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Choosing a helmet for commuting

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Article posted: 27/08/2013

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Within the commuter market there is a wealth of choice in terms of helmet design, with traditional designs bumping heads with 'urban' designs, inspired by skate, bmx and snowboarding helmets. Let’s take a look at the many options available.

Helmet types

 

Road helmets – A standard road helmet usually comes without a peak and is styled to complement road bikes and kit – meaning lots of colour, stripes and swooshes – not what you want if you’re trying to blend into the cityscape. However, they’re lightweight, high spec and conform to the same safety standards as other types of helmet.

Mountain biking helmets – Usually come with a peak as standard which, in an urban context, can come in handy for keeping the sun and rain out of your eyes. Mountain helmets will tend to have larger vents, designed to let in more air at slower speeds – ideal for commuters too. Styling wise, mountain helmets are increasingly coming on-stream in more subdued colours and matt finishes, which may work better with your urban cycling duds. Plus, higher end designs are ‘co-moulded’ and feature outer casings that wrap underneath the fragile polystyrene inner, making them more capable of handling the odd knock that they’ll encounter on the daily grind.

Skate/BMX helmets – these are usually a hard-shell design with a thick polycarbonate lid lined with polystyrene foam and padding. Many urban riders use BMX or Skate style lids due to their ability to withstand abuse. Standard bike helmets ‘single-impact’ designs, whereas BMX and skate helmets are far more robust. But this sturdiness comes at a price – BMX lids are usually heavier and less well vented than standard road and mountain bike helmets.

Commuter specific designs – A number of helmet manufacturers produce commuter or urban specific designs. Like some MTB trail helmets, their styling is subtly different and colourways tend to be more subdued – designed to better complement normal everyday clothing. Bell’s Metro and Specialized’s Street Smart are popular examples and sport features such as removable vent covers for winter riding, reflective trim, peaks and lighting attachment points.

Snowboarding helmets – The Bern snowboarding helmet was the first to make the cross-over into urban cycling apparel and now Bern market cycling specific variants of their original snowboarding design, tweaking the venting, fit, padding etc to better suit the demands of bike riding. Benefits include more coverage at the sides and back of the head, in a tradeoff for less venting. Like bike helmets, the majority of Ski/Snowboard helmets are ‘single-impact’ designs – meaning that if the helmet is involved in significant impact, it must be replaced immediately, as it may have suffered structural damage that may not be visible to the user, which may result in impairment of the helmet’s function.

Helmet Safety Standards – cutting through the confusion

Worldwide there are a number of different cycle helmet standards, which can make helmet buying a confusing business. So we won’t go into them all here. From a UK consumer point of view, all you need to look for is whether the helmet conforms to British Standard (BS EN 1078:1997) and that it is fitted correctly.

How to fit your helmet correctly

1. Place the helmet on the head with the straps fastened under the chin.The front strap should be as vertical as possible and the rear strap should join the front strap just below the ears (forming a V just under the ears).

2. The helmet should fit comfortably on the head – if you try to move the helmet there should be very little movement.

3. If you can slide the helmet off the head either backwards or forwards then you need to tighten the straps.

Click here to watch our video guide on fitting a helmet correctly.

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