Helmet Hair: How to Deal

Elizabeth Denton Tweet us TinLizzieBikes TinLizzieBikes December 19, 2017 0 Comments

Elizabeth A. Denton is a Business Development Manager at Arlington Transportation Partners, has been car-free since 1999, and authors her personal blog, TinLizzieRidesAgain. Not only does she enjoy how multi-modal the region is, she also loves getting around Arlington on one of her many bicycles.

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Making some small changes to your daily routine can keep both your commute doable and favorite hairstyle manageable.

This article was originally published on Tin Lizzie Rides Again.

I am a low-maintenance hair person. I really don’t want something that takes too long to mess with or requires a ton of products and equipment, but I still want something that looks good when I take off my bike helmet. Consider, then, the irony of ending up with a hairstyle that requires 15 minutes to properly style, plus hairspray, and being 100 percent okay with it, because I LOVE IT so much.

I’ve changed my routine for this hair style. I now curl it at work, so I can wear my helmet in the morning and not smash the hair. This is important, especially on days I have client meetings. I want to look good, and smashed curls are not the “good” I’m going for. I didn’t really quite appreciate how much this hairstyle has changed my attitude on wearing a bike helmet until recently, when I really loved how it turned out and didn’t want to put my helmet on to bike home.

I was only going home, so it shouldn’t have mattered. Yet, on this particular day, I felt especially pained by having to smash my hair. I didn’t consider not biking home because of it, but I would definitely reconsider biking to work, if I couldn’t do my hair once I got to work. So there I was, suddenly realizing that I was letting my hair dictate my commute mode.

Because of my recent experience and heightened awareness, I was interested in BikeArlington’s recent blog post about barriers preventing people from walking and biking. What I found most interesting is the list of barriers that prevent people from walking and biking more. Of the women polled, concerns about appearance ranked high on the list of reasons why they do not bike to work.

I hear this frequently as well, especially if a company does not have showers, a decent sized restroom, or a culture that supports biking, which helps make it okay to look a little less than 100 percent. I know I’m spoiled at my job, where many of us bike and finish our looks at work. We have to look just as professional as the clients we work with, so it is important to us, as well.

I know that Arlington has less control over what individual companies or buildings do compared to the control they have over installing new bike lanes. And because another recent survey showed  many residents want more and better protected bike lanes, I hope Arlington moves forward with plans to put in what the residents clearly want. But more importantly, I hope planners, company leaders, engineers, and everyone else realize that if we want to get more women on bikes, the helmet hair struggle is real. It’s not something to be dismissed or belittled.

If I, who bikes pretty regularly and proudly, would reconsider my bike commute because of my hair, think about what someone might think who has never tried biking to work. I know, from experience, how great it makes me feel, how much easier it is to be traveling on my own time frame and power, and how much more community spirit I feel from biking past the same houses and businesses every day. I am willing to have less than perfect hair, and a bit of sweat, for the benefits I receive from biking.

So, how do we get women to enjoy the same experience? I guess I’d say build more bike lanes.


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