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Bike and Cycling Helmet: guide and best models and brands on the market. The summer is upon us and like every year the passion for bikes and cycling in its various disciplines is rekindled and exploded; from urban mode, through road cycling to mountain biking. Today I will talk about the accessory par excellence synonymous with safety and more: the bike helmet.
Within the panorama of cycling clothing, I will try to give you one practical and complete guide to choice and touse aware of cycling helmet:
What the Highway Code says about the use of bicycle helmets
Unfortunately in Italy, unlike some countries including Belgium, Holland or Australia, the road bike protective helmet is NOT mandatory. The Highway Code (TITLE V - RULES OF CONDUCT regulated in Art. 182. Circulation of cycles) does not mention it and despite the recent pressure to introduce it in the revision of the code in 2016, there was no room for introducing a rule in this sense and leaving the use of this accessory to common sense even for the under 14. Not wearing a helmet on a bike today is something unscrupulous; both because it is established that the helmet saves lives and limits damage resulting from impacts both because technology has now made great strides (especially since the helmet became mandatory in UCI road racing in 2003) and helmets have become more and more comfortable and of design that almost seems not to have them. Furthermore, like all civic habits, once the adaptation has taken place it becomes an indispensable routine (see helmet in modo and belts in the car).
Purpose, structure and composition of the protective helmet
In the last decade, helmets have reached a high level of safety standards in terms of protective efficacy and comfort / fit. However, let us remember that the primary purpose for which they were born: protect the skull from shocks. Therefore all products on the market must be certificates and this certification takes place on tests based on the shock absorption themselves. This is the main purpose which is accompanied by improvement features such as: lightness, ventilation, aerodynamics, comfort, design, wear of materials and many others. Generally speaking, a bike helmet consists of:
- A external cover in materials of different quality (and cost), made of polycarbonate but also carbon fiber which is coated, colored and polished. It is the most aesthetically pleasing and visible component. It follows the fact that for lovers of the genre it is the part that also lends itself to the greatest number of customizations and limited series creations for marketing purposes.
- A shell and internal padding in "foamed" materials such as polyurethane foam; represents the heart of the safety of the helmet itself because it is the part that first deforms during the absorption of a shock and the kinetic energy caused by the same
- Linings, back fixings and straps whose materials can be of greater or lesser value and therefore generate a sense of greater comfort as well as being more resistant to use (typically a strap or an internal lining of an assiduous pedal rider can be subject to considerable wear and therefore this must be kept in consideration, the same for the anti-insect net or the wheel for the micrometric adjustment of the closure behind the neck)
- Add-ons such as the rear warning light or integrated glasses
All the bike helmets in as such they must report within them the EN1078 approval label which guarantees compliance with the law regarding construction, materials and related tests.
Returning to safety, the helmet protects us in two ways: essentially it often avoids lacerated injuries to the head and neck because the outer shell suffers for us the friction of impact with asphalt, branches and so on; secondly, it limits internal brain damage by cushioning the impact and preventing the internal components from shaking due to excessive deceleration, causing more or less serious neurological damage (for those who want examples on the type of damage of this second species, keep in mind the story of the pilot Jules Bianchi and Schumacher himself on the ski slopes).
Different types of bike helmets based on the type of cycling practiced
Tell me what cycling discipline you practice and I'll tell you which type of helmet is right for you. It is not trivial, both for technical and aesthetic reasons; having said that the primary function is safety, it still happens today to see people with helmets that are not very aerodynamic and more suitable for mountain biking, especially on the road. So let's see the various types of helmets based on the two wheels between the pedals:
- Bike helmet for road cycling / racing bike: the watchwords in this case are LIGHTNESS, AERODYNAMICS but above all AERATION. It is an accessory that can be kept on the head for several hours and the slits (the air intakes) become essential for not cooking in the hot moments of the year. The same goes for aerodynamics and lightness which can therefore affect performance, especially for the non-occasional cyclist who seeks safety but also performance.
- Mountain bike helmet: the reduced speeds of the vehicle make the aerodynamic component less necessary unlike helmets for road cycling, while the need for typicality typical of hiking and cross country in general is more evident: certainly ventilation and wearability but above all visors that repair from splashes of mud, stones, rain but also from branches and small or large obstacles that can be encountered along the way. The mtb helmet therefore also protects the upper front component of the face as well as the lower part of the neck. Each fall, as anyone who rides a bike knows, is independent but statistically on a racing bike the slip on asphalt is usually "fashionable"; in off-road, falls occur at lower speeds but it is the impact with the ground that is atypical as it is not uniform by definition it is the ground on which we pedal.
- Bike helmet for "extreme" disciplines or in any case spectacular as downhill / freeride: do you have in mind the 8-time motocross world champion Tony Cairoli? Your helmet will look more like hers. Seriously, you will notice that the helmet is "integral" because the bumps are inherent in the sport itself and there is a need to protect the entire facial arch (jaws, cheekbones, nape and head). The shape is also elongated on the front to give an additional margin of protection and cushion the impact from frontal trauma. These helmets are worn with a mask along the lines of alpine ski helmets.
- Bike helmet for BMX: it depends what meaning of bmx we mean; in the case of the Bmx race (recently an Olympic specialty) we are talking about a full-face helmet similar to motocross; if, on the other hand, we mean the urban style BMX full of evolutions with jumps, figures and various tricks, the BMX helmet must fully protect us from head to neck passing through temples and cheekbones, then the entire face bow. These helmets compared to the "race" are heavier and less aerodynamic. The ventilation is not very sensitized since the use is not linked to many consecutive hours as can happen on racing cycling (on the road).
- Urban / city bike helmet: essentially a universal helmet can be used; none of the above features are pushed to excess except for safety and shock absorbing which must comply with the law. They can be very functional “design” objects; depending on the frequency of use, it may be important to consider the ventilation and the possibility of washing its components at best.
To give you an order of magnitude on prices and models, we refer you to dedicated section of Amazon where you will find quality products (in my humble opinion) starting from around 30 Euros.
Different types of helmet depending on the cyclist
In addition to the discipline practiced, when choosing a helmet it is important to consider your level of experience and use of the accessory: an adult will generally have different needs than a child's need for safety.
- Bike helmet for adults: as noted above, adults must consider their own taste but also the experience they have on the vehicle, whatever it is. An experienced road racer when approaching cross country will not be a neophyte however he will have more chance of falling than a cyclist who does cross country every week. It is as if an experienced skier were putting on a snowboard for the first time: similar knowledge of the slope but different ways of falling.
- Kids bike helmet: it may seem trivial but the helmet for a child is of crucial importance. Often we still see grandparents and parents carrying the little ones in the wrong position (too big and heavy on the front baby carrier, I shudder to think about it) and even without protection or with a badly fastened "bowl" dangling here and there. at each hole on the ground. Children's helmets on the market range from a few months (about 10) to pre-adolescent age (10 years) and are an integral part of their safety because it allows them to experiment in various situations (when learning without wheels, on wooden bikes without pedals, when the lucky ones go to school who can do it in the countryside, etc.). Obviously it will be important to choose the right size considering the sudden growth of the children themselves; however, it must also be considered that falls are carried out at lower speeds and that often the child, if small, acts only as a passenger, therefore he must be safe but also comfortable.
- "Expert" bike helmet: it should be noted that there are no helmets for experts. My meaning refers to the dangers involved. The experienced road driver travels at higher than normal speeds and MUST have a product up to the level to protect himself from extra danger; likewise the helmet for "first purchase" or for "occasional practice" probably it should not be the top of the range. It will have to be perhaps light but not ultra-compliant and have a good value in terms of quality / price and above all in terms of duration based on the frequency of use.
Cycling helmets: the features that make the difference at the time of purchase
Let's clarify immediately: the helmet is a safety accessory therefore, beyond the law that rightly provides that the CE marking and the reference standard EN 1078, it is good to focus on a quality product because otherwise it is useless. The quality can also be seen not only in terms of construction but also in details such as the use of certain substances for painting that must not release toxic substances on the skin during use.
The helmet ordered or bought at the moment it must not have swellings or deformations or even worse scratches also read on the outside. The parts must be carefully welded together as well as the straps that must not be broken, also pay attention to the rear wheel which must do its job of adjusting the bowl according to the centimeters of the head circumference.
Furthermore, each head is independent so it is possible, even if it should not be so, that some models do not fit because they do not conform to the shape of your head; helmet MUST NOT DANCE FRONTALLY (and therefore also on the nape) e not even HORIZONTALLY. The fit must be comfortable but "secured" by the straps with which it is fastened. Basically, there should be no obvious rubbing during use.
Among the other features to pay attention to there are for example also the ventilation (the houses indicate the number of total air intakes and a detail on the rear, for example 24 or 32) the weight (indicated in grams and, for those who make this a must, between high-end and low-end models there may be differences in the order of 2/3 hectograms on road cycling helmets) and the wordings regarding the entities that carried out the tests certification.
When to change the hard hat
The helmet must be changed every time undergoes a deformation; typically after an impact that has affected the internal and external part precisely to cushion the kinetic energy. The damage to the helmet is not only the visible ones (cracks and parts that start to flake). You can also change the helmet for mere taste but also because you want more performance (for example traveling with a few grams less uphill) and ventilation. Some houses and retailers still recommend replacement after 5 years; unless you treat it badly as often happens to me when I fall out of fatigue or I support it badly making it tumble on the ground (ignoring how precious this simple object is), here if you are okay, the helmet is not worn and stored in non-cold and humid places this time is relative but in any case it remains a good term of comparison also because in a decade the technology improves considerably both in terms of safety and reliability as well as design and “style” in general.
How to choose the correct size for a safe but comfortable "fit"
What is the right size for my helmet? Good quality bike helmets are equipped with an adjustment head grip system in the back of the helmet itself and this allows perfect adjustment and fit in a "range" of a few centimeters. The sizes are in fact attributable to different measures of the head circumference. As an example, I show this Decathlon table but on the market both online and offline, more than the size you often find the direct reference to cm (56-58, 58-61 ...)
Head circumference 53-54cm 55-56cm 57-58cm 59-60cm 60cm and above
Helmet size XS S M L XL
The helmet as they say in the jargon must not be either wide or too narrow; in the first case it would slide frontally compromising visibility (and a little hole is enough to shake on the racing bike); in the second case it would prevent oxygenation with related discomfort and loss of lucidity.
Still on the subject of sizes, don't forget the most important basic choice to make: the ideal size of your bike.
What to do and especially not to do when wearing a helmet on a bike
I don't want to be trivial but these recommendations must still be made to avoid misunderstandings also because errors and horrors are seen around, such as the following:
Putting the helmet on without fastening it is nonsense; in the event of collisions, damage caused by impact is added to those torn and bruised resulting from rubbing the helmet itself. The mistake I see most often is to unfasten it uphill or even remove it and place it on the handlebar; There are branches and branches in every curve and the cars usually on an uphill road come close to it much more as the roadway is often narrow. If you are hot, throw water from the bottle into the slots.
Do not use it in winter instead of a more protective cold cap, the slower you go, it's a mistake not to make! Nobody prevents you from using a cold cover for the head to be placed under the helmet; it is true that you are already fully harnessed but why skimp. If the helmet is there, don't leave it at home.
To think that since I have a helmet I can dare: you protect yourself with a helmet but you drive with your brain so do not underestimate the possible damage of a lack of inattention especially when going downhill. I always remember a dialogue between Valentino Rossi and a group of pro cyclists: the latter told him that it took guts to go at 300 per hour on a two-wheeled vehicle. In response he admitted "but I do it on the track and in safe conditions, you do it every day on roads open to traffic and moreover without overalls and protections"
The "gem" of the true biker
Now let's face it, we all want to be Kevin Bacon in the movie “Quicksilver” while he runs around Wall Street doing the courier on his bike; I'm not saying it's no longer possible, but you can still enjoy the pleasure of being a biker even with a helmet (hair, peace of mind, they are almost gone).
