First, if you’re a seasoned cyclist who regularly rides no-handed this post probably isn’t for you…
Have a look at this photo:
Notice how my helmet is cocked to the right? I am utterly meticulous about having my helmet square on my melon when I walk out the door. I’m just particular like that, in fact I thought about not posting the photo because my dome cover wasn’t straight. Maybe goofy, whatever – the point is, a minute or two before I took this photo, I had a bee fly into my helmet…
On a 21 mile ride yesterday and got smacked in the melon bucket by two bees. Generally speaking, if they hit the shell first, they die – well, at least they do at the speed I’m usually going. One got through to my hair yesterday though and unfortunately smacking the helmet didn’t kill it – I could feel it crawling around in my hair. Now, spend enough time in the saddle and this will happen to you, it’s a hazard of cycling, it just is what it is. I don’t worry much about a Buick, bees don’t even get a second thought.
Two years ago I had the same thing happen during a century in which I had too much help to let pull away, they were going too fast for me to catch and they weren’t about to wait up so I taught myself how to remove my helmet, shake the bee out, put the helmet back on and snap the strap, at 23 mph and without getting dropped.
Now, if you’re in a smaller group, it’s much easier to ask them to soft pedal for a minute while you pull over and sort yourself out. Also, if you’re not exceptionally competent on a bike or going slow enough to attend to the melon cover no-handed, I wouldn’t recommend attempting either. Now, I regularly ride with a Cat 3 racer who can, in the middle of a six man pace-line, sit up no-handed, fish for a power bar in his pocket, open it and eat it without losing an inch and he is one of three people I trust to do so out of the 40 or 50 I’ve ridden with. If you’re not that good, you might be able to take something from what I do.
First, I signal I’m pulling out of the line, exit and move to the back where I latch back on and then back off an extra 12″ or so. I’ll still keep most of the draft but I’ll be far enough back to react as needed. I keep my dominant (left) hand on the hood (so I can steer and brake if absolutely necessary) – this is the front brake so I have to be very mindful about hitting that brake – too hard and I’m on the ground, instantly. With my right, I remove my shades and replace them on my face so the arms go underneath the helmet straps (typically the arms go over the straps if you follow “The Rules”), then I unclip the helmet strap, pop my helmet off and if the bee doesn’t fly or fall out, I’ll give a little rub with the adjustable band at the back to work him free. Then it’s time to replace the melon cover. This takes a little practice so you can get it right (it took me more than a minute to figure out while trying to hang on to the group) but if you hold your helmet by the top, if you hold it just right, the wind will blow the straps out of your way and you’ll be able to slide it right onto your melon without getting the straps caught inside. To snap it back tight one-handed is really the only tricky part…
Now, if you’re a no-handed cyclist, I’d guess you’d just sit up and snap it with both hands – but that’s not necessary. Take the right strap (it’s the longer of the two) and tuck it under your chin. Then take the left strap in your hand and bring it over so you can slide it into the left side receiver… Hold the two sides together with your thumb and forefinger, release the strap with your chin and finish snapping closed the strap (if you don’t release the strap from your chin, chances are you’ll snap skin in there when you try to close it – and that would suck). With a little practice, it’s quite easy and only takes about 20 seconds.
It sure beats the other simple solution: A helmet that has a bug net to prevent bees getting all the way to your dome – of course, the bug nets are on the inside of the helmet, so a stinger can still get to your skin, but it’s probably better than nothing.
[ED. If it’s not painfully obvious, riding a bicycle one-handed or no-handed takes a great deal of skill, especially when you’re talking about riding in a group that’s traveling down the road at more than 20 mph. If you don’t possess the cycling skills to do that which is described in this post, don’t. Far better to pull over and slog it back home than risk crashing you – or someone else. On your own is the time to do stupid things, not in a group – think of the others first.]