In my MUni accident a week or two back, I fell forwards and down a short slope and landed chin first on a rock. I thought I’d broken my jaw, but hadn’t. I needed 7 stitches in my chin, and I needed a tooth to be rebuilt. The rock was undamaged, which is just as well as it was National Park property.
Time to consider a full face helmet? I ride hundreds of miles a year, most of it cross country or light MUni. I’m more of a mud plugger than a rock hopper. So far, I have never hit the ground with my helmet! However, a broken jaw would have put me out of action for a very long time, causing difficulties with a range of activities from eating to drinking, and including wearing a motorcycle helmet or fencing mask, or playing harmonica. I now know how easiliy it could happen to me.
So, someone in this forum suggested a Switchblade helmet. I did look on the internet, but I prefer to see and touch before I buy, so I went to my local shop, Super Cycles, in Nottingham.
They had about 4 models of full face helmet in, including the Switchblade - and what a lovely helmet it is: light, elegant, stylish, well ventilated… and, in my opinion, totally unsuited for unicycling.
My injury was almost exactly on the jaw line, on the underside of the chin. I fell forwards and did a swallow dive, with no opportunity to roll. My chest hit the floor and my head whipped forward, and the bottom of my jaw hit the rock. I imagine that such an accident would be fairly rare on a mountainbike or BMX. I could be wrong, but my limited experience of bicycle accidents suggests that you either fall sideways and roll, or you go over the handlebars, in which case you land in a tangled mess, but not usually with a full face-plant. A workmate who rides serious downhill mountain bike broadly agrees.
The Switchblade, like most of the other helmets on display, has a lightweight, high chin guard which would protect your chin very well indeed if you fell and rolled. However, the line of the chinguard is so high that the bottom of your chin is almost exposed to an upward blow. (Think of being ‘uppercut’ by a rock. That’s more or less what happened to me.) Also, the chinguard projects quite a long way, which gives it a fair amount of leverage. Try as I might, I could not adjust the Switchblade (or most of the other helmets) to meet both of the following criteria:
- Comfortable enough to wear for an extended period.
- Secure enough not to ride up and expose the bottom of the jaw in the event of an ‘uppercut’.
No good at all. Beautiful, elegant, useless - not unlike myself.
I bought an Odyssey Apache 2. The website is www.odysseybmx.com although I can’t find the exact helmet on there. The site shows the Odyssey Apache 3 which is broadly the same.
The helmet is quite heavy, being made of 4 layers of hand laid fibreglass. It has six vents, but is less well ventilated than a typical road helmet. It has a quick release buckle, but any adjustment of the tension is by laboriously pulling the webbing through the bcukle, unlike my ‘road’ helmet which can be adjusted 2 ways whilst on the move.
On the head, it feels almost like a motorbike helmet. It’s a bit heavy, but feels solid and reasuring. The chin guard feels like it will take a good whack, and the whole helmet feels secure. There is a peak which can be removed. In place, the peak may serve to give additional facial protection in the event of a face plant, and it will deflect twigs, leaves and so on if you’re riding though the woods.
I’ve just done a ride of around 8-10 miles on the 28 on a cold windy night. I was glad of the additional warmth of the full face helmet, so that probably means it will be hot on a summer’s day ride.
I hope never to test the helmet’s impact-resisting properties. However, I’m reasonably satisfied that it is a good buy and will be suitable for downhill MUni or high speed Coker runs. I dare say there are plenty of similar helmets available. Just two things I’d like to stress:
If your riding puts you at risk of this type of fall, consider the implications of a broken jaw. A full face helmet doesn’t look as silly as a line of stitches on your chin - I know, because I’ve tried both.
If you decide to buy one, check how it will protect you against a blow to the underside of the jaw. Don’t just assume that light weight, style and high price guarantee the best helmet. They are all made for bicyclists, and we have subtly different accidents.
I will still wear a ‘normal’ helmet on more moderate rides.