Whether you are a casual cyclist that goes for an easy cycle once in a blue moon or you prefer to spend every spare moment racing down mountainsides at breakneck speed, a helmet is essential.
Helmets are the most critical piece of cycling safety gear you will own. A study highlighting the dangers of riding without a helmet has thrown up some frightening statistics.
The study, which was published in Brain Journal, showed that 78% of adults and 88% of children who suffered neck and head injuries in cycling accidents were not wearing helmets. (Source – Consumer Reports)
Protecting your head is paramount when cycling, and the easiest way to do this is by always wearing a helmet.
Choosing the right type and fit of a helmet is critical, this guide is designed to make sure you choose the right cycle helmet to keep you as safe as possible.
Helmets are designed with one aim, to keep your head safe in the event of an accident. How they achieve this breaks down into three main areas.
Not all cycling carries the same risk, a gentle cycle along a riverbank will not require a full-face helmet, similarly, speeding downhill on a slippy mountain track will require all the extra protection you can get.
The main types of helmets are listed below:
Although there are specific types for each discipline, they are highly interchangeable and offer the same features.
In road riding crashes, the momentum of the rider usually means that the bulk of the crashes are forward of the rider. In Mountain biking and BMX biking, the nature of the sports means that crashing can occur in any direction. To account for this helmets designed for these sports provide greater protection to the temporal and occipital areas of the head.
Another factor is the cooling ventilation - As speeds are generally slower in mountain biking and BMXing the vents on these types of helmets are usually larger but fewer to maximize the airflow at low speeds.
These helmets usually incorporate visors to protect against glare and sunlight as well as deflecting overhanging foliage. There are three main categories:
As I mentioned road crashes are usually of the forward type. To account for this road helmets have protection that is focused on the front and sides of the head.
Road cycling is faster than mountain biking and the helmets also take this into account. In instances where speed is king, then weight and aerodynamics come into play. More expensive specialized models will utilize carbon fiber in the instruction and will be designed to offer little wind resistance.
This factor also affects ventilation. Because of the higher speeds involved, there are usually fewer and smaller vents.
These are usually just smaller versions of adult helmets, although many of them feature color schemes that are designed to make them feel like the coolest kid in the neighborhood!
One great thing about mountain bike helmets is that most countries will have a set of rigorous standards that the helmets must comply with. In essence, this means that the cheapest helmet will be as safe as the most expensive. Generally, the price difference is down to the sophistication of the design, materials used weight, etc.
Some simple steps can help improve safety when buying your helmet. Choosing a highly visible color can reduce the risk of getting hit by others on the road.
If you already own a helmet, then its age is another consideration. Good cycle helmets are robust and should last for years, but look for faded colors and frayed straps. If this is the case, it is time to replace it.
Finally, the right fit is essential. Which is what I will cover next.
To protect your head properly, the helmet must be the correct fit. Luckily, most helmets are highly adjustable. Manufacturers will label helmets by size, normally small, medium, and large, sometimes there are x-small for kids helmets.
Each size will have a listing that shows the head measurement it corresponds to. To measure for the correct size is simple:
While the classifications vary by manufacturer, a table with some guideline sizes is below:
51 – 52cm (20 – 20.5 inches)
53 – 54cm (20.5 – 21.25 inches)
55 – 56cm (21.5 – 22 inches)
57 – 58cm (22.5 – 23 inches)
59 – 60cm (23 – 23.5 inches)
61 – 62cm (24 – 24.5 inches)
63 – 64cm (24.5 – 25 inches)
Cycling is a healthy and fun pastime, but it isn’t without its dangers. Minimizing the risks before you set out on any cycle is critical. A helmet can protect you from serious injury and worse.
I hope the guide has helped you choose the right helmet. I have also written a great review of the best helmets, which you can find here.
Have fun cycling, but always wear a helmet!