over-the shoulder glare with an “I double-doggy-dare-you to cross that line” attitude tossed in. Mr. Ullrich lost heart and the Tour after “the Look.”
Time stood still as I surged ahead of Lance by 10 feet. I paused and turned my head to give Lance a fair imitation of “The Look.” I didn’t see much of a change in his expression behind those dark sunglasses. He might have been speaking to another rider or had a speck in his eye. Nevertheless, deep down inside, I knew that I had given Lance back, his look. Now, I really had a story to tell the folks back home.

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felixcat [486 posts] 4 years ago
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Saved, helmets do seem to provoke strong feelings. Why this means we should not discuss them I don't know. Many cyclists feel it is an important topic, whichever side they take. You obviously think so.

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giff77 [1275 posts] 4 years ago
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@ saved by a helmet - whilst you may haave some questionable views on the protective properties of polystyrene  3 you my friend, can tell a great story. Loved your last post. May actually get a copy of your book. And may you always have a fair wind  1

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Saved by a helm... [26 posts] 4 years ago
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Thanks Giff.
it is a fun read.

I really am the type of guy who is fun to drink a beer with.
I don't take myself too seriously.

thanks and be safe please!
Jeff

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paulfg42 [392 posts] 4 years ago
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I wear a helmet. It can be a pain in the ass but 'hot' it never has been.

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notfastenough [3727 posts] 4 years ago
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Paul J wrote:

notfastenough: Broken bones don't incapacitate you? I literally could not move after I broke and pulled apart my collarbone. The smallest movements (including breathing) were difficult for the next *2* days. That's a longer incapacitation than a *severe* concussion. And that was with a bone that isn't even that important! (One option for really badly broken collar bones is to simply remove them completely).

Are you really arguing that the head is the only part of your body that matters?

I already asked you not to twist my words.

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Saved by a helm... [26 posts] 4 years ago
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Almost forgot the valuable coupon for a book sale!
The things I'll do to help International Relationships.

One Valuable Coupon!

Upon the purchase of one copy of “Destroying Demons on the Diagonal” the bearer of this coupon is entitled to one free Happy Hour beverage.

Fine Print: This coupon is valid only if the author is present. No rebates, refunds or reconsiderations. This valuable coupon is not valid with any other offer.

But wait – there’s more!

Buy two copies of “Destroying Demons on the Diagonal” and get a set of Ginsu knives! (Only joking), but two Happy Hour beverages would not be out of the question.

Such a deal!

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Stumps [3496 posts] 4 years ago
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felixcat wrote:
stumps wrote:

Lets face it, there are people on here who will never ever wear a helmet, even if its made law, and no amount of points made for the wearing of one will ever change their minds.

Of course any accident involving these people who end up with a head injury will see them running (or being carried) to the nearest A&E dept for a check up.

Lets hope it wont be anything serious.

Your strength of feeling does you credit. Your clarity of thinking does not.

Unfortunately regardless how you perceive my comments it's true though. People will go to A&E or their Drs if they bash their head and that could easily have been avoided. I would never wish ill on any other person (or should i say riders) so if thats how it came across then that is my error and not intenional.

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Gkam84 [9108 posts] 4 years ago
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stumps wrote:

Unfortunately regardless how you perceive my comments it's true though. People will go to A&E or their Drs if they bash their head and that could easily have been avoided. I would never wish ill on any other person (or should i say riders) so if thats how it came across then that is my error and not intentional.

I agree, people will go to A&E or their Doctor's.

But your point is slightly muted by the fact that anyone, no matter if they are a cyclist would go and get checked if they gave themselves a big enough crack on the head.

A pedestrian falling over on the street.
A baby jumping off a chair.
A person who walked into a door.
Someone who was fighting and got knocked out.

Just some of the hundreds of circumstances I can think of why people might need checked out for a head injury. If I was on my bike and came off hard enough whether with a helmet or not, i'd still want checked over to see I didn't have concussion or anything like that.

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Stumps [3496 posts] 4 years ago
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Agreed, but what i was getting at was a lot of people, me included, wouldn't dream of going to the drs let alone A&E, if i banged my head and had a helmet on.

Obviously if it was a really hard smash then its a natural thing to do but a small bump wouldn't mean a trip to the drs if i had my helmet on whereas without one a small bump might produce a split head or concussion (which is very possible without wearing a helmet)or road rash to be cleaned up.

I know these are my own views and will not tally with others but its a forum of peoples views, right or wrong is immaterial, its their views.

I cant honestly see why people wont wear a helmet. It wont stop you from getting squashed by a car or breaking legs, arms, collar bones etc but it will stop minor injuries to your head and, call me a softy, but i dont like the idea of getting hurt regardless of how much and as such i will always wear a helmet and so will both my kids and my wife.

Ultimately its an individuals choice and they must accept the consequences whichever route they take.

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Paul J [942 posts] 4 years ago
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Stumpy, like Gkam84 says, people go to hospital for head injuries for all sorts of reasons. That you focus so much on the case where they might be unhelmeted cyclists suggests you're not applying your logic universally, that you have some kind of internal bias.

