The bike helmet. The single most important piece of protective equipment worn by cyclists. We appreciate you reading out BLOG on how to choose the best bike helmet and are excited that you're passionate about cycling. A helmet should be worn at all times while riding a bike, no matter how short or familiar the route may be. Certain cities have laws enforcing the use of a helmet and the United States enforces regulations ensuring all helmets sold meet a standard for impact protection. When shopping for a new bike helmet there are several factors to consider and selecting the right helmet can make all the difference this riding season.
Whether you're an avid cyclist or just starting out, finding a biking helmet that suits your preferences is one of the most important parts of being able to enjoy your ride. Not only can the wrong helmet prove cumbersome or uncomfortable, but wearing an improperly fitted helmet can even be dangerous should you find yourself in a crash. On the other hand, find a helmet with the right fit for your cycling discipline, and you'll be able to enjoy a safe, comfortable ride for a long time to come. Here are a few things to look for to help you find your best fitting helmet.
First, consider what kind of riding you'll be doing, as multiple design feature in biking helmets vary from application to application. As an example, here are a few differences between mountain biking helmets and road biking helmets:
Padding - Due to the rougher terrain of mountain biking and the fact that riders are more likely to fall backward than forward in MTB cycling, mountain biking helmets tend to be heavier and have more padding in the back of the helmet.
Weight and aerodynamics - Because road biking usually entails smoother surfaces and requires higher speeds, road biking helmets are often lighter and more aerodynamic. They also typically have more air vents for a more comfortable ride.
Visor and eye protection - While some riders just use a bicycle cap and sunglasses for protection, mountain biking helmets often employ a visor to keep the sun out of the rider's eyes, and some helmets that are more suited to downhill biking employ a full visor and faceguard similar to motorcycle helmets to provide facial protection as well.
Once you know what kind of helmet you'll need, the most important thing is to find one that best fits your head. To do that, first measure the circumference of your head at the widest point, which is generally about one inch above your eyebrows. The sizing specifications may vary slightly from brand to brand, but for the most part, size breakdowns are as follows:
- Extra small - less than 20 in. (51 cm.)
- 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)
As with shoes, different manufactures employee different helmet geometries, so be sure to try some out while at the store to make sure that the helmet fits your head shape, even if it is listed as being the right size. It should fit snugly without being annoyingly tight, and should sit flat on your head (rather than tilting back) with the foremost lip resting approximately one inch above your eyebrows for forehead protection. If you need further customized fitting options, feel free to adjust the fitting mechanism, which is often an adjustable wheel at the back of the helmet, or look for helmets that offer adjustable padding for extra custom fitting.
There are all sorts of add-ons that you could get for your biking helmet, like built-in mounts, light or action cameras, and much more, but what counts is that you find the best-fitting helmet that suits your cycling adventures, and that you enjoy a safe ride that goes the distance. Our wide selection of Fox, Bell, Giant, Liv, Tory Lee and Lazer bike helmets can help you do just that, so check out our inventory and let us get you the helmet that suits your needs!
3 Tips for Choosing the Best Bike Helmet
1. Proper Fit
Ensure your new helmet fits properly. Poor fit can compromise protection and cause discomfort. Helmets come in different sizes and many feature adjustment modulation within sizing to achieve a precise and effective fit.
2. Match Your Riding Style
Helmets come in different styles with features designed for specific riding styles. While any style helmet will protect you, the right style helmet will offer benefits in addition to protection that make the ride more enjoyable. We can break down bike helmets into three basic categories:
Recreational Bike Helmets are suited for casual riding. They come in at an economical price point while still offering basic impact protection.
Road Bike Helmets are the lightest weight, well ventilated, and the most aerodynamic options.
Mountain Bike Helmets tend to offer improved coverage of the rear/side of the head due to the increased probability of crashing. In addition these are well ventilated, often feature visors, and come in both half shell (traditional) and full-face options.
3. Technology & Features
Helmets are coming out with new technology each year. Designed to be lighter, cooler, more aerodynamic all while still providing the impact protection necessary for the rider. Helmets are coming with built-in mounts for lights and action cameras. Magnetic buckles have become popular for their ease of use while wearing gloves and their ability to stay buckled during impact. These types of features will increase the price point of the helmet, but many riders outweigh the benefits of modern features over the price of the helmet.
Bike Helmet Fit and Comfort
We've already touched the subject of how important a proper fitting helmet is to ensure impact protection during a crash. A good bike helmet needs to fit properly and feel comfortable, each mile counts especially as your riding takes you further.
Bike Helmet Sizing Guide
We are committed to providing the best fit options for every rider. A combination of our fitting expertise and extensive helmet research has allowed us to create a product offering dedicated to everyone's unique head shape.
Western Head Shape:
Typically, people of Western descent have a more oval-shaped head – narrower in width, longer front to back.
Asian Head Shape:
Asian head shapes are typically rounder – wider in width.
An Asian rider wearing a helmet designed for a Western head shape results in pressure points on the four corners of the rider’s head, resulting in an uncomfortable fit.
Ensuring you purchase the right size helmet is not only a matter of comfort, it is a decision that can impact your safety. You can find the manufacturers size chart on the under the product specifications. Manufacturers helmet measurements refer to head circumference. Use a tape measure following the diagram to establish the circumference of you or your child’s head and choose the correct helmet to match.
Place the tape measure about 25 mm above your eyebrows.
Ensure the measuring tape is about 15 mm above your ear.
