You are more likely to skin your knee than to have a crash landing on top of your head, but still, I think it’s a good idea to always wear a bicycle helmet. It’s really not that annoying and it could save you from brain damage or death.
Here is a quick guide to buying a good bike helmet.
Helmets made for the USA must meet the US Consumer Product Safety Commission standard, so look for a CPSC sticker on your helmet. Most every helmet from a major manufacturer (Bell, Giro, etc.) will have met this safety standard.
Types of helmets.
There are many types of helmets out there. There are funny shaped aerodynamic helmets for time trialists and triathletes, as well as full-face helmets designed for downhill mountain bike racers.
For the average road or mountain biker, you will probably want a typical road/mountain bike helmet. This is the helmet that covers the top and back of your head (but not your face, ears, or neck.) It is composed of a styrofoam liner and a thin plastic shell. It will also have some air vents. This helmet is designed for comfort and ventilation and will stand up to one hard impact.
Another option is a skate or BMX style helmet. This helmet has about the same amount of coverage, but is a little heavier and has less ventilation. It is designed to withstand multiple small impacts before replacement, so some cyclists choose this style.
Features to look for.
The main features to look for in a helmet are comfort, light weight, and ventilation. The main difference between a $20 helmet and a $220 helmet is that the more expensive helmet will be lighter weight and have better ventilation. That is important for professional bicycle racers in the Tour de France, but when you are just starting out, you don’t need an expensive helmet.
Remember – the $220 helmet won’t really be any safer than the $20 helmet. It will just be more comfortable and stylish.
Where to buy your first helmet.
The most important thing to do is choose a helmet that fits you properly. At first, it would be best to go to a bike shop to buy a helmet. There you can try on different sizes and brands. Some are slightly different shaped, so it’s likely that one brand will fit your head better than others.
But once you figure out the right size and best brand of helmet for you, you can probably get a good helmet at either a bike shop or online store.
Fitting your helmet.
When wearing your helmet, it should be level on your head. Your forehead should not be exposed.
The chin strap should be tightened until you can just fit one finger between the strap and your neck. If it is not tightened down like this, the helmet could shift off your head during a crash, rendering it useless. (Try rocking the helmet back and forth and side to side to test the fit.)