I live in a country where it is compulsory to wear a bike helmet, but I’m not here to debate whether that’s good or not, however if you do wear one it’s important to know the correct way to wear a bicycle helmet. I often see other riders who wear their helmets back off their forehead and hope that they never have an accident because it really isn’t protecting their precious head.
Make sure it fits
The first step in wearing a bike helmet correctly is to make sure you have the right size and fit for you. Don’t buy a helmet because it’s a nice colour, buy it because it fits your head. Go to a reputable bike shop and ask for some assistance in fitting it.
Make sure it has an Australian Standards sticker inside it, because if it does not you may have an insurance claim rejected, lose an argument about who’s at fault, or worse still it might not be up to scratch.
There are lots of brands of helmet out there and they range in price quite a bit. In short, if the helmet has a Standards sticker then it should do the job. The difference comes down to weight, appearance, and quality. I choose to wear to an expensive helmet because I don’t think you can ever take a chance on your head.
Put it in the right place
If you’re going to wear a helmet, make sure you do it the right way. As mentioned earlier I often see riders with helmets too far back on their heads and if they were to have an accident would literally land on their face with dire consequences.
As shown in the image here, the helmet should sit level on your head and low on your forehead—one or two finger-widths above your eyebrow.
Tighten the helmets adjustable ratchet system. Depending on the brand of helmet this could be at the back, on top or another location. Be sure to know where it is and how it operates. The helmet should be tight enough to stay on without the assistance of the chin strap and shift as you move your head around.
Connect the chin strap and adjust the tightness so that no more than two fingers can fit underneath but no more. If the chin strap is too loose, the helmet could come off in the event of a crash, too tight and it will make for a very uncomfortable ride.
And don’t be tempted to cut off the end of the strap. This makes the helmet non-compliant.
Replace it occasionally
It’s a no brainer to replace a helmet that has been impacted, even if the damage is not obvious. But it’s also a good idea to check your helmet, particularly if it’s a few years old. Most helmet manufacturers suggest that a helmet has about a five-year life.
Here are a few tips on what to look for on your own helmet:
Shell – Look for cracks or abrasions. Are there any cracked edges? Check for fading because UV exposure can make the shell brittle. Any compromise to the integrity of the shell will mean it may not hold together on impact.
Liner – The foam. Press carefully over the shell of the helmet to see if there is any movement. In some helmets, there will be no movement and in others a little movement. You should look for any area where there is a variation in movement compared to the rest of the helmet. An area of greater movement indicates damage to the foam under the shell. Turn over the helmet and check the liner for cracks or compressed foam. If you suspect an area of compression, check and measure the thickness of the foam at the same spot on the other side of the helmet. If you feel any dents, indentations or gouges, it’s time for a replacement.
Straps/buckles/clips and fasteners – check for wear and tear. Any loose stitching or fraying? Check buckles/clips and fasteners. Do they work and hold? Buckle or fasten and then give them good forceful tugs and twists to check they don’t come apart. Some brands of helmet provide spare parts to replace part of the retention system if it’s damaged. Think about the force they would be under during an impact, or multiple impacts like a car, and then the road. You want to mimic that force, you need to know that they will work to keep that helmet securely on your head in an impact.