The importance of wearing a helmet when you’re riding a bike cannot be overstated. They protect your head and face in case of an accident. Despite the apparent importance of wearing helmets, many bikers still choose to ignore this safety precaution.
According to the National Safety Council, wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head injury by 50%. That’s truly a significant amount. However, a helmet has to be the right one for your needs. For many people, modern cycling is more than just a sport or a leisure activity; it is a lifestyle. Cycling is broadly divided into mountain biking and commuter (road) cycling. Each of the cycling disciplines has different safety concerns and requires specialized helmets. It’s also important to fit a helmet perfectly to your head.
Bike Helmet Materials
Bicycle helmets are made of hard exterior for protection and a softer inner liner to cushion your head. Together, the two-layer design helps absorb impact and prevent nasty head injuries. To achieve this delicate balance, the layers have to be made of the right materials.
- Shells - The shell is arguably the most crucial part of the helmet. It should be hard enough to protect your skull should you crash. High-end helmet shells are usually made of high-quality plastics, such as polycarbonates. Through advanced techniques, different shells can be layered for additional protection. BMX helmets are typically made of harder materials like fiberglass, carbon fiber, or Kevlar.
- Liners - The helmet liner is the part responsible for distributing the energy on impact. The most common energy management lining material used today is foam. There are different grades of foam. While some are stiff, others are soft and squishy. Good helmets are made from foams of varying densities. The perfect helmet liner should be thick enough to minimize the impact. Modern helmets are made of rate-sensitive foams that stiffen on impact.
How to Choose a Bike Helmet
Helmets come in all sizes, colors, and shapes; finding the right helmets among the different designs in the market can be challenging. Everyone is entitled to choose a helmet color and design depending on their personal preferences. However, a functional helmet should meet specific criteria, including.
- Fitting - A helmet that does not fit your head is of no use. A loose-fitting helmet can aggravate head injuries. The easiest way to ensure the helmet you are about to buy fits is by measuring your head's circumference. This can be done by standing in front of a mirror, taking measurements around the head above the eyebrow. Alternatively, you can try them and adjust the straps. By shaking your head or nodding, you can tell if the helmet fits or not.
- Comfort - A bicycle helmet should be comfortable to avoid putting strains on the neck. The comfort of a helmet is determined by various features such as weight, padding, and ventilation.
- Weight - A heavy helmet will wobble while someone is riding. This can cause neck injuries if the person falls off the bike. Fortunately, this is no longer an issue with modern helmets.
- Padding - The interior of the helmet should be soft and snuggly even when strapped firmly. A softer inner lining provides better protection during a fall.
- Ventilation - While the inner foam is vital for protection, it can trap a lot of heat from the head. A great helmet should have an air vent to allow the circulation of fresh air while you are riding.
- Reflectivity - A helmet is supposed to do more than protect the head. It should be reflective enough so that other road users can see it. A reflective helmet comes in handy for those who ride bicycles in busy city streets. Consider getting a white helmet for maximum reflection. Alternatively, you can opt for any brightly colored helmet that reflects well in the dark.
Best Bike Helmets
Bicycle helmets have come a long way since they were invented in the 70s. They have gotten more durable, lighter, sleeker, and better ventilated. The Multi-directional impact system (MIPS) is the latest technology in helmet safety. This technology allows the head to move freely within the helmet, minimizing harmful rotational forces. Here are some of the best bike helmets you should consider buying by category.
Best for Mountain Biking
The visor is an important feature that sets mountain biking helmets apart from the rest. It provides protection from sun rays, dust, and mud that are encountered in mountain trails. They also have a lower back for additional protection. Here are good examples.
- Bontrager Rally MIPS
- Giro Tyrant MIPS SP
- Giro Chronicle MIPS
Best for Road Cycling
Biking in open roads often requires going at a higher speed compared to MTB. Thus, road cycling helmets are more aerodynamic and have better ventilation systems than helmets used for mountain trails. Below are good examples to check out.
- Bontrager Ballista MIPS
- Bell Z20 MIPS
- Bontrager Specter WaveCel