archival and resource material for human powered recumbent tricycles

Helmet Thoughts

Ada 2013 1


During my triking years thus far, talk has reached my ears, and written words have filtered through my eyes, pondering the need for a helmet. Different logic arrives simultaneously with the message, such as: 1) If a car hits you, you’ll be toast anyway, helmet or not; and 2) If it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go, and there is nothing you can do about it; and 3) There’s a much better life awaiting you anyway, so don’t even give helmets a second thought.

Okay, those messages were indeed pondered, yet due to my sports background, there was a message of my own that overrode the others offered by folks who have not actually experienced potential death or disablement scenarios. There is a wide gulf between abstract intellectualizing and experiencing actual accidents. So, I shall offer personal accounting to illustrate what works for me, and why I am still here.

Sailing Wenatchee

Two sports in which I have participated extensively prior to my triking days were motorcycle racing and windsurfing. I always wore a helmet, humorously referred to by some as a skid lid or brain bucket, when engaged in these two activities. Had I chosen not to wear a helmet, I would have either been dead many years ago, or in the best light, seriously disabled for life. Interestingly, no contact with automobiles was part of my experiences, and it would have been “my time to go” had I not been wearing a helmet, and, even if there is a better life awaiting me, I like this one just fine for now! I have no complaints.

Motorcycles were a major portion of my life growing up, due to my dad’s career. When I began riding on them, I was so young that my dad had me sit in front of him so he could make sure I did not fall off. I have crashed twice on a motorcycle, both times while riding in remote areas of the Mojave Desert of southern California, once on a rocky dirt trail, and once on a paved backroad. In both situations, my head would have violently contacted the reality of ground had I not been wearing a skid lid, and the helmets bore graphic and disturbing proof of what would have been my skull had I chosen to ride helmetless. There was absolutely no doubt regarding their value.

1970 Deesrt Trekker

I have also crashed while windsurfing, yet water is somewhat more forgiving than desert rocks or pavement, so why a helmet while windsurfing? Few sailors were wearing them – it just wasn’t a cool item to wear. Well, once the wind unexpectedly lifted me over the “high side”  of my boom, a lightning fast slam, and my sail’s mast powerfully came down with crushing force right on top of my skull. The good news was that my windsurfing helmet saved my life, or at least kept me in my fully sentient state. The blow was severe. My skull was not cracked. I was stunned, crawled back up onto my board, and was safe. My thoughts were still in there.

Ada 2013 4

Three times so far, helmets have proven their worth to yours truly. That is my experience, and that is why I wear a helmet as a triker. I am writing this to you right now because I wore helmets. On my trike, very high speeds are occasionally reached, and if I were to drop a tire over the edge of the road, something on the trike broke, or any other unexpected situation occurred while speeding along on pavement like this, it is clear to me that my trike helmet could easily be my salvation once more.

My head is where steve lives. All the data are stored there. I do not wish to lose it. So to the messengers offering alternate tidings, thank you for sharing, but my thoughts are based in the natural world, where stuff happens. I still have those thoughts because I still have my head.


Currently, I am wearing a Specialized “Vice” mountain bike helmet, which offers greater head protection than a typical cycling road helmet. I have chosen white as the color so that my head shows up better in the eyes of motorists, and if I do careen down a hillside into some bushes, the search and rescue personnel will spot me quicker the more visible I am. I do not use the included visor as shown in the photograph below, preferring instead an Outdoor Research Sunrunner cap to shade my eyes and face.

Specialized Vice


This is an outstanding high quality helmet, however, there is one issue that trikers must consider if choosing to wear it. Specialized is now using a new helmet size adjustment strap design that is considerably bulkier than the previous design. The previous design can be noticed on the photo of the black helmet below, also a Specialized. The prior design allowed me to rest my neck against the trike neckrest without interference.

trike helmet 1

The new design by contrast, which comes standard on the Vice model, has a large and bulky wheel that is turned for tightness of fit. This is fine for bicyclists, where there is no such thing as a neckrest, but on a recumbent cycle, such as our trikes, the newly designed adjustment strap comes between the neck and the neckrest. This is not acceptable for trikers of course, so I had to modify this new Vice helmet. At a strategic point midway from the front of the helmet, I cut the adjustment strap and removed the rear portion altogether. I should have taken a photo, but did not think of it at the time. I left the front portion of the strap that goes around the forehead so that it would hold the foam insert from my old black helmet.

trike helmet 2

I also placed soft foam spacers into the rear of the Vice helmet. These red spacers are supplied by Specialized to take up any slack if a helmet is slightly too large for the head. The longer striped foam piece at the rear is from what was originally at the front of this helmet – I cut a portion out to place on the rear. The gray foam that goes around the front at the forehead is from my prior black helmet shown above. Now, I have a helmet that is somewhat lighter in weight, is exceptionally comfortable, and does not at all interfere with my neck against the trike’s neckrest.

trike helmet 3

Underneath the helmet, I always wear the Outdoor Research (OR) Sunrunner cap to supply needed shade on my rides. It is very lightweight and thin nylon, and supplies just enough bulk that the new Vice helmet fits very comfortably on my head, with no excessive movement fore and aft or laterally.

trike helmet 4

The bottom line with helmets is this:

Never purchase a helmet that you have not first tried on your head AND tried leaning on your trike’s neckrest. This is why I only buy helmets at a store where I can try them on and see firsthand if they work. A helmet can be as good as they come for bicyclists, but not be acceptable for recumbent tricyclists! With the large and bulky new wheel design adjustment mechanism removed, the new Specialized Vice helmet works flawlessly now for me, but if you are not one who enjoys tinkering with modifications in your garage, it is NOT a good choice for a triker.