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This is a tricky question to ask correctly. One attempt has already been closed as subjective and argumentative. There is no one correct answer, for sure. However, there are interesting reasons that I believe are worth recording here.

Ideally include supporting documentation/research. I will vote up for quality of answer, not based on whether I agree with the answer.


locked by freiheit Feb 11 '12 at 18:16

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Certainly a worthwhile question, although as @Jay has noticed, one with no clear answer. Please flag any posts for moderator attention if necessary. – Neil Fein Oct 18 '10 at 0:29
I don't think one reason per post works well here at all. I would rebuild this question from scratch and ask people to make the most compelling case they can -- either for or against -- and cite experiences and data to back up that case. The best post here is the deleted one, sadly. :( – Jeff Atwood Oct 18 '10 at 10:51
@Jeff - Not an either/or situation. We can try it both ways, and keep the one that answers the question better and more comprehensively. Anyone want to take a crack at writing a version of this question that will work? (Perhaps this thread can be used to generate bullet points for arguments pro and con for such a complete-answer thread.) – Neil Fein Oct 18 '10 at 11:49
I keep wondering about the odd design that cycling helmets are? They look like they would work great if you landed right on top of your head, but who does that? The people I see crash hit much lower on the head (face first), where the helmet doesn't protect. Seems like they're very poorly designed for the task. – Brian Knoblauch Oct 19 '10 at 12:23
@Brian - I've hit myself on the top of my head twice, and had to replace my helmet. Just because a solution doesn't address all of the problem doesn't mean it's worthless. (And there are motorcycle-style helmets you can get.) – Neil Fein Oct 19 '10 at 14:30

34 Answers 34

I read in an issue of a mountain bike magazine (sorry I can't remember the issue or even the magazine), that helmets afford somewhat limited protection. That is not to say that you shouldn't wear a helmet.

The study showed that helmets can worsen head injury in crashes involving torque to the brain (i.e. rotational injury). Rotational injury is not like the relatively benign bleeding from simply a scraped scalp (though no head injury should be taken lightly!). Since the brain is not perfectly round but elongated, rotation can happen more easily at a pivot point. Torque injuries are the source of the most serious brain injuries.

Also the study seemed to suggest that helmets are most effective at protecting you in high speed crashes and crashes into sharp objects, which is particularly important in mountain biking. At medium to low speed crashes, the helmet's effectiveness was in doubt.

Other non-mountain bike specific studies seem to have shown the frequency of head injuries compared to other types of injuries is rare. The statistics can matter in deciding if helmets should be mandatory because if you also have comparable amount of spinal injuries then you could argue that it should be law to wear back braces like those DH mountain bikers wear, even on the road! As a consequence, it is understandable why some people think helmets are an arbitrary requirement.

But those studies also need to take into account in what environment these injuries take place. E.g. in Amsterdam and most European countries no one wears helmets but bicycles and cars move much slower and because of their infrastructure they do not have to meddle with cars as much. It's a different story in places like USA and Australia where there is little or no separation between bicycles and cars, and cars move very fast.

Anyway I always wear a helmet.


Nobody has mentioned on the Against side:

Noise - I have tried many helmets, and above a reasonable pace, all of them have wind noise, which helps to drown out the sound of big metal things aiming towards me.

I always where one when riding an MTB in a forest downhill, but on my commute I find I am much happier hearing traffic behind me so I can take evasive action, rather than being surprised by it as it comes alongside!


I've already fell into the ground, and I'm lucky I was wearing a helmet. I do know the impact, and I say to everybody: it's better, it's safer, it's necessary to wear helmets.

People say helmets are ugly, but I think an bleeding head is uglier.

Glad you're OK! Looking back at your accidents, do you think there's any chance that wearing a helmet contributed to it happening. For example, maybe a car didn't give you as much room, or you took a chance because you felt less vulnerable. – Jay Bazuzi Oct 20 '10 at 0:47

For on my racing bike : I always wear a helmet by principle on my racing bike and once crashed really hard on top of my head with my racing bike and I was really glad I wore a helmet. The only person in our cycling group not wearing a helmet was so impressed he finally bought himself an helmet.

I think that anecdotes aren't helpful in this thread. – Jay Bazuzi Oct 22 '10 at 4:22
I followed the suggestion of Jeff Atwood and cited my experience with wearing a helmet and how some people start wearing them after having an accident or seeing one from close by. It sometimes is the only way they get rid of the won't happen to me attitude. I'm just like that too, won't wear a helmet on my regular bike until I crash. – Samuel Oct 28 '10 at 9:51

protected by Neil Fein May 13 '11 at 2:44

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