The helmet has its comforts although it may not seem so - I tell you mine:
- First of all, during a break from a long ride on the road or at its end after a few hours, the gesture of taking it off gives you the idea of a liberation not so much towards the helmet itself but towards the effort you have made as if to say " the battle is over, for today I gave. Tired and satisfied ”. In a similar way a tennis player when he puts down his "club" during the changes of the court; in that gesture there is a release of tension and disperse it elsewhere. Your helmet is like you: it accumulates tension, fatigue, heat (the heat of the body tends to go upwards) and when you take it off, the tension and tiredness disappear because he took them away.
- During the summer climbs in my tours of the Varese Pre-Alps I always savor the idea of accompanying me to the fountains and using it often as a bowl to throw fresh water on me combined with that pleasant feeling of a gutter that then follows you for a few kilometers before starting the real effort again
- Who has never used it as a storage compartment? fingers, gloves and sometimes even glasses, water bottle and arm warmers. When you stop on the street for a break you don't always know where to put things on the spot and then you have your nice momentary bag
The helmet is a nice object of style if you combine it with the colors of your bike or even better with the uniform and socks in particular; not for anything else since it is mandatory in UCI races the champions tend to "personalize" it with the most varied colors and images: from the symbols of the iris (world champion) to pink (who is winning the Giro d'Italia), gold and many other serigraphs with the nicknames of the protagonists of the group; it has therefore become a distinctive sign to be recognized.
Last but not least… The best bike helmets
In my opinion it can also be a Great gift for cycling friends, children and boyfriends and their favorite discipline: the prices, as already mentioned above, are quite low and given the personality of the gift (it adheres to your body), whoever gives it knows surely that it will be an appreciated object while whoever receives it will remember every time they wear it who gave him the helmet. Furthermore, it is anything but trivial and there is certainly a kind of originality; so girlfriends (and why not boyfriends), parents… take a look at the size of the helmets of those around you and forget that you have to think about what to give to your loved ones.
The solution is under your eyes ... or maybe it is better to say above :-)
If you want to have other interesting ideas on the topic of Helmets, I also propose this nice video from ENDU, one of the most popular communities for those who sign up for sporting events in the endurance field.
Below I propose a series of the most reliable brands that you can buy online, with some indicative notes to provide you with some first elements useful for choosing.
Three models of bike helmets, from left to right, Scott, Giro and Poc
Bike helmets: the most reliable brands and the value for money
- Giro Bike Helmets: offers helmets with a simple and elegant design carefully designed by the engineers of the brand. Prices from 60 euros up to over 200 euros for the top models.
- Briko Bike Helmets: offers a wide range of products with various colors starting at competitive prices, starting from 15 Euros, without forgetting the quality.
- Lazer Bike Helmets: produces well-made helmets thanks to the advanced Rollsys ARS system that ensures excellent fit and excellent adaptability. The models with elaborate serigraphs are also interesting. Prices starting from 45 Euros.
- Scott Bike Helmets: ideal especially for those who prefer mountain biking and off-road. Often equipped with removable visors. They are equipped with the innovative MIPS brain head system. Prices starting from 25 Euros.
- Rudy Project Bike Helmets: perfect for those who love road cycling. Lightweight and aerodynamic, with very accurate padding and adjustable micrometric closure. Prices from around 60 Euros.
- Poc Bike Helmets: are hugely successful among millennials who prefer BMX and who are looking for an innovative design. Prices starting from 40 Euros.
Other related articles I wrote on IdeeGreen that might interest you are:
- Bike and cycling lights: LEDs, headlights and lighting tips
- Racing bike sizes: custom or standard
- Cycling clothing: the sizes for socks and socks change
- E-Bike, which electric bike to choose: E-Mtb, City E-bike or Corsa
- Folding Bike buying guide for folding bikes
- Cycling shoes for racing or mtb bikes: how to choose them
Curated by Tullio Grilli