Bike helmets today have become a symbol of performance and style, but the buying decision should be based on the safety it provides not just the looks. This article covers some important things to consider when buying a helmet and we will walk you through some of our suggestions.
For many people a cycling helmet is viewed as just another accessory or in the case of Australia a legal requirement when out on the road. Meaning it can be easy, particularly for new riders to miss the importance of the detail when buying. However considering the finer details is important as all helmets are not made equal. A quality helmet can be a life-saving purchase in an event of an incident.
A couple of things to consider when buying a Helmet
Helmets are available in different shapes and sizes, but not all sizes are the same across brands. That’s why it’s recommended to try helmets on down at your local shop before purchasing (the retention system of a helmet should let you fit two fingers between the chin and the strap when properly tightened), but if you do look to purchase online, then you will need to use your head circumference to determine your size.
Most helmets come with a second tightening mechanism at the back, which helps improves comfort, aids stability and ensures a snug fit. It’s worth keeping in mind though, that if the shape of the helmet shell does not conform to your head shape, this second tightening mechanism may not be of much use, size does matter.
A helmet should distribute pressure evenly across your head and there should be no pressure points in any specific area (which would indicate a wrong size/shaped helmet). To avoid this your best to try your helmet on before purchase. Another reason to head into your local shop. Comfort needs to be high on the list.
You may have additional requirements for your helmet, like long hair or glasses. Be mindful of these extra features when trying your new helmet on. Your helmet needs to be able to allow for pony tails or longer hair without affecting the way the helmet fits.
Types of Helmets
Helmets are not only available in different sizes and shapes, but are designed to suit a specific purpose. The main types of helmets include:
Extra coverage over the temporal and occipital areas, provide better ventilation at lower speeds. The first thing you’ll notice about mountain bike helmets is the front visor. Unlike road cycling, lighting conditions, sun and shadows can be tricky on the trails, the visor helps keep the sun light away and provides a little more protection from grit, rocks and dirt. Mountain bike crashes can happen in all directions and you will notice many mountain bike helmets are bulkier around the back and sides.
Recommended for BMX and downhill. This type of Cycling is known for being extreme, fast and furious. In concept the design is like a motor cycle helmet however is designed to be as light as they can along with providing adequate ventilation. Importantly they aim to provide full face protection, including the chin area.
Road bike helmets:
Front and side focused coverage, lightweight and durable. Their design is focused on providing plenty of comfort and ventilation through large air vents on hot days or when you’re doing a big effort. Besides ventilation, the high performance helmets have a focus on being lightweight.
Time Trial helmets:
All about aerodynamics and speed, feature extended tails for enhanced airflow. Commonly known as TT helmets, they’re designed specifically to be used during Time Trials and triathlons. You will see the pros wear them during the TT stages in the Grand Tours. The design is focused around providing maximum aerodynamics gain rather than ventilation.
Commuter helmets sit on the other end of the spectrum. Often referred to as urban or city helmets. Commuting is usually an easy to moderate effort, commuter helmets are very basic, have moderate ventilation and comes with different styles to suit a more casual clothing instead of lycra.
These helmets are generally similar to a commuter helmet but they come in smaller sizes to fit securely onto a child’s head. Remember the Australian standards here. Its important to not to get distracted by the assortment of colours, design and cartoon characters. They are designed to appeal to kids but they to must meet the AS requirements.
Tech = MIPS
MIPS stands for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System. A MIPS helmet is claimed to offer additional protection against rotational forces in a crash, by allowing two layers of the helmet to move independently.
The idea is that the outer layer moves when you hit your head, absorbing the rotational forces of the impact. MIPS was developed by the Karolinska Hospital and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, so it’s not proprietary to any one helmet maker. Helmet makers offering MIPS helmets include Giro, Scott, Bontrager, Giant, and Bell.
If you are considering buying a helmet online you need to make sure that the helmet is compliant to the Australian standard’s AS/NZS 2063:2008 standard.
Australia has very strict helmet standards (safety first right), not to mention the Australian laws. If you intend to compete in any events you can expect to be asked to show your helmets AS sticker before the event. This does mean you get a minimum safety standard, generally as the cost increases so does the comfort and features such as weight reduction or improved ventilation. The rule with helmets is spend as much as you can afford.
When should I replace my bicycle helmet?
