An Open Letter to Helmet Manufacturers

05.19.2011 | 1:47 pm

A Note from Fatty: As you will soon see, today’s post is about helmets and helmet cams. In that spirit, wouldn’t it be awesome to win a GoPro helmetcam? Why yes it would, as a matter of fact. Well, my good friend Chuck Ibis is giving exactly such a thing away to a lucky winner. You should click here to find out how you can be that lucky person.

Dear Helmet Manufacturers of the World,

First of all, I want to say “thank you.” Thank you for making helmets that are light, comfortable, affordable, and life-saving. I think I speak for all cyclists (except the stupid ones who don’t wear helmets) when I say we appreciate it.

That said, I have a bone to pick with you. Specifically, I think it’s time you take a look at the rapidly-evolving helmet accessory landscape and make some changes to your products to make your helmets more useful.

Allow me to explain.

Like many cyclists, I love filming my rides. Most sports camera manufacturers create helmet mounts for their cameras. Riders use these because the first person perspective gives a “feels like you’re along for the ride” feel to the video. Like this:

I do pretty much all of my video using a VIO POV camera, attached to my helmet, like this:


(Yes, my expression is always like that. Thanks for asking.)

Well, it recently occurred to me that by filming only what is ahead of me, I am missing half the action. My video doesn’t show the riders behind me. Doesn’t show what the trail looks like as it recedes into the distance.

And with the availability of inexpensive high-definition helmet-mounted cameras, it seemed foolish not to get a second setup, this one pointing behind me. So I strapped a Contour HD to the other side of my helmet, facing back. Like this:


Sure, it’s a little heavy, but I’m willing to make sacrifices for my art.

Here’s the thing, helmet manufacturers. I don’t want to ride (and film…in both directions) only during the daytime. I want to be able to ride at night. So naturally, I’ve connected up my helmet-mounted lighting system.


This was not easy to put on, helmet manufacturers, due in large part to the fact that I started running out of helmet vents to push velcro straps through. But I made it work, because I certainly don’t want to go without light, and everyone knows that helmet-mounted lights work better than bar-mounted lights: they point where you’re looking, which is a useful thing for lights to do.

Now my helmet’s almost ready to go, but one thing’s missing: tunes! As a responsible cyclist, I would never wear headphones, because if a semi is going to run me over flat from behind, I want to hear it just before it happens.

So I bought myself a Tunebug Shake:


What’s this? Why it’s  a cool little speaker setup that attaches to my helmet, then works with my phone over bluetooth to let me listen to my rock and roll while riding. And filming. And lighting stuff up.

So, helmet manufacturers, here’s my helmet now, all ready for me to ride:


And here’s me, wearing it:


Clearly, helmet manufacturers, you need to get busy rectifying what I am sure is this all-to-common problem, among others I shall hereby enumerate.

Dangerous Dangers

As you can see in the highly illustrative photograph above, my head is bowed down, lolling due to the weight of all these (highly necessary) helmet-mounted accessories. And my tongue is sticking out, because all these velcro straps going inside my helmet have made it fit extra-tight, so that the chin strap is cutting off my air supply.

When I turn my head quickly, the problems get even worse. The effort required to get past the massive inertia of the helmet strains my neck. Then, once the helmet is finally in motion, it wants to keep moving, often giving me whiplash.

Also, it’s hard to see, what with all the cables and straps jabbing me in the eyes.

And I don’t even want to think about what might happen if I were to suffer an actual crash, wherein I hit my helmet. But I can easily imagine the following scenarios coming to pass:

In the best-case scenario, all the electronics I have strapped to my head would have a contest with my skull to see which is harder and better-built. I have high confidence that the VIO lipstick lens in particular would remain intact long after my skull splintered.

In the worst-case scenario, of course, all the electronics would break upon impact. I don’t even want to think about how much that would cost me.

Suggestions for Improvement

Helmet makers of the world, I’m quite sure that by now I’ve got you on board with the impending crisis you face by not considering the literal cornucopia of helmet accessories either being made or about to be made available to the electronics-hungry cyclist (And I do mean literal; I keep my helmet accessories in a cornucopia. It’s very handy).

In order to accommodate the needs of my accessories and my head, you need to start updating your helmets to be geared more toward the electronic-savvy cyclist. Now.

I have suggestions.

