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I dont actually own a cycling helmet, but I'm thinking its probably a good idea to get one!

I want to buy one from the internet (mainly because its cheaper than stores), but what do I need to look for? How do I know which is the correct size?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

In the US you need to look for one of three certifications:

  • CPSC sticker for the US Consumer Product Safety Commission standard
  • American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has a F1447 standard that is is identical and may be more common internationally
  • Snell B-95 used to be more common, but as a higher, more rigorous standard I don't think you see it any more.

It's likely that helmets available online and for the UK market will carry one of the US certifications as well as a similar EU certification. I know there is a "CE" certification but I don't know about what it entails.

Any helmet meeting one of those certifications will provide the basic level of protection you are looking for, even if it is just $15-$20 US. Beyond that comes the world of look, style and performance. As helmets increase in price, they decrease in weight, increase in vents, and sometimes increase in adjustability.

I know you mention that you want to buy online, but you may want to purchase your first one at your local shop for the following reasons.

  1. Different manufactures/brands fit different shapes and sizes of heads better. For instance, I like Specialized helmets because they tend to fit my head shape and size better than either Bell or Giro.
  2. The shop technician can help you adjust the padding and retention straps for a correct fit. It's not hard, but it is critical for the helmet to provide the desired protection. I see people every day riding with poor fitting or maladjusted helmets.
  3. It's always a good idea to build a relationship with your Local Bike Shop (LBS). You never know when you are going to need a quick or emergency repair, and your LBS is more likely to help out a regular customer.

After the first helmet you will have a better idea of what you like and what fits, and you can shop around online. You will want to replace your helmet every couple of years anyway, as it loses structural integrity overtime.

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute is my favorite online source for helmet info. Start with the How To Buy page, but be sure to surf around on the site.

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Also - sizing for a helmet is pretty broad, especially at the 'budget' end. Adjusting for fit is usually done using adhesive pads and/or ratcheting straps. –  Gary.Ray Oct 9 '10 at 22:44
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In Britain the current standard for helmets is BS EN 1078:1997 Helmets for pedal cyclists and for users of skateboards and roller skates. Standards aside though, in general what you want in a helmet is something that feels comfortable, that once properly done up doesn't "slosh" around your head, one that doesn't restrict your vision and has enough ventilation to stop your head from getting too hot.
"Nice to haves" are a pleasant design and the ability to add a peak (visor) for summer riding (to keep the sun off your face).
Oh, and if you ever ride in Australia in the springtime somewhere to put some magpie deterrents.

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