If your concern truly is for the welfare of people, and you truly believe helmets would help save them, then do you also put the same passion into advocating for helmets for other activities?

E.g. joggers' heads are at about the same height as cyclists, and go at about the same speed (at least, of about-town utility cyclists like my wife), do you tell joggers to wear helmets? Another major source of head injury is assaults, do you tell people to wear boxing helmets when they go out on the weekend, in case someone punches them? Also, the elderly and the young are more likely to suffer head injuries, do you tell people they should make sure their kids and elderly parents wear head gear at all times? One of the leading causes of head injury is motor vehicle accidents - both to occupants, to pedestrians and cyclists - do you tell people they should wear helmets when walking?

If you do not, then why not? Then why do you pick on cyclists?

And yes, your earlier comment sounded very much like you were wishing injury on other people.

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Stumps [3496 posts] 4 years ago
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Paulj, my mind boggles at some of the comments put onto this forum, it really does.

We are discussing the merits of helmets for cyclists, not joggers, pedestrians, motorists or joe public who get a clip whilst out on the beer.

And i have never seen a jogger going at the same speed as a cyclist, perhaps you could enlighten me on that one  13

Your views differ from mine and lets face it there is no common ground between our comments. Your decision is not to wear one where my decision is to wear one. I hope you dont one day regret that.

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Stumps [3496 posts] 4 years ago
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"And yes, your earlier comment sounded very much like you were wishing injury on other people "

After spending 25 years in my job trying to help people nothing could be further from the truth but hey ho i can always make an exception  14

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Paul J [942 posts] 4 years ago
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Oh, you didn't answer my question: Why do you not advocate for helmets for those other activities? Why do you pick on cyclists?

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Paul J [942 posts] 4 years ago
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Stumpy, well I similarly hope you never hit your head after a trip, or in a car accident. If you do and suffer a head injury, it'll be your own fault of course.

My wife cycles at about 15 to 20 km/h on the flat. She could go faster down hills, but she chooses not to (very sensible policy too - protects you much better than a helmet). That's not an unusual speed for ordinary, about-town cycling. If you go to the Netherlands, that's about the speed most people do there as well (who wants to arrive all sweaty?). That kind of speed is also well within the reach of joggers and runners.

I think you're victim of the widespread cultural hostility to cycling in the UK. Part of that is the denormalisation of cycling. E.g. cyclists are weirdos, poor, etc. The pressure to make them wear helmets at all times (which are inconvenient) is part of that push to denormalise cycling.

That there is no such widespread cultural pushing of helmets for other activities of not too dissimilar risk is quite relevant I think.

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Stumps [3496 posts] 4 years ago
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Never said i did or didnt advocate helmets for other sports, activities. But thats not what this forum is about is it, or has it become a free for all sports / activities to try and justify a point.

Bugger me you must have some fast joggers round where you live considering that the mens London marathon was run in just over 2hrs average speed of 19km/h so if you've got joggers doing that speed have they been on "speed"  13

Buts that not relevant either considering we are discussing cycle helmet use.

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Gkam84 [9108 posts] 4 years ago
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Give it up already, wear or not wear a helmet, lets give up trying to justify it to someone on the other side of the coin.

I officially declare this discussion closed before we all fall out......

Any other business  19

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dave atkinson [6317 posts] 4 years ago
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it's that time

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Stumps [3496 posts] 4 years ago
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Gkam you spoil sport, i love winding people up.  19

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Paul J [942 posts] 4 years ago
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15 km/h is well within the capabilities of decent amateur 5 to 10 km runners.

And yes, if your reasoning for cycle helmets lacks logical consistency, I can see why you wouldn't want to discuss running and walking helmets.

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The Rumpo Kid [589 posts] 4 years ago
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Dave Atkinson wrote:

it's that time

Good Lord! I've heard about this - CAT JUGGLING!!

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giff77 [1275 posts] 4 years ago
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Dave Atkinson wrote:

it's that time

Shame on you Dave, subjecting those cute innocent balls of fluff to this thread. I'm off to call the RSPCA  19

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Gkam84 [9108 posts] 4 years ago
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That's alright, look what I do to mine  3

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Gkam84 [9108 posts] 4 years ago
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He won the Tour De Meow and Milk Race this year and proclaimed

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giff77 [1275 posts] 4 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

That's alright, look what I do to mine  3

At least this one has 9 lives to play with if there's an off!!

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TheHound [117 posts] 4 years ago
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I don't really get how there's a debate?

If I fall off and hit my head, I'd much rather have a helmet. They're not gooing to save your life in every instance. But surely they're worth it for that small percentage of accidents they will save your life.

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Mostyn [400 posts] 4 years ago
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Hi Jeff,

First let me say thank you for writing this article; it was a heartwarming recollection of your accident (did I say accident) or attempted manslaughter? There is nothing more important than life.

So pleased you made a good recovery; and I agree with you about wearing a helmet. Get A Hat And Save Your Head!

I so enjoyed reading your story; although, I hope no-one else has to go through what you went through, at least you survived and recovered from the ordeal.
My sincere Regards.

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