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The Essential Guide to Helmets – A helmet that works for you

By Jo 5 years agoNo Comments

When buying something we are generally overrun with choices and options. At times this is fantastic however often we are just confused and overwhelmed. What you need is to understand you as a rider and your needs and then the right bike helmet can be matched to you.

I remember my first helmet, the one size fits all that came with extra pieces of foam that I had to stick inside to try and get the helmet to fit snuggly on my head, which it didn’t, and it was only a matter of time before those sticky foam pads degraded and/or fell off.  Do you have a memory of a previous helmet? Bike helmets have come a long way since these first helmets in comfort, safety, style and  how they work. Lets have a look at what’s you need to consider so YOU can find your perfect Bike Helmet match.

To follow are things to consider so you can get a helmet that fits and works for you.

4 points – so you get the right Bike Helmet for YOU and the protection you need.

For the helmet to work it needs to fit your head size.

Sizes – often helmets come in different sizes, for example XS (Xtra small), S (Small), M (Medium), L (Large) and sometimes XL(Xtra large). Within each of these sizes there is a range of head circumference that fits that size.

YOU need to find out your head circumference. To measure your head circumference place a soft tape measure around your head 1 cm above your eyebrows and make sure the tape is level all the way around the head. Take the measurement in cm.

As sizes of bike helmets suit a range of head circumference the adjustable straps, the occipital fastner and some helmets also come with different thicknesses of foam pads to allow you to adjust the helmet to fit your head size.

A note for parents: By the age of 5-6 your child will have their adult head circumference though its shape may alter – the size and shape of the face will alter.  This is an average so your child may be different.

For the helmet to work it needs to be safe.

All bike helmets sold in New Zealand need to comply to a safety standard. So it doesn’t matter what the cost or style of the helmet, if it is sold in New Zealand it will comply to the minimum standard.

We think there is more to consider when it comes to safety

  • At goRide we believe one of the most important safety features to consider when purchasing is the shape of the bike helmet. We suggest a shape that gives you good head coverage and is smooth and round like your skull/head.

Read what the Helmet Safety Institute recommends:

  1. The more of the head that is covered by the helmet the better (consider the head as starting from the bump at the top of the back of the neck, around the top of the ears and to the top of the eyebrows. The rest really is your face).
  2. They prefer the more round smooth style helmet , basically round like your head. No protrusions. Being round with no protrusions it will slide better along a surface, reducing the peak forces with sudden stopping and isolated points of impact from protruding shapes also reducing the risk of snagging. All factors that  may result in a head and/or neck injury.

Other considerations for safety is the reflective capacity of the Helmet. A bright colour and reflective strips can help to make YOU more visible. Helmets are now availbale in some fun funky colours and help you to be seen.

For a helmet to work it needs to be worn. The helmet needs to be comfortable on your head and you need to feel comfortable wearing it.

  • Friction points – are there any friction points?  Do you feel points or areas of rubbing or tension? If you have the correct sized helmet it is more than likely to be an adjustment issue. You do need to invest a bit of time when you first get your Helmet making the necessary adjustments so it is comfortable and will stay on and over your head in an impact. See How are you wearing your helmet.
  • Weight – this can be particularly important to consider if the helmet is for a child. However most helmets today are generally reasonably lightweight. The harder shell skate style helmets are little heavier.
  • Ventilation – does the helmet have good ventilation or do you get hot and sweaty under there. The foam liner is an insulator, so it will get hot under there unless there are some holes to allow air flow. You will get better air flow from holes located at the front of the helmet. Some ventilation holes will have mesh over them called bug nets to keep those bugs out. Holes reduce the strength of the helmet but manufacturers work to overcome this and ensure that it will meet the required standards
  • Visors – Visors are designed to help protect you from the sun and rain. Though they are a protrusion to out round helmet, so removable visors are advised.
  • Colour and Graphics on the Helmet – This is really all about looks, but bonding with your helmet is important. In fact the introduction of skate style helmets into the riding world was not targeted at better performance but that it provided a wonderful base for graphics and a helmet with personality.  Choose a helmet that you will enjoy and stand out in -a colour and graphis that reflect you.

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For the Helmet to work consider a helmet style that suits the type of rider you are.

Though functionally not as important as with other riding accessories like your bike seat there are helmets designed for different types of riding.

  • Town riders choose a street style town rider helmet or a recreational helmet. Street style helmets are fun and funky, they are a little heavier and have less ventilation but generally this type of riding is less intense and you are not on the bike for long periods so – it works. Or choose a recreational style helmet- if you are not so keen on a street style or prefer a slightly lighter weight helmet with more ventilation.
  • Fitness/Bike path riders choose a recreational style helmet. A lightweight round helmet with good head coverage and ventilation
  • Mountain Biker choose a mountain bike style helmet – A higher performance helmet, lightweight, good head coverage and ventilation
  • Road. The traditonal road helmet is an elongated helmet. This is the original style of helmet made for riding on the road. It has a elongated shape. This shape goes away from our desired round helmet so unless you have a pressing need for an aerodynamically designed helmet for speed then stick with round. Choose either the recreational helmet or all-rounder helmet depending on your preferred level of performance.

In the market you will also find multi-sport helmets (most commonly for kids) – a helmet that can be used for different sports.  All of the principles outlined remain but it may be worth considering if you need a helmet for multiple uses. However give consideration to the fact that the materials used in different helmets are designed for the specific type of impacts sustained in that sport. Hence it is difficult for one helmet to be as effective over the different type of impacts in different sports

You have done the work and have a helmet that works for you. However for that helmet to work it needs to be adjusted correctly. Adjusting your helmet to fit your head is VERY IMPORTANT so it will stay on and over your head in an impact See How are you wearing your helmet? for more information 

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Thanks for reading. Used together our stories, resources & products support you to achieve and develop as a rider.

Related Resources:

How to size & fit a bike helmet

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