To many new cyclists a helmet is a helmet is a helmet. But how do you pick the right cycling helmet? How do you differentiate between a cheap and an expensive one? Here is the Cyclop Buyer Guide for selecting your cycling helmet!
TYPES OF HELMETS
Every helmet is basically made of a foam liner covered with a hard outer shell. The shell absorbs external impact, while the liner encases and protects the head. Standard bicycle helmets will work for most cyclists. For specific riding styles go for:
MTB Helmet for offroading
This helmet is made for a rider crashing through a rough trail. It provides good head coverage and has fewer vents, to protect the head from stones and rocks in case of a crash. It usually comes with a detachable visor to deflect twigs, branches and flying stones from the eyes.
Road Bike Helmet
A road biker’s helmet must be lightweight, comfortable, and have multiple air vents for a non-sweaty head. These helmets do not have visors as it would block the cyclist’s vision in an aggressive riding position.
Triathlon and Time Trial Helmets
For competition-oriented cyclists speed is everything! Their cycling helmet is as aerodynamic as possible. In some helmets the clasp opens with one hand, cold and numb fingers to help with quick transition.
Full face helmet
This is for downhill junkies and freeriders who take high risks. The helmet provides coverage similar to a motorbike helmet, protecting the rider’s face and jaw in crashes on technical trails.
HOW TO EVALUATE A CYCLING HELMET
Price is the main consideration for many. Very broadly one may say, it starts from Rs 2000, the average is Rs 5000, and goes up to Rs 17,000.
But is an expensive helmet better than a cheaper one? In terms of safety, low cost, branded helmets are fine, as they too must pass established safety standards. But as the price goes up, you get higher levels of safety, better fit, higher structural strength, better aerodynamics, reduction in weight and better looking options!
When you are on the road for hours, every ounce of weight on your head makes a difference! Lighter, premium helmets fall near 200gm. But anything under 300gm is good for the average cyclist. Achieving very low weight is not easy and needs careful design. For example, Specialized’s 185gm Prevail S-Works helmet is internally reinforced with an aramid skeleton.
Stronger helmets make safer helmets.
Monoshell design contributes to helmet strength. In this the outer shell and foam liner are molded together, not glued or taped.
Internal reinforcing also makes a helmet strong. In this the helmet has a nylon or metal mesh buried inside its foam. This gives it internal support like iron rods in the walls of a building.
Advanced technologies like MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System ) are used by top brands like Giant, Giro and Scott. In this the head is encased in a layer that does not move with the outer layer. And so, when the helmet strikes the ground and tends to roll, the head does not roll with the outer layer.
Finally, all branded helmets must pass safety standards by one of these bodies –
- CPCS (US Consumer Product Safety Commission)
- ASTM (American Society of Testing Materials)
- CEN (the European Committee for Standardization) with the EN-1078 standard
In India’s hot weather, vents are a blessing, keeping the head cool and non-sweaty. They also make a helmet light but watch out! Too many vents in a non-reinforced helmet means its safety and structural strength may be compromised.
FIT & COMFORT
It is important that your helmet sit well on your head. For this look at –
Padding – Creates a snug fit, should be well spaced for ventilation, may be removeable and washable.
Adjustment mechanisms – Many helmets have a ring fit system which is an adjustable band inside the helmet to grip your head. In mid to high range helmets there will be a knob at the back to adjust the grip and height of the helmet.
Ponytail gap – Some helmets have this too!
Of course, it is essential to find the correct size helmet for yourself.
If speed’s your thing go for a helmet rounded at the front. Some helmets also provide a sliding cover to cover the vents, and become aerodynamic at choice.
For higher protection, go for higher coverage. But avoid a helmet that juts forward if you are a serious road biker. It may block your vision when you bend down and ride.
ATTACHMENTS & ACCESSORIES
Watch out for extra features in a helmet like headlights, rear lights, reflective strips, a detachable visor.
RECOMMENDED HELMETS ACROSS PRICE POINTS
Merida Team Race AR3
This is a value for money helmet. It has structural strength with inmold design, has 12 vents, is heat embossed & has 3D die cut padding and you can also adjust it with a 2D micro dial fit system. At 260gm it is well within 300gms.
CATLIKE Urban Helmet Kompacto
Playful, flowy, stylish, this helmet has won the BestBuy award by Outdoorgearlab.com. It provides extra safety by providing coverage in the fragile, lower back area of the head. It has 21 vents, and is designed for urban cycling.
Limar 778 Superlight
One glance at the Limar 778 Superlight and you can see how airy this cycling helmet is, weighing just 205gm. 24 vents and decent internal channeling don’t allow sweat to drip into the cyclist’s eyes. A great lightweight helmet, at its price.
FINAL HELMET BUYING CHECKLIST
- WEIGHT: Must Be Under 300gm, Closer To 200gm Is Great
- VENTS: 21+ For Road Biking Is Good
- MOLDED SHELL: Is Preferable For Strength
- INTERNAL REINFORCEMENT: is desirable
- ADJUSTABLE: Up, Down & Sideways
- HIGHER: Coverage Is Better If Trail Riding
- AERODYNAMIC SHAPE: May Be Preferred For Speed
- SAFETY: Recognised Brands Are Safe, Not To Worry
- EXTRA FEATURES: Bug Netting, Inbuilt Light, Mips Tech, Visor
- STYLE/ LOOK/ PRICE: Up To You
*Featured image credits: Yogesh Kumar
*Written in Jun 2020. Prices mentioned above may have changed from the time this blogpost was written.