Riding a bike down the hill or by the countryside…feeling elated, feeling the wind in the hair…mmm sounds so idealistic, so adventurous. But wait, is it SAFE though? Not in the slightest bit! Wearing a helmet while cycling is as essential as wearing the seatbelt while driving. And if you just had an epiphany then do not panic. We shall help you understand how to buy bicycle helmets.
Assuming that you have a bicycle, we would like to highlight the importance of bike helmets in your riding experience.
When you are riding a bike, you are at a greater chance of getting injured because unlike cars, you do not have an external shield around you. If crashed into something, you might easily get flung away. And when that happens, you would want to save the most important part of your body- the head!
Hence, helmets form an important part of your riding.
We don’t want to scare you but better be on the safer side, no?
Now, that doesn’t mean that you go to any random shop and purchase a headgear. You need to understand that the right bicycle helmet shall give you maximum safety and comfort.
Let’s understand all the tricks to buy bicycle helmets, shall we?
- How to Choose Bike Helmets
- Key features to Consider
- Bike Helmet Construction
- Additional Bike Helmet Features
- What's Your Right Bike Helmet Size
- Bike Helmet Care
- When to Replace a Helmet
How to Choose Bike Helmets
Bicycle helmets come in three basic types- road bike helmets, mountain bike helmets, and recreational/casual (muti-use) helmets. All of the mentioned types of bike helmets are designed to give maximum head protection from any impact while being lightweight and comfortable.
Road Bike Helmets
These helmets are low weight with good ventilation and aerodynamic design. They do not feature visors in order to minimize the weight and provide an open view while riding in an aggressive position.
Mountain Bike Helmets
Often used by cyclocross riders, these helmets are easily distinguished by their visors. They are constructed to give well ventilation when riding at low speeds. Mountain bike helmets have an enhanced rear-head coverage and a firm, secure fit so that they sit well on your head while tackling those rough terrain. Some of these helmets come with full-face protection which are mostly preferred by downhill mountain bikers and park riders.
Recreational Bike Helmets
These kinds of helmets are an economical option for recreational, commuter, road and mountain bikers. Popular with skateboarders and inline skaters, these helmets often include visors to shield your eyes from the sun.
So, figure the kind of riding you do or would do before buying a bike helmet.
Key features to Consider
There are certain things you must consider while out to buy bicycle helmets. Here are the four key things you must look for in a bike helmet-
The main purpose to buy a bike helmet is your safety. Before pushing your cycle onto the road or compete in a race, it is essential that you do not leave the bike helmet behind. In most countries, it is illegal to ride without a helmet. Bicycle helmets are certified to a specific standard or an international equivalent.
More vents on the helmet mean that it will keep your head cooler. Ventilation design varies with the type of helmet. On road bike helmets, the ventilation is designed such that the air is passed through the helmet and exit through the rear vents. Whereas on mountain bike helmets, the ventilation works like a chimney, allowing the hot air to escape vertically.
Straps and Retention System
Once fastened, the helmet’s buckle and chin area of the strap should fit close to your chin’s underside. But keep it loose enough that it allows you to open your mouth to eat or drink easily. Adjust the upper part of the helmet straps to create a v-shape formed just beneath your earlobe. Also, the retention cradle should sit around the occipital bone (the lower region at the back of your skull), adjust it carefully for a stable fit.
The padding in a helmet is paramount as it makes wearing it comfortable. Aside from that it also absorbs sweat. In some helmets the padding is removable which is great as it enables you to remove and wash them, keeping them hygienic.
Bike Helmet Construction
Most bike helmets are built with in-mold construction, wherein the outer shell and inner liner are fused without the use of glue. As a result, light yet tough helmet designs are formed. Weight savings of a lighter helmet is a factor quote appreciated by racers and frequent riders. If you are an occasional cyclist then weight shouldn’t be big concern to you.
Cycling helmets are capped with a plastic shell to hold the helmet together in a crash. It also provides puncture-resistance and allows the helmet to slightly slide on impact to protect your head and neck.
Bike helmet liners are made of expanded polystyrene foam. On impact, the liner dissolves the force to protect your head. So, before you buy bike helmets just ensure the liner fits your head comfortably.
- MIPS Technology
Some helmets have Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) technology, a way of designing helmets that are aimed at giving better protection from rotational forces during a bike crash.
MIPS-equipped helmets flaunt a low-friction layer that allows the helmet's impact-absorbing foam liner to rotate slightly around your head during an impact. It moves only a few millimeters overall, but it can reduce the amount of rotational force that may be transferred to your brain in certain impacts.
Additional Bike Helmet Features
Helmet vents facilitate wind-flow over your head and keep you cooler and more comfortable during your ride. And most importantly, the more vents you have, the lighter the helmet is.
Some helmets have a sun-shielding visor attached to it. Visors are very common on mountain bike helmets as sun protection is much required while riding up the mountains. But a visor also adds a tiny amount of weight and slight wind resistance.
To provide optimum face protection for downhill mountain biking and park riding, some mountain bike helmets have a wraparound chin bar. Most enduro racers like the added face protection.
The strap system should be comfortable and easy to buckle and unbuckle.
Certain helmets come with a strap design to accommodates ponytails.
What's Your Right Bike Helmet Size
When choosing a bike helmet, a good fit is vital. Most helmets come in small, medium, large or extended sizes.
To find your size, wrap a flexible tape measure around the largest portion of your head—about 1 in. above your eyebrows. Or, wrap a string or ribbon around your head, then measure the length of string with a straight-edge ruler or yardstick.
Look for a helmet size that matches your measurement. On REI.com, the size range is listed under the "Specs" tab on each product page.
General sizing sheet:
- Extra-small: below 20" (51cm)
- Small: 20"–21.75" (51cm–55cm)
- Medium: 21.75"–23.25" (55cm–59cm)
- Large: 23.25"–24.75" (59cm–63cm)
- Extra-large: above 24.75 (63cm)
- One size fits all (men): 21.25"–24" (54cm–61cm)
- One size fits all (women): 19.75"–22.5" (50cm–57cm)
- One size fits all (kids): 18"–22.5" (46cm–57cm)
Between sizes? Either opt for the smaller size or wear a cycling cap or beanie to improve the fit of the larger helmet. Some adults with smaller heads can wear a kids' size comfortably.
Helmet straps tend to loosen, so give your helmet a quick wiggle-check before every outing. Tighten the straps if you can move the helmet more than an inch in any direction. Then enjoy the ride.
Bike Helmet Care
Avoid using chemical solvents to clean a helmet. Manufacturers recommend only the use of a soft cloth or sponge, plus mild soap and water. Removal pads may be washed.
Do not store a helmet in an attic, garage, car trunk or another area where heat can accumulate. Excessive heat may cause bubbles to form on helmet parts. Do not wear a heat-damaged helmet.
Avoid loaning your helmet to others. You want to know exactly what kind of use your helmet has experienced during its lifespan.
When to Replace a Helmet
Any helmet that has been involved in an accident is likely to get damaged. We suggest replacing the helmet after any significant impact, even if everything looks OK.
If you've been crash-free, it is generally recommended to replace your helmet after 5 years. Pollution, UV light, and weathering can weaken its components over time.
Wear it right: Low, level, and snug. That's how your helmet should sit on your head.
And that’s how you can buy bicycle helmets like a pro. We hope our insights have been helpful to you. At least you wouldn’t walk into helmet store with zero knowledge on bike helmets. Before buying the helmet, ensure that it fits well and comfortably. Figure out if you feel secure in it, maybe take a test ride in it. Helmet looks can take a second seat here, safety is foremost important!