  • The Helmet Helmet: Consider making your helmets so that they have a nice hollow area — a space between two styrofoam layers — in which accessories can be mounted. That way, when I crash, I’ll have an outer layer of helmet protecting my electronics, while the inner layer protects my noggin. While I understand this may make the helmet look like a giant beach ball and create new problems when a stiff wind blows, I think these are trivial issues that can be safely ignored.
  • The Harness: As my accessories approach 40 pounds (total, not each!), I need to move the weight so instead of being supported by my neck, it’s transferred to my back. Perhaps a couple of bars that extend out from the side of the helmet and then curve down to hook over the shoulders. While I imagine this may in fact make it a little more difficult to turn my head, I am willing to make that sacrifice.
  • Cable / Strap Routing System: All those cables and straps get in my way. They flop in front of my eyes and wrap around my neck, causing me untold nightmares as I imagine getting riding too close to a protruding tree branch. At night, I now dream about spiders. I recommend strategically-placed loops and tunnels placed on the helmet, as well as pseudo-vents to wrapt the velcro straps around.
  • GPS / Cell Phone / SiriusXM Booster Antennae: As a modern man, I like to always know where I am. And to be able to make a clear phone call. And to have my choice of 400 commercial-free radio stations. An antenna built into the helmet would go a long way toward making sure that all of my other gadgets get good signal.
  • Propeller: I swear, I’m riding into a headwind more than half the time. And when I’m not riding into a headwind, it feels like I am, because riding into no wind at all still feels like a headwind. Right? Anyway, if you were to put a propeller on your helmets and then attach that propeller to a little generator, I think that might supply enough electrical power to my gadgets to keep them all running for the duration of the ride. Imagine how much I’d save on batteries (both in weight and cost!).

Thanks for your attention to this matter, helmet manufacturers. I look forward to seeing my ideas implemented soon.

Kind Regards,
The Fat Cyclist

PS: You may also want to consider some kind of lead shielding for the inside layer of helmets. Currently when all my gadgets are on, the fillings in my teeth starting humming and become uncomfortably hot.


  1. Comment by Santi | 05.19.2011 | 1:55 pm

    Is it just me, or are some of the cliffs on that video incredibly butt-puckering?

  2. Comment by Turn The Damn Cranks | 05.19.2011 | 1:58 pm

    Bottle and cage post? Funny, but too long.

    This post? Hysterical.

    That is all.

  3. Comment by Rica | 05.19.2011 | 2:00 pm

    Why not request that they make some kind of insert-area, like the Madone makes the inset for the Duotrap ( but where riders can insert a camera/speakers/etc in the ventilation of the helmet?

  4. Comment by Rica | 05.19.2011 | 2:04 pm

    Santi, I’m totally with you. I was gasping and cringing myself! Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, Elden, you’ve got BALLS to do those cliffs!

  5. Comment by Sara | 05.19.2011 | 2:08 pm

    I have a huge problem with this post. Since I’m at work, I can’t watch the video. And it’s killing me!!!

  6. Comment by CLB | 05.19.2011 | 2:09 pm

    Which video camera do you like better?

  7. Comment by roan | 05.19.2011 | 2:11 pm

    WHAT THERE ARE RIDERS AHEAD OF YOU ?, no way ! Only gnarly open trails ahead and the riders behind have been dropped so long ago they won’t be visible anyway.

    I would like a rear facing camera with a handle bar mounted screen for my road bike though. Maybe with a radar system to warn of drivers too close or their passenger about to throw something. Could be used to watch a movie too, like the entire series of “24″ while crossing Kansas.

  8. Comment by skippy | 05.19.2011 | 2:17 pm

    Thecyclingsilk of UK has a camera that will solve all your problems !
    His recorded a prat telling him “I will kill you” !
    Matter is ow in the court system . The item in question costs about £40 and is compact and he wears it daily .
    Funny faces distract us from your pain & suffering .I saw the comment count y/day was normal (about 100 or so)!
    Is this the “Helmet” debate? If so well managed !

  9. Comment by bikemike | 05.19.2011 | 2:34 pm

    dang, where’s your rear view mirror and sweat catchy-thingy wrap?

  10. Comment by Angie | 05.19.2011 | 2:40 pm

    This post is hilarious! I laughed out loud. I’m not supposed to be doing this at work! lol

  11. Comment by Angie | 05.19.2011 | 2:44 pm

    Oh my gosh! I just watched the video! I live in NJ, the flat state. My heart was in my throat watching you guys!

