Falling off a bike is never preferable for any cyclist, but it's always a possibility no matter what type of bike you are riding. Research tells us that nearly 75% of annual cycling fatalities are a result of head injuries. It goes without saying therefore, that a helmet is one of the most essential cycle accessories you can buy, to ensure that your head is protected from tarmac, rocks or anything else it may encounter when you fall off your bike. These days' helmets are meticulously designed to offer the best possible protection and comfort ,a far-cry from the comedic polystyrene lumps of the past. There are many different varieties of helmets, each designed for their own specific purpose, so before you do some downhill riding in a new TT helmet it's worth taking a quick look at the guide below. If you're still unconvinced, check out this video below that should persuade you of the uses of helmets!
- As with everything in the modern world, all helmets are required to meet a basic standard of safety no matter what type of riding you are partaking in. In Britain this number is BS EN 1078 (EN 1078 are specific requirements and methods of testing for bicycle helmets, skateboard and roller skate helmets) and is accompanied by a kite mark that tells you that the helmet has been tested and approved by the experts. Standards can vary between countries and continents, helmets in the USA must be CPSC approved whilst those in Europe require the CE sticker.
- A good helmet will balance ventilation, safety and comfort. Recently there has been a huge focus from designers in increasing the comfort of helmet products. Ventilation is a key factor in this. All helmets have vents, but those with more vents will keep you cooler. A very simple aspect that makes a massive difference to your comfort. Most helmets will also contain interior padding to protect your head from pressing on the shell of the helmet. These pads are often removable and washable to get rid of sweat after a hard days riding.
- All helmets have a fastening system that utilises straps under the chin to hold the helmet to your head. Some helmets also have fitting systems at the back that are designed to ensure the helmet is accurately set to the circumference of your head. (Using a tape measure to measure approximately 2.5cm above your eyebrows and the circumference of your head will give you your head size for a helmet. A properly fitted helmet will reach about halfway down your forehead and will cover a good proportion of the back of your head. The more it covers the better protection it offers.)
- Helmets don't last forever; they decrease in strength and subsequently their level of protection over time. This can obviously be due to serious crash damage that significantly reduces the protection the helmet offers you. Ultra violet light will also cause the helmet to degrade over time. You should look to replace a helmet every 3 years, even if they haven't been damaged, in order to maintain a consistently high level of safety in the event of an accident.
- Reasonable ventilation but more focus on strength/protection
- Strong and durable
Kids have a dangerous combination of no spacial awareness and no fear. Both of these reasons are enough to justify the need for a helmet for your fast pedalling, speed demon children. Kid's helmets come in a variety of designs that make them more accessible and desirable whilst offering full back of head protection with a flat rear to ensure the head is not forced forward when riding in a child seat, ensuring both comfort and safety. Kids helmets vary in price depending on make, model and design but rarely cost in excess of £29 for a high end model.
- Ideally for road riding and commuting
- Designed to be light, higher end models of this type will be the lightest helmets available on the market.
- Very good ventilation. Some models claim to be cooler than not wearing a helmet at all.
- Good strength but will need replacing after saving your head once, durability is sacrificed for a lightweight and efficient structure.
Your standard road biking helmet is the most commonly used helmet model, offering the necessary protection for basic road riding and commuting. As the price range increases other aspects begin to be taken into consideration. Any roadie will tell you that weight is imperative to a good road cycling helmet and the more you pay will reduce the amount of grams you carry on your head. Carbon fibre road helmets add extra strength to the helmet without compromising weight and therefore is the choice of many looking toward the higher end of the road helmet spectrum. Road helmets are typically characterised by their lack of front visor and their levels of ventilation. Road helmets are designed to keep you cool as speed along the tarmac and expensive helmets of this type incorporate ventilation systems that channel air over your head as you ride by using large and wide vents that increase air flow efficiency. Aero road helmets are the new breed of road helmets and offer a combination of characteristics from vented road helmets and time trial helmets. These helmets epitomise the lightweight, flexible and compact aspects of a road helmet whilst delivering aerodynamic advantages of a racing and competition helmet. Although road helmets offer adequate protection in collisions, after such an event it will most likely see you seeking a replacement. In terms of fit, special fastening systems change and develop as you move up the price range, becoming lighter and offering more room for adjustment with regards to circumference fit. Your typical road helmet is likely to set you back £50-£70 whilst high end versions will be around £150-£200 but the advantages their lightweight and flexible nature give you more than justifies the investment.
