How to choose a bicycle helmet:Helmet buying guide

How to choose a bicycle helmet

Finding the perfect fitting helmet is essential for safe and comfortable cycling. Whether you’re an avid cyclist or a newcomer, consider these factors when selecting a helmet: how it works, its importance, desirable features, and the budget you have.

Choosing the Right Bike Helmet: 3 Tips

  • Consider the Helmet Type: The type of riding you plan to do should influence your helmet choice. Different helmets are designed for specific uses such as Full Face Helmets, Mountain Helmets, Road Helmets, Kids Helmets, and Recreation Helmets. For example, mountain biking helmets have extra padding in the back to account for falls on rugged terrain.
  • Pay Attention to Padding: Depending on your cycling discipline, the helmet’s padding may vary. Mountain biking helmets, for instance, have more padding due to the likelihood of falling backward. Consider the specific demands of your riding style to ensure proper protection.
  • Weight, Aerodynamics, and Features: Road biking helmets are typically lighter and more aerodynamic than mountain biking helmets. They are designed for smoother surfaces and higher speeds. Additionally, road helmets often have more air vents for improved ventilation during rides. Some helmets may also include a visor, especially in mountain biking helmets, to shield your eyes from sunlight and offer additional facial protection.

Remember, finding the right helmet that fits perfectly and suits your preferences is crucial for a safe and comfortable cycling experience, regardless of whether you’re an avid cyclist or a beginner.

How Do Helms Work?

Helmets serve the primary purpose of preventing head injuries during accidents. They achieve this through mechanisms that absorb impact energy, disperse loads, and incorporate a retention system.

To efficiently absorb and distribute loads, helmets are constructed with polystyrene foam that compresses upon impact, cushioning the blow and evenly dispersing the force. To maintain the integrity of this cushioning, an outer hard shell is utilized, which allows smooth sliding on surfaces, prevents neck injuries from jerking movements, and offers protection against puncture accidents. The outer shell is typically made of plastic, but more expensive models may use carbon fiber composites for enhanced strength and reduced weight.

Under normal conditions, a helmet should stay securely in place without relying on its retention system. However, the retention system is crucial to prevent the helmet from being dislodged due to shock forces or sudden changes in direction caused by secondary impacts and movements.


Finding the correct helmet size and shape is crucial for safety and comfort. Consider the following factors:

  • Sizing: Helmet sizes can vary between brands, so measure the circumference of your head at its widest point, 2cm above your brow line. Ensure a snug fit that stays in place when inverted without relying on retention systems.
  • Helmet Shape: Different brands have different head shape preferences. Try on helmets to find a shape that suits your head best.
  • Retention System: The chin strap should be tightened enough to fit two fingers between your chin and the strap. It should form a V-shape beneath your ears and be easily adjustable while staying securely in place.
  • Tightening Mechanism: Some helmets have a secondary retention system to create a snug fit around the head and occipital bone. However, don’t rely solely on this mechanism for fit.
  • Pressure Points: Pay attention to any pressure points or uneven distribution when trying on a helmet, as this may indicate an improper fit.
  • Hair Ports: Consider helmets with hair ports if you have long hair, as these accommodate ponytails without compromising fit or safety.
  • Sunglasses: Ensure your helmet doesn’t interfere with your glasses or sunglasses. Try on helmets with your eyewear to check for any contact.

Safety Considerations:

  • Safety Standards: Look for helmets with stickers indicating they meet required safety standards.
  • MIPS: Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) reduces rotational force during impacts. It features a thin, low-friction liner inside the helmet, allowing minimal movement of the outer shell to mitigate energy transfer and reduce the risk of concussions.
  • Color Visibility: Choose helmets with colors that stand out and contrast with your cycling attire to increase visibility to other road users and enhance safety.

Bicycle Helmet Fit and Comfort

To ensure a bike helmet is effective and comfortable, proper fit is crucial. Measure your head circumference using a flexible tape measure or a string wrapped around the largest part of your head, approximately an inch above your eyebrows.

Sizing parameters for bike helmets:

  • Extra small: under 20″ (51cm).
  • Small: 20″-21.75″ (51cm-55cm).
  • Medium: 21.75-23.25″ (55 cm to 59 cm ).
  • Large: 23.25-24.75 in (59cm-63cm).
  • Extra large: greater than 24.75″ (63cm).
  • One Size Fits All: featuring an easily adjustable fit system

Options in Bike Helmet Features

Ventilation: Helmet vents provide enhanced air flow over your head, keeping you cooler and more comfortable as you ride. The more vents there are, the lighter the helmet becomes overall.

