Cycling helmets are one of those accessories about which every bike enthusiast seems to have a strong opinion. In fact, I hesitate to write about this–I know I’ll hear back from tons of you with even stronger opinions than my own. But this is a dialogue, right? I talk and you get to talk back. Feel free to comment below–I’m opinionated but still teachable.
In the minds of some riders, helmets are extra weight they’d prefer to leave at home. Truthfully, these riders are a small and dying breed. Sorry to be blunt…
Eventually you’ll find those people lying in a ditch somewhere with blood streaming down their foreheads and a stupid look in their eyes. Lesson: Wear your damn helmet!
If you’re doing hardcore off-road riding, a good helmet is an absolute necessity. I wouldn’t even want to ride with someone in off-road who thought he could leave his helmet at home. Why? Because I’d probably be the guy that would have to call the ambulance, hold his bloody head, tell him he’s going to be ok and not to worry about the double vision or nasty pain, etc. I hate that. I didn’t take up cycling to be anybody’s nurse, at least, not anybody who didn’t care enough about themselves to follow basic safety rules and common sense. OK, enough about that.
What’s New in Helmets?
As we researched the newest and latest products for 2011, we found the following:
. The news is…there’s not much news at all. I personally found no new earth-shaking technology or innovation in the newest helmets to hit the market. It feels like we’ve plateau’d for now. So don’t get fooled by any manufacturer who claims otherwise. Last year’s helmets are still on the leading edge of technology. However, based upon emerging technology for football helmets, that may change in 2012. We usually get football helmet technology a bit later than the football players. So stay tuned.
. The current and evolving style seems to be leaning to helmets with a rounder profile. The older, more elongated styles with the long rear points are now starting to look so “yesterday.” Not that it means a thing as to how well you’re being protected. For some riders, though, staying up with the styles is more important than staying up with the pack.
. Impact protection seems to be strong at almost every price level—-again, no matter what the ads are saying. You can still get adequate protection from $20-$50 helmets. If you think you need a $200 helmet, a lot of industry pros think you’re getting nothing more than high priced graphics, fancy buckles and straps, etc.
. One improvement from last year that we like is the slip-plane helmet. It features a second liner that slips over the inner liner a few millimeters just at the instance of impact. The claim is that it helps prevent rotational injuries that often result in concussions. POC and a few others have this in their product line.
. Finally, you can now find ring fit systems almost everywhere. This makes the helmet “one size fits all.” Personally, I found myself disliking the fit. It was just too loose for my tastes. When you’re shopping around, be sure to look at both the ring fit and the regular fit versions before you make a purchase.
Speaking of fitting, check out our post on “The Perfect Fit” based upon some recent recommendations from the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute.
Bottom Line: Use your head.
Find a helmet that fits you, that is highly visible, and that you will have no reluctance to use anytime you get on your bike.