News & Politics

There Is No Way You’re Not Swapping Sweat With a Stranger in DC’s New Moped Helmets

Revel wipes down its helmets every two to three days. Two to three days!

Imagine this stock image of a helmet, but glistening with the sweat of another. Image via iStock.

There are so many reasons to hate DC summers. From sweltering humidity to hot-air-blowing Hillterns to sunburned tourists confused why the “National Shopping Mall” is but an expanse of scorched earth, the vengeful gods of summer take no pity on us. And now their appetite for cruelty includes nasty, sweaty shared helmets.

I speak in reference to the helmets that come with the new Revel “mopeds” scattered around town. They resemble the Vespa Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck ride in Roman Holiday, and you look at them and think how nice it would be to coast around the city, taking in the architecture, feeling the wind in your hair.

Except there would be no hair flapping in the breeze. There would instead be your sweaty hair getting even sweatier with the bodily fluids of the previous rider. For you need a helmet to ride a Revel moped, and unless you possess one of your own, you’re stuck wearing one of the two provided with the bike, which the company says get wiped down once every two to three days.

Two to three days! Think about the amount of sweat that could build up in a helmet in the span of 72 hours. It’s easy enough to imagine that, before you slide the sticky, soggy protection over your head, 36 other craniums have perspired profusely into that helmet, imbuing their musk into the fabric sitting snugly around your ears and hairline.

Revel says one of the ways it ensures sanitary helmet conditions is by providing single-use hairnets for riders to wear. Ha. Ha ha ha. Perhaps hairnets work in New York City, but here in DC we sweat hard. I have seen women slipping in their sweat-slickened heels, beads of water trickling down their faces like rainfall. Take a visual tour through the Metro on an August afternoon, and you’ll see men in “the shirt” looking like they took a ride on Splash Mountain. A hairnet is a floppy speed bump for DC sweat glands.

Hairnets are not only thin, they are also full of holes. You know what can easily crawl through holes? Lice. Have you ever had lice? I have. When you have lice you want to claw every last bit of skin off of your head, not only because it itches so much it burns, but also because you have to go to bed every night with the knowledge that creepy crawly things are living inside your hair and could scuttle around on your face at any moment. You have to stay home from work because lice spread very easily, and you have to coat your hair in mayonnaise then watch little smothered louse bodies go down the drain when you rinse it out. For days after, you have to take a fine-tooth comb and pick out all the little louse eggs stuck to your roots, a task nearly impossible to achieve by yourself.

Do you know how I got lice? From sharing a helmet. Anyone with a grade schooler should know that the concept of sharing headgear is a no good, very bad idea warned about in gobs of literature from elementary school nurses’ offices. All it takes is one lice-infested user to catalyze a full, city-wide outbreak of head-itching moped riders.

While Revel’s on-the-ground team members are responsible for replacing dead batteries and making any necessary bike repairs, wiping down people’s sweaty helmets will quickly become their main job function. I think I’ll stick to the “old” scooters for now.

Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.