If you are new to cycling, the first thing you should invest in is a good helmet. Why? Without adequate head protection, if you fall off your bike and hit your head on pavement, or on an obstacle on the ground like a rock, you run a risk of severe head injury, or even death. The reasons for riding without helmets vary. Some people aren’t really thinking of the risk they are taking. Some justify it saying helmets are uncomfortable, or don’t look cool. Whatever reason, there’s no excuse to ride without one. While there’s no absolute guarantee a helmet will eliminate risk of head injury from a fall, with a good helmet, your chances of reducing head trauma and possible death from one are increased. What is the best cycling helmet that you should purchase? Well, that depends on factors such as a price range that works within your budget, or even the type of riding that you do.
What is the Best Cycling Helmet Option for Starting Out?
If you venture into your local bicycle store or check online for helmets, you may find there is a surprisingly large selection of helmets you can choose from. So much so it may be overwhelming! There are the standard cycling helmets, with many selection options within that alone. There are full-faced helmets suitable for mountain bike and bmx riding. There are also aero helmets, which are worn by time trialists and triathletes.
The first thing you want to consider is what sort of riding you are looking to do. If you are going to be mainly on the road, and/or light trail riding, a standard helmet would be a good choice. If you are going to put your efforts on advance trail riding (see highly technical trails with obstacles such as large jumps), a full-faced helmet would be a viable option. Aero helmets will most likely be off the radar at this point if you are just starting cycling, or doing so casually, unless you are into maximizing performance and/or a triathlon competitor.
Some other factors to consider when selecting a helmet:
- Fit. This is perhaps most important. You want to make sure you find the proper size, and that the helmet isn’t too loose. The protection the helmet provides won’t be as effective if the fit is not proper.
- Cost. Helmets have a wide range of pricing, and there are decent helmets on the market that are affordable.
- Certification. All helmets on the market should meet safety certification requirements (SNELL or CPSC for example). This certification proves the helmet meets safety standards via testing. If you find a helmet that is not certified (and you shouldn’t), run away as fast as you can from that one.
- Color. Want to stand out while riding? Helmets come in a variety of colors, and if you feel so inclined, you can choose one which fits into your personal style or look!
Proper Fit is Key!
This was touched upon in the last section, but making sure the helmet is a proper fit can not be stressed enough. Helmets come in sizes most of us are accustomed to seeing with articles of clothing, extra small, small, medium, large and extra large with some models coming in a one size fits all option. These sizes go by the circumference of your head (either in inches or centimeters), so you want to measure around your head just after your eyebrows. If you have someone to help you with this, it is recommended.
Sometimes a helmet may be a little loose if you measured within the large size range. Some helmets have mechanisms (mine is a small turning wheel for example) on the back you can use to adjust fit. Or, you can wear a cycling cap or skull cap underneath to fill in space. When you first wear the helmet, you may need to adjust the turn wheel to get the helmet to sit comfortably on your head.
Make sure the straps are secure as well. You don’t want them so tight that they are uncomfortable, but you don’t want them real loose either. You can adjust the straps to find the proper fit. Over time, it is a good idea to check the fit of the straps.
Feels Like There is Nothing on My Noggin
I’ve been wearing performance road helmets for as long as I can remember. As the years have rolled on, helmets have become lighter, and lighter, and most have plenty of vents to allow air flow. In short, using the reasoning helmets are heavy and uncomfortable won’t fly.
Some helmets have more vents than others. Helmets with more vents allow increased air flow, and also make the helmet lighter, as there is less shell material. Often times helmets with more vents also tend to cost more, so you may need to take that into consideration.
Even helmets on the lower end of the price spectrum have plenty of vents, and are very light. Don’t feel that if you paid $50 for a helmet instead of $200 that you are going to be wearing a cast iron pot for protection. Quality abounds in many areas of cycling apparel and gear over a spectrum of price ranges. Helmets are no exception.
Do Some Research
With all the different choices one has for purchasing a helmet, you don’t necessarily want to make a blind purchase. Once again, remember that your safety can very well depend on that piece of important headgear. You can research helmet lines online, or you can go to your local bike shop, look at some possible selections, and ask a sales person about them.
There are several well-known brands on the market (Bell and Giro for example), that have been around for a long time and have an excellent track record of providing quality helmets. Some people do purchase by brand, and while that’s fine, you want to make sure you purchase a helmet by them that meets your qualifications such as fit, type of riding you plan to do, cost, etc.
Don’t hesitate to read available customer reviews, and compare/contrast features.
An investment in safety
A helmet is the most important piece of equipment you’ll need besides the bicycle. A helmet can not only help reduce the chance of serious injury, but also death. As a result, feel free to take the time you need to take some considerations in this article into account. Helmets aren’t all serious business though. A helmet should last you several years, so you also want to make sure you find one that fits your personal style if you feel so inclined.
The best cycling helmet when you are starting out can be of quality at a good value. As you progress as a cyclist, and you need to helmet shop down the road (and you will), you will be able to know exactly what you are looking for in a helmet. You may find you prefer more vents, or certain features for example. Starting out though, don’t hesitate to do proper research before making a purchase. Your life could very well depend on it.