How to Pick A Helmet (That You’ll Actually Wear)

Welcome to one of my favorite things to talk about! How to pick a helmet that fits, is safe, looks good and doesn’t break the bank!

As a neurologist, I am all about wanting to protect that beautiful brain of yours, and a helmet is the first place to start when it comes to bike commuting. 

Helmets don’t have to be ugly, uncomfortable contraptions that mess up your hair. Read on for all the information you need to pick the right helmet for you!


Pick A Helmet Size 

A good fit is crucial when picking your bike helmet because a poor fit can actually compromise your helmet’s effectiveness in a crash or fall. Furthermore, you’ll be wearing it for an extended amount of time every day, so it better fit well! 

Start by measuring your head circumference. You should measure the largest portion of your head approximately an inch above your eyebrows

All helmet brands have slightly different sizing, so measure and go with the size that specific brand suggests. 

  • If you find that you’re between sizes, go with the smaller size and adjust accordingly (a more snug fit is better than a looser fit). Sometimes helmets will come with extra padding that allows you to improve the fit. Some helmets come with an adjustment wheel that you can twist for a better fit. If that does not work, try a different helmet brand or model. Some adults with smaller heads can also try kid sizes. 
  • A good-fitting helmet should be snug but not annoyingly tight. It should sit level on your head (not tilted back) with the front edge one inch or less above your eyebrows so that your forehead is protected. Push the helmet from side to side and back to front. If it shifts noticeably (one inch or more), you need to adjust the fit. Furthermore, when you open your mouth wide (REALLY WIDE) the helmet should press against the top of your head slightly

Pick A Helmet Shape

There are different bike helmets designed for different types of biking. Most of you are here because you’re interested in bike commuting or just starting out. However, that doesn’t mean you should only look at helmets designated for bike commuting!

All the helmet types have different characteristics that may make more sense for you and your bike commute, so here’s a roundup of the types and their main features. 

Helmet Types and Main Features

A white mountain bike helmet. Characterized by multiple vents and a visor

  • Extra coverage for all types of falls
  • Visor to protect from sun, glare, tree branches
  • Large vents for better ventilation at low speeds
  • Attachment points for lights or GoPros
  • Slightly heavy, bulkier

Red specialized road bike. Characterized by many vents

  • Light but durable 
  • Aerodynamic vents for better ventilation at high speeds
  • Expensive, no visor

  • Variety of shapes
  • Visor to protect from sun, glare, etc. (some models)
  • Large to medium vents for better ventilation at low speeds
  • Characterized as less sporty, stylish
  • Can fit a range of budgets

A black BMX helmet.

  • Simple shape, durable 
  • Extra padding and inserts
  • Large to medium vents for ventilation at low speeds 
  • Can fit a range of budgets

Safety

The physical barrier that helmets provide against your skull is only the beginning; helmet manufacturers take things a step further by adding additional safety factors you might read or see on the packaging. 

MIPS: this stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System and is a technology that many helmet brands use. It is essentially a layer inside the helmet that absorbs impact and can redirect rotational motion. The brain is very sensitive to rotational forces and MIPS technology can minimize this motion and reduce the risk of brain damage. 

MIPS are the most common type of technology you’ll find in helmets; however some brands have proprietary technology or names specific to their helmets. For example, POC helmets have SPIN (Shearing Pads INside) technology that is essentially MIPS with a different name. Bontrager helmets use a technology called WaveCel that uses a liner that looks like a honeycomb. The liner creates a “crumple zone” that can absorb both linear and rotational forces from an impact. 


$$$

Helmet prices can have such a wide range! From helmets that range from $30 to $300, it’s difficult to understand just by looking at two helmets what the difference in price could possibly be based upon. 

This post on Bike Exchange has a beautiful breakdown on what you can expect in a helmet depending on its price point/your budget; in addition to some excellent information on the science behind how helmets work to protect you. 


Style

Last but not least, pick the helmet that you think embodies your sense of style! You are more likely to wear your helmet if you think you look good in it! Plus if you take into consideration the tips above, your helmet will work with you and not against you. 

Helmets come in such a variety of different colors and shapes, I like to think of them as an outfit accessory. I’m personally a fan of commuter helmets because they have great ventilation, visors and that old-school shape. 


Drop a comment and let me know some of your favorite helmet brands! Check out all the Style posts for more accessory inspiration!

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