How to choose the right bike helmet?

Jack | Wed 12th May 2021 14:34

Choosing which helmet to buy can be a confusing task, so many options, so much different technology and opinion. In this article we cut through the fluff and give you a breakdown of how to choose a bike helmet.

Which bike helmet is right for you?

For many riders, choosing which helmet to buy is just as important as choosing which bike to purchase. Protecting your head from falls, crashes and even falling pine cones (especially here in the Waikato!) is essential when out riding, but which helmet is right for you?

Choosing a helmet, whether it’s your first helmet, an upgrade or a present to a loved one, can be a pretty overwhelming experience. Full face, MTB, Road, Urban… the choices seem endless!

There are a variety of factors when it comes to choosing a bike helmet. For example, if you’re a road cyclist, you’re probably going to want something that is lightweight and aerodynamic that can cut through the wind without reducing safety, helping you get those top place finishes on the Strava leaderboard. If you’re a mountain biker, you might not be bothered about the weight, but more so about keeping your head cool on those rooty climbs, whilst also keeping your melon safe whilst you hit those gaps, step-ups and drops.

Key Features

There are a few things you will want to look out for when purchasing a helmet, ranging from the construction process all the way to which colours look best when you’re out on a family ride (spoiler, it’s whichever one mum is wearing!).

Construction Types:

The development and construction of helmets has come a long way, with technologies such as Inmold, Wavecell and MIPS being the frontrunners in keeping our heads safe.

Inmold Helmet Construction

Inmold helmets are great for those who are going to be doing your casual riding. Maybe you're just getting into road cycling or mountain biking and you’re not too sure if you’re going to like the sport (or love it!). These helmets are great for offering you a high level of protection whilst also not breaking the bank. On impact, the polycarbonate shell is designed to crack, spreading the initial burst of energy across the entire surface. The force then moves to the foam, which compresses while absorbing more of the blow. While helmets that just have Inmold don’t offer you some of the things that the more expensive helmets do (more ventilation, less weight, etc.) they still do what is required of them, which is to protect that head of yours!

Inmold helmets are molded in one single operation where the outer shell is bonded to the expanding foam.

WaveCel Helmet Construction

WaveCel is a versatile, high-value cycling helmet for new to seasoned riders who want a leading technology in the protection against cycling-related head injuries. WaveCel is a collapsible cellular structure that lines the inside of your Bontrager helmet. It’s designed to be more effective than traditional foam helmets in protecting your head from injuries caused by certain cycling accidents. They offer stylish road and mountain bike helmets that balance comfort and performance for those riders who value safety. Helmets that include Wavecel should definitely be considered to those who are wanting to step up to the next level of cycling.

Bontragers WaveCel is a collapsible cellular structure that lines the inside of the helmet.

MIPS Helmet Technology

MIPS (Multi Impact Protection System) was first developed in 2007 and since then it has taken the market by storm. Their research showed that when you crash and hit your head, it’s most often an angled impact. MIPS is intended to help reduce rotational force to the head when falling at an angled impact. The less your brain gets jostled around, the better. If you’re looking at taking that next step in biking, a MIPS helmet could be the thing for you. For something that used to come at a real premium, MIPS is now more affordable than ever. Make sure to look out for the yellow MIPS logo at your local Evo Showroom and take a look at the moveable slip-plane layer inside the helmets.

Shop MIPS Helmets
MIPS safety systems are the result of extensive research and testing, both internally and from independent third-party sources.

A number of other brands utilise helmet technology based on the same ‘angled impact’ protection philosophy. Similar to MIPS, other proprietary systems such as 360° Turbine by Leatt and SPIN Technology from POC, offer excellent rotational force protection in the event of a crash. All of these technologies have two main advantages over standard helmets, namely the reduction of rotational acceleration to the head and brain, as well as the absorption of energy upon impact at concussion level. If you want the best protection in a helmet, you shouldn’t look past helmets with this type of technology within, whether it is WaveCel, MIPS, 360° Turbine or SPIN.

What makes a good road helmet?

So you’re on the lookout for a road helmet. What are the things you should be looking out for and considering when shopping around?

There are a range of things to consider; how much ventilation does it offer me? How much padding is there? Is the helmet easily adjusted? Is it aerodynamic enough for me to be able to fly past my opposition with ease? These are all important questions, which luckily manufacturers take into consideration when designing road helmets.

