Bicycle Helmets Buying Guide

Whether you are a road demon or a fan of the path more traveled by, you should always wear a helmet. Why wear a helmet? Beside protecting your brain, helmets are required by law in nearly half of US states. These laws are there to protect you. Even though big fumbles can often be avoided by an experienced rider, motorists put bikers at a risk beyond their control. That's why you wear a helmet. Don't forget, wearing a helmet also helps set a good example, especially if you ride with children or have kids of your own. The bottom line is that there is no excuse not to wear a helmet since they are relatively inexpensive and comfort and style has improved greatly over the years. Also, if you're not sure about your size, or how to properly wear a helmet, there are a lot of free and local ways to get your family's helmets checked by either the police or the fire department, usually on weekend afternoons. Check with your local authorities, but it's that important.

Top Picks

The following models were rated well by Consumer Search. However, Bicycling had some different editor's picks: Bell Ghisallo ($100).

 Popular Helmets

Heavy Duty Quick Picks

These are made for riders who don't just use their bicycles for the road, and want a sportier, more rugged look when it comes to purchasing a helmet.  This works great for dirtbikes, skateboarding.

Fit and Sizing

The most important thing about a helmet is the way that it fits. Without a proper fit, a helmet is next to useless, for one because if it's not comfortable you won't want to put it on, and two, because if a helmet moves out of position upon impact it won't protect your head. Getting the proper fit is simple assuming that you get a chance to try on the helmet. When you put it on it should be flush against your head on all sides so as to not move more than an inch in any direction when you push or pull on it. Under no circumstances should the helmet be able to be pulled off. A quick test is to buckle the straps, and pull from back to front from the rear lip of the helmet. If it comes off, wrong size. If it moves forward into your eyes, shorten the straps and try again until you get the right fit. Do the same pushing to the rear. If your forehead shows, shorten the straps. You want the helmet to cover as much of the surface area on your head and be as low as one inch above the eyes in the front. Since it's not possible to virtually try on helmets, opt for those with adjustable padding so that you can get the most customized fit. It goes without saying that everyone's heads are different, so there is no sizing standard. '''Recommendations:''' * Round Heads: Selev Helmet * Extra Large Heads: Bell Kinghead * Long Haired Women: Serfas Rookie helmet * Babies: Etto Ettino

Safety Standards

Most helmets are given a seal of approval to authenticate its quality. Some certifications to look for are Snell and CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission). ANSI stickers are no longer acceptable. For skateboarding helmets, look for the ASTM certificate, and don't attempt using one of these helmets for bicycle riding unless it has the CPSC seal as well. The main reason for these safety standards is that bicycle helmets are meant to protect your head for one crash only. Once you have been involved in an accident, the helmet is no longer going to be of any use since the foam will have compressed upon impact. On the other hand, in skateboarding and inline skating, users fall more often and may take several hits to the head in a day. Their helmets are built to withstand multiple hits without compressing. This has to do with the foam, which is thinner and less protective on skate and skateboard helmets. Finally, this foam is meant to endure falls from shorter distances than the foam in bicycle helmets, thus making them unsuitable for biking.


Imagine getting hit by a car, falling off your bike, and hitting your head once or twice in the process. Ouch. As long as your helmet stays put, your noggin should be okay. Here are some features to check out for quality assurance. * '''Shell:''' The shell is usually made of a sturdy plastic material that acts as the first barrier against the pavement in the case of a fall. It should be able to slide without catching on the ground in any way. These days helmets often come with vents in them to help limit perspiration. However, vents mean that less of your head is protected. Really consider how much aeration you need to be comfortable and don't go overboard just because something looks cool. If you sweat profusely, consider a sweatband. Those who are bald, make sure to put sunscreen on parts of your head that will be exposed from the vents. * '''Foam:''' Highly shock absorbent foam lines the inner portion of the helmet to provide comfort as well as protection. The thicker it is, the better. Children and the elderly should have thicker padding. Those who have small heads can benefit from adding extra padding to get the proper fit. * '''Straps:''' Make sure that the straps and the fastener on the helmet you are buying are strong and stable. If you think that the fastener might unbuckle, you should probably try a different model. The straps should also be wide and comfortable. * '''Snags:''' Snags are basically any portion of the helmet that can cause you to snag yourself when falling. So-called aerodynamic models, square shapes, and even vents can cause problems when taking a fall.

Design and Style

There are a few different types of helmet styles to choose from, but with all of them, there are two things that have to do with safety that are important to keep in mind. * '''Color: ''' There are so many patterns and colors to choose from these days. Obviously, stylish looks are great to have since you will feel more confident while wearing your helmet. However, color is more important than you may think. You should also remember that you want something that's easy to see. White and other bright colors will stand out the most on a road or when it's dark. * '''Visors:''' One nice luxury on a helmet is to have a visor (except on road bikes where the hunched position restricts your field of view). Choose a detachable version for use on both road and mountain bikes. Keep in mind that it can be a safety hazard if you fall. In case you want to know about the different types of helmets, here are the basics. Note that categories aren't unique and that many hybrids exist so as to make helmets more versatile for different types of riding. * '''Sport:''' This is simply a name for your allpurpose bike helmet. It has a low price and is designed for the casual rider. * '''Mountain:''' If you are hitting the trails, you need something as rugged as your bike. That means that your helmet will be designed with a more stabilizing strap and a heavier construction. * '''Road:''' For road bikers concerned with speed and aerodynamics, road helmets are sleeker and have better designed vents. These also cost a bit more than the average helmet. The lightweight design makes them slightly more comfortable, which explains the higher price. * '''Womens:''' Ladies with ponytails that you want to sport out your helmet, womens' helmets with ponytail holes are the way to go. * '''Commuter:''' This is a term used for basic helmets that are designed to be more comfortable. Typically they are rounder, less aerodynamic, and lightweight. They usually cost more than budget models.

Kid's Helmets

Make sure though to let your child choose his or her own helmet; this way they will feel more compelled to wear it. If you can, make them choose something brightly colored so that they will stand out. Skate and Skateboard Helmets article. * Try the Consumer Search. * The CPSC recommends the Bell Boomerang for toddlers. * If your kids are into extreme sports and music, try one of these combination helmets: the "Old School" Perfect Armor BMX Helmet. One last note in regards to children's helmets: Make sure not to let them onto any playground equipment until they have removed their helmet since it can snag and lead to strangling or suffocation.

 Related Guides

 Related Products