Cycling helmets come in 3 basic styles: sport (also called multi-use), road and mountain. All types are designed to protect a rider's head from impact while being lightweight and comfortable. The differences:
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A good fit is vital. Multi-use helmets usually offer a single, adjustable size. Most others come in small, medium, large or extended sizes.
To find your size, wrap a flexible tape measure around the largest portion of your head—about 1" above your eyebrows. Or, wrap a string or ribbon around your head, then measure the length of string with a straight-edge ruler or yardstick.
Look for a helmet size that matches your measurement. On REI.com, the size range is listed under the "Specs" tab on each product page.
General sizing parameters for adults:
Most kids' helmets are one-size-fits-all with a range of 18"-22.5" (46cm-57cm). Some adults with smaller heads can wear these comfortably.
Between sizes? Opt for the smaller size.
Next, buckle and tighten the chinstrap. Push up on the front edge of the helmet, then up on the back edge. If the helmet moves significantly in either direction (more than 1"), tighten the chinstrap and try again. The straps should form a "V" as they rest under each ear. Adjust the straps around both ears to achieve a comfortable fit.
Finally, with the chinstrap buckled, open your mouth. The helmet should press against your forehead as you do so. If not, tighten further and repeat. Just don't overtighten the strap until it's uncomfortable.
Note: Nutcase-brand helmets (multi-use) use a magnetic chinstrap attachment instead of a buckle. This can help adults with physical limitations (or kids) to securely fasten their chinstrap.
Each helmet description on REI.com includes some or all of the following specifications:
Weight: Almost always listed in grams (28.34g = 1 oz.). While weight is not a big concern for occasional cyclists, racers and frequent riders really appreciate the weight savings of a lighter helmet.
Tip: The price usually goes up as the weight comes down.
Vents: Designed to create airflow around and over your head. The more vents, the cooler the head (and the pricier the helmet).
Visor: Some riders prefer having a sun-shielding visor attached to their helmet. It does, however, add a fractional ounce of weight and slight wind resistance.
Fit system: Manufacturers create a variety of names (e.g., Roc Loc, GPS, Acu-Dial) to represent their approach to a helmet's sizing wheel (usually a dial). For a detailed explanation, visit the manufacturer's website.
By law, all helmets sold in the U.S. must meet standards set by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). Some helmets are also endorsed by the nonprofit Snell Foundation, but the CPSC stamp of approval is what matters.
Test results have helped manufacturers create helmets that are light, comfortable and able to handle significant impacts.
Regardless of helmet laws, there are impassioned supporters and opponents of bicycle helmet use. However, the statistics speak for themselves.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s report for bicycle fatalities, on average less than 2% of motor vehicle crash deaths involve bicyclists. In 2010, 89% percent of those killed were age 16 and over; the majority sustained serious injuries to the head
In 2009, 91% percent of bicyclists killed were not wearing helmets.
Not surprisingly, helmet use has been estimated to reduce head injury risk by 85%.
So, though wearing a helmet doesn’t protect one against all injuries, studies (and anecdotal evidence) do suggest that many head, skull and brain injuries (many fatal) can be prevented or minimized with helmet use at the time of a crash.
For more information, visit the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute.
Speaking of crashes, any helmet involved in an accident is likely to get damaged. Replace the helmet after any significant impact, even if everything looks OK.
If you've been crash-free, it is generally recommended to replace your helmet after 5 years. Pollution, UV light and weathering can weaken its components over time.
A few helmet tips:
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By T.D. Wood
Read Author Bio
Last updated: 02/18/2014
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