Helmets: A Style Guide

Buying a new helmet or upgrading from an old one can be hard if you don’t know where to start. Due to advancements in modern helmet technology, many options are now available. Depending on a rider’s budget, type of biking, style preferences, and comfort needs, a suitable helmet exists for everyone. But knowing what you want can make your search easier.

Buying a new helmet or upgrading from an old one can be hard if you don’t know where to start. Due to advancements in modern helmet technology, many options are now available. Depending on a rider’s budget, type of biking, style preferences, and comfort needs, a suitable helmet exists for everyone. But knowing what you want can make your search easier.

Ideally, you would have purchased a helmet when you bought your bike. But, if that wasn’t the case, consider making a visit to your local bike shop where you can determine your perfect fit. You may be concerned that some helmets are not as safe as others. But rest assured, federal regulations ensure that all helmets provide the same measure of safety. Since 1999, federal law requires that all bicycle helmets sold in the United States meet the standards set by the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission). The models that are higher in price aren’t necessarily safer; usually the cost is associated with additions to the helmet that improve riding performance in terms of comfort and convenience.

To narrow down the available choices for the perfect helmet for every riding style, I asked some of our contributors and local riders about their go-to helmet. These riders leaned toward one style of riding over others, which was reflected in their choice of helmet. Match your riding style to that of one of our contributors and you may discover a new favorite helmet. -KO


What do you look for in a helmet?

 

Me (Commuter) – I lean towards helmets that are affordable and well-ventilated because I have a lot of hair and my head can get sweaty. My current helmet is a Bell Tempo. I like the Tempo because it has many open vents that allow the cool air to flow through my helmet. Plus, the ErgoDial fit system makes adjustments really easy.” $40, (268 g)

Justin M. (Road) – “I like to have a couple options to choose from. The Specialized S-Works Prevail is my go-to for weekend training rides, and the Giro Reverb is my helmet for commutes. I like the look of the Reverb, and the S-Works Prevail is lightweight and well ventilated; it performs really well.” $225 (185 g) / $60 (270 g)

Krystof A. (Racing) – “I look for three things in a helmet: style, comfort, and weight. Sometimes I’ll be excited about the look of a new helmet, but when I try it on it doesn’t always fit comfortably. My favorite helmet right now is the Kask Protone. It is super sexy and very comfortable, but it’s not the lightest. The perfect helmet has to have a balance between all three.” $299.95 (250 g)

Victor (Gravel) – “For gravel adventures, I go for Mavic’s Crossride Helmet. It’s light enough for long hours of riding cross country, but durable enough to feel protected. It’s also got a removable visor for when the sun goes up, and down.” $100 (310 g)

Chris (Road, Endurance) – “The lighter the better. Paying a little extra for a lighter helmet prevents headaches and neck soreness on longer rides. For SoCal residents, breathability is paramount due to the heat. Additionally, lighter colors are going to be cooler when slogging through steep climbs under the full summer sun. The Lazer Z1 helmet meets my requirements and ups the game with some innovative options that aren’t available with other helmets, my favorite? Integrated heart rate monitor.” $300 (190 g)

Bob (MTB) – “My favorite helmet is a Fox Flux, I own two. They are comfortable and airy with 20 ventilation ports to enhance airflow.” $70 (390 g)

Cate (City) – “I go for classic or primarily functional designs, and look for quality materials and a comfortable fit. The Abus Hyban helmet accomplishes both for me. The Hyban has additional safety features that some riders might appreciate. For example, to adjust the fit, a padded knob at the back of the helmet allows the wearer to change the circumference of the internal band that encircles the head. Other features include a backlight and detachable visor. I recommend the ABUS Hyban helmet for the casual commuter.” $100 (380 g)

AUTHOR NOTES: What is MIPS?

Some bicycling helmets have additional safety features that claim to be more effective against traumatic brain injury. One such feature is MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System), a Swedish technology “created to reduce rotational forces on the brain caused by angled impacts to the head… When a helmet with MIPS technology is subjected to an angled impact, the low friction layer allows the helmet to slide relative to the head.” (MIPS.com 2013). However, not everyone is convinced of MIPS’s effectiveness. The Washington, D.C.-based non-profit, Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (BHSI), says that the new technology hasn’t proven to be any more effective than the technology used in other modern helmets. According to BHSI research, helmets will always slip, “The scalp (nature’s MIPS) ensures that, and skin does not stick to EPS [expanded polystyrene] much, given sweat, hair products and sunscreen…So the tendency for the helmet to slide on the user’s head and to slide on pavement or other impact surfaces is substantial.” (BHSI, 2016).

The MIPS patent incorporates a concept called “the slip plane” in helmet design. It may or may not help a rider avoid rotational injury to the head with more independent research needed to determine the validity of the claims.

Everyone agrees – try before you buy!

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