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Light, camera(?)…

My winter helmet is a real beaut. It’s a Nutcase bmx/skateboard helmet I lucked into at Cranksgiving. They had a raffle going on, and a fellow Earthrider had won this helmet, but it was too small for him. Also he wasn’t real sold on the style – he called it a “hippie helmet” because it kind of looks like tie-dye. He had it hanging off the back of his backpack, and I commented in passing that I thought it was cool. He remarked that it didn’t fit him and that I could have it, if I liked. I accepted with many thanks and great exuberance. It’s bright and shiny and pretty AND it couldn’t have come at a better time since I’d cracked my old helmet about a month earlier and hadn’t gotten around to replacing it.

I’ve installed my Tri-Newt headlight on this helmet, and the arrangement of ventilation holes is perfect. I can run the Tri-Newt’s cord straight down through the hole in the top-center of the helmet, then out a teardrop-shaped hole down near the bottom-right side of the back of the helmet. I’ve mounted the battery for the light on the shoulder strap of my bag, so the standard length of cord that the light came with is absolutely perfect to reach the battery. This is a most convenient arrangement, since the one major drawback of the Tri-Newt system is that the on-off switch for the light is on the battery pack, rather than on the top of the headlight assembly, like it was on the older HiD Niteriders.

I often run minor errands on my lunch break. If I’m just going to pop in and out of a place, I will just lock up my bike outside and step in and take care of business. Since I have this flashy helmet and expensive light mounted on it, I don’t leave my helmet with my bike. It feels a little goofy to walk into the post office, bank, or pharmacy with a helmet on, but for a super-short errand, it stays on my head. When I have a longer errand, like grocery shopping, I usually snap it to my bag strap.

Whenever I go in anywhere with my helmet-and-headlight combination on my head, it invariably catches people’s attention and raises questions. Mostly “What’s with the helmet-cam?” I’m really not quite sure where the helmet-cam thing comes from, but practically everybody who has ever commented on my light has first assumed it was a camera. They want to know why I’m filming, what I’m filming, if I’m filming, etc. Twice now, I’ve had different building security guards get aggro with me over my supposed video camera. Both times, the guard bustled up to me and told me that filming was not allowed and that I’d have to take off my “helmet cam” or leave. Both times, I politely explained that it was a headlight, and plugged it in to demonstrate.

It kind of mystifies me why everyone assumes I’m toting something as frivolous and impractical as a video camera, especially while I am doing something so totally mundane. I’ve seen them used to cool effect by skateboaders or on mountain bike trails, but who would want to watch ordinary errand running? Why would anyone film that? I think some of this video-camera-assumption comes from the heavy prevalence of “reality TV” in popular culture right now. Plus, there are a few videos on YouTube and other places of really insane street cyclists in New York and other places riding like maniacs all through town. I’d hate to be mistaken for one of those hairball stooges, honestly. I’m all about riding efficiently without pissing off every motorist around me. But that’s another topic for another day.

I just have a hard time understanding why something relatively impractical and frivolous like a helmet-mounted video camera is considered less exotic than a helmet-mounted headlight. Normally, when I explain my headlight to people, they express surprise that such a thing even exists and exclaim about the practicality and innovation of this gadget. It’s strange to me that apparently most people have no idea that good headlights exist, but they’re all conversant with the idea of a helmet cam. Considering all the gadgetry and accessories available, good lighting ought to be more commonly known.

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