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My wife and do a lot of urban riding - mostly on bike lanes - and usually we don't wear a helmet for these rides. But I'd like us to start, and I'd like to get her a nice helmet, one that doesn't look like a standard bicycle helmet. I found a couple of companies that make the sort of thing I'm considering - for example - Yakkay, Nutcase or Lazer. Other than being more expensive, do these helmets have serious drawbacks? We live in a pretty hot, humid climate, so ventilation is definitely a concern.

Some clarifications:

I want to point out that even though I described it as "hot and humid" here, lots of people - probably a sizable minority - do ride with helmets. I ride with one on the longer rides, but I have a habit of skipping it for the short urban ones. The two of us agree, in principle, about wearing a helmet, but I think she'll be much happier starting with something pretty.

Here is Tel Aviv, by the way.

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Those seem to be very poorly vented. Ventilation is a major issue with helmets in just about any climate. I'd suggest you buy an inexpensive standard helmet and wear it awhile to become familiar with the various issues with helmets. But, please, WEAR A HELMET. –  Daniel R Hicks Apr 9 '12 at 11:13
    
If you don't like bicycle helmets, there are a lot of other sports (for example, roller-blade skating, polo (on horses), mountain-climbing, etc.) that use helmets which might have a more "eye-friendly" looks. Other than that, I think you have already mentioned the (probably) most fashion-oriented options. But don't worry, "ugly helmet" is just a concept they try to put on our heads... ;oP –  heltonbiker Apr 9 '12 at 14:34
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Both of those look to be very uncomfortable in a hot, humid place. I'm not sure how far you can get away from "standard". –  user313 Apr 9 '12 at 15:44
    
There seems to be a lot of concern about how hot and humid it is here. Yes, it's hot and humid in Tel Aviv. But it's also an exceptionally flat and concentrated city - most rides are less than 5 km and without much elevation gain, and don't require much effort. Ventilation is important, but this isn't the worst place in the world to sacrifice ventilation for fashion. –  Eyal May 16 '12 at 16:26
    
I wouldn't worry about hot and humid. If you're sweating a lot, wear a headband to keep it out of your eyes, and your bike probably has an attachment for a water bottle. Use it. The less ventilation, the more safe it is if you get in a crash. I only go for the helmets that BMX riders and downhill racers wear. I got my girlfriend a colourful one. –  Robin Ashe Jul 4 '12 at 23:03

8 Answers 8

Swedish company Hövding manufactures an "invisible" helmet, essentially an airbag. See in action here.

the invisible helmet!

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That's just plain crazy. Do you have one? How is it? –  Eyal Jul 4 '12 at 9:33
    
I don't have one. Yet. :) –  Joonas Pulakka Jul 4 '12 at 10:12

Ribcap is another alternative helmet which does not have a hard shell, but a semi-flexible material which hardens on impact. Traditionally, this was used for snowboarding, but it is now being promoted for cycling use. However, I wouldn't trust this as much as a standard cycling helmet, it would offer more protection than going without a helmet.

a Ribcap helmet

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The fact that you both suggest them and hesitate to trust them is a point against, but I think either way they'll be too hot for our climate (but pretty enough). –  Eyal Jun 29 '12 at 10:11

My personal favorite helmet company, both for quality and style is Kask Safety.

They make well made, craftsman quality helmets with modern engineering for safety, fit, comfort and ventilation, and with old world touches likes butter soft italian leather straps.

You can find their road cycling helmets here and their Urban designs here.

a Kask Urban helmet

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Bern makes less 'sporty' helmets such as the BERKELEY for women and the BRENTWOOD for men which may be slightly more ventilated than other options. However, a traditional cycling helmet with lots of ventilation is probably going to be much cooler, unless you're doing very casual riding.

the Berkeley helmet

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My wife and I have Bern helmets. I have the G2. I have never found it to be "too hot", even when riding 100+ miles at nearly 90 degrees (F). I notice the lightweight design, and much appreciate the sun visor. (I have expected it to feel hotter on some occasions, it jus has never felt that much hotter.) –  Mark Stosberg Jul 4 '12 at 14:46

Depending on your budget, you could probably get something hand painted. After some quick Googling, I found this on Etsy. Looks like a standard Bern or Nutcase helmet, but it's been painted. There's probably some manufacturer warnings about not painting the helmet, but I wouldn't imagine that paint would have much of an effect on these hardshell helmets, as long as you used a non-industrial paint. And it would be safer than no helmet at all. You could probably contact your local highschool or arts college to see if they have any students who were interested in doing something like this as a project. Probably would be a lot cheaper to hire someone locally than to pay $300 for the helmet on Etsy. Found the non-Etsy site that seems to have a larger selection here.

enter image description here

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Personally, I think that good cycling helmets are beautiful. The lines are elegant. The transitions between the surface of the helmet and the vents are graceful. The way that the helmet increases in size from front to back is reminiscent of the wind. They're really quite astounding pieces of technology, if you really look at them.

On the other hand, cheap bicycle helmets just look bulky and blunt. And the type that most people seem to be linking to, the "brain buckets" that look like skateboarding or horse racing helmets, are just hideously ugly.

I know that doesn't really answer your question, but as you mentioned ventilation is a big issue and I really think it's worth it to have a good cycling helmet. And there's a big difference in ventilation between a $40 and a $100 helmet. I think if you drop the money on a good cycling helmet, you'll be much happier with it than you will with a "fashion" helmet.

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Assuming I ride a lot, but know nothing about helmets, can you tell me how to look for a /good/ helmet? –  ChrisW Jun 21 '12 at 16:44
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Gladly! Here's my answer to that in another person's question: bicycles.stackexchange.com/a/9756/4239 Naturally, scroll up and down to see others' opinions. –  jimirings Jun 21 '12 at 19:37
    
These "hideously ugly" helmets are likely safer because they have a more spherical shape to better address rotational impacts, and fewer vents that objects can penetrate. More that here. –  Mark Stosberg Jul 4 '12 at 14:49
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It's not clear to me how spherical helmets are supposed to mitigate rotational injuries and the article you linked doesn't explain it nor does it link to a source that backs up that claim. In fact, it says, "Nothing has been shown one way or another though, for bicycle helmets." The penetrating objects thing makes sense though. On the other hand, I've had a couple of crashes that resulted in broken helmets (pretty ones and ugly ones) and head injuries and I've never been at risk for a penetrating object regardless of the helmet. Ventilation, however, is a daily concern. –  jimirings Jul 5 '12 at 15:35

Beware of helmets that have other than smooth plastic surfaces. I don't know if there is any scientific evidence for it but my practical sense tells me that a helmet with cloth surface (like yakkay helmets) can lead to extra injury in the case of an accident.

In many cases you tend to slide on your helmet when you crash on the street/bike lane and if your helmet is covered with a materiel that tends to have higher friction than the standard plastic shell your neck must bear the extra forces that are generated.

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I have this nutcase helmet:

enter image description here

I really like it, it's comfortable to wear and I love the way it looks. I'd say the ventilation was good but not great. It's certainly enough for the conditions I ride in - the temperature is rarely above 25°C and humidity is generally somewhere around 60%.

If the temperature and humidity you ride in is a lot higher, then you probably want something with a bit more airflow.

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I remember the first time I got shot out of a cannon... –  lawndartcatcher Apr 10 '12 at 16:53
    
@lawndartcatcher Ha! –  jimirings Jun 21 '12 at 19:59

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