Obama’s Bike Helmet Dilemma

Barack Obama is damned if he does, damned if he doesn't when riding his bike. Wear a helmet, and he's a dork. Don't, and he's setting a bad example.

Virginia Postrel:

Poor Barack Obama. He can’t take a simple bicycle ride without attracting criticism.

During the 2008 campaign, Obama was photographed wearing a bike helmet while cycling in Chicago. Critics said he looked like a dork. Then last year, when he rode handsomely bare-headed down the paths of Martha’s Vineyard, the safety lobby lambasted him for setting a dangerous example. So on last month’s return to the island, the carefully helmeted president appeased those critics—only to reawaken charges that he looked like an unmanly wimp. Maybe next year he’ll give up and leave the bike rides to the First Daughters.

Apparently, it’s not just the president: There’s a passionate, transatlantic debate on the merits of bicycle helmets.

My view on the subject:  The only way Obama could look like more of a dork while riding a bicycle is to substitute a Santa Cruz Banana Slugs t-shirt for the polo shirt.   But, if he’s going to ride one, he’s got to set a good example for the kiddies and wear the helmet.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Personna says:

    I argue for situational awareness. Helmet in the city and bareheaded on the Vinyard is possibly that.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Could be. I haven’t ridden a bicycle much since my childhood, at which point nobody ever thought about wearing a helmet whilst doing it.

  3. Clancy says:

    It’s not just the helmet, how about the flat tires he’s riding on?

  4. John Personna says:

    Heh, good eye Clancy. Let the meatphors begin.

  5. Beth says:

    It’s not the helmet! Lance Armstrong wears a helmet, too. It’s everything ELSE! He’s a f’ing dork! Mom jeans, mom handlebars, mom chinstrap, everything. DORK!!!

  6. Tano says:

    I imagine that by now he should have had the liberating realization that it really does not matter what he does, the same usual suspects will hurl the same type of crap at him – the only difference would be the details of the accusation. So do whatever you please Barack!

  7. Beth says:
  8. Beth says:

    Tano, it would be great if he’d finally have that “liberating realization,” but he’s the most thin-skinned dork on the planet. IF ONLY the Dork in Chief would let the criticism roll off his back!

  9. Kenny says:

    And what’s the thing bolted onto the back of the bike? Anyone?

    That’s a conspicuous photo crop if ever there was one.

  10. Steve Plunk says:

    Kenny, that’s a trailer for kids or whatever.

    Beth nails the dork part pretty well and I would add his posture is not the riding posture of a cyclist and that makes him look even more like a dork.

    I don’t really care if my president looks dorky on a bike or not but I don’t like being told he’s some sort of athlete. How many trips down the court can he make after those smokes? It’s an image the press likes but just isn’t flying. Clancy points out the flat but I doubt he’s got a spare tube or patch repair kit so he’ll keep riding for the cameras.

    To be honest I wouldn’t criticize him except I’m a cyclist and he’s making me look bad.

  11. john personna says:

    I missed the trailer too. Strange that Steve spots it and then goes off on this being a racing event!

    The tongue weight could overload tires at “correct” inflation. It might also explain the relaxed posture. Not the jeans though. Ouch. That’s gotta hurt.

  12. john personna says:

    BTW, it could be one of those add-on kids bikes too, where the kid gets a set of pedals and a wheel behind.