Bike Helmets

Helmet Styles
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Perhaps no other piece of cycling gear is as important as a helmet, yet some riders refuse to wear them and others wear them incorrectly. An improperly worn helmet is as bad as no helmet at all, so taking the time to select the right head-topper is important.

Provided that the helmet is certified by Snell or ANSI, the least expensive helmet will protect as well as the most costly model. Helmets range in price from $30 to $300 (while the limited-edition hand-painted Lance Armstrong replica helmet fetched more than $600).

Helmets at the low-end of the price range tend to be bulkier and less comfortable than more expensive models. As the price increases, so too do the numbers of vents (for cooling), while the helmets themselves become more streamlined and aerodynamic. While a $30 helmet will protect well, it doesn't win any points for style. Sophisticated design allows companies to produce a helmet that's smaller and lighter without compromising safety. That design results in a higher price.

Finding One for Your Head

Every helmet model will fit differently, and helmets from different manufacturers will have a completely different feel. To find the best-fitting helmet, shop at a well-stocked bicycle store. A good bike shop will always carry helmets the way Nordstrom does shoes. Many models should be on display, with a variety of sizes available in each model.

Market leaders such as Bell, Giro, Specialized, and others all produce different styles of helmets for different kinds of riding. Road helmets tend to be lower, flatter, and more aerodynamic. Mountain biking helmets have a slightly less aerodynamic shape but offer more protection against overhead objects and frontal collisions.

Serious downhillers and dual slalom pros should look at the new generation of full-faced helmets. Many designers have addressed the additional injury concerns of these specialized riders by creating helmets that cover the whole jaw line. While these helmets are heavier than their head-only relatives, there is no underestimating their usefulness in a crash, something that happens so often with the gravity set.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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