Thanks to Victor Jiminez of Bicycle Lab (@bicyclelab on Twitter) for his assistance in putting this article together.

As the weather warms up ever so slowly here in North America, more and more cyclists will be leaving the trainers behind and heading outdoors to get their rides in. Before heading out we need to make sure we have all the required equipment and one of those items is our helmet. Of all our road cycling gear, I think the helmet is the most important item as it offers protection for our gray matter in the event we do crash.

Five Steps To Choosing A Cycling Helmet

  1. Find your price point. Road cycling helmets are typically between $60 and $250. Design, materials, retention systems and purpose are what drive the prices. They all offer protection if you crash but features like custom fitting mechanisms, visors, adjustable/removable padding, reduced weight, exotic materials, and extra ventilation will cost more. More expensive helmets tend to have more adjustable fit and retention systems. For around $100 you can get a very good quality and nice fitting helmet.
  2. Check the certification. Cycling helmets have certification? Absolutely. Helmets sold in the U.S. are required by law to meet testing standards as set forth by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). The purpose of these tests is to make sure that the helmet can handle the impact if you were to crash. With helmets getting lighter and more comfortable every year a standard is necessary to ensure that you’ll be protected. Look for the CPSC stamp or sticker on the helmet.
  3. Pick some helmets. Road cycling helmets often sport very light weights, maximum air flow for good ventilation, and improved aerodynamic designs. All of those improvements are achieved at a cost. Take a look at the helmets available and find a few that appeal to you taking into account your budget and the helmets features. They do make road helmets specifically designed for women that have more feminine sizes, color choices, and space for ponytails.
  4. Find Your Size. This is the most critical step in the entire process. You want your new helmet to fit correctly so it offers the protection it’s supposed to. Some of the lower end helmets may only come in an ‘Adult’ size so you may not need to measure your head size. More advanced helmets typical come in small, medium, and large sizes depending on the circumference of your head. You can measure the circumference of your head, at it’s largest point, with a flexible tape. This will give you a good starting point as the labels on the helmets will list both the helmet size and head circumference it’s made for. This is only a starting point though and my recommendation is that you try on several brands and sizes to find the right one. You may find that a medium in one brand fits more snugly than a medium in another brand while one is more comfortable than another. Most helmets now offer some kind of adjustable retention system that lets you dial in the fit so it’s just right. This is achieved with a ratcheting wheel or mechanism on the back of the helmet that lets you loosen or tighten the fit on the fly.
  5. Four Steps To A Great Fitting Helmet:

    1. Try the helmet on.
    2. Hold the helmet tightly and shake your head like you are saying no ( it should be very snug with little play and generally very comfortable).
    3. Adjust the retention system so that the helmet stays on your head.
    4. Adjust the chin strap so that it’s snug when your your jaw is open.

  6. Get help. Don’t go it alone and ask for help when you’re in the store. The employees know how helmets are supposed to fit and can help you with both sizing and fit. That’s what they’re paid to do so take advantage of it.