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Bicycle Helmets Buyer's Guide

Choosing the right bicycle helmet can not only make your bicycle rides safer, but also more enjoyable if you choose one that fits you well and is appropriate for the style of cycling that you do. We'll cover different types of bike helmets below, how to choose the correct size, and knowing when to replace a bicycle helmet.

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Measuring head circumference for fitting a bicycle helmet

How do I select the right size bike helmet?

Some helmets are "one size fits most" while others come in Small, Medium, Large, etc. The sizes have a recommended range based on the circumference of your head (although keep in mind that these ranges vary from one helmet brand to another). Use a flexible tape measure wrapped just above your ears and eyebrows. Keep the tape level, but make sure it covers the area in the back of your head that results in the largest measurement.

All that being said, the best way to find the correct fit is to try them on in person in our stores and see what feels best for you!

Do more expensive helmets provide better protection?

In general, no. Bike helmets sold in the United States must all meet the same standard of protection as tested by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. What you get when you pay more is lighter weight, better ventilation, better fit, more features, and better style (and of course, style is all a matter of preference).

What's the difference between a road bike helmet and a mountain bike helmet?

Most road bike helmets do not have the sun visor, as it tends to block your view somewhat when riding in the more aggressive position of a road bike. Helmets with a sun visor provide some shade when riding in the more upright position of a mountain bike or hybrid bike. Mountain bike specific helmets extend lower on the back of your head, to provide more protection for this area, as it tends to be impacted more in mountain biking crashes. For extreme mountain biking, you can get helmets with full face protection. Generally, though, road and mountain biking helmet styles are a matter of tradition, and you can wear whatever helmet you want for either type of riding. Any protection is better than none!

Road Cycling Helmet

Road Cycling Helmet

Mountain Biking Helmet

Mountain Biking Helmet

Full Face Mountain Biking Helmet

Full Face Mountain Biking Helmet

When should I replace my bike helmet?

Cracked bicycle helmet
If there is visible damage. If you can see cracks or dents in the outer shell or inner foam structure of your helmet, then its ability to protect your head is definitely compromised. Do not use it and replace it immediately.
Bicycle crash scene
If it received an impact due to a crash or severe accidental drop. Similar to the air bags in your car, bicycle helmets are designed to be "one and done" when it comes to protecting you in the event of a crash. Once it has done its job to absorb the force of one impact, it should be replaced. Even if you can't see any damage to it, there may be cracks in the internal structure.
Scene from the American Flyers film

If it's more than a few years old. Even if it has not had an impact, your helmet's protective ability diminishes over time due to sweat, heat, and ultraviolet light. Opinions vary on the length of time. Consumer Reports recommends every five years; the US Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends every 5 to 10 years. Most helmet manufacturers recommend every 3 years. If you can't even remember how old it is, e.g. if looking at your helmet puts in mind of one of those cycling movies from the 80's (like American Flyers), then it's definitely beyond its life span, no matter whose replacement time frame recommendation you believe!

Inside view of a bicycle helmet with MIPS technology

To upgrade to the latest technology. Most modern helmets incorporate a new feature called MIPS, which stands for Multidirectional Impact Protection System. It helps to absorb rotational forces on impact, and studies have shown that it can reduce the likelihood of concussions.

How can I extend the life of my bike helmet?

Clean off any dust or mud with a damp cloth. Do not use any cleaners or solvents, as these may degrade the outer shell or inner foam layer. Store your helmet indoors away from extreme heat or cold. Avoid throwing your helmet or dropping it from a considerable height.