Bike Helmet Guide
Without a doubt, a good quality bike helmet is one of the most important accessories you can buy when it comes to your safety and while it's not against the law to ride without one in the UK, here at Rutland Cycling we thoroughly recommend you wear one. In simple terms a helmet is designed to protect your head from injury in the unfortunate event that you fall off your bike, but there's a number of different aspects to consider when finding the best helmet for you. Here, you'll find all you need to know about the different types of bike helmet available.
How do I get the right size helmet?
For a helmet to do its job effectively, it needs to fit right and feel comfortable to wear. Most helmets will be sized in centimetres with a range of sizes that they'll fit, so you'll need to find the most appropriate size for you and then adjust the helmet to fit. To do this, take a tape measure and measure the circumference of your head, about 1 inch above your eyebrows. Make sure the tape measure if a close fit, and re-measure just to make sure.
Different manufacturers often make helmets with different shapes so you may find that one brand of helmet fits you better than another brand. If you're unsure, it's always worth heading to your nearest store to try on a few different options or check out our helmet sizing guide for top manufacturers. A well-fitting helmet should be a snug, but not tight, fit with no pressure points around the edges, and sit low on your forehead and level above your eyebrows with the retention system snug to the back of your head. Most helmets will come with spare pads to allow some adjustment, and you should also check that the straps sit comfortably, with the upper straps forming a Y-shape just below your ears.
What helmet is right for me?
Road bike helmets
Helmets designed specifically for road cycling are usually lighter weight with plenty of ventilation to allow good airflow to your head and keep you cool when you're pushing the pace. At the very top end you'll find helmets which are optimised for better aerodynamics and - if you're into time trialling - long-tailed teardrop-shaped helmets for absolute speed. You should be able to find a good quality road helmet to meet most budgets, and road helmets can be used for all but the most extreme cycling disciplines.
Mountain bike helmets
Mountain bike helmets offer more protection than road helmets with extra coverage to meet the demands of riding off-road. They can be slightly thicker than road helmets but are still lightweight with good ventilation for slogging it out on the trails. Most will also come with a removable visor to protect against glare and debris. There's a few options for mountain bike helmets depending on your preferred style of riding - an XC helmet will be more lightweight and ventilated than a trail helmet, which will provide more protection. Full-face helmets offer complete protection to your chin and face, if you're riding is at the more extreme end of things.
Leisure & commuting helmets
For most casual cyclists a leisure helmet will provide all the protection you need. Available in a wide range of styles and colours, these helmets offer plenty of protection without the more specific features of dedicated road and mountain bike helmets. Many will come with reflective detailing and specific features to make them better suited to commuting, and they're likely to be a more stylish option for when you're riding in your normal clothes!
Female specific helmets are offered by a number of manufacturers. While any helmet could be considered unisex as long as it fits, women's helmets usually have a smaller internal circumference and will sometimes feature specifically designed retention system to allow a ponytail to pass through more comfortably.
Kids helmets come in all sorts of colours and designs to make them more appealing to your little loved ones and encourage them to wear them. Designed specifically for children, kids helmets are usually deeper than adult helmets to provide more protection at the back of the head. As with adult helmets you'll find vents, visors, and different styles to suit different children.
What else do I need to consider?
Most helmets are made in the same way, with an outer plastic shell bonded to an inner padded liner made from polystyrene which dissipates forces away from your head in the event of an impact. The inner and outer are typically bonded by a process known as in-mould construction which helps keep the helmet weight down and ensures that the shell is integral to the foam core. Helmets with a lot of exposed core can be easily damaged by accident.
All helmets have to conform to certain safety standards to ensure that they provide the correct level of protection in the event of a crash. Every helmet we sell meets the required European CE EN1078 safety standard.
MIPS, or Multi-directional Impact Protection System, is a new helmet technology which reduces the rotational force on the brain during impact. MIPS helmets look exactly the same as other helmets, but have a thin liner which moves minimally while allowing the outer helmet to redirect twisting forces. Helmets with MIPS technology will have a small yellow logo and usually cost a little more, but can be a worthwhile investment if you ride a lot.
Most modern helmets will have a rear cradle which can be adjusted to ensure the helmet fits securely and comfortably. The method of closure will vary with different brands and price points - often a ratchet dial or something similar - and some higher-price models will also have some form of height adjustment. As with most considerations, if you're unsure what works best for you it is worth heading to your nearest shop to try a few options.
Straps & padding
If your helmet fits correctly then you should only require minimal padding, usually from removable foam pads placed around the inside of the helmet. In most cases these attached with Velcro so can be easily removed and washed. Removing the pads regularly and washing them can keep your helmet fresh, as the pads can soak up a lot of sweat! You should also check that the pads of comfortable and easy to adjust to suit your head.
Helmets will tend to get lighter as the price increases, with the highest performance road helmets feeling featherweight to some entry level models. Before choosing the helmet for you, you should consider how the weight of your helmet could affect your riding - a particularly heavy helmet can be uncomfortable and create extra fatigue on very long rides.
Some brands are beginning to add small LED light to their helmets to increase visibility at night which can be particularly useful for commuting.
Care & replacement
Your helmet should need relatively little care, besides occasionally washing the pads and, should it need washing, just use warm soapy water. If you are unfortunate enough to have an accident, or drop your helmet, you should replace it even if it looks fine, as the effectiveness of the helmets inner liner may be compromised. Many manufacturers offer crash replacement schemes, should your helmet be damaged, and our Customer Service team can advise if this is the case. Helmets can also weaken over time, and so you should look to replace your helmet every five years.
As each manufacturer has a slightly different range of head sizes for each of the labels 'small', 'medium' 'large' (and many others), we've put together a handy guide to help you ensure the helmet you want is a great fit.