Beyond the valid argument that cities should have infrastructure, education and social support for cycling so as to make helmets unnecessary (such as in Holland or Denmark), the fact remains that the rest of us need them.

Concerns:

  1. Helmet Hair. Sorry, there’s no science available on earth that has solved this riddle.
  2. Looks. You know ugly when you see it and 90% of the time it’s all your bike shop carries.
  3. Comfort. Who wants to be safe & miserable? Big head? Little head?
  4. Price. You’re supposed to replace helmets when dropped or used for their intended purpose. When that happens they’re a bargain at any price but when you start going through a new helmet every year or every other year as recommended, it’s a drain.

 

Types:

Mountain Bike: The best way to distinguish a mountain bike helmet are the details, like a snap on front visor, or appears to have a full-face shield with a “jawbone” bottom that resembles a motorcycle helmet. Some of the new “open face” designs are less extreme and quite attractive for city cycling. And because the skate/city cycling category has become so popular many mountain bike helmets are really general ‘all-in one.’ But in reviewing traditional mountain bike helmets, unless your backyard has single track, keep moving.

Brands: ProTec, SixSixOne, Giro, Bell, Fox Racing, POC and URGE.

 

 

 

 

 


Road Bike: Sure, I’m biased but the lightest, most well ventilated and sporty helmets (as well as the most expensive with yearly updates/innovations) are from professional road cycling. There are plenty of recreational options at lower price points, but for me – riding around all day means I care a lot about breath-ability (helps with the hair) and the wide variety of fit mechanisms (I also have a small female head). I think a solid color or well designed high-end road helmet is just as attractive as a city riding helmet – but more comfortable.

Brands: Giro, Lazer, Limar, LouisGarneau, Bell, Uvex, Catlike, Specialized

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skateboarding/BMX: These guys are known for falling, so it goes to reason that they’re designed to survive a smash-up. Since a lot of street sports are the basis for fashion and street athletes are known for participating in various sports or creating new ones – it’s no wonder that the basic skate helmet has developed in several new directions while retaining an undeniable hip factor. But ever wonder why the pros almost never wear helmets? Sure, it might be a bit of bravado but these things are hot as in oven temperatures. This is where checking things out in person to feel the padding and construction is definitely important.

Brands: Bern, ProTec, Triple 8, S-One, Troy Lee Designs

 


City Cycling: Based off a skate helmet city cycling helmets are all about being fashionable and fun while staying at a lower price point (you’ve got to be dedicated to drop $200+ on a nerdy but awesome race helmet). City cycling helmets are a new niche helping to get more people riding for recreation and transport.

Brands: Nutcase, Bern, Giro, Sawako, Yakkay

Like a prime illustration of Darwinian evolution, it should be clear that there’s a few design variations and companies that have started to fill new consumer niches from old school sport protection to fighting for the emerging fashion conscious city cyclist.

 

The nutcase helmets are the ones selling like there’s no tomorrow. Because they’re bright, funny and their distribution is amazing. They’re the style helmet for the everyday rider. But would I wear one? Probably not – at least not unless I find myself with some kids one of these days. Until then I like the high end performance or fashion oriented helmets that get less attention while riding, but are more comfortable and coordinate with my style.

 

So far in terms of straight up fashion helmets Yakkay is the #1 most popular (or at least covered in the media) brand, but as the category gets bigger so does the competition. Yakkay’s style is really derived from helmet covers, which have been around for awhile, mostly as handmade novelties. They’re pretty, but something about the “it’s a hat, not a helmet” in a cartoon-ishly large size seems… odd?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still got my eye on one or two.

Helmet Covers:

Wade Jensen and Moire Conroy, of Jensen-Conroy in NYC did a grey knit cover that’s lovely:

 

My friend Juliette, owner of Hub and Bespoke in Seattle, sells her English horse riding inspired velvet & mesh covers online via Brooklyn Cruiser’s accessory page.

 

Helmets: Just Do it.

  1. Helmet Hair. Helmets with great venting help, so do kerchiefs/headbands that hold hair in place and absorb sweat. Well, it helps a little anyway.
  2. Looks. I’ve tried to present the cream of the crop above. If you find something I’ve overlooked, please link to it in the comments.
  3. Comfort. You wouldn’t buy running shoes without trying them on. Heathen! Like most things that involve the human body, you’ll need to try it on to see how it fits (I can’t wear most helmets because my head is smaller than average), how the venting works (or doesn’t). Try on a range of helmets to get a feel for what you’ll be most comfortable in. Also- if your budget is low, don’t try on the $200 helmet. It will just make the reasonable $75 helmet feel like a bummer.
  4. Price. Get a helmet that not only matches your style but what kind of riding you plan on doing. That and you’ll just have to struggle with the “quality & style VS price” debate. Not everyone can afford Louboutin heels or a Yakkay helmet. It’s terrible but where the bargains are is online (undercutting your local bike shop – bad!). Keep in mind that last year’s versions are just as awesome and usually deeply discounted.