I’m going to state the obvious but as soon as a helmet’s been involved in an impact, like an accident where you hit your head you really need to replace it. Its important to look after your helmet. A simple drop of your helmet from your handle bars while you stop for a coffee is enough to do damage to the helmet. The damage may not be evident but any solid blow can damage the helmets internal integrity.
Remember a helmet is designed as a one use piece of safety gear. If you do have an accident you need your helmet to work and lets face it nothing else you are wearing on the bike will be more important at that moment of impact than your helmet. They are only designed to take one solid impact!
A helmet only needs to work once to save your life – it does this and it has paid for itself many times over! Don’t skimp or wait to replace your helmet.
Our Top Picks for Bike Helmets
Available in a variety of attractive colors, the Echelon II is the most affordable of the bunch and is designed for road cycling enthusiasts looking for a modern helmet with enhanced ventilation. Price guide: RRP $99
- Sleek and modern design
- Compact profile
- Enhanced ventilation
- Ergonomic design
- Reflective decals
- Tri-fix web splitter makes it easier to adjust straps and enhances comfort
- Six height positions
- Micro-adjustable dial for easier adjustment
- MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) equipped and ANGi crash sensor ready
Foray is quite similar to the Echelon II in terms of features, but comes with a different design. It’s also MPIS-equipped and features a plush interior and streamlined design. Choosing between the two mainly comes down to personal and aesthetic preferences. Price guide: RRP $119
- 21 vents for enhanced ventilation
- In-mold construction for better durability
- Two-way fit adjustment
- ROC LOC 5 fit system makes it easier to make adjustments with one hand
- MIPS-equipped version also available
The lightweight helmet is designed for comfort and better ventilation and features a padding material that has been treated with antimicrobial and antibacterial processes. The helmet is a nice middle ground between affordable and high-end helmets and offers great value for the price. Price guide: RRP $249
- 24 vents for enhanced ventilation
- Lightweight and streamlined design
- Antimicrobial and antibacterial process treated internal padding
- In-mold construction
- Eco-leather chin-tip prevents skin irritation
A polycarbonate shell, excellent thermo-cooling performance and a lightweight design makes this helmet one of the best options in this price range. The 37 air vents along with quick-drying and breathable padding provides maximum cooling and is recommended for riders looking for an all-day wear helmet that’s lightweight and comfortable. Price guide: RRP $289
- 37 air vents
- Highly breathability
- Antimicrobial and antibacterial treated padding
- Eco-leather chip strip
- In-mold construction
- Polycarbonate shell
- Lightweight @ 180 grams (small size)
- Quick-drying padding (Resistex Carbon inner padding)
Featuring an aerodynamic design and enhanced ventilation, the helmet is designed to improve efficiency and comfort in races and road rides. The slim and streamlined profile comes with extra coverage (back) and MIPS, which provides extra assurance and redirects impact force. Price guide: RRP $399
- Aerodynamic profile
- 26 air vents
- Slim design, more coverage on the back
- Aero mesh panels
- Dedicated port for docking sunglasses
- 2-way fit tuning system
- Roc Loc 5 Air fir system
- In-mold construction
- Thermoformed SL Roll Cage for improved structural support
Our road bike recommendations, the Specialized Echelon II and Giro Foray MIPS are both great options in the price range and choosing between the two mainly comes down to aesthetic preferences.
Kask Mojito X offers great value for the money and is one of the best helmets in it’s price category. I personally use the Kask Mojito on my daily rides, I can highly recommend it for comfort and fit.
The Kask Valegro is a little pricier, but features such as high breathability, Ressitex Carbon inner padding and sunglass docking port justify the price tag. Racers and road riders looking to go that little but more in price won’t go wrong with Giro Synthe.
Find, Sell, Buy Anything Cycling
If you’re anything like us, you’re passionate about cycling. It’s the freedom of being on a bike, the burning feeling through your legs when you climb a steep hill, the feeling of accomplishment after a big ride and the competitiveness and camaraderie that makes the sport so enjoyable.
And then, of course, there’s all the gear! You’re on a constant hunt for the newest and latest equipment. Equipment that will make your ride feel lighter, faster and perhaps even a little cooler. That’s what we love about cycling (just as much as having that latte at the end of a ride). Bicycles, wheels, components, saddles, handlebars – it’s never-ending and so much fun.