Off-road helmets (MTB helmets)
- Ideally for cross country mountain biking, Single-track or trail riding
- Reasonably lightweight but focuses on durability
- Good ventilation but again reduced slightly to increase durability
- Stronger than a standard road helmet, lighter and more expensive models will save you in a collision but are likely to need replacing afterwards.
Falling off your bike whilst riding off road provides more hazards than falling off on the road where you're likely to land on flat tarmac, which whilst still painful, requires a slightly less durable helmet. This is because when you fall off your bike off road, and chances are you probably will, then you're likely to come into contact with obstacles such as tree stumps, branches, roots, sharp rocks and rails - things you'd hope to not encounter whilst riding on the road (if you do speak to your local MP). Because of this MTB helmets give more cover than road helmets by having smaller vents and more cover on the back of the head, offering more protection in the eventuality of an off road accident. A visor is an indication of a helmet designed for this cycle discipline and is used to deflect branches and leaves from your face as you travel through the bushes on the MTB trails. As weight isn't as important to off road riders, durability is increased in this variety of helmet. This means that they can take a few knocks and bumps and still provide consistent protection. High end off road helmets look very similar to road helmets as they are more specifically focused on performance. Some manufacturers provide high quality road helmets with an attachable visor as a high performance off road helmet. Specialized is a brand that produces many of these double purpose helmets for both off and on road cycling. Helmets for this purpose are likely to mirror the price of road helmets due to them being similar in design and demand.
- Ideally for all mountain, downhill and gravity riding
- Heaviest cycle helmet variety on the market- high end carbon fibre models weigh less
- Poor ventilation but strength a far bigger concern
- Very strong and durable
These helmets are designed for the extreme off road rider that engage in downhill riding and BMX racing or other cycling disciplines of that mould. If you're moving at high speed through varying terrain off road then this is the helmet type for you. The helmet is designed to fully enclose your head, giving protection from every angle in the event that you should go flying through the air after an ill-fated meeting with a loose rock or stump when travelling at high speed downhill. Ventilation is of course adversely affected due to the shell design and increased strength that allow the structure to survive big impacts. Expensive helmets in this category include wicking pads that remove sweat from the face and quick release cheek pads that can be removed from inside whilst the helmet is still being worn to enable safer removal after an accident. The prices of these helmets range from £75 for the basic models to up to £400 for the very high end and professional versions.
- Ideally for going fast on the road
- Very lightweight
- Ventilation is not as good as a road helmet but you will not be riding for as long
- Adequate strength but will need replacing after collision
Click this link to see our range of Cask triathlon helmets
TT/Triathlon helmets are designed to be the most aerodynamic and efficient helmets on the market. Their sole design purpose is for speed, whilst protecting you in case of an accident when you're bombing along the road. Their shape helps to guide air around the head and down the back of the rider to enable both rider and bike to cut through the air smoothly and quickly using the least amount of energy as possible. The majority of time trial/triathlon rides are comparatively short to other riding disciplines and therefore ventilation is reduced and sacrificed in favour of a smooth surface for the air to move over. High end and expensive models may include visors to further increase aerodynamics and increase ventilation levels through more advanced technology.
- Ideally for riding/skating in the skate park, urban riding, jump biking
- Very strong
- Reasonable ventilation - emphasis on strength
Due to the high level of practice required to become Matt Hoffman standard , falling off is a regular occurrence in BMX riding. A botched trick or bad landing can see you hurtling towards the ground and therefore helmets for this discipline are designed to be able to take impacts and knocks whilst continuing to offer significant head protection. Some helmets will have differing sized interior pads to improve fit and comfort.
So as you can see, there are helmets for every discipline of cycling, each with their own individual traits and features. The majority of helmets these days rarely exceed 300 grams and are comparatively inexpensive to the advantages in terms of protection and security they provide. When choosing a helmet it's vital to check suitability and fit. You want to look the part as well so ensure that you try on as many different makes and models as possible. Helmets can vary in shape from oval to round and some manufacturers have their own specific design method. If you can come and see us here at Rutland Water Cycling, a specialist bike shop to get your helmet fitted then great, alternatively use the helmet sizing guide below.