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As the weather gets warmer, many Americans are looking for new ways to exercise and enjoy the outdoors — one popular option is biking. But before you take off, you’ll need to make sure you have everything you need to bike safely, including bike helmets — experts we consulted consider it essential to wear one.
Even the best cyclists are still at risk of colliding with cars or other motor vehicles, encountering hazards like pedestrians or other cyclists and facing dangerous road conditions like potholes and tree roots. Bicycle crashes can cause serious injury or even death, especially when the cyclist isn’t wearing a helmet. In fact, a “bike helmet is a cyclist’s best line of defense, reducing risk of head injury by more than 50 percent,” according to the National Safety Council — research by the National Transportation Safety Board found helmets reduce serious head injuries by 60 percent.
“Think of a helmet as you would a seatbelt in your car,” said Alison Dewey, education director at the League of American Bicyclists. “You never want to have it come in handy, but when you need it, you’ll be glad you’re wearing it.”
How to find the right helmet for you
Cycling experts explain what to consider while shopping for a bike helmet:
- Helmet fit is everything. Most helmets come in different sizes — small, medium and large — and can be adjusted based on your needs. To tell if your helmet fits, there should be two-fingers’ width between the front of the helmet and your eyebrows, explained Ken Tashoff, manager of Danny’s Cycles. The side straps should come over the ears, and there should be less than a half-inch between your chin and the buckled strap. The helmet should stay in place when you shake your head.
- Helmets also come in different weights. Lighter helmets will be more comfortable for longer rides — and are typically more expensive — noted Scott Rice, senior global brand director at Pacific Cycle.
- Most high-end helmets will boast multi-directional impact protection systems (MIPS) which add a small low-friction layer to the helmet that allows it to slide upon impact, reducing blunt force trauma to the head, explained Tashoff.
- Riders will want a helmet that’s well-ventilated to stay cool while riding, said Dewey. But the more air vents a model has, the more expensive it will typically be “since the same safety standards have to be maintained with less material.”
- Most helmet prices range anywhere from $25 to $200.
Make sure your helmet has metthe safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which independently reviews and issues guidance on consumer products. Karla Crosswhite, spokesperson for the CPSC, warned against counterfeit helmets, which may not provide the right safety.
“It can be difficult for a consumer to know the difference,” she said. “If it’s not from a reputable seller and doesn’t comply with the CPSC safety standard, that’s a major red flag.”
Helmets don’t last forever — most have a lifespan of four years, said Crosswhite. The protective foam liner deteriorates over time and may not provide adequate support. If you get into a collision, you need to replace your helmet immediately, even if it looks undamaged.
Best bike helmets
To help you stay safe while on the road, here are some of the best helmet options on the market right now, each confirmed to be compliant with the CPSC and otherwise chosen according to the guidance we got from cycling experts above.
This helmet comes with reflectors, providing higher visibility, especially while biking at night. Other unique features include side mesh to keep out bugs and a special space to fit your ponytail through. Helmets come in five colors and three sizes, which can fit most adults with a head circumference between 52 to 61 centimeters — the helmets weigh 1.8 pounds and can be adjusted via a dial on the back.
This stylish helmet is designed for seasoned bikers. Its increased rear coverage and adjustable visor make this helmet ideal for all-day mountain biking and trail riding, explained Rice. It’s extremely lightweight — clocking in at under a pound — and comes in three colors and two sizes, fitting adults with a head circumference ranging from 54 to 62 centimeters. This helmet comes with MIPS technology and has 13 air vents for increased ventilation.
This highly-rated helmet is made with MIPS technology and has 22 vents for a cool, highly-ventilated ride. Helmets come in one universal and adjustable size, fitting adults with head sizes ranging from 54 to 61 centimeters. Riders can change helmet size via a dial on the back, allowing for on-the-go adjustments. Helmets come in six colors and weigh under one pound.
This helmet is great for commuters: It has both front and rear LED lights and can give turn signals to alert motorists. Riders can even customize symbols, patterns and messages in the helmet display via Bluetooth connection. Helmets come with MIPS technology, weigh about 1.2 pounds and come in two colors and two sizes, fitting adults with a head circumference ranging from 56 to 61 centimeters.
This affordable commuter helmet, which can be used for both biking and skating, has a simple, matte design and comes in nine colors and three sizes, and can fit adults with head sizes ranging from 51 to 63 centimeters. Helmets come with 10 vents for ventilation and two extra sets of inner pads for a customizable fit.
One of the most highly rated bike helmets on Amazon, this Schwinn helmet has over 20 air vents, extra rear coverage and comes with a removable visor. Riders can easily adjust their helmet using a dial on the back, and this helmet comes in one standard size fitting riders with a head circumference of 58 to 62 centimeters. Helmets come in over a dozen colors and designs.
This sleek helmet, sporting a vintage design, comes in 12 different stylish colors, including Rose Gold and Terra Cotta. Helmets come with seven air vents, a visor and a magnetic buckle. One unique feature of this helmet is its anti-theft feature, which allows riders to lock their helmet to a bike chain. Helmets come in three sizes and fit adults with head sizes ranging between 54 and 62 centimeters.