I like hats, and recently started collecting fedoras in different colours… really looking for a red and a yellow one right now. Managed to convince my tailor to make me different bands in African print for my black fedora. Now I have a three-in-one fedora. Currently, I have a love-hate-relationship with my helmet, another type of hat; I love the respect it gets me from motorists, but hate the plastered hair.
For some time I couldn’t quite reconcile with the fact that after a six-kilometre-plus ride from home to work, my hair would not be the same as it was when I left the house, no matter how I wore it. You get to your destination and your fringe is plastered to your forehead. It did not help that it was February on the Equator and hot as Hells Kitchen.
My cute neighbour on the fifth floor, he thinks I look cute in the helmet (◡‿◡✿). That’s enough to keep me wearing it. Last week a Nairobi City Council worker on road works duty in my neighbourhood stopped to look at me approaching:
“Madam, sitaki hiyo baiskeli, nataka tu hiyo kofia”. (Madam, I don’t want your bike, I just want that helmet.”)
After getting the bike and telling AG about it, he kept asking if I had got a helmet, when all I wanted to talk about was how I managed to get through another nerve racking commute. I ignored him. Rode helmet-free for a couple of months until Samson Gichuru (pro-cyclist) told me a short horror story about a guy who fell off his bike in Karen, and died two days later from internal bleeding from a head injury after cracking his skull on the tarmac. What was even more scary was that no second party or other vehicle was involved in this case. He just fell. Got my Raleigh helmet that same afternoon.
AG also has a horror story of his own related to a split helmet in a crush with Mak10, coming down Mt. Kenya. They each claim it was the other’s fault. Bottom line is: A helmet WILL save your life.
Every weekend I wash and treat my hair . It’s natural. By Wednesday every week, I want to wash it again but don’t have enough time to dry it during the week (wet hair needs to dry well before you sleep or it stretches and breaks). Being on the street daily on a bike, exposed to car fumes, dust mixed with beads of perspiration, especially in the December to March heat, makes things under the helmet a little extra grimy. Throw a helmet into that mix… It’s better in the cool of June to August when most girls braid their hair.
I still can’t get over how motorists now give me a lot more respect with my helmet on. No more impatient hooting. Last week a matatu (Public Service Vehicle) driver slowed down to let me pass with a smile. It tends to make you appear to know what you are doing, even though half the time I am concious that anything can happen, especially on the roundabouts… my heart in my mouth.
A good helmet is ergonomically built and is very well ventilated, so excessive heat should not be a problem. Those sold in the local supermarkets are no good – they over heat in the December to March sun and are not built for a crash – so get a proper one from the cycle marts or on-line. Most good helmets come with an adjustable inner fitting, but the best protection is a well fitting helmet.
The general rules for bicycle helmets in relation to hair are 1. The less hair product you have on the hair the better, no matter the hairstyle. It tends to stick to the padding/lining on the inside of your helmet, which also needs gentle cleaning using your regular conditioner or shampoo or any mild soap in warm water regularly 2. The less bulk, in terms of hair styling, the better.
“Ghanian” braids: Those (lines) don’t work with the helmet, they interfere with the recommended fitting for safety by bulking up under the helmet, putting you at risk in the event that you fall off. You could try not to have the bulky ones that make your head look like “Brain” from “Pinkie and The Brain” so that your helmet fits safely. You could adjust the helmet, but make sure the under-chin strap is firmly on.
Natural/Semi-natural Afro: For short and semi-processed (“texturized”). It’s all matted against the scalp when the helmet comes off and a wide toothed comb to pick it back up is enough as you freshen up in the office bathroom. Wearing a cotton scarf under the helmet helps reduce frizz. This blog has some great tips for natural hair care.
Bald: This is the best hairstyle …well… hairless-style. I’ve seen my male cycle buddies tie a bandana or cotton hankie to absorb perspiration under the helmet. This article also recommends that.
Dreadlocks and braids: They are the most versatile, the trick is not to use too much moisturiser in hot weather or not use one that is heavily scented. If they are long wear them in a low pony tail at the nape to allow helmet to sit comfortably on your head. Wash and treat dreads weekly and don’t keep your braids on longer than two weeks. One word: “Heff”. I use olive oil mixed with water in a sprizz bottle daily. I use a hair spike.
Perm/Relaxed: This tends to just spring right back up on demand, especially if it’s a fresh wash and set on a Monday. Just carry your tail comb to pick up your do. By Thursday it may begin to succumb to frizz, but it will survive. Or you can just get one of these.
Weave or Wig: From conversations, I have heard that having a wig under your helmet feels like you are wearing two helmets. Just like with the “Ghanian” braids (lines) it can bulk up underneath the helmet a little. In the event of an accident, the weave or wig can be a good or a bad thing; it provides that much extra padding beneath the helmet, but it is bulky enough to make sure your helmet does not fit well, not a good thing.
Or you can just get the Swedish designed Invisible Helmet that will not ruin your hair!!
P.S. Just in case you are wondering what that symbol in the title of the post is: the text icon for “Bad Hair Day”.
Happy Cycling in Nairobi and beyond! ❤ Nairobi! ❤ Cycling!