If you buy yourself a bike, the most obvious and necessary accessory item is a helmet. That particularly applies in my homeland Australia where bicycle helmets are compulsory for all cyclists. The laws were introduced in Australia in the early 90s and despite the ‘trailblazing’ our various governments thought they were doing, there aren’t many countries that have followed. But I’m not here to debate helmet laws (even if I don’t personally agree with them – we should have the freedom to decide for ourselves), but I do accept that the law states I must wear a helmet so I comply.
So what should you look for when you’re buying a helmet. Here’s my buying tips:
Buy it from a reputable retailer
Helmets are like shoes, you should try them on before you buy them because even if you know your size they will inevitably fit differently depending on the brand and model you choose. Visiting a local bike shop will give you the opportunity to receive advice from a trained person and try on a number of different options.
There are also plenty of options available so you might want to visit a few bike shops to find the perfect fit and look for your needs.
Buy a helmet that fits you properly, not just the latest fashion
The most important criteria is the fit. If you’re a keen cyclist you will wear your helmet for hours and hours so it needs to be comfortable. Like all cycling accessories helmets are subject to fashion trends so don’t be sucked in by the latest look if it’s not comfortable or doesn’t meet other important criteria. Matt black helmets are particularly trendy at the moment but they are not very visible so if visibility is important don’t succumb. I actually like white helmets because they tend to match everything (an important criteria for me) and they are very visible.
Most quality helmets have retention systems that allow you to tighten it up after you put it on your head. The helmet should fit you firmly once you’ve tightened the retention system and you should be able to move your head from side to side without it moving around.
Women’s helmets are the same as men’s ones
Men’s and women’s skulls are pretty much the same shape, the main difference is size. Men’s heads on average are bigger than women’s so the helmets whether they are sold as men’s and women’s are primarily the same shape. The differences are mainly in colours and other features like the Specialized ‘hairport’ to fit your ponytail through. So don’t feel you have to buy a women’s helmet unless it’s a great fit.
Make sure it has an Australian Standards sticker
All helmets sold in Australia should contain an Australian Standards sticker so make sure the one you buys has the sticker intact. This ensures that the helmet you are buying meets the Australian standard. It’s particularly important if you plan to race your bike because you must have an approved helmet to race. But it’s also important for everyone else because you may have an insurance claim refused after an accident if you weren’t wearing an approved helmet.
Wear your helmet correctly
A helmet should sit properly on your head and come down to about an inch above your eyebrows, that way your head it protected properly. The chin strap should be drawn up so you can fit two fingers between your chin and the strap and don’t be tempted to cut off the excess strap. You should secure the excess because if you cut it off the helmet is no longer conforming to the approved standard.
Buy a new helmet every time it is impacted
Even if you have a minor fall and your head hits the ground you should buy yourself a new helmet. The foam in the helmet can be damaged after an impact and should be replaced. Most manufacturers recommend you replace a helmet after five years, this will obviously depend on how much you wear it, how much sun exposure it has, and whether it’s been dropped/impacted. But nothing lasts forever.