If you wear a seatbelt when you get in the car, you should be wearing a helmet when you ride a bike. A helmet protects one of the most important parts of your body if you crash or fall off while riding.
There are three basic types of bike helmets: recreational, road bike and mountain bike helmets. Each helmet is uniquely designed for protection while partaking in one of those types of biking.
Recreational helmets are the usual choice for recreational and commuter bikers, and often skateboarders and inline skaters too, and are the most common type of bike helmet. Usually, they include a visor to help shield your eyes from the sun.
More competitive bikers prefer road bike helmets because of their low weight. These helmets also provide generous ventilation and aerodynamic design. To help keep the weight low, these helmets usually don’t have a visor, which also allows riders to have an unobstructed view when crouched in an aggressive riding position.
Mountain bike helmets are specifically designed to ventilate at low speeds to help keep you cool on long mountain rides. They’re easy to tell apart from other bike helmets because of their visors, enhanced rear head coverage and a firm, secure fit for tackling rough terrain.
Some bike helmets feature Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) technology which helps provide more protection from rotational forces during an accident.
To best ensure you’re getting the most protection out of your helmet, make sure it fits well. To find your size, wrap a flexible tape measure around the widest portion of your head, about one inch above your eyebrows. Once you know that number, you can look for a bike helmet that’s designed to fit your head. Sizes generally follow these measurements:
- Extra-small: below 20″ (51 cm)
- Small: 20″–21.75″ (51 cm–55 cm)
- Medium: 21.75″–23.25″ (55 cm–59 cm)
- Large: 23.25″–24.75″ (59 cm–63 cm)
- Extra-large: above 24.75 (63 cm)
- One size fits all (men): 21.25″–24″ (54 cm–61 cm)
- One size fits all (women): 19.75″–22.5″ (50 cm–57 cm)
- One size fits all (kids): 18″–22.5″ (46 cm–57 cm)
If your measurement is in between two sizes, you have two options. Either pick the smaller sized helmet or purchase a beanie to wear underneath the larger helmet for a better fit.
To keep your helmet looking new, be sure to take good care of it. Avoid storing it in places where heat accumulates, like an attic, garage or car trunk. Heat damage can cause bubbles to form on your helmet. Also, avoid using chemical solvents to clean your helmet.
Generally, it’s recommended you replace your bike helmet every five years as pollution, UV light and weathering can weaken the effectiveness of your helmet over time.