I value my head. It’s great for hanging hats. I also value my brain, I spent a long time in university growing it. Therefore, most times I cycle, I wear a bicycle helmet. It’s a personal choice I make, you are free to make your own.
If you are new to the cycling scene and are making the same decision, you may be wondering how to choose a bicycle helmet to suit you and if it’s worth splashing out on the more expensive ones.
Here’s a quick run down of what to look for and some of the models I would highly recommend.
*This is a 2016 update to a 2010 article to keep things current – all previous comments have been left for guidance*
3 Things to Look for When Buying a Cycle Helmet
When choosing a bicycle helmet you mainly want to look at three things. Fit, extra features you may be interested in and keeping cool. Okay, and a forth thing, looking cool. You also need to have a budget, there’s no need to spend tons on a helmet for a casual commute. Helmet price can go up to over £200 and start as low as £25. When it comes to protection, there are few differences between the price extremes. However, spending more money should keep your head cooler and provide more comfort.
There are some exceptions to this, for example, Smith helmets have a new material called Koroyd which is better than standard helmet material but these helmets are a little more expensive – they are very comfortable though.
Fitting a Bicycle Helmet
You will want to fit the helmet correctly because it will provide far better protection and it will feel more comfortable. A properly fitted bicycle helmet will reach about halfway down your forehead and will cover a good part of the back of your head. The more it covers the better.
The strap should fit closely under the chin and should form a v-shape around the ears. Not all bicycle helmets are born the same and some will fit better than others. After you have tried one and tightened it make sure it does not wobble.
The best bet is to go into a bike shop and try the helmet first. One will fit more comfortably than others. Ideally ask an assistant in the shop to fit the helmet for you. Alternatively, if buying online, make sure you measure your head correctly as instructed by the manufacturer.
Lighter colours can be seen by other road users so if you don’t mind having a neon head, go for brighter colours. As your head moves a lot and is almost directly in the line of sight for most drivers, this is a good place for bright colours, small lights and reflective elements.
Helmet technology innovations are usually reserved for decreases in weight/increases in performance. However, in the last year or two a new safety innovation has emerged – MIPS (Multi-Direction Impact Protection System). This is a plastic liner that can be added into any helmet. It moves slightly in the case of a crash, dispersing the force which in turn limits the chances of concussion caused by a focused hit. In this way, MIPs acts much like the fluid between your skull and brain – this also spreads impact forces when you bump your head.
Keeping Cool in Your Cycle Helmet
In terms of keeping cool as you would expect more air vents equal more cooling of the head. However, more air vents also means that there is less of the padding to protect your head. You should pick a trade-off between the two.
As for weight? This doesn’t tend to be an issue as the majority of helmets weigh less than 300 grams. If you are commuting around town at a leisurely pace, the weight is not going to make a significant difference anyway.
This is subjective, and some say all helmets look a little silly, but urban orientated ones such as Bern tend to look a little better. I have found that helmets which fit really well look a bit better – they stick out less. Try a few to find one you are happy with.
Popular Bicycle Helmet Models
If you want a helmet that looks a little more urban, then a Bern is for you. The Watts/Lenox (men’s/women’s) is a very popular helmet in London and for good reason – its tough and pretty cool looking. Less vents makes it a great choice for winter too. As an added bonus it can double as your ski helmet if you are that way inclined.
This is a really good value helmet, made even better with the inclusion of MIPs for extra brain protection. Lots of vents to keep you cool in the summer but easily fits a cap under it for winter. A non-MIPs version is available as well.
This is a very popular helmet for those of you who commute and ride longer distances on roads at the weekend, the Mojito has road cred all over it. It is also super comfortable, pretty light weight and available in a colossal range of colours.
What is your favourite cycle helmet? How did you pick it? Share your useful selection advice in the comments!
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.