Bicycle Helmets: A How-To

If you can’t tell what’s wrong in the picture above, you need some help.

Does your helmet look like this?


Or have you had the same helmet since 1983 (or even more than 5 years old)?


Or are you one of those tough guys who doesn’t wear a helmet?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you need a helmet. If your helmet is over 5 years old, the foam or EVA foam shell has deteriorated. That’s not just me telling you, that’s what helmet manufacturers say. If you take an impact with an old helmet, the foam might just disintegrate, and you’re taking full impact to the dome.

Also, if you’re too tough to wear a helmet, here’s a song for you: If You’re Gonna Be Dumb, You Gotta Be Tough.

But which helmet is right for you?


Road Helmets

Road cycling helmets are intended to be ridden on the road. They have aerodynamic profiles and vents that collect air best at speeds over 15mph. An easy way to identify a road helmet is the lack of a visor. To shield the eyes, glasses and/or a cycling cap should be employed. Road helmets also come in a couple different subsets:

  • Light & Airy: Extremely lightweight. Loads of cooling vents. Examples: Giro Cinder and Giro Ember.
  • Aero: Intended to be as aerodynamic as possible. Strategically optimized vents to still cool the head. Intended for racing. Example: Giro Vanquish.
  • Recreational road: Often including many features of the more expensive helmets, but heavier, less vented, and lower priced. Examples: Cannondale CAAD and Giro Saga.


Mountain Helmets

Mountain biking comes with different hazards than road cycling. Hitting trees, protruding rocks, and kids/animals that have stopped on the trail for no reason are more likely on singletrack. Due to the randomness of crashing off-road, mountain helmets have more protection for the rear of the head. Mountain helmets vent better under 15mph. They also have the visor to protect the eyes from low hanging brush and to keep eyes shielded from the brief, blinding moments of sun shining through trees. There are different subsets for mountain helmets, as well:

  • Cross Country: Intended for going as fast as possible on dirt. Often, XC racers will wear road helmets, but there are some XC specific helmets, like the Giro Fathom.
  • All-Mountain/Enduro: Designed with more back of head protection, this doesn’t vent as well, but is designed to be more protective on the gnarly stuff. Examples: Cannondale Ryker and Giro Montaro.
  • Full Face: For downhill mountain biking. Covers the full face. Really only intended for downhill riding. I’m serious, you don’t need this for the bike path.
  • Recreational: Same boat as the recreational road helmets. Similar tech, a little heavier, lower cost. Examples: Bell Catalyst and Giant Roost.


Lifestyle Helmets

Neither too much like road helmets, nor too similar to mountain helmets, lifestyle helmets are made for many different purposes:

  • Urban: Designed for the commuter, or cyclist who wants to look even cooler while riding. Examples: Giro Reverb and Giro Sutton.
  • BMX: A brain bucket with a bunch of protection. Made for doing dumb things on little bikes. Example: Giro Quarter.
  • Casual: Optimal protection for easy rides at a reasonable price. Examples: Giro Register, Cannondale Quick, and Giant Compel.
  • E-bike: I personally don’t think you need a special helmet specifically for an e-bike, but if you want to look like a spaceman riding your motorized bicycle, then here ya go. Example: Bell Annex Shield.

Now that you have all this info about helmets, I hope you can make an informed decision about which might be right for you! If you still have questions, you can always come in and we will be happy to help you! Just make sure you’re wearing a helmet while you ride, and don’t end up looking like this guy…


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