The Mailbag – Brain buckets, confessions and bike fit

Do you want to contribute to Mailbag, a regular feature of Here's how: Keep it short. And remember that we reserve the right to edit for grammar, length and clarity.Include your full name, hometown and state or nation. Send it to Commuting in Denmark Dear Editor,

Do you want to contribute to Mailbag, a regular feature of Here’s how:

  • Keep it short. And remember that we reserve the right to edit for grammar, length and clarity.
  • Include your full name, hometown and state or nation.
  • Send it to

Commuting in Denmark
Dear Editor,
At the risk of beating this dead horse, I’d like to offer another viewpoint concerning the picture and subsequent debate about the helmetless rider in the Netherlands. Reader Marten Gerritsen (see “The Mailbag: Readers write on helmets“) takes obvious pride in the Dutch safety record. He also implied that Denmark was safer still for riding helmetless.

I lived in Denmark for almost five years between 2000-2004. I frequently pedaled to work helmetless myself. I heard estimates that bicycles accounted for anywhere from eight to ten percent of Copenhagen commuter traffic. If only cities in the U.S. could replicate that!

However, there is another fact that I learned about bicycling in Denmark: at the time, Denmark had the highest number of bicycling fatalities per annum in the world. How many of those deaths resulted from head injuries, and how many people could still be alive had they been wearing helmets I don’t know. But clearly, accidents happen even in Denmark (and I assume the Netherlands, too). In fact, I suffered a grade three separation of my shoulder as a result of an inattentive driver failing to look before throwing his door open into the bike lane.

Twenty years of riding in the States, no problem; one year in Denmark, the “safest” place in the world ? boom! ? on the deck. I had to travel back to the States to have it repaired since I couldn’t find a doctor who was willing to deal with someone not in the Danish socialized medical system… but I digress.

The point is that, I was not wearing a helmet. Only by the grace of God did I not hit my head on the pavement. It was a real wake-up call. Since then, I’ve worn a helmet every time I mount up, regardless if it’s a group training ride or just noodling a half-mile to the store to buy a newspaper. The safest place in the world to ride? Not if you’re one of the unlucky ones who gets nailed. Your choice.
Daniel Cline
Columbia, Maryland

Brain damage
Dear Velo,
Mr. Kent seems to think that casual riding without a helmet will help promote cycling and get off of our dependency on oil.

It’s a strange logic that says that group rides in Lycra should include helmets for safety, but going slightly slower to the grocery store should not.

From my perspective, cars are still going the same speed. A fall while stationary to the ground hitting the head is sufficient to kill, or lead to major brain damage (the hidden statistic anti-helmet protagonists ignore).

Assuming North America suddenly gets it and all starts commuting on bike, how popular will this idea be when brain injuries increase?
Ray Truant
Ancaster, Ontario, Canada

Dear VeloNews,
Today I read of Leonardo Piepoli’s reflections on having doped at last year’s Tour and how he fell prey to a “moment of weakness, folly, recklessness.”

Right. European pros have the whole drama down to a predictable but wonderfully romantic soap opera:

Forgive me for I have sinned; I have failed my sport, my country, my family; I ask to be forgiven; I am now ready to re-devote myself to a life of athletic suffering as penance.

Then follows the requisite telling of the personal torture that followed the fateful “mistake,” and relief at having finally washed themselves of the deceit.

Richard Virenque’s fall from grace still ranks as the ultimate Oscar winner, followed of course by his redemption and reclaiming of national hero status. Bad Richard, fallen Richard, suffering Richard, remorseful Richard, risen Richard, timeless Richard.

Don’t get me wrong, Americans play this game too, just not as beautifully.
Jim Elias
Gardnerville, Nevada

Suckin’ up to Rabo’
To the Editor,
Re: Andrew Hood’s Article, “Rasmussen eyes Vuelta comeback.”

I am not a fan of Michael Rasmussen, though he has at times been impressive at the Tour, though his famous Time Trial drama was painful to watch.

Why did you all feel it proper to not include information from your July 2, 2008 article, in which you noted “Rasmussen earned something of a victory when a Dutch Court ruled that his former team owed him more than $1 million.”

That lawsuit was for wrongful/unlawful dismissal. The article also stated “The Judge noted there was ample evidence that the team knew of Rasmussen’s deception well before the T.d.F. and should not have included him in that [selection].”

“Something of a victory” was a lot more powerful than intended because the Judge offers-up, what all cycling journalists and Versus should have been reporting from day one that the team was in on Rasmussen’s where-abouts deception, and the more than obvious purpose.

Andrew’s article can be taken as a kiss-up to Rabobank as in “give us good access during the racing season.”
Sal Garcia
Seattle, Washington

It is about the fit
Dear VeloNews,
I read with passing interest about Tom LeCarner’s fit session, but didn’t consider it too seriously until somebody offered me the same service for about $200 off the going rate.

The hefty discount came as part of the sponsorship for my club. Nevertheless, after a major adjustment of the saddle position, it was clear that I’d been riding incorrectly. After a handful of seemingly minor changes, I’ve noticed a huge difference: better efficiency, comfort, stamina, handling, etc. Yes, it’s an investment getting a complete fit to one’s bike, but it’s well worth the while and the money to have it done correctly.

I won’t hesitate to do this again, and I highly recommend it.
James Westphal
Seattle, Washington