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At a race this past week someone said to me, ” That helmet is looking old, you sure could use a new one.” I gasped. As I walked away I looked down at the old girl and thought maybe they were right. She’s looking a little rough around the edges now, torn and tattered. Where the sun used to glisten off the shiny metallic grey paint its mostly scrapes of paint chips or a sticker that covers nothing in particular. The face shield is also covered with scrapes and bits of a bugs body left over from some past high speed adventure gone wrong. The soft fuzzy inside is now piled up and tanned from days of taking it on and off after sweaty hours of my head baking in the sun.
But underneath all of that, beyond the bruised facade, is much to do with the history of what has gone on in American cycling over the past 7 years. I got my helmet at the end of the winter in 2005 so that I could start the season with it. A sexy Italian model made by MOMO, which I had shipped from London after seeing photographers at the Tour de France wear it. You see the helmet is a critical part of the cycling photographers gear bag. It cant be a full face helmet. It can be too thick in the front. It must be as light as possible. The camera and flash need to fit up to it just right so that you can still see through the back of the camera. Critical for some of us. When I first brought my helmet out to the races the moto crews were in aw. Everyone came to check it out. The unique buckle, the carbon fiber trimmed eye shield and the exotic look were all a huge hit.
Since then we’ve covered thousands of miles of racing together. Four Tour de Georgia’s, six Tour of California’s, three Tour of Missouri’s, five Tour of the Gila’s, four Tour of Utah’s, four Cascade Classics, seven USPRO road races, many team training camps and the list goes on and on. If only my helmet could talk.
But it does talk, it speaks to me. When I look at it I hear it reminding me of a race years back when we spent the day shivering together in the rain. It tells me stories of pushing hard to get ahead of the race on a critical climb, getting the shot and then white knuckling it down to the finish. Screaming into the finish just in front of a hard charging field, handing my helmet over to my driver and spinning around to click off a couple frames of the sprint. All in a days work for my trusty helmet who just got to see another rider write a page in the history books and maybe make a magazine cover.
We’ve seen riders come and go. Some gracefully age and some fall from grace. National champs, world and Tour de France winners have been made right before our eyes. We’ve seen hopes dashed by crashes and miscalculations too, it’s a brutal game.
Now before a race I spend a little extra time wiping down my helmet. I wipe the scars on the outside, the splashes of sweat on the inside of the visor and bits of bug from a previous race on the outside. I try to polish up the history within and view it as a crystal ball that might show me where the next great shot could be, maybe another cover.
Helmets do age and they must be replaced from time to time. But I think my old friend will stay with me for another season. We’ll see another career launched, another champion made. If were unlucky we may even cash in on one of the many close calls we’ve had and rely on it for what it was meant to do. For now though, it gets a clean and polish along with time to reflect before the next big race. If only my helmet could talk.