Wearing a bicycle helmet cuts the chance of seriously hurting your head if you’re in a bike accident. But that same helmet might not provide good protection if you wear it while rock climbing or skating. Here’s how to pick a safe and comfortable helmet.
Get a helmet designed specifically for your sport. Don’t be distracted by the helmet’s style. What’s more important is if the helmet meets the proper protection standards. Just check for the sticker inside the helmet with the certification on it before buying.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) helmets come in different versions for different sports. The most common design uses a liner inside the helmet that offers more protection in a crash, potentially reducing brain trauma.
With a bicycling helmet, consider what and how you ride. Helmets for the road and cross-country mountain biking prioritize low weight and ventilation; trail and enduro models protect the back of your head; and downhill helmets add a chin bar.
When buying any helmet, take a look at the helmet’s design. The safest helmets are those that are rounded without any snag points sticking out that could hurt you during a fall.
Vents are good for keeping your head cool, but more vents equal less foam and, possibly, less protection. So pick a helmet with no more vents than you think you’ll need.
Finally, if you’ll be cycling or skating around traffic, choose a brightly colored helmet so you’ll be easier for drivers to see.
THE PROPER FIT
You should have a snug fit, but not so tight that it’s too uncomfortable.
Some helmets come with removable foam inserts to customize a snug fit. With the helmet level on your head, use your fingers to measure the space between your eyebrows and the helmet.
You shouldn’t have any more than two fingers of space above your eyebrows. You don’t want it flopping down over your eyes either.
STRAP IS KEY
Always buckle your helmet. It only takes a second to strap it on. And if you fall and it’s not strapped, the helmet isn’t going to stay on and won’t do any good. Plus, you’re not looking any cooler wearing it without the strap.
HOW MUCH IT’LL COST
These days, some high-end helmets can cost up to several hundred dollars, but don’t worry: you can get a safe cool-looking one for much less.
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY
Whether you go to a bike or skate shop or a big superstore, it’s important that you try on a bunch of different helmets to find the one that fits your head best. Salespeople in small specialty shops can help you find the optimum fit; in big stores you’re usually on your own.
Either way, don’t just pick one that looks cool. If you’re going to wear a helmet, you might as well have the safest one.
Visit the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute’s Web site at Helmets.org to find out everything there is to know about helmet safety.