Mountain Biking

Now It’s Science | People Take More Risks Wearing Bike Helmets… Even Off The Bike

...this is one of the strangest scientific studies we've ever seen

A new study has revealed that wearing a helmet and other protective safety gear can result in a cyclist taking more risks.

The news comes at the same time as sister studies which have revealed that Garfield likes lasagne, bears do shit in the woods and that the Pope is indeed Catholic. Seriously though, bear with us on this one. It gets weird.

Researchers at the University of Bath launched the study to monitor whether wearing a bike helmet affected the risk-taking of 80 participants – and this is where things get seriously strange.

Despite making the participants wear a bike helmet, those involved weren’t actually on a bike. In fact, they weren’t even cycling at all. What were they doing? Gambling on an animated game to see how high a balloon could be inflated without bursting.

Half of the 80 cases in the study were told to play the game wearing a bike helmet, while the others were told to do so wearing a cap.

Sure, on the trails, it’s obvious that a mountain biker is going to go hard, hit those corners fast and go for the bigger air when he’s got a helmet and pads on rather than a cycling cap, but would it increase the confidence and risk-taking of those who weren’t even on the bike? Why would it?

Well, it did. The study proved that wearing a cycling helmet in pretty much anything you do – examples of ‘anything’ include laundry, sexual intercourse or playing Mario Kart against Kurt Russell – is likely to make you more of a risk-taker, even though it has no effect on the task in hand.

The researchers found that whether the participants were cyclists or not, they all took higher risks when they were wearing a helmet, and subsequently believe that they’ve proved that safety gear can in fact have unintended results on the mind.

Writing in their paper, the team said: “The idea that people might take more risks when wearing safety equipment designed to protect against those risks has a considerable, although not uncontroversial, history.

“If this laboratory demonstration of globally increased risk-taking arising from localised protection were to be replicated in real settings, this could suggest that people using protective equipment against specific hazards might also be unduly inclined to take risks that such protective equipment cannot reasonably be expected to guard against.”

Again, it’s no surprise in cycling terms that a dude with body armour on is going to hit a jump trail a little bit quicker than the guy behind wearing just a t-shirt and gluing his hands to the breaks.

Still, it’s an interesting one, and maybe one that could help you out in everyday life a little bit further down the line.

Not got the best self-esteem? Stick a bike helmet on. Need the confidence to ask for a promotion? HELMET. Struggling to get the confidence to talk to that crush of yours? Put a helmet on and go do it. Just don’t bring us up when they ask about the lid.

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