How to Choose Your Bicycle Helmet

One of the main concerns for any cyclist is safety, having the right kit is a must. The days of large mushroom shaped helmets are long gone, with a variety of stylish and lightweight designs on the market. But with so many styles and sizes, choosing the correct bike helmet can seem like a bit of a puzzle.

So here we have put together a simple guide to help with the process.

Types of helmet

We consider there to be 4 main types of cycle helmets, which also have a number of design variations within each type.

  • General Use (Commuting, Mountain Bike, Road Bike, BMX, and Universal Fit) General use helmets are usually about £20-£40 and can be used for many different sports. Many of these can be a universal size, with adjustability to fit.
  • Mountain Bike (Cross Country, Downhill, All Mountain) Offering extra protection for the more aggressive cycling mountain bike helmets usually come with a visor and slightly thicker than other helmets. For the more extreme disciplines you will find full face helmets which come with an extended face guard, similar to motor bike helmets. These can range between from £30-£200.
  • Road Bike (Racing, Track, Triathlon) Generally a more aerodynamic style, road bike helmets are lighter and less bulk with more ventilation. These can range from £40-£200.
  • BMX (Dirt Jump, Street, Skate) The style of a BMX helmets is the same across Dirt Jump, Street and Skateboarding, with a more classic ‘bowl’ design with less ventilation. Ranging between £20-£50.

Helmet Sizes

Manufacturers can show different sizing guidelines, but the majority should always have the actual size in centimeters (cm). Some companies may show Small (51-55cm), Medium (56-60cm), Large (61-64cm) where others will show Small/Medium (49-58cm), Large/XL (58-62cm) and other will simply have a one size fits all label, giving more adjustability.

With most helmets offering adjustable straps and rear adjustment assemblies, the right fit can be achieved. But before choosing you will need to know your helmet size.

How to measure yourself

Making sure you have the correct size is very important; a poor fitting helmet can be uncomfortable and unsafe. Once you know the size you need you can search for the perfect helmet.

A tailor measuring tape (fabric tape) is perfect, if not, you can use a piece of string and a ruler. Take the tape or string and wrap it around your head horizontally, with the start and end point being at the centre of your forehead. The tape or string should run parallel across the head, just above the ears. The tape (or string against the ruler) will indicate what your helmet size is.

Men’s, Women’s and Children’s specific helmets can be difference sizes and colours. For example a Ladies Medium will be smaller than a Men’s/Unisex Medium.

Parts of a bike helmet

  • The Shell – The shell is the actual helmet itself which is usually made from EPS (expanded polystyrene) which is designed to protect the head from injury. All cycling helmets have ventilation to help regulate body temperature during exercise.
  • The Visor – Usually only found on mountain bike helmets the visor can sometimes add extra protection against front impacts, sunlight and rain. The visor can sometimes be removed if desired.
  • The Straps – The nylon straps can be adjusted to fit comfortably under the chin and should feel snug when your mouth is open. Some bicycle helmets come with additional adjustment assemblies at the rear to add comfort and security.
  • The Liner – All helmets come with a sponge-fabric liner for comfort. Some also use the liner as a size aid, for example BMX helmets can come as one-size, with optional liner kits to change the helmets size.

The Law

Helmets sold in many countries including the UK + US have a helmet safety certification that needs to be met. This ensures the helmet is safe to use.

Cyclists are not required by law to wear a helmet in the UK but are in some parts of the world. Wearing a helmet is strongly recommended and also a requirement for races and competitions.

Fitting your helmet

Full face and BMX helmets come with a single strap that clips under the chin. When the helmet is in the correct position on the head, the straps can be adjusted so that they are snug across the side of the head and under the chin. As a guide, only one or two fingers should be able to fit in under the strap.

As well as this strap, most Road, Mountain and General Use helmets come with a dial system at the back of the helmet that can be adjusted to add extra comfort and support at the lower back of the head.

Once the straps are done up to fit, you can shake your head a little to make sure the helmet is secure. The cycle helmet should move with the head and feel fitted without any discomfort.