All of us know the importance of wearing a helmet while biking, but plenty of people just…don’t. The reasons are many—helmet hair, discomfort, cost, inconvenience, style—the list goes on. If you do ride without a helmet, it’s time to rethink that.
“I hear a lot of people say, ‘I’m a good rider. I’ll be fine without a helmet’—but it doesn’t matter, sometimes it’s not up to you. Other people aren’t always paying attention,” says emergency physician Dr. Alexis Halpern, MD.
“You don’t even have to be going fast to get hurt. If you fall and hit your head even slightly, you can fracture your skull, suffer a traumatic brain injury, and even get bleeding in your head or in your brain,” she adds.
Cycling also accounts for the highest number of head injuries of any sport in the U.S., according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Many of these injuries could be lessened or avoided with proper helmet use, says Halpern. “Helmets work because they are designed to take the force during an impact with a hard outer shell that protects your head from the pavement and a softer inner lining that cradles your skull,” she explains.
Any of the small inconveniences of wearing a helmet is worth the payoff: They reduce your likelihood of getting a face injury by 23 percent, a head injury by 48 percent, a serious head injury by 60 percent, and a traumatic brain injury by 53 percent, according to research by the National Institutes of Health.
Okay, enough of the scary stuff, though. To find a good helmet, first, hit up your local bicycle store for a professional fitting. Even if you don’t buy a helmet there, you’ll have a better idea of what a properly fitted helmet should feel like, Dr. Halpern says. Then, consider the following factors.
What should I look for in a bike helmet?
When shopping for a bike helmet, you should first decidewhat you’ll likely use it for—occasional bike rides through local streets, regular bike riding through trails, orcommuting to work? Different bike helmets have different featuresaccording to what they will be used for. For example, mountain bike helmets have a lower cut in the back than road helmets to provide more protection on trails as opposed to a paved road, so shop accordingly.
Your helmet should have a snug fit. Again, a bike shop pro should be able to help you determine if your helmet is snug enough. “It should feel like it will definitely stay in place if you bump it, but not so tight that it gives you a head,” Halpern explains. Make sure your helmet fits as best as it can to ensure maximum protection should you unfortunately fall off or crash while on your bike.
To help you get the perfect fit, some helmets are adjustable. If you’re interested in one, look for helmets with a dial in the back and/or straps that allow you to adjust fit so it won’t move around on your head. Also, you’ll need to make sure your helmet covers your forehead. One of the most common mistakes Halpern says she sees people make is pushing the helmet too far backwards. It may make it feel less intrusive, but the helmet won’t protect your face from that position, she says.
Another feature that might make your fit a little more comfortable is ventilation. A helmet that is solid will trap heat and moisture, so look for one with vents cut into it. You’ll be more comfortable, and more likely to wear it.
MIPS stands for multi-directional impact protection system and is designed to protect your head no matter which way you hit the ground. The system allows the helmet to rotate and pivot depending on the angle of impact. (Essentially it’s a feature that ups the safety of your helmet.)
Your helmet is probably secure if it has a sticker certifying it adheres to the safety standards set by the US Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). An ASTM or Snell certification shows the helmet meets safety standards beyond the minimum set by the CPSC.
To make choosing a bike helmet a lot easier, here’s a list of recommendations, chosen by a mix of expert advice and online reviews from cyclists who love them. The following helmets are safe, comfortable, and pretty dang cute, so protect your noggin with one of these headpieces on your next ride.