How to Choose a Mountain Bike Helmet
So you have your mountain bike, but you still need a crucial piece of equipment before you hit the trail- a helmet. This is vital to protect yourself in case you experience a fall or a crash when you are out riding. There are a few things you need to know to ensure you have the correct helmet.
First and foremost you need to be aware of the different types of helmets available. In today’s market there are three main types. These helmets are designed according to riding styles.
- Full Face Mountain: This helmet is designed to protect the entire head, including the face, chin, and jaw. This helmet should be worn by downhill and BMX riders. Full face helmets have thicker pads throughout and are made with visors to help shield your eyes from debris. While these helmets are heavier than the other types, they are also more comfortable.
- Half Shell Mountain: Designed for off road riding and the most versatile helmet type. With the light weight, aerodynamic, and well ventilated design, this helmet is comfortable for long periods of time. This helmet will protect the forehead, top, and back of the head.
- Road Bike: Designated use for riding on roads this helmet is the lightest type available. They are designed with weight and ventilation in mind. Since road bikers tend to have fewer crashes or falls than off road riders, this helmet can sacrifice head coverage and padding for being lightweight and ventilated.
Now that you know the types of helmets to choose from, let’s take a look at the specifics that differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. It is important to understand how your helmet is made and what the design function is used for. Most helmets will include:
- Shell: A plastic shell covering the helmet to hold it together in the event of a crash. The shell will provide puncture resistance and allow the helmet to slide on impact which will help prevent head and neck injuries. Make sure the shell on your helmet is intact and in good shape.
- Liner: Most helmet liners are made of what is called expanded polystyrene foam. On impact, this foam will dissipate the force which will protect your head. Liners should fit you comfortably and not be dented or damaged so they will be able to work to the fullest potential.
- Ventilation: The vents located at the top of the helmet will enhance wind flow passing over your head which keeps you cooler. The more vents in a helmet, the lighter it will be.
- Straps: The straps should be comfortable and easy to use when you are putting on and taking off your helmet. Thinner straps are seen in helmets meant for road riding, while heavier and more durable straps are used in off road helmets.
- Construction: A popular process called in-mold construction will fuse the inner foam and the outer shell without the use of glues. This process will result in a strong, yet light helmet.
- Hair Ports: Some helmets are made with the option of a strap system that can accommodate ponytails.
Now that you know what the components of a helmet are, you still need to be aware of other important factors before you make your choice. Not all helmets are made the same and this section will discuss what matters most when it comes to choosing a bike helmet.
No matter which helmet you choose, all helmets need to be certified for safety testing. A certification from the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) is required by law in the United States for every helmet manufactured and sold. The testing results in manufacturers creating helmets that are light, comfortable, and able to endure significant impacts. Do not purchase a helmet that does not meet certification standards.
Getting the Right Fit
In the case of helmets, size matters. It is absolutely crucial for your helmet to fit correctly in order for it to function properly. A proper fit will ensure that the helmet will stay in place in the event of a crash. Measuring your head with exact measurements is the best way to find the perfect size for you. Helmet sizes differ from brand to brand, but if you know your exact measurements, you can easily determine which size you will need. (This is most important for doing online shopping).
In order to measure your head, you will need a tape measure from a sewing kit. Take the tape measure around your head, at about 1 inch above your eyebrows. Keep the tape measure parallel to the floor and level all the way around. Measure a few times to ensure accuracy. Once you have your measurements, you can compare it to the chart below to find what size you will need.
Centimeters are more accurate in terms of getting an exact fit. Once you have the right size, how you wear the helmet on your head is also crucial for safety and comfort. When you try on your helmet, the front of the helmet should be down on your forehead, resting just above your eyebrows. There should be just enough room to wear sunglasses or goggles, but any more room than that and it is too loose.
A properly fitting helmet will ensure proper head coverage and functionality should you be in a crash or fall.
Many helmets offer a lot of the same specifications in their descriptions. A few specifications you should look for when choosing a helmet are:
- Weight: Usually listed in grams. Racers and frequent riders see the lightest options as the best although the lighter the helmet, the higher the price.
- Vents: Keeps airflow around your head which will keep you cool. The more vents, the pricier the helmet.
- Visors: Some riders prefer to have a sun and/or debris shield. This will add an ounce or two of weight.
- Fit System: Manufacturers usually have different names for their approach on the sizes of helmets. Consult a retailer or website to find the correct size according to the manufacturer you choose to go with.
Knowing how helmets are made and what they are designed for will help you narrow down your choice. Remember, the main point of a helmet is safety and you should decide on a helmet that fits properly on your head and will suit your riding style.