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Gear Prudence: As a unfit biker, pedestrian countdown clocks stress me out so much. I’m trundling along half a block away, but have an almost Pavlovian response when I see the numbers tick down into single digits. And then it’s a full sprint because when I know that a red light is coming in a few seconds, I must beat it. Maybe that’s not the reason why they’re there, but I find their presence extremely anxiety- and sweat-inducing. How do I get over this? —Terrible Information Conundrum; Knowing Time Overwhelms Cyclist’s Knees
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Dear TICKTOCK: Have you considered biking blindfolded? You won’t get very far, but at least you’ll no longer be confounded by the horrible sight of descending numbers. But you’re right—it is hard to see a countdown and not think it’s meaningful. GP blames sports, game shows, and NASA. But trying to score “wins” by getting yourself through the green in its waning seconds is making you miserable. Either you beat the red and are out of breath or you don’t beat it and feel bad about yourself for coming up short. It’s a lose-lose. So here’s how you get over it: Time your commute. Time it when you hustle to catch the greens and time it again on a day where you accept you’ll hit the red lights. When you compare the difference and see that the horrible red-light-laden commute was barely slower (if at all), you’ll come to realize that rushing isn’t worth it and will learn to have a much more relaxed ride. This will far outstrip the downside of any marginal time loss. Guaranteed. —GP
Gear Prudence: I just heard something and can’t possibly believe it’s true: Bike helmets expire after three years. What? I’ve had the same one for at least 10 years, but have I been riding with an “expired” helmet? Does that mean it doesn’t work anymore? It still seems fine. This sounds fishy. —Need Evidence, Would Like Instructive Data
Dear NEWLID: You can put your helmet in the freezer, but if you sniff it and it smells like sour milk, something has gone horribly wrong. Whether this has anything to do with your helmet expiring and no longer meeting crash test standards is another thing entirely. Many helmet manufacturers do indicate a “replace by” date on their products, but according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (helmets.org), you should meet these claims with a good dose of skepticism. According to BHSI, age alone is not a reason to replace your helmet. So when should you replace it? Mainly if you’ve ever crashed wearing it or if the foam is cracked or damaged. If that’s not the case and you still like the way it looks (helmet fashion evolves) and fits, don’t feel compelled to buy a new one. —GP