Bike Helmets 101
A bike helmet is the bare minimum when it comes to bike safety. The modern helmet emerged on the market in 1975 and today is generally accepted as a mandatory component of any bike ride, regardless of length or level of challenge. Modern helmets have been thoroughly engineered to be comfortable, ventilated, secure and even stylish. Picking the perfect one for you is an exciting part of any cyclist’s experience. By selecting a quality helmet and ensuring a proper fit, you will soon forget that you’re even wearing it!
Backroads Pro Tip
A helmet must be the right size, and it must be adjusted correctly in order to be effective in the event of a sudden impact.
A helmet should fit snugly around your head. That means it shouldn’t move around too easily, but it should not be so tight you are uncomfortable. Likewise, the chin strap should prevent the helmet from becoming detached from you if a fall occurs, but it should not constrict your movement while riding. Furthermore, a helmet that has sustained damage should be discarded in favor of a new one.
Backroads Pro Tip
Never buy a used helmet! There’s simply no way to be sure of the history (or structural integrity) of a helmet that has had multiple owners.
The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a helmet is that increased price does not correlate to increased safety. Each and every helmet must pass a standardized safety test. Certain helmets, such as BMX and mountain biking helmets, do provide more coverage for the back of your skull, but keep in mind that the risk of an impact to the back of your head during normal everyday biking activities is exceedingly small.
So, why do some biking helmets cost more than others? Price gradients reflect a helmet’s weight, ventilation, comfort and style. Riders on the racing circuit typically favor the lightest, most ventilated helmet available. It takes money and time to craft a lightweight helmet with a bunch of holes in it that still provides protection, and that’s what you’re paying for. The consumer also pays more for premium features, such as an adjustable headband, a padded chin strap, a visor or even a “cool” design.
The right bicycle helmet for you ultimately depends on what type of riding you plan on doing. If you an ounce-counting speed freak who needs the lightest, most aerodynamic model on the market, then something like this might be right for you:
If you are commuting to work in an urban environment, and you’re at the whim of the weather, the city and crazy drivers, then maybe something a little hardier (perhaps with a visor or other features to protect you from the elements) would be ideal:
Or maybe you’re going to be careering down the face of a mountain, bumping into trees and boulders along the way. A helmet with a little more coverage might better suit your needs:
Whichever style of helmet you choose, it must fit you and be comfortable. If it is not comfortable, then you won’t wear it, and a helmet sitting on a shelf in your closet is not going to protect anything. Remember, you need that head of yours to remind you how much you love to ride your bicycle!