Helmet buying guide
Who would have thought you needed a guide to buying a helmet. Well, every discipline has different requirements from a helmet which is why you don’t generally use the same helmet for all types of riding. However, you may find that you do a few different disciplines and don’t really want to buy five different helmets. There are some helmets in which you can cross use so you don’t have to have a special room in the house just to accommodate all your helmets!
How do I know if I need a new helmet?
It is advisable to renew your helmet every five years, even if you have not crashed. New technology and new standards are constantly changing meaning your helmet may not meet EU standards. Or you may not be benefiting from the latest technology. Simply using your helmet over this period of time can lead to deterioration of the materials. If you have crashed your bike and hit your head and can't see any damage it should be checked out by a professional person. If the helmet has a clear dent or crack in it then change it immediately.
How do I know what size helmet I need?
Most road and MTB helmets are adjustable to get the perfect fit and come in just two sizes. Small and large. Others may come in small, medium, or large. If you measure the circumference of your head approx two fingers above your eyebrows to determine which size helmet you may need. Some helmets come in slightly different shapes and are hard to identify without trying the helmet on.
How should my helmet fit?
Your helmet should fit your head so that you can not get a finger inside the cradle of the helmet. The cage that sits around your head should be snug, not too tight that it gives you a headache or leaves a red mark but tight enough that it does not move around on your head. The helmet should sit just above your eyebrows, square, and the straps should sit neatly around the ears making a V shape. If the straps cover the ears or dig in then they are easily adjusted with the adjustment clasps on the helmet. You should not be able to push or pull the helmet off your head easily and should feel a little tight.
Types of helmets
XC helmets – An XC helmet is lightweight, breathable and stylish with a peak to help with keeping trees and sunlight out of your eyes. The peak is to try and protect your face from foliage as you are speeding through the single track. All XC helmets are adjustable to suit the size and shape of your head. A mountain bike helmet is compulsory at most trail centres and races. A mountain bike helmet may feature built in rear lights and reflective strips or colours on them.
Time trial helmet - The time trial helmet is built to maximise aerodynamics. The helmet is a different shape than most other bike helmets. There are little ventilator vents on the helmet to reduce drag. They also often have built in visors to improve the aerodynamics even further. These type of helmets are also used on the track for the same reasons. These are the most aerodynamic helmets you can buy. Road race helmet – road race helmets are often somewhere between a road helmet and a time trial helmet. They are aerodynamic whilst being breathable and lightweight and stylish. They will have fewer vents than a standard road helmet and are a slightly different shape to help with wind friction. They are adjustable with a variety of different features and are comfortable and stylish.
General helmet – These are a very common helmet used by many cyclists if riding on the road, either training or for leisure. These helmets are very versatile as they can be used on the road, racing, for xc riding and leisure. They are lightweight, adjustable and breathable. These helmets may come with additional feature like earphone holders, built in lights and reflective strips to help with visibility at night. It is advised to only wear one earphone so you can hear the traffic easily.
Freestyle helmets - They are solid outer shells that are not adjustable and are bought in the size that you need. They are stylish and protective. A lot of riders may personalise their own helmets as the base colour is often a solid colour.
BMX helmets – These are not adjustable. They are stylish and have no peak. They are often solid in colour or have cool graphics on them. Some BMX helmets come with protective ear pads an and earphone speakers built in.
Downhill or 4X helmets – Downhill helmets are designed to cover the whole face to give maximum protection to the head and face. They come in the size you need and are not adjustable. They are often worn with goggle to protect the eyes from severe conditions. They are compulsory on downhill tracks and races.