Choosing the perfect bicycle helmet for my needs – a quick guide

Man wearing blue met helmet.

Wearing a helmet when riding a bicycle is an indispensable safety measure. No matter whether you’re taking part in the local primary school’s yearly cycle race, taking part in bigger races, or just going around the block for a social ride – there are no excuses – a helmet is a must!

Despite the obvious, it is unnerving to hear about the amount of people choosing a helmet that poses a safety risk in an accident.

When buying a helmet, there are certain basic rules and checks to ensure that you buy something that will protect your head and possibly save your life.

Statistically, cyclists crash roughly every 7 200 kilometres or so, but it is important to note that head injuries account for 75% of the 700 annual bicycle deaths in the US. In South Africa, there are no official statistics in this regard, however, it has almost become a weekly occurrence to read about the number of accidents that cyclist are involved in – many of which even result in death.

The right fit is fundamental

Making sure that your helmet fits properly could mean the difference between a serious cranial injury and a few bumps and bruises.

Before you go shopping for a helmet, measure the circumference of your head at its widest point – that is usually just above your eyebrows. These are the standard sizes that are available:
• Extra-small: below 51cm
• Small: 51cm–55cm
• Medium: 55cm–59cm
• Large: 59cm–63cm
• Extra-large: 63cm
• One size fits all (men): 54cm–61cm
• One size fits all (women): 50cm–57cm
• One size fits all (kids): 46cm–57cm

Once you’ve found a helmet you like in your chosen size, put it on to see what it feels like when you’re wearing it.

A good fit means that the helmet sits on your head snugly, but isn’t too tight.

First, adjust the sizing wheel generally positioned at the back of the helmet so the setting is at its widest, then put the helmet on.

Twist the sizing wheel again so it has a snug fit on your head.

Now buckle and tighten the chinstrap, so that it sits comfortably on both sides of your ears, forming a V-shape.

When you open your mouth, you should feel the helmet pressing against the top of your head – if it doesn’t, tighten it a little more, although it shouldn’t hurt you or be uncomfortable.

Now push the helmet back, forward, and to the sides. There should not be much movement of the helmet (i.e. almost in one with your head).

The general rule of thumb is that you should replace your bicycle helmet every five years, but replace it immediately if you have had a crash as helmets are designed to withstand one impact and no more.

Depending on what kind of cycling you do, you might opt for a recreational helmet, a road bike helmet or a mountain bike helmet – each of which are designed to provide comfort and support for that specific activity.

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