It's Spring. It's a great time to get out on your ebike but what about the magpies you ask?
It's almost a national sport between swooping magpies and cyclists. How many times did you get swooped? Who DIDN'T? You don't have to let the maggies get you down though. Pimping your helmet - something that is also growing as a national sport - can be a great way to deter the swooping magpies.
Tim Rose, one of our bike packing pros and someone who refuses to be deterred by magpies from riding in spring, has taken pimping his helmet to the next level. Read on for his amusing and informative solution for riding in magpie season (and thank you, Tim).
My Anti-Magpie Attack Cycling Helmet
Article by Tim Rose
I hate being swooped by territorial male Magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen) during September-October-November each year as this can diminish the joy of three wonderful bike touring months.
Honestly Mr Maggie, I do not want to find your nest, climb up and eat up all your chicks. Gimme a break!
Unfortunately, neither of us want to give way. I want to continue bike touring in Spring and Mr Magpie desperately wants to attack each and every cyclist in his domain. Though only until the fledging of his brood. Then it is all sweet and peaceful again and he will sing and warble for some food.
A fellow cyclist had 19 swoops from one single crazy Stuka dive-bomber. Other friends suffered nips to the ears and even a bloodied peck to the scalp through helmet air vents!
I have been chased for kilometres between Beaudesert and Rathdowney (via Round Mountain Rd & Christmas Creek Rd – a wonderful trip by the way) by a sequential series of territorial Magpies with chips on their wings. I think they radioed ahead to tell their brethren of a lone cyclist ready for the picking. You can’t really blame them, but it is not the fault of an innocent, caring, eco-friendly cycling tourer either.
I was fed up with the flimsy cable ties I attached previously.
It left me wobbling all over the road as my head spun 360°.
Also the bobbing up and down to make it difficult for the Magpie to take aim made it impossible for me to maintain a straight road-line (and not to mention having to put up with motorists having a right laugh behind me).
Enough was Enough! Time to get serious!!
Let me deconstruct my helmet as it now stands.
Step One: Get an ebike!
Buy a ebike from EBB so that you increase your time cycling through Magpie territory (ha ha). Seriously though all bikes are attacked but an ebike does make speeding away much easier.
Step Two: The Da Brim
For cool shade, rain deflection and Magpie ear-nipping cover, I attached a Da Brim sunshade. Simple, effective, fantastic.
I chose a Da Brim sunshade in their fluorescent colour for safety. Much as I don’t want to be swooped by a magpie, I also want to be seen by motorists and not become bicycle mush. The fluoro brim is seen from behind, the side and from the front.
I generally never ride too fast - I am more the Flying Nun than ‘Tour Down Under’ winner Richie Porte. In any case, the brim is no real problem when going at speed. The forward adjustable velcro strap means that the brim never flaps down. I also wear photo chromatic cycling glasses to keep wind, insects and magpies out of my eyes.
Step Three: The Super Spikes!!!
Finding that the da Brim and the floppy cable ties were not a deterrent for super crazy magpies, I had to go all out to invent something new.
So to top it off, the cream on the cake, the piece-de-resistance, the answer to my prayers, the saviour of my scalp, I purchased commercial stainless steel anti-bird-roosting spikes secured to a continuous clear plastic strip.
I got a 1 metre length and cut it into 4 to suit my helmet. The strips are only cable-tied onto the helmet – so I can remove them once bombing season finishes with no damage to the helmet.
(Part of Australian Design Rules require that projections on a helmet need to breakaway or lay flat; so if you hit the ground nothing ‘catches’ your helmet and breaks your neck. All these spikes would fold flat against any hard object.)
For those who might be worried, Magpies have very good eyesight and are more intelligent than many a motorist. The spikes are easily seen by magpies and consequently they abort strikes and stand-off by 2 or more metres. I am quite happy with this distance.
I still get lots of attack calls and beak clacking, but the old black and white bomber comes no closer. I ride safely, smoothly and upright and I believe Mr Magpie does the same.
Some Interesting Side Effects...
Riding fast, I now get the sound of wind through she-oaks from the spikes. This is pleasant enough and not a problem. Hitting low hanging foliage sounds like rigging slapping on tall aluminium masts, again, not a problem - a sound reminiscent of my sailing youth.
The helmet certainly is a little heavier, but nothing like the weight of a motorcycle helmet. Consequently no sore neck, especially as I am no longer doing head spinning auditions for The Exorcist.
The helmet would be scary in thunderstorms. I believe the spikes may draw lightning bolts from at least 1000 metres… would my thin rubber tyres be enough to stop a 120,000 volt spark making me into a kebab? However, when there is a big thunderstorm overhead, I am laying my bike down, taking my helmet off and sitting cross-legged, under a poncho, in a field away from trees.
The best side effect is that the helmet is a truly fantastic conversation starter “Love ya Helmet!!”, “I could see you for miles!!”, “Don’t fall over, you will stick to the ground!”, “Do you ever have to pick Road kill off the helmet?”.
Fast overtaking mamils and interested others, cycle up beside me and strike up conversations.
“Is it effective?”, (Yes) “Is it heavy?”, (No) “Does it slow you down?” (No)
For all of us, magpie swooping is a concerning part of cycling during the Australian Spring.
OK, I do look like Syd Vicious. Young cyclists stare with open mouths, tearful children hide behind mothers’ skirts, young maidens scream, aged pedestrians fall faint to the ground, but Magpies keep their distance.
It is marvellous, effective and I love it!!
-- Happy touring :) Tim Rose