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FASHION : In Search of Safety, Keeping Style in Mind : Yes, bike helmets wreak havoc with hair. But at least they're available in a variety of colors, designs and prices.

August 03, 1995|ANN SHIELDS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Have you noticed that fashion isn't always compatible with safety and comfort? Try looking great with your hair smashed under a bicycle helmet, for example.

If you are one of those who won't wear a helmet for fear of how you will look when the thing comes off, it would be better to wonder how you'll look in a shapeless hospital gown or in a toe tag--if you're in an accident without a helmet. Besides, if you're under 18, California law requires them.

Fortunately, there are a number of different types and styles of helmets to choose from.

"When you find helmets that offer safe protection and look more like motorcycle helmets, you're generally dealing with a bicyclist who is specializing in downhill-only racing," said Ashton Johnson, owner of K&A Cyclery in Ventura. He notes that the mountain bike set prefers helmets with visors. If you don't have one, you can buy add-on visors.

Johnson stocks a wide variety of helmets, all carrying the Snell Memorial Foundation sticker, which guarantees the helmet has met rigorous safety standards. The untimely death of popular race driver, William Snell, in 1957 prompted his family to set up the foundation. Their own technicians test helmets sent to them by manufacturers who apply for the highly prized certification. Snell labs update their safety standards every five years based on new technology and research.

Cycle Scene next to Toys R Us in Ventura, carry helmets certified by Snell, the American National Standards Institute and the American Society for Testing and Materials.

Helmets in both Ventura stores are sleek looking and designed for maximum comfort with cooling vents, foam liners and Velcro fasteners that make headbands easily adjustable. Colors range from solid white to ultra violet, prices from around $29 to $130.

"The two most important items bicyclists should wear for safety are helmets and gloves," said Johnson. Why the gloves? "The first thing you do when flying through the air is to put out your hands to break the fall," he explains, pushing his palms forward to demonstrate.

For the rest of the body, Ashton Johnson recommends tight fitting clothing, because it doesn't ride up on your leg or flap in the breeze. Also, it's usually light enough for body moisture to pass through and doesn't get wet and clingy.

While his shop doesn't sell most cycling clothes, Cycle Scene carries everything imaginable. There are form fitting jerseys in fabrics advertised to be both breathable and comfortable. Some form-fitting shorts feature chamois padding designed to fight body odor and bacteria, a feature any cyclist on the road for hours appreciates, as would his or her traveling companions.

Sleeveless mesh tops were neon colored for visibility and guaranteed to practically stop traffic along 101. Johnson considers visibility more important than fashion.

"I hear non-cyclists laugh about how cyclists look as they drive past them, and I'm thinking in the back of my mind, 'Yes, but you noticed,' " said Johnson.

Accessories designed for bike riders seem endless, from special shoes with recessed cleats to high-definition optic sunglasses guaranteed to stop the bugs and 100% of the sun's UV and blue light.

For my own personal sport, I decided to adopt channel surfing because it requires no special clothing or equipment. All you need is a flexible thumb and a remote control.

Besides, you can wear anything from a mismatched sweat suit to a Fredericks of Hollywood teddy. Furthermore, your hair doesn't get mashed down, and it's safe. Unless you're wearing the teddy.

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Details

Places to buy helmets and/or accessories:

* K & A Cyclery, 1795 S. Victoria Ave., Ventura; 654-8062.

* Cycle Scene, 2893 Johnson Drive Ventura; 650-9338.

* Matt's Cycling Center, 2463 E. Main St., Ventura; 648-1836.

* Bicycle World USA, 135 E. Harvard Blvd., Suite D, Santa Paula; 525-2256.

* Bill's Bike Shop, 2360-A E. Las Posas Road, Camarillo; 482-1203.

* Camarillo Bike Co., 612 W. Las Posas Road, Camarillo; 482-7742.

* Cycle Surgeon, 2201 E. Ventura Blvd., Camarillo; 482-8084.

* Team Bike Shop, 310 S. C St., Oxnard; 486-1518.

* Open Air Bicycles, 437 Channel Island Blvd., Port Hueneme; 985-5045.

* Newbury Park Bicycle Shop, 1536-A Newbury Road., Newbury Park; 498-7714.

* Michael's Bicycles, 2253 Michael Drive, Newbury Park; 498-6633.

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