How to Adjust a Bike Helmet
3 Steps to Properly Adjust a Bike Helmet
1. Adjust the Tightness
Helmets often feature an adjustment wheel on the rear of the helmet. Opening the wheel fully will loosen the retention system allowing you to put the helmet on. Then tightening the wheel or dial will restrict the retention system, snugging the helmet onto your head.
2. Buckle Up
Buckle the chin strap and ensure the straps form a "V" under each ear and sit comfortably. You can adjust the buckle under each ear to achieve a better fit should the straps not sit right.
3. Open Wide
With the retention system tightened, and the chin strap buckled, open your mouth wide to ensure precise fit. If the helmet snugs against the top of your head when your mouth is wide then the helmet is a great fit. If not you may need to tighten the chin strap to ensure the helmet stays in place during an impact.
3 Helmet Pro Tips
1. Sizing differs between helmet brands.
Helmet sizing will vary from brand to brand, and it's important to always check the manufacturers size chart for the specific model you are interested in to ensure you chooses the best size. Similar to shoes many riders will find a helmet brand that they feel fits best with their unique head shape, and want to stick with that brand. It's important to try helmets on and see what not only looks best but feels best.
2. In between sizes? Size down.
Going with the smaller size will ensure a snug fit, and more than likely the larger size is too loose to provide a proper fit. You can look into options such as wearing a cycling cap or thermal beanie under the helmet to improve the fit if the helmet is slightly too large.
3. The helmet needs to be snug, not uncomfortable.
A proper fitted helmet will be snug, and not move around easily. Remember the open mouth test to ensure the helmet presses down on your head, ensuring the helmet is being worn effectively. A helmet should never shift side to side on your head, and your forehead should not be overexposed.
Helmet Protection Technology
The helmet has one primary mission, to protect your brain from impact during a cycling accident. There are established regulated tests that ensure all helmets meet a standard level of impact protection in order to be sold yet helmets come with many different choices in material, construction and the quality of impact protection.
The helmet, broken down blandly, consists of the shell, liner, and strap system. The outer shell is hard plastic while the inner line consists of foam and padding. The hard plastic outer shell provides puncture resistance and allows the helmet to slide on impact potentially reducing the trauma to your head, neck, and shoulders. The helmets inner liner is made of expanded polystyrene foam, which is a glorified version of styrofoam. This material protects you by slowing down the impact and disappointing impact forces to the head.
What about rotational forces?
With helmet protection technology coming leaps and bounds in recent years there has been a huge push towards acknowledging and preventing rotational force injuries to the brain during a head impact crash. Cases have proved that even when damage to the helmet and head seems mild, the brain can have suffered something much more serious due to rotational force during the fall and impact. As the brain spins within the skull the trauma can cause anything from a concussion to severe brain damage. To combat this potential injury to the brain manufacturers are coming out with advanced liner systems that counter-act rotational force and aim to offer the rider an even higher level of protection and peace of mind. Many of our helmets come in MIPS versions, which offer an integrated liner designed to combat the chance of rotational force during a crash.
The MIPS BPS (Brain Protection System) is designed to add protection in helmets against the rotational motion. The rotational motion is a combination of rotational energy (angular velocity) and rotational forces (from angular acceleration) that both affects the brain and increases the risk for minor and severe brain injuries. MIPS BPS has been scientifically proven to reduce rotational motion when implemented in a helmet by absorbing and redirecting rotational energies and forces transferred to the brain.
Bike Helmet Features
Ventilation: Higher quality ventilation in a helmet enhances wind flow over your hear which keeps you comfortable and cool as you put down miles. The more vents the lighter the helmet generally weighs as well.
Visor: Many riders, especially mountain bikers, benefit from a sun-shielding visor on the helmet. Especially when riding at dusk or dawn the visor can make or break your ability to see the trail and enjoy the ride.
Full Face Protection: Full face helmets have become increasingly popular in mountain biking. As full face helmet options become lighter weight, better ventilated, and are more competitively priced we see a surge of full face riders everywhere from the local trail head to the bike park. The boost in confidence and peace of mind a full face helmet brings can be just what you need to push your riding to the next level.
Accessory Mount: Helmets are not coming designed to integrate with accessory mounts for lights and action cameras.
Bike Helmet Care
3 Tips to Keep Your Helmet Fresh
Cleaning your helmet is a great idea, especially during the hot season when you sweat the most. Here's three tips on helmet care to help you get the most out of your bike helmet this season.
1. Do not use chemicals to clean your helmet. Manufacturers recommend the use of mild soapy water and a soft cloth. It's common to remove the liner pads and wash them should the pads begin to smell or look discolored.
2. Keep your helmet stores in a cool, dry place. Avoid the attic, garage, trunk of your car or any area where heat is excessive as this can compromise the integrity of the helmet materials. A heat-damaged helmet should never be worn, signs of this can be seen as bubbling, cracking, or discoloration.
3. Avoid loaning your helmet to anyone, especially if it's a helmet you regularly rely on for safety. You need to know where your helmet has been and what's happened to it in order to confidently put your trust in the piece of equipment.
When to Retire a Bike Helmet
The golden rule with helmets is to replace your helmet after a single impact, as most helmets are designed to effectively absorb a single impact. Even if the helmet looks alright after the crash, consider any helmet that's experienced a direct impact to the shell to be retired and no longer effective at protecting the rider. Now even if you have a perfect track record and the helmet has remained crash free for it's life, you should replace a helmet at around the 5 year mark. This is due to environmental factors that cause the helmet to slowly degrade over time including UV light, pollution, heat, sweat, and the test of time.
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