I crashed my bike today, pretty bad. I was on my way to Saturday Market—Eugene’s open-air, booth-vending extravaganza—from an African dance class, crossing Olive Street, and suddenly I hit the asphalt hard. My arms and stomach hurt and I was dazed. It took a minute to realize what had happened: My front wheel had fallen off. There it was, over by the curb. Six or seven people stopped to help me and stayed with me for quite a while as I caught my breath, until I could tell them convincingly that I didn’t need to go to the hospital. A couple of them had stopped driving when they saw me fall and offered me rides home. I wished that I had taken them up on it at times on my slow, painful pedal home.

The quick release for my front wheel had somehow worked itself loose and when I wheelied a little to avoid some of the puddle between the curb and the street, the wheel just fell off. I was very lucky that it was raining, so I was bundled up in rain gear—extra pants, jacket and gloves. Because of that I have bruised instead of bloody knees, elbows and hands. I’ve crashed enough to be grateful for that right away. Later, though, I realized that the real hero of the story was my helmet. It was the front of my helmet that hit the asphalt instead of my face. I could easily have broken my nose or jaw or teeth without it. At the very least I would have lost a lot of skin.

I’ve had this helmet for at least six years without testing it like this. I haven’t always worn it, either—I don’t like wearing a helmet. They make my head sweat and itch. I don’t like how they look much, either. But I’ll be wearing mine regularly from now on.

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