  12. Comment by Heber Chad | 05.19.2011 | 2:48 pm

    the best-case scenario, all the electronics I have strapped to my head would have a contest with my skull to see which is harder and better-built – HILARIOUS!!

  13. Comment by aussie kev | 05.19.2011 | 2:59 pm

    very funny – and true !!!

    allez cadel

  14. Comment by Geo | 05.19.2011 | 3:17 pm

    You’re one step away from the Al Franken one-man-mobile-news-crew.

    Watch out for lightning.

    And Roan, yes there are riders ahead of Fatty, he’s riding sweep today.

  15. Comment by Jesse | 05.19.2011 | 3:29 pm

    I like roan’s idea.

    But soon you’ll need some sort of counterweight to keep your head from propelling you over the bars. Or is that why you’ve been so stubbornly keeping above race weight for so long?

  16. Comment by Dan O | 05.19.2011 | 3:39 pm

    Dude – with the full helmet tech force strapped on – you could play with Devo.

  17. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 05.19.2011 | 4:21 pm

    Well… now we know how to identify “The One” amongst all the others at Davis.
    I notice the closing signature is morphing from the those in the past. Looks like a very cool graphic for a shirt. Hint, Hint.

  18. Comment by Angela | 05.19.2011 | 4:24 pm


  19. Comment by Gregg | 05.19.2011 | 4:32 pm

    But Fatty, you forgot to mention that you also need to place your sunglasses somewhere on that helmet as well.

  20. Comment by Jake | 05.19.2011 | 4:34 pm

    I am not sure I could even walk some of those cliffs with as much grace as you can ride them.

    Just got email confirmation that my 100MON loot box is in the mail (that is what I think it was anyway). I could really use the saddle bag so can’t wait. Hope to one day have enough $$ to get more Fat Cyclist gear but I will happily wear the t-shirt until I get to that point in life.

  21. Comment by Sara | 05.19.2011 | 4:37 pm

    Special props for correctly using the word “literal”!

  22. Comment by Jenni | 05.19.2011 | 6:01 pm

    Ruh Roh. New (yet same old) Lance accusations. Looking forward to hearing you weigh in.

  23. Comment by Bisso | 05.19.2011 | 6:07 pm

    you’re also missing rear facing lights. presuming you have others behind you with their lights on, yours will have to be massivley powerful so you can see something other than glare.

    propellor? surely you just coat the outer layer of the helmet helmet with solar panels.

  24. Comment by Ian | 05.19.2011 | 6:34 pm

    I understand completely, with all of that equipment on your helmet, clearly there is no room left to carry a pizza oven.

  25. Comment by Mark | 05.19.2011 | 6:48 pm

    Awesome post !! Needed that belly laugh tonight!

  26. Comment by Sylvia | 05.19.2011 | 7:02 pm


  27. Comment by LMNOP | 05.19.2011 | 7:05 pm

    My what BIG eyes you have!

  28. Comment by Squirrelhead | 05.19.2011 | 8:11 pm

    That video is crazy! It looks like a long way down if you rode like I do. What are you using for pedals and shoes?
    I cannot wait to get my 100MoN kit!! I am both crazy nervous and excited for that 100 mile ride. After that it is LIVESTRONG Davis!!

  29. Comment by AK_Chick | 05.19.2011 | 8:14 pm

    This is off topic but I received my 100 Miles of Nowhere schwag today! Hopefully, this link works: I was surprised that DZNuts is making a lotion for ladies! Also, the meat and berry bar? Delicious!

  30. Comment by AK_Chick | 05.19.2011 | 8:15 pm

    Yay – the link works! The photo is blurry because I took it with my iPhone. Also, forgot to mention that I’ll be recording my 100 MON on Strava. Awesome program and free for iPhone users. :)

  31. Comment by BamaJim | 05.19.2011 | 8:25 pm

    I obviously need more helmet accessories, since I just have a light. I don’t think my videos would look quite like what you posted though.

    100 MoN kit arrived – nice. Got to finalize plans for the event.

  32. Comment by Crikey! | 05.19.2011 | 8:30 pm

    I am offically too chicken to ever be a mountain biker.

  33. Comment by LIz | 05.19.2011 | 8:32 pm

    Oh my gosh, those cliffs! Nothing like that out here in the East Coast. At least not that I’ve encountered, thank goodness.

    Maybe it would be easier just to hire a film crew to document your rides? Maybe some film students at the university willing to work for a ride to all the nice trails?

  34. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 05.19.2011 | 11:43 pm

    This looks like a job for the twins – the helmet manufacturers will need drawings! Have you been working up a prototype?

  35. Comment by Srl | 05.20.2011 | 1:01 am

    LOL. When will the Fat Cyclist Cornucopia be available? I need to ge me one of those things. Literally. Back on form, big guy. The long post? It was too long. And kinda boring. As my old Editor used to tell me about my scribblings, when in doubt, edit aggressively. And then edit some more. Then, just when you think it’s perfect, cut a couple more paragraphs.

  36. Comment by stu | 05.20.2011 | 2:35 am

    Perhaps you could counter the extra weight of all the gadgets by attaching a suitable quantity of helium ballons to the helmet as ‘negative ballast. Just an idea……………?

  37. Comment by Mary from NC | 05.20.2011 | 4:35 am

    Man UP ELDEN and get the camera embedded in your head

  38. Comment by NYCCarlos | 05.20.2011 | 5:15 am

    This post wins. Happy friday everyone!

  39. Comment by Mark Kynaston | 05.20.2011 | 5:23 am


    Just watched the video – looks like immeninent death to me if you get that wrong! I also suspect the size of your balls(as demonstrated in the video)provide you with a suitable counterbalance to your helemt and accessories.

    Chapeau my friend.

    And the PS was pure genius by the way.


  40. Comment by ChrisL905 | 05.20.2011 | 6:37 am

    Looking at your helmut with all that gear stapped to it I can tell you’re that guy with at least 4 large antennas on the roof of your car.

  41. Comment by Rich | 05.20.2011 | 8:01 am

    I had no idea that the number of comments is so closely tied to your feelings of self-worth! I promise to post comments much more frequently from now on in order to assist in further inflation of your ego.

  42. Comment by daddystyle | 05.20.2011 | 8:31 am


  43. Comment by Miles Archer | 05.20.2011 | 8:37 am

    My, you really are a cautious descender. I would be right with you on that trail.

    See you in Davis!

  44. Comment by Yahoo! Rob | 05.20.2011 | 8:46 am

    Yikes, I need to go take muscle relaxers to get my sphincter to unclench after watching your video. You ride those cliffs clipped in to your pedals???? I’d be terrified of stalling and going over the precipice while frantically trying to unclip!

    Please don’t die.

  45. Comment by Ken | 05.20.2011 | 9:19 am

    Doc Brown called, he wants his helmet back.

  46. Comment by patty | 05.20.2011 | 9:21 am

    Good Grief are you FREAKIN’ NUTS!!!!!? One wrong move and you are toast!

  47. Comment by Janey | 05.20.2011 | 9:22 am

    Fatty-can you please include a request to helmet manufacturers to make a hair friendly helmet for those of us who are on the more Narcissistic side? Women throughout the world, who have uncontrolable hair even before we put on a helmet, would undoubtedly join me in this simple request. (Along with, I am sure, the IT guy.)

  48. Comment by Chris | 05.20.2011 | 10:46 am

    @Ken 9:19am. LOL

  49. Comment by wade | 05.20.2011 | 10:56 am

    Something for riders and manufacturers of helmets and equipment to consider: CPSC and EN helmet standard tests probably do not address, and did not anticipate when written, someone strapping external objects onto the helmet, which could change the load case and failure mode of the helmets, which could conceivably be more potentially dangerous than a “clean” helmet. If you ask the manufacturers, I’m sure you’ll get a big disclaimer. But of course a helmet with equipment on it is surely safer than none at all, and it gives you a place to mount all that crap …

  50. Comment by Jacob | 05.20.2011 | 11:57 am

    It’s always frustrating to think you’re riding into a stiff breeze only to notice the trees around you aren’t moving.

    Then again, I guess that means I’d have to be moving fast enough to make a stiff breeze, which is a positive, I guess.

    Also, did you hear about that guy who did the art project by surgically implanting a camera into the back of his head? He had to eventually have it removed for health reasons, but that was just a prototype. Maybe the solution isn’t with the helmet, but with the body itself. I’m sure a vent could be designed to accommodate the lens of your skull-mounted cameras.

  51. Comment by Cookster | 05.20.2011 | 6:44 pm

    Fatty, so you don’t loose any footage it might be prudent to include a lighting system to highlight what the rear facing camera is picking up also. I am sure your neck could sustain another pound or 2.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.