Those vibrant colours and space-age aerodynamic lines make cycle helmets one of the most distinctive aspects of the sport. To some, they know they have arrived when they place the brand new casing on their head for the first time and secure the chin strap.
However, helmets are not universally loved. In fact, some cyclists positively hate them because they leave their hair matted in sweat and the foam inner pads smelling of perspiration.
Not all cyclists believe in helmets, arguing that if cyclists didn’t ride so fast, were not so negligent on the roads, and were cut more slack by motorists, then accidents would decrease and rider safety would be better enhanced.
Certainly wearing a helmet is no guarantee of invincibility. Yes, the helmet will protect your head if you have a spill, but it is not going to save you in the event of a head-on collision with an immoveable object, such as a tree, or a motor vehicle. So the first thing to remember is, don’t get sloppy on the road just because you have head protection.
The Right Model for You
At the same time, helmets do what they are designed for very well, and should be worn. For all the discomfort of a sweaty head, you will save yourself a nasty bump at best should you become unseated. So having made the decision to buy one, what should you be looking for?
In common with all safety equipment, helmet manufacturers are subject to regulations that their products must adhere to, the most high-profile of the testing organisations being the Snell Memorial Foundation.
The best advice is to buy your helmet from a specialist shop, where the assistant should be able to guide you through the various regulations and find the right model for you.
What are the basic attributes you are looking for in a helmet? Size and fit. The first attribute is the most self-explanatory. After all, you don’t want your concentration to be affected by a helmet that is squeezing the sides of your head.
Fit involves how snugly the helmet sits on your head, providing the greatest area of energy absorption possible should impact occur. On no account mistake, the tightness of the helmet on your head for a correct fit. Again, advice at a specialist shop will be invaluable.
The Number of Vents
Another aspect of helmet design is the number of vents. Naturally, the more vents are incorporated; the greater the amount of air will be circulated around the head, providing a cooling effect.
The rule here is, what type of riding are you doing? Road racers moving at pace over long periods are going to need a large number of vents because they are going to get hotter and sweatier.
Those taking a more leisurely pace do not need as much ventilation. Having said that, some people get hotter more quickly than others, so consider how your own body reacts to physical exertion, too.
Finally, the price. Helmets start from around £15, some are over £100. But there is no guarantee that spending more money is going to get you more protection.
Concentrate on size, fit and ventilation, then invest in whichever model ticks all the boxes for you.