For a cyclist, having the right helmet is essential. But finding the right headgear can be harder than you might think, especially because there are so many different styles and options available. Luckily for you, we know a thing or two about helmets and this guide should help you make sense of the vast selection on offer.
Helmets have come a long way. Thankfully, the days of uncomfortable, poorly-ventilated and heavy helmets are mostly over; for a modest sum, you can buy a well-fitting, light and attractive helmet. Helmets are available in every conceivable style and for every niche of cycling. However, there are a few things to consider before buying.
A well-fitting helmet should fit snugly without being too tight. Measure the circumference of your head, wrapping a tape measure slightly above the ears and around the middle of the forehead, completely encircling the head. When buying a helmet, you’ll usually be able to find a sizing chart on the product page. Try to find a helmet that comfortably accommodates your head circumference.
Most modern helmets incorporate a plastic size-adjustment system under the shell that enables you to fine-tune the fit. This is as easy as turning a thumbwheel at the back. While this gives you some leeway with sizing, care should be taken to buy the right size in the first place.
Many cheaper helmets are only available in one size. In our experience, these helmets can fit well if you’re somewhere in the middle, but if your head is on the bigger or smaller side, they can be uncomfortable.
Start researching helmets and you’ll quickly come across MIPS: Multi-directional Impact Protection System – a system designed to reduce rotational forces on the brain from impacts with angled objects. Models with MIPS have a layer between head and helmet that’s designed to stop the head rotating as much inside the helmet. Many very popular brands use MIPS, and helmets equipped with the technology are slightly more expensive.
MIPS isn’t the only technology that’s designed to lessen rotational forces on the head: POC has its “SPIN” technology, Bontrager has “WaveCel”, a system designed to soak up impact before it reaches the head, and Endura offers a similar system called “Koroyd.”
Types of helmets
From slick models for road cyclists to skate-style helmets for BMXers, there’s something available for every discipline of riding. For the sake of classification, we generally divide helmets into three main categories: road, mountain bike and urban/commuter.
Urban/commuter helmets usually have a plain, utilitarian design, allowing them to easily blend in with the urban jungle. The modern trend is for a rounded, ‘bucket-style’ helmet. Many incorporate size-adjustment systems, generous ventilation holes and even built-in ear protection. Some even have lighting at the back to make you more visible to other road users.
Of course, there’s no rule that you have to wear a commuting-specific helmet while riding through town – many cyclists are perfectly happy with a mountain bike or road helmet.