Reportedly, Sam Hill
Sam Hill for the win at Mont Sainte Anne, 2014.
became the first male pro to win a World Cup DH event wearing a neck protector when he crossed the finish line at Mont Sainte Anne. One wonders why so few pro DH racers choose to race without similar protection, or why so many race without even basic protective gear like arm pads, gloves and spinal armor at all. Straw polls show that rank-and-file riders are more willing to pad up - even for XC trail rides. Among gravity competitors, the amateur classes are the best protected, with the lion's share decked out with elbows, knees neck protection and the obligatory full face.
Bike park riders are all over the map. High fashion for Whistler's hard core descenders is knee pads, a sleeveless T-shirt, neck protector and a pricey full-face helmet. Gloves and goggles are optional. Ride the Alpine parks on the European sub-continent and Whistler-esque fashion is quite prevalent, although matching gravity kits are the norm. Full-face helmets are proudly mandatory for European enduro and the EWS series, reportedly, because the courses are oh so
demanding. Yet, when the rock stars of enduro are ripping down the same trails on off days, you'll find almost every one if them wearing the extended half-shell that is popular among E-racers in North America.
Kelly McGarry for silver at Red Bull Rampage, 2013.
Riding off road on a bicycle guarantees regular, sometimes health-threatening contact with terra firma. Those are risks that we deem acceptable when weighed against the rewards of mountain biking. That said, the rule of inverses seems to apply to those who routinely put their lives and limbs on the line for mega style points. Where there is the assurance of great risk and small reward, it seems that protective gear is shunned. Freestyle, slopestyle and big-mountain riders - men who are sure to hit the ground hard and often, commonly choose slim knees under cotton/Spandex stretch-jeans, paired with a choice of a full-face or a skate helmet, with shirts, gloves and eyewear optional. Rampage riders are known to wear full kits, but many choose a light version with knees, stretch-jeans or DH pants, and pair that with a favorite cotton T-shirt for upper-body protection. Gloves, while worn by sponsored riders, are frowned upon.
Nowhere does the inverse rule apply more than with urban street-style BMX - where riders often launch from rooftop to rooftop, wallride second-story lines and huck to flat between concrete slabs and stairwells - without brakes. In the seedy cityscapes, the unspoken law for top 20-inch riders is: no helmet, no shirt, no gloves, no eyewear and, uh, shoe laces are optional equipment.
Sam Pilgrim, 2013 FMB World Tour Champion.
OK then, if you didn't guess by now, the polls for today are: