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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Impulse Buy

I really don't like the direction that equestrian riding helmets are going. Three years ago I had several choices in a helmet that had a harness - NOT a "dial-fit" system, a real honest-to-goodness harness that either fit your head or didn't. The Troxel Dakota Duratec fit perfectly and voila! I had a new helmet to replace my much abused Troxel Sport. Now, three years later it is time to replace my helmet and the only non-dial-fit helmet in my price range are the Troxel sport and the Tipearrary (I just butchered the spelling on that) eventing helmet that is very popular for endurance in this area. In the intervening years, Troxel has added a dial-a-fit system to my beloved Dakota :(

So what do I have against dial-a-fits? By adding the dial, the helmet now fits no one and everyone at the same time. At best I get a mediocre fit that adds bulk, pressure points, and weight to the back of my head. As a kid I rode in my friends helmet that was a "lid-locker". It was a WONDERFUL invention but this new dial-a-fit just does not cut it! I would rather pay a little more, have the options of many different sizes, and choose a HELMET (not harness) that truely fits my head.

Many high end helmets do come in the coveted non-dial-a-fit variety, unfortunately I have put my put foot down at $100. Technically helmets are suppose to last 5 years under normal use. The key is NORMAL. How many of you out there think that endurance is "normal" use? I'm not plunking down $250+ every three years for a Charles Owen. Sunlight is a major factor in the decay of plastic materials. My thought is that endurance riders spend much more time out in the sun than their arena counterparts. I've only gotten three years out of my last two helmets. Maybe someone who didn't wear their helmet for every ride and perhaps had an indoor arena (and didn't live in California?) might get closer to 5 years.

My helmet will be three years old in June. In that time I have fallen off ~25 times (thanks to Minx), slammed into uncountable tree branches (thank you Minx), and spent hundreds of hours in the sun. In fact the first 2 days I rode in this helmet I had 2 falls that I probably should have replaced it for but I had JUST payed $75 for it AND it was in soft ground grass (first time), and the beach (second time). I wasn't even sure I HIT my head....although a horse did gallop over me, hitting me on the back several times at the beach.....anyways. The last couple of months I took a long, hard look at my helmet and realized I wasn't comfortable with how it looked (condition wise). The plastic look brittle, it was cracked in several places from branches, and I had a nagging thought that one of those falls could have compromised it.....but I struggled with finding a replacement. Buying another Dakota was out of the question because of the change of harness inside. I had two options: Troxel sport or the tiperarry helmet.

My first helmet (before the Dakota) was a Troxel sport. I loved it, but unfortunately it SCREAMS new rider. The Dakota was slightly heavier, but vented well, had a bigger brim, and most importantly - gave me the image of a serious rider. Even though the Dakota is VERY comfortable, I still take it off when I get off the horse. I never noticed the sport and would often wear it most of the day. The sport fits me extremely well, is light, and dissipates heat well, and is CHEAP (less than $30!).

I really wanted to like the Tiperarry (from now on "Tip" so I don't keep embarrassing everyone with the spelling of that brand name....). I tried one on several times and did like it but had my reservations. The fit was good, but the helmet is VERY heavy compared to the Troxels. It has a LOT more padding inside which would make it very warm.

It came down to the these two facts:
1. I am starting to care less and less how I look and how people perceive me. I'm more confident in my riding ability now. I'm willing to wear spandex in front of the world and duct tape a handkerchief to the back of my helmet. I don't think wearing the Sport is going to help or hurt the image I have going on.

2. Comfort is king. Comfort includes getting off and running on the trail. Light and un-noticeable trumps heavy and padded.

3. A low price tag means I am more likely to replace the helmet if I've been though a questionable incident.

So today I was buying fly spray at the feed store and tried a Sport on (after trying the new Dakota in a vain effort to make it fit). Sigh...The Sport really is the perfect helmet for fit and comfort for me. I plunked down the hard cold cash (ie the credit card) and bought myself a helmet.

Thought of the Day!!!

Do you wear a helmet (I'm NOT looking for the famous to wear or not to wear debate, just curious what kind, in what situations etc. I wore a helmet MUCH more regularly after college than before, but there are still situations - such as civil war reenactments - that I don't wear one)

What do you think of the dial-a-fits?

How often do you replace your helmet?


  1. I have a blue Troxel I think. It is dial a fit and I like it because it allows me to ride in all conditions and adjust as I go. For example, I can start a ride with a fleece headband on. Open up the helmet a couple of notches. Pull the headband off, tighten the dial.

    If it's raining or snowing, I put my rain jacket hood up and the helmet over it. Sometimes over the top of the fleece headband. Then I can adjust the dial to fit.

    My helmets usually get replaced when they start to fade and the materials crack from age. I haven't ever broken one at least not with my head, lol. I think I crunched one in the tack room once when I shut the door....ooops!

  2. I wear a helmet always no matter what. It doesn't matter if I'm riding a 25 year old "been there done that" nag in the softest arena you've seen--I'm still wearing a helmet. Personal safety is paramount and I don't care what I look like. I can imagine anyone in the hospital with a serious life-changing head injury isn't going to be too concerned with how they may have looked if they'd been wearing a helmet. Also, in this stage of the game, I've got enough money invested in my brain to buy a pretty decent starter home, so I don't risk anything.

    Although it hurts in the pocketbook, I throw away any helmet I've had a fall in where I've hit my head. When I had my bad accident last spring, it was literally the first time I'd been riding in my brand new Tipperary helmet. I cracked the helmet right down the middle from my head's impact on the ground--so it got thrown away. It's just not safe to wear a helmet after multiple falls. When I've continued to wear a helmet after a good fall, I've been blessed with an ER bill and a mighty concussion.

    Anyways, I'm not against the dial-a-fit systems and often feel like my head is more secure as a result. But as I'm riding in another Tipperary now, I don't have it.

    Another recommendation--although the Tipperary's are heavy and seem really padded, I've not really had a problem with my head being hot during rides. The ventilation holes in it are pretty good and tend to "scoop" the air through rather nicely.

    Just my two cents!


  3. With the exception of civil war reenactments (in that case looks DO matter) I wear a helmet everytime I ride. I also wear one during lunging, groundwork, or trailering depending on how well I know the horse and what their behavior is like.

    When I was younger I wore it for my parents. Now that I'm an adult and have spent lots of money on my brain AND I have not wish to live out my days as a vegetable at my parents house, I wear a helmet for myself.

    Elly - I'll keep that in mind about the Tipperary's. The difference in weight between them and the Troxel was the "final straw" for me, but it might work out differently in the future depending on what I'm doing.

    I think the turn around in my opinion about helmet "looks" was seeing Dr. Melissa Ribley wearing a Troxel sport at an endurance ride. It was at that point that I said to myself "why let looks get in the way of form and function that works for me?". One more reason that a mid-20's person is smarter than a 16 year old right? LOL

  4. Karen - good point about the dials being able to adjust the dial-a-fit for different "head coverings".

  5. I have a Troxel - I could swear it's a Sport, but it's definite got the dial a fit. The dial makes me nervous, it just seems like if I hit the ground wrong it's going to slam into the back of my neck. :( I wear it pretty regularly now. Yeah, it makes me look like a dork, but I already look like a dork! Nothing in the world will make me look graceful and elegant ;)

    I am often tempted to get it spray-painted purple with gold flames or something, just to get the most dorky effect possible.

  6. Funder - it sounds like you have the "Spirit" model.

    For extreme dorkiness I reccomend the duct taped handkerchief to the back of the helmet (I got the idea from Karen!). It's sure to draw TONS of looks at the local trail head.

    Bonus points if hanky has design other than the standard color with white "squiggles".

  7. I just looked up the specs:

    Although websites are listing the weights differently, according to the official troxel website, the Sport weighs in at 10.9oz, and the Dakota at 12.7oz. I DEFINATELY notice the difference.

    I can't find any weight information on the Tipperary Sportage Plus, but I remember being suprised at how much heavier is was then my Dakota.

    One thing I am curious about is price and quality. They are all rated and approved by the company that does such things. Even though the Sport is less than half the price than the dakota or sportage plus, it should protect my head the same. Does anyone have any real (not ancedotal) knowlege that confirms or refutes this?

  8. yeah! I think I got it working now! It's just ironic that I couldn't get it to work before, maybe my kind of luck. It now looks like Lucy's hooves, which have always been great, are having some trimming issues!
    anyway I think I already posted my comments about the helmets at hgs.

  9. I wear a green Troxel for most everyday riding. I believe it's the Sport model and it's about three years old. The harness is fixed although you can adjust the straps a bit (it's a real pain and they always seem to slide out of adjustment). Not too wild about the dial model.

    The last Troxel I had got cracked when I got launched off Max and hit a rock- my head bounced off of it. Pretty scary what would have happened if I had not been wearing it!

    One good thing about the helmet is all the branches and what-not it protects me from. I'm 6'1" and I catch just about eery branch when riding in vegetation! :-)

    I call my helmet "The Brain Bucket".


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