Cycling is fun, free and – depending on how sweaty you like your commute to be – can often be faster than most alternative modes of transport. But it’s not without its hazards, hence why most cyclists choose to don bike helmets when spinning from A to B. Even if they're riding on one of the best bikes on the market, rather than a clapped-out model that's spent half its life in a garden shed.
While not required by law, a cycling helmet is a great way to add some protection when pedalling and can reduce the impact to your head if you are involved in a collision – although it’s important to note that wearing one doesn’t instantly make you superhuman. All helmets sold in the UK have to comply with the safety regulation EN 1078 (which should be somewhere on its packaging), while more premium models come with additional features such as MIPS technology.
Although it’s their main job, helmets aren’t just for protecting your noggin. Like other types of kit such as cycling shorts, cycling jerseys and cycling backpacks, some models include reflective detailing or even boast built-in lights to help you stay seen after dark by other road users. Others are all about aerodynamics, and can actually make you faster than if you aren’t wearing one.
Not sure where to start in your search for the best bike helmets? Brands such as Giro, Kask, POC, Rapha and Specialized all produce amazing lids that are comfortable, cool (literally and figuratively) and, most importantly, safe. But first, a few things worth considering before you buy...
Which are the best cycling helmets?
An all-rounder at a remarkable price, Giro's Register helmet does it all, incorporating that all-important MIPS into a streamlined design that's as ventilating as it is aerodynamic.
You'll find few helmets as affordable as this Halford's original, which is made with city cycling in mind. A rounded fit is best for those prioritising safety over speed and there's even a visor to improve visibility on sunnier days.
Close to the high end of what is currently available on the cycling helmet market, America's Specialized has created a new iteration of its popular S Words design. This one has been wind tunnel tested to optimise both breathability and streamlined, PB-beating design.
What do I need to know about cycling helmet sizing?
A cycling helmet that fits correctly is imperative for delivering that most important function – protecting your head from a nasty knock. For this reason, helmets should have several points of adjustability to secure a comfortable fit. A comprehensive fit system will include straps and a rear adjuster on the helmet itself, as well as an adjustable chin strap, which should allow for a comfortable fit on the face and chin without digging into your skin. If buying online, grab a tape measure and circle it around your head’s widest point. Generally speaking, size small will accommodate under 56cm and large over 58cm, but every brand is different (and will have its own size guide).
Is it worth getting a MIPS cycling helmet?
In your search for the best bike helmet, you may have come across the term “MIPS”. It refers to a Swedish company that specialises in a technology fitted inside helmets and stands for Multidirectional Impact Protection System. Providing an extra degree of safety, this slip pane technology absorbs both linear and rotational impact, reducing strain to the brain and reducing the likelihood of resulting concussion and other neurological injuries. If you're new to cycling on busy roads, a MIPS helmet is an investment worth making and is increasingly being built into road bike helmets as standard. MIPS aside, however, all helmets must go through rigorous road safety tests ahead of getting sold and will reduce impact dramatically compared to wearing nothing at all.
How long should a cycling helmet last?
Various cycling testing bodies have come up with different answers as to when you might think about replacing your helmet, varying from anywhere between three and ten years. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for when it comes to road helmets and buying one at the higher end of the market will more than likely equate to a longer lifespan.
While bike helmets at any price point should be road-tested and approved at an official safety standard baseline, pricier helmets will tend to have MIPS as standard and be made from hardier (yet lightweight and thus more aerodynamic) stuff. Also affecting price point is the ventilation you can expect from your helmet, with more inexpensive models tending to use a larger block of eps foam and incorporating fewer holes – not ideal for summer commuting.
Is it against the law to not wear a cycling helmet?
Although there’s no law that requires a cyclist to wear a helmet, UK road accident figures are a compelling enough cause to invest. Data from the largest cycling and helmets review to date (2016) found that cycling helmets reduce the risk of serious head injuries by nearly 70 per cent, and fatal ones by 65 per cent. Seems to us like reason enough to apply your pomade when you reach your destination, rather than fret about helmet hair.
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