  • Visors: Many riders appreciate having sun-protective visors on their mountain bike helmets to block out direct sunlight and reduce UV rays.
  • Full face protection: Some mountain bike helmets feature an extendable chin bar for full face protection when downhill mountain biking or racing.
  • Mount Compatibility: Certain helmets are equipped to accept mounts that securely fasten an action camera or light (both available separately).
  • How to Adjust a Bicycle Helmet (PDF).

Here Are Three Steps for Proper Helmet Fit

1.Adjust the Fit

Most helmets have an adjustable wheel at the back. Loosen it fully to make it easier to put on the helmet. Tighten it for a secure fit.

2.Secure the Chin Strap

Fasten the chin strap securely and adjust the buckles until it forms an inverted “V” shape under each ear. If needed, use the adjustable buckle under each ear to fine-tune the fit for comfort.

3.Check the Fit

After properly tightening the retention system and chin strap, open your mouth wide. Ensure that the helmet stays snug against the top of your head. If it doesn’t, tighten the chin strap to ensure a secure fit during impact.

1.Helmet Sizes Vary Among Brands

Remember, helmet sizes can differ between brands, so it’s important to consult the manufacturer’s size chart for the specific model you’re interested in. Like shoes, some riders may find a particular brand that suits their head shape best and prefer it over others. Therefore, trying different helmets is crucial to finding the perfect fit that not only looks good but also feels right.

2.If Between Sizes, Choose the Smaller Size

Opt for the smaller size for a secure fit, as larger sizes may be too loose. If the helmet feels slightly too big, you can consider wearing a cycling cap or thermal beanie underneath to improve the fit.

3.Comfort is Key

A well-fitted helmet should feel snug and stay in place. During the open mouth test, ensure that the helmet presses down on your head, providing adequate protection to your forehead. Additionally, a properly fitted helmet should not shift or move from side to side on your head.

When to Replace a Helmet

Bicycle helmets should be replaced after an accident, even if they appear undamaged. It is recommended to purchase a new helmet. Additionally, helmets should be replaced every five years due to potential weakening from pollution, UV rays, and weather.

Important helmet features include ventilation, which improves comfort during long rides and reduces weight as the number of vents increases. A visor is beneficial for mountain bikers, as it blocks sunlight and enhances trail visibility at dawn or dusk. Full face helmets have gained popularity in mountain biking, offering lighter options with better ventilation for increased confidence. However, modern helmets generally do not come with accessory mounts for lights or action cameras.

Bike Helmet Care

Here Are Three Tips to Keep Your Helmet Fresh

To maximize your bike helmet’s performance this summer, follow these three helmet care tips:

  • Use mild soapy water and a soft cloth to clean your helmet instead of chemicals. If the liner pads become smelly or discolored, wash them separately.
  • Store your helmet in a cool, dry place like an attic, garage, or car trunk to prevent heat damage. Avoid using a helmet with signs of bubbling, cracking, or discoloration.
  • Avoid lending your helmet to others unless it is a trusted safety gear that you regularly use. Knowing its history and condition is crucial for your equipment’s reliability.

How To Choose A Cycle Helmet – A Buyer’s Guide

Bike helmet sizes by age

CategoriesAge GroupSize
Toddler3-5XXXSmall (49-50cm)
XXSmall (51-52cm)
Child5-8XXSmall (51-52cm)
XSmall (53-54cm)
Teen8-14Small (52-56cm)
Medium (55-59cm)
Youth15-24Small (52-56cm)
Medium (55-59cm)
Large (58-62cm)
Adult25 and aboveSmall (52-56cm)
Medium (55-59cm)
Large (58-62cm)
XLarge (61-65cm)

To quickly find the right helmet size, knowing your head measurements and shape is crucial. It ensures optimal comfort and protection by accurately determining the size that suits you best.

Identifying the Perfect Helmet Size

There are two main approaches to this. The first method involves wearing the helmet on your head, while the second method uses your head dimensions to determine the appropriate size. To measure your head size, you will need a tape measure, a note, and a pen.

Using the tape measure, measure the circumference of the fullest part of your head, preferably around the forehead region just above your ears. This will determine the widest part of your head, which is typically the forehead area.

Record the measurements in inches and centimeters using the pen and note. Then, refer to the size chart to find the helmet that best matches your head size.

About De Hua

Lindsay Boyers is a former New Yorker who now lives at the beach. She received a double B.A. in International Relations and Marketing from The College of William & Mary and an M.A. in Interactive Journalism from American University. Lindsay Boyers has been published in The Washington Post, New York Daily News, Cosmopolitan, Women's Health, The Bump, and Yahoo, among others.How We Tested and Reviewed

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *