Changing the no-helmet culture


Do you ever run into the problem of convincing kids, especially teens, to wear helmets when riding? I live in an area with zero “helmet culture.” I’ve a neighbor kid who likes to borrow my bike. But he despises helmets, no one in his peer group wears them, they are considered as “geeky,” he “never crashes,” etc. Putting my foot down is one thing, but changing the attitude and the local culture, that’s the interesting problem. I am wondering how to attack it.


Hey Jonathan,

The kids I ride with know they have to wear helmets, and I know I have limited influence on everyone else.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t try.

Why we should all care

Helmet use is so deeply ingrained into the SMBA culture, it’s not even a question. A little guest coaching action at Hall Ranch.

– Peer pressure is powerful. If big/cool kids don’t wear helmets, the wannabes won’t either. Once the key kids decide helmets are lame, that’s it for the whole scene.

– Helmets help preserve our riding spots. Every public DJ/PT spot is one major injury (and one major lawsuit) away from being threatened. Helmets help prevent some of the worst injuries.

– It sucks to see kids get hurt. Concussions are bad news (I should know, but I’ve forgotten). Brain injury jacks up kids, families and communities.

What you should do

Some nerdy adult at the DJ spot has near zero influence, but it’s your (and my) job to take reasonable action.

– Always wear your helmet. Always.

As one of the cool kids, Ian has a lot of influence on the groms. Rocking my Intense 20 with his dirt-colored lid.

– Insist that kids who ride your bikes wear helmets. That’s reasonable and enforceable. If you have sweet enough bikes, who knows, maybe you’ll make some converts.

– The same goes for your backyard pump track. Everyone wears helmets.

– Encourage the opinion leaders (the cooler, older rippers) to wear helmets. Appeal to their egos. Explain that it’s their duty as badass riders and role models to show the groms what’s up. I’ve actually seen that work.

– If you see helmet-less kids with their parents, say something to the parents. You should hear my wife read parents the riot act. Parents: You DON’T want my wife yelling at you.

– These values start at home. If you’re a parent, make sure your kids wear helmets. Always.

– I suppose the helmet companies could run a public safety campaign. Get top riders to rock helmets and make them look cool. That would create new helmet wearers — and it would be great for business. Imagine: My wife and I visit the dirt jumps and pump tracks of America. I ride and teach. She yells at parents. It would save lives!

Do what you can.

— Lee

Wondering: When will we be having the same conversations about neck braces?

Know more. Have more fun!

Join the leelikesbikes mailing list:

9 replies

Comments are closed.