Helmets are an important part of cycling, in part because you legally have to wear one, but mostly because they can save your life in an unfortunate tumble. There are plenty of things to think about when you’re picking up a helmet.
When to replace your old helmet?
In case of shock
It is vital to replace your helmet after any kind of impact. Helmets are designed to protect the head from one impact and one only. If you fall, even if the helmet doesn’t seem damaged, it can be weakened and cracked in non-visible areas. Wearing a helmet which has already received an impact can be very dangerous, as it will not protect you if struck for a second time.
If you find any damage on your helmet, such as small cracks or loosening straps, it is crucial to replace your helmet. Only a helmet in good condition will actually protect you.
After few years
Depending on your discipline and how often you use your helmet, it is advisable to replace your helmet if it is old. Even if it is in good visible condition, you must replace your helmet after five years. A helmet that is too old may have some parts or components that have been damaged by humidity or cold, even if this is not visible.
You start a new discipline
If you start a new cycling discipline, you will need a helmet to meet your new needs. BMXing, freeriding and road cycling, for instance, each require different types of helmet.
Or you just feel like having a new helmet!
More ventilated, lighter, a different design… You can have many reasons for wanting a new helmet!
What size do you need?
Bike helmet sizes
Helmet size is written in the following way: “53-56cm”. This indicates the minimum and maximum head circumference that the helmet is designed for. To find out your size, use a flexible tape measure, placing it horizontally on your forehead and all around your head.
Hybrid and touring bike helmets
These helmets are usually quite round and designed with many ventilation points. Make sure you can wash the entire helmet, or at least the inner part which should be in detachable foam. Check too that it conforms to product quality standards.
Road bike helmets
Once you are sure of the size you need, you just need to check some details: ventilation points, how the helmet can be washed, whether it meets quality standards, and maybe the helmet’s weight if you’re looking for lightweight helmets. Usually, road helmets are as light as possible, so the main difference between helmets is the design.
Touring or hybrid bike helmets
These helmets are similar to city or road bike helmets. They have many ventilation points, meet quality standards, and are relatively light. Touring bike helmets may have a visor to protect you from the rain, the sun, or flying mud.
If you jump, go downhill or ride in the mountains you will need very good protection, whether you are a beginner or an expert. A full-face helmet (motocross-style, but lighter) is ideal for this, as it protects the whole head, including the jaw. Falls in this discipline can be violent and very dangerous, so a helmet is crucial.
Two types of helmets are available: full-face helmets that protect the whole head, and bowl-type helmets. Although the full-ace helmet gives better protection, it can be cumbersome and heavy. It is usually used for BMX races, when other variations of the sport use bowl-shape helmets.
How to wear a helmet properly
The helmet must enfold the entire head, leaving no gaps between head and helmet. The helmet must be straight on the head and cover the top of the forehead (sitting a few centimetres above the eyebrows) and the back of the head. In the event of an impact, only the helmet should touch the ground.
The strap needs to be tight enough not to slip off the chin, but loose enough for you to turn your head easily. To ensure the helmet is well fitted, move your head from right to left and from top to bottom: neither the helmet nor the strap should inhibit you.
Definitely do not:
Wear your helmet without fastening the strap
If you don’t fasten your helmet, it will be absolutely useless, and could be even more dangerous than wearing nothing. If you fall, your head won’t be protected at all.
Cycle without a helmet
Even if wearing a helmet were not mandatory, it is strongly advisable. A fall or a collision, no matter what your discipline or level, can happen at any moment. The helmet is a key piece of safety equipment which can prevent severe injury and even save your life. Wherever and whenever you ride, always wear your helmet!
Wear a helmet which is too big or set incorrectly
A helmet which is too big is useless. If you take a knock, the impact will not be distributed across the whole helmet and will be very painful. If the helmet is wrongly fastened, this can be highly dangerous, as it may strangle or badly injure the person who wears it.
Use a helmet designed for cycling for a different sport
A bike helmet is designed exclusively for cycling. It is forbidden to use it for motorsports. The same applies to BMX and Freeride helmets.