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How to Choose a Bicycle Helmet
If you’re reading this article, you most likely already know how important a helmet is for cycling safety. Plus, your brain will thank you for taking the time! You’ve probably asked yourself, “What size bike helmet do I need?” Or “How should I wear my helmet?” These types of questions may have brought you here, and we’ll explain all of them and then some.
Buying a bike helmet is similar to buying an e-bike; you should combine fun with safety! You no longer need to wear a bland piece of plastic on your head to ride your bike, as it will block half of your field of vision. However, if your helmet interferes with your vision, it may not fit properly, and we’ll explain why later!
Today, companies are reinventing what protective clothing means, including helmets. So while safety is the first thing to keep in mind when choosing a bike helmet, you also have more design options to let your personality shine through! Without further ado, let’s dive into the details of how to choose a bike helmet.
Anatomy of a Bike Helmet
As a society, we take wearing a helmet very seriously. You know, because it really does protect your irreplaceable head. For this reason, it’s important to understand how they are made and the materials used. A traditional cycling helmet is made up of three parts: the shell, the liner and the straps.
The outer shell, or ‘hard’ outer part of the helmet, can be made from a variety of impact-resistant materials, including plastic, polycarbonate and carbon fibre. This component protects your head from external forces or impacts.
The softer inner part of the shell of the pad or head rest is usually made of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam or any other thoroughly tested foam. It acts as a barrier between the shell and the head, acting as a cushioning layer to absorb impact. The shell and liner work together to reduce the impact.
Securing the two elements to the head are straps located near the left and right sides that clip under the chin. The strong and durable straps not only hold the helmet on the head, but also ensure that the entire head is covered if fitted properly.
Understanding the basic construction of a bicycle helmet is vital to keeping safe on the road. Through the combined action of the shell, padding and straps, a well-designed helmet can help to minimise impact in the event of a crash.
However, it’s important to remember that a cycle helmet is only effective if its fit is taken into account, so take the time to find a helmet that is comfortable, snug and safe. A properly fitted cycle helmet is an investment in your safety and wellbeing, and the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re protected whilst enjoying your ride is a small price to pay.
Before you buy
Before purchasing a helmet, you need to determine what type of bike you will be riding. We’ll discuss the types of bike helmets in more detail in a minute, but here are some important points you need to consider:
Material. See our brief overview above or do your own research. Make sure the materials of the helmet you’re interested in are durable and of good quality. You’re investing in your brain here!
Weight. The material of the shell must be strong, yet not so heavy that it causes physical pain.
Certification. The right helmet should meet CPSC safety standards and be certified by them. Most helmets meet this, but it doesn’t hurt to check. There are other forms of technology worth looking at, such as MIPS, which stands for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System, a slick technology that reduces the force on the head during an impact. If a helmet is equipped with MIPS, there is a thin yellow padding underneath the pads inside the helmet
Fit. Bicycle helmets should fit snugly, but not too loosely or too tightly.
Price. All we ask is that you don’t compromise on cost as the helmet protects your head and that is priceless.
Type of helmet.
Before we discuss bike helmet sizes, we need to know the types of bike helmets. No, not all bike helmets are created equal! Some of the cheaper helmets have extremely simple shells that use various forms of plastic that are actually similar to the plastic used to make water bottles. It goes without saying that you may not want to purchase this helmet.
There are a variety of helmet styles to choose from to meet the needs of a wide range of riders from adventurous off-roaders to urban commuters. Below is an overview of the different types of bike helmet styles:
Commuter/Recreational Helmets- These helmets are available in a variety of styles, but generally they offer a standard number of vents and good coverage. These are perfect for urban commuters or e-bike fanatics who want to enjoy a ride after work.
Cyclocross Helmets- Also known as road bike helmets, these are usually lightweight and feature a large number of vents. Designed for cyclists who need aerodynamic design and enhanced ventilation to stay cool on long rides and uphill climbs.
All-Mountain or Off-Road Helmets – If you’re looking for a helmet that’s best suited for e-bike trails, you may want to give this style some serious consideration. While most e-bikes are not “mountain bikes” per se, and are subject to local regulations on most trails, these helmets are designed with greater coverage in mind, especially for the back of the head, to prevent accidental backward falls. If you like to drive an e-bike at trailheads or use a fat tyre e-bike off-road, this could be a good option for you!
Firstly, the bike helmet needs to be measured to determine your appropriate size. Most manufacturers provide a bike helmet sizing chart in-store or directly on the product website, so be sure to use it as a reference.
Keep in mind that not all helmets are created equal when you test out the latest chin strap or wind protection in the shop. A bike helmet that fits one style you wear may not fit all styles. One size of helmet you wear may not fit all. Always refer to the bicycle helmet sizing chart for the most accurate fit.
Measure your head
To measure the circumference of your head, take a soft tape measure and wrap it horizontally around your temples: about an inch above your eyebrows and ears. Most bike helmet size charts measure in centimetres. If you don’t have a flexible tape measure, take a piece of string (or shoelace!) ), wrap it around your head and measure the string. When you’re done, look for a helmet that fits your measurements!
Approximate Size Chart
While helmet sizes often vary, here is an example of the information you can find on a bike helmet size chart with approximate measurements:
Extra Small: Less than 20 ½ inches (53 cm)
Small: 20 ½ inches – 21 ¼ inches (53 cm – 54 cm)
Medium: 21 1/4″ – 22 3/4″ (54 cm – 57 cm)
Large: 22 3/4 in – 24 ⅛ in (57 cm – 61 cm)
Extra Large: over 24 ⅛ inches (61 cm)
Note: Although you may find your size falls within the above parameters, this is not a definitive size chart and it is recommended that you check the helmet manufacturer’s respective size charts.
Now that we’ve answered the question, “What size bike helmet do I need?” It’s time to look at “How should I wear my bike helmet?” As we briefly mentioned earlier, your helmet should feel comfortable: not too loose or too tight. For online shoppers, this may mean relying more on the size chart provided by the manufacturer. For in-person shoppers, it means trying, trying, and trying again before making a purchase! Explaining how to wear a bike helmet should answer your burning question.
Firstly, put the helmet on your head and make sure it’s level. You actually want it to cover most of your forehead, so it should sit about an inch above your eyebrows. If you have an adjustment wheel located on the back of the helmet, use it to change the fit additionally. Turning the wheel allows you to better personalise the fit of your helmet to ensure it is comfortable. Doing so will prevent your helmet from sliding forward too much, blocking your view, or sitting too high above your forehead, reducing coverage.
Next, adjust and buckle the chin strap for a comfortable fit. When properly fitted, the straps will form a “Y” shape under each ear.
Finally, with the shell snug and the straps fastened, perform a quick test: open your mouth wide. The distance between your chin and the helmet strap should be about half an inch (13 mm). If everything is adjusted according to these guidelines, you should feel the helmet pressing against the top of your head. This means that you have passed the safety test and now have the perfect cycling helmet! Helmets loosen over time and with each ride, so it’s a good idea to try this quick test before each ride to make sure your helmet fits correctly.
There are many different types of bike helmets. Between “How do I choose a bike helmet?” and “What size bike helmet do I need?” , this simple task can quickly become a daunting one. Ultimately, you first need to consider what your cycling needs are. Then, narrow down your choices based on size and fit. Don’t assume that just because a helmet is more expensive, it’s more reliable. Do your due diligence and research, but also enjoy browsing and trying on different styles of bike helmets until you find the one that suits you best! After all, it’s a priceless investment.