In the perfect world, you would have the lightest, most aerodynamic helmet on the market whilst also safe in the knowledge that it will do what it is designed to do, to protect your head. If you’re just starting out as a road cyclist, weight might be the last thing on your mind when choosing a road helmet, but if you’re really getting into the roady lifestyle shedding those extra grams could mean the difference between 100th place and 1st. Manufacturers currently make a range of suitable helmets, targeted at your novice rider to your pro rider. As a general rule of thumb, as the price increases on helmets the weight decreases, aerodynamics increase, ventilation increases and your level of adjustability decreases. As someone starting out, you could spend $100+ on a helmet and it will do everything it's designed to at a high standard. As you ride with the helmet, you’ll develop as a rider and realise there are things that you’d like to change or improve on. Does your head get too hot in the helmet? Look at buying a helmet with more ventilation. Can you feel the air resistance when you’re aiming for that new personal best on the cycle home from work? Let’s get something a bit more streamlined. These are some of the things you might be considering when looking at upgrading.

Aerodynamics, ventilation and overal weight are important considerations when looking for a new road helmet.

Suddenly, you find yourself scouring the internet night and day for ways to quicken your times. Minimising weight and maximising aerodynamics becomes key. Getting a streamlined helmet is going to help you achieve your speed goals by reducing drag. If you’re at the front of the pack, competing in an Ironman or putting down maximum wattage on the sprint to the finish, these helmets may be for you. They may come with a heftier price tag, however, you’re paying for the pinnacle of high-performance cycling helmets.

Shop Road Helmets
Some helmets even come with an integrated rear light, helping you be seen by traffic

What makes a good MTB helmet?

So you’re looking at getting into mountain biking? Maybe a friend introduced you to the sport and now you’re obsessed and you’re going on your first night ride? Did you hit your first gap jump at the weekend and now you’re wanting to go bigger and better? You’re in luck, there will be a helmet for you!

There are a range of helmets for everyone when it comes to mountain biking. Even if you’re just starting out, you should consider helmets with MIPS or Wavecel. These will give you that extra protection and extra confidence that your head is in the best hands in the unfortunate case of a crash. Secondly, is the helmet comfortable? There is nothing worse than going for a trip to the local trails for a full day of mountain biking and your helmet is uncomfortable. We’d suggest going to your local showroom and trying on the helmets, as everyone's heads are different sizes and shapes. A comfortable helmet for one person might not be for someone else.

MTB Helmets are made with varying coverage and levels of protection. From half shell helmets for XC and trail riding, to full face DH helmets.

Furthermore, what extras does the helmet come with? When purchasing a helmet, you might want something that you can put your GoPro mount on so that you can attach your camera or a light (if you’re a fan of night riding). Another feature which can be overlooked, is the visor. The visor is there to stop the sun, rain, snow and debris from going in your face as your ride. However, an important factor is how easily it breaks away if you crash. When looking at buying a helmet, some will have movable visors, whereas some will have visors that are locked into place. The benefits of a moving visor, apart from you can decide how much exposure you want to the sun, is that it will breakaway easier in a crash, meaning it should have no impact on your safety if the unfortunate does happen.

If you find yourself getting involved with some of the gnarly tracks at your local park, or are racing DH, then you might want to start the process of looking at a full face helmet. These are going to offer lots of protection, so you can do those big jumps and steep drops with full confidence that your head is being protected to the max! Some full face helmets also offer a removable jaw section, so that you can have a full face or a normal helmet on demand.

Shop MTB Helmets

How should my helmet fit me?

If you are buying a helmet online, the only thing you need to know is the circumference of your head. All helmet manufacturers have different interpretations of sizes, but they are all based on head circumference.

How do I measure my head circumference, you say? Firstly, get a tape measure or piece of string. Wrap the string or soft tape measure around the circumference of your head, above your eyebrows and take the measurement. If you are using string after measuring, hold the string straight and flat next to the tape measure to get an accurate measurement.

For further sizing information, check out our sizing guide.

When should I replace my helmet?

Obviously, just wanting a new helmet for all of the reasons we’ve talked about previously is a good enough reason to replace your helmet, however, there are other times where we recommend replacing your helmet. Firstly, on the inside of your helmet there should be an expiry date. This expiry is put in by the manufacturer as a recommendation due to the deterioration of the materials inside the helmet, which could lead to it becoming unsafe as it could lose its structural integrity. Secondly, if you’re involved in a crash! A helmet is designed to disperse energy in the event of an impact. However, once it has had a big knock, the structural integrity of the helmet becomes compromised and it needs to be replaced. Numerous brands understand that this is a risk associated with cycling and is why they offer replacement incentives.

If you have any questions regarding the topics discussed in this post, don’t hesitate to contact us either online, over the phone or at your local EVO Cycles showroom. We will be more than happy to answer your questions regarding anything and everything helmet related. Let’s ride!

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