I need a new helmet, and now I know that this is a minimalist, simple, ride don’t buy, buy blog. Shouldn’t I be moving towards not spending? Yeah, absolutely and constantly try to do that. Yet, this purchase in no way goes against what we believe, spend less and smart. We do need to buy things from time to time, when it’s a necessity and not a whim. There is a huge difference between buying another helmet just because of a new style, color, brand, or sponsored rider wearing it and buying one because your current helmet broke or reached the end of it’s useful life.
Helmets are in a separate category all to themselves in the cycling world. Most of the stuff on the bike will be repaired several times before needing replacement. Even our clothes and kneepads get a stitch here or there and are good to go. Helmets, if the foam cracks, or you took a big hit, you’re done, outta here! Time to purchase a new one, no repairs.
So, are all helmets created equal?
Helmets are important no doubt about that, they cover your head and help prevent serious brain injuries. That’s a pretty big deciding factor in getting one, but does that mean I should go out and get the most expensive one? Does a bigger price tag mean superior protection? Helmets sold at any store will adhere to national safety standards, be it retail or local bike shop. Check the inside of a helmet, that’s where the certification standard stickers are.
- USA: CPSC, ASTM F1447
- Europe: EN1078
- Australia / New Zealand: AS/NZS:2063:1996
- Canada: CAN-CSA-D113.2-M
- Japan: JIS T 8134-1982
Most of these certifications are pretty on par with each other, varying little between them. If you get a helmet with any one of these you’re getting a safe helmet. So with that in mind, then you don’t need the most expensive helmet to get good protection. Also hyper specific helmets are just marketing ploys, they are all set to the same standards. With the exception being downhill helmets those have their own testing standard. I should also point out that while MIPS and other technologies exist out there the CPSC makes the following note on their site:
No helmet design has been proven to prevent concussions. The materials that are used in most of today’s helmets are engineered to absorb the high impact energies that can produce skull fractures and severe brain injuries. However, these materials have not been proven to counteract the energies believed to cause concussions. Beware of claims that a particular helmet can reduce or prevent concussions.
What to look for in a helmet replacement
With that sorted out, let us enlist what we’re looking for in a new helmet. Disclaimer, I have an Adam Sandler egg shaped head so fit is a huge one and a big issue for me. A lot of very good looking ones, end up being uncomfortable and I tend to end up with minimal padding helmets. Giro has fit this egg noggin pretty well over the years, but given the minimum padding they tend to get ratty quickly.
There’s point #2, I want good padding for comfort and one that absorbs and wicks away sweat. I ride in Mexico, we only have 2 seasons, hot and hotter. Riding around with sweat dripping into your eyes or having to pull over to squeeze out sweat from the pads is not cool or convenient.
Cool, brings me to point #3: get good ventilation. Half shell helmets don’t really ventilate as well and I’ve noticed that big vents are better than lots of little ones.
Point #4, dial knob fit. It’s easy to adjust on the fly with one hand. Sometimes you need a few clicks here or there depending on the day, heat and ride. Buckle style is not for me as I find it uncomfortable (egghead), a pain to setup and I can’t adjust on the fly.
At the end of the day, price is still king
I can’t really let myself buy $100+ dollar helmets knowing that all helmets are all certified to the same standard. So I assign value to features I like and slowly build the price from there. I’ve bought outlet and retail helmets and have yet to exceed $50 which is my upper limit. I also find that by spending less on a helmet, if they are to suffer a hit or break I’m more likely to replace it as it doesn’t hurt my wallet as much. If it’s expensive, I’ll incorrectly pressure myself to ride it out a bit more and get my money’s worth.
The little cool extras to get
Looking at others helmets I made a list of things I like from theirs that I would like to have. Those little details that make a helmet’s asking price seem a bit better. I found that I prefer black straps as they are easier to clean or at least make them look clean. I like the little nets some helmets have helping keep bugs out. Light shell colors and in mould construction are good when you ride in 30-40ºC weather.
Safety wise, reflective material is always a nice plus especially when I ride out at night where cars may pass. And I really dig those helmets with an integrated rear red light. Most my afternoon trail rides end riding a cobble road down a hill where cars speed by, it’s a nice feature to have.
Recapping, things to look for when buying a new helmet:
- Tested to standards, sticker to prove it.
- Good, comfortable fit.
- Quality padding that wicks sweat away.
- Good ventilation.
- Knob dial adjustment.
- Price around $50, makes it easy to replace and will have all features I look for.
- Light neutral color, cooler head.
- Dark easy to clean straps
- Reflective material and/or rear light.
The MET Crossover won me over, with everything on the list therefore I bought it. I won’t write a review as that’s not the point of this article, I’d rather this be a guide to help to choose a new helmet. However let’s just say it’s awesome and the best helmet I’ve used so far.
What are your priorities when choosing a helmet? Remember a helmet is serious, but it’s still just a salad bowl on your head. Buy smart, ride smart, have fun and ride a lot!