Bike Helmet Guide
Why use a bike helmet?
No matter how good a cyclist you may be, your chances of being caught up in an accident (whether by yourself or involved with someone else) always exist. The most important part of your body that requires protection is your head, so every cyclist should invest time and money in purchasing a good-quality cycling helmet. Helmets, which are also known as ‘lids’, should fit securely and comfortably on your head – you shouldn’t really even be aware you’re wearing one during a ride. Cycle helmets aren’t yet a requirement legally in the UK, though most riders are sensible enough to wear them anyway.
How do they work?
Helmets are generally composed of two primary parts. First, an expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam lining helps absorb shock upon impact during an accident; secondly, a hard outer shell helps protect the EPS liner from becoming damaged. Certain helps feature an ‘in-moulded’ design which combines the inner and outer shell, making the overall helmet tougher and prolongs its lifespan. A number of helmet brands now also feature a MIPS Brain Protection System (Multi-Directional Protection System), which divides the shell and the EPS liner using a low-friction layer.
When choosing a cycling helmet, you should give some consideration to the following:
Cycling helmets are normally assessed in terms of their shock absorption, construction, field of vision, retention system and chin strap quality, all of which must collectively meet or outperform Europe’s EN 1078 helmet safety standard. The majority of cycling helmets are ‘single impact’ lids that will need to be replaced after a collision has occurred, or even if the helmet receives a forceful blow, because the EPS core simply isn’t as strong afterwards and could lead to increased chances of head injury occurring. It’s recommended that you replace your helmet every few years, regardless of whether or not you’ve experienced a collision.
The ideal cycling helmet will fit comfortably on your head and protect the most important part of your body from injury. It’s vital that your helmet fits correctly – too big and it could slip off or out of position, too small and it could cause head injury on its own. Helmet sizes can be adjusted easily using the retention system, which allows you to alter the inside fit of the helmet simply by turning a dial. Take time to carefully research and try on a number of different helmets until you’re confident you’ve found one that fits you properly.
Every helmet has a layer of padding around the inside to make it feel comfortable on your head. This padding helps keep sweat off your face when cycling and makes your head feel cooler and drier, which is a major bonus on a hot day. It can normally be removed if required, and many helmet brands come with additional padding to help you find the ideal thickness to suit your head.
Speaking of keeping cool, helmets also typically feature ventilation systems to allow head to escape from around your head and keep you cooler during a cycle. Some helmets have more vents than others but are generally considered to be less-protective as a result. Choose a helmet with the appropriate amount of ventilation for your usage.
Some helmets weigh more than others, so take time to consider a number of different brands and models before making that all-important purchase. The lighter your helmet is, the less weight you’ll have to deal with when riding – it may not sound like much, but a few grams less on your head can make all the difference overall.
How to choose the helmet that’s right for youWhen choosing a helmet, take all of the above into account, but don’t forget that it’s really all down to your own personal preference and the kind of cycling you’re likely to be doing most often. If you’re an avid mountain-biker, you may want to focus more on strength and durability rather than weight and ventilation; if you’re planning on doing a lot of road cycling, you’re likely to be more concerned about temperature, sweat and keeping your overall weight to a minimum. And at the end of the day, everything depends on your budget, so research carefully and invest wisely.