 

Ok, Ok. I admit it: I’m a fashion obsessed city cyclist with a history of road riding. And I’m in my 30′s. So what’s a young lady biker to do? Here’s Genevieve Walker, an NYU graduate student from San Francisco talking about her experience:

Buying a Helmet

I love my helmet. It’s the kind of helmet I would have lusted after as a nine-year-old just learning to skateboard. It’s also the kind of helmet I wouldn’t have been caught dead in as a teenager, when I was trying desperately to not look too cool which would underscore just how not cool I was.

But a lot has changed in helmet fashion over the years. Helmets used to come in three categories: cheap and white styrofoam ($10), not so cheap and covered in pink flowers ($45), or expensive and for the Tour de France ($250). Praise be to the industrial designers of the world helmets are now cute, functional, and reasonably priced. Somewhere along the line the helmet market blossomed.

When I decided to buy a new helmet a few months ago I was determined to find something that fit me well and was under $50. I didn’t want flowers or butterflies, and I didn’t want skulls. And, if at all possible, I didn’t want to look like a complete dork. It’s my vanity.

I started by looking at the typical brands of helmets: Giro, Bell, Specialized. I went to outdoors stores (E.M.S., R.E.I.), and local bike stores. I realized pretty quickly that I was leaning towards the skate-style helmets made by Nutcase and Bern.

Each helmet that I tried on came with padding of varying thicknesses on the inside. There were a few with little brims; some with air vents along the sides. Each was a different weight. These are important factors to keep in mind when you’re looking for a helmet, and what you get should depend on what kind of biking you intend to be doing. My boyfriend likes to tell me that cycling helmets are designed to break when you fall (as opposed to motorcycle helmets that are designed to stay intact; thus their obvious durability). When you fall from a bike and hit your head, you want all of the impact to be absorbed by the plastic coating and the styrofoam shell. And then you buy a new one. You’re not looking for a helmet to last for the rest of your life. And, to hammer in the old saw (and to abuse puns), there are two types of cyclists: those who have fallen, and those who will fall.

I decided I didn’t need something super light because I have no intention of ever winning a race. Second, I decided that I didn’t need something that would accommodate my ponytail (there are such helmets). Lastly, I didn’t want a brim. I was looking for a helmet that fit my head before I clamped down its strap. When I tried on a Giro skate style helmet (sometimes called the “urban” line, or listed under the women’s helmets), I knew I had found the one. Personally, I thought the Nutcases were too large––the styrofoam inners and padding made me feel like I was wearing a bowling ball. And even though the Nutcase has a great clasp on its chin strap, I sacrificed this nice feature for the fit of the Giro. It was light enough and I could potentially keep my hair pinned up inside of it.

One final note on wearing helmets: They don’t do their job if they are resting on the back of your head. Bike helmets need to touch your forehead. The reason is, there’s a lot of really important stuff in the frontal lobe. Like your personality. Examine the illustration to get a better idea of how to wear a helmet. And if you’re not convinced that helmets are necessary, consider that cycling fatalities in New York City are almost always caused by head injuries, and almost all of those heads were not covered by a helmet. You can see the NYC bike stats here.

 

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10 Responses to Bicycle Helmets: the beautiful & the damned

  1. [...] Check out her helmet guide: The Beautiful and the Damned. [...]

  2. admin says:

    Surprise! Quite the response from anti-helmet bloggers @Copenhagenize & @Amsterdamize a follow up with their perspective is coming soon

  3. [...] Bicycle Helmets: the beautiful & the damned [...]

  4. Mike Gordon says:

    I really don’t think Mikael Colville-Andersen (Copenhagenize) and Marc van Woudenberg (Amsterdamize) are alone in making an effort to express a reasoned opinion on the utility of bicycle helmets. I don’t think you’d have to look very far away from you to find someone who agrees with them. I’m not close by, but I agree with them. I’ve read the research, and listened to the argument and I just don’t believe the helmet hype. Does this make me a bad person in your view? Anything that people believe in so emotionally and passionately as North Americans and helmet hype has to be questioned. That’s how propaganda is started – you believe something so passionately you can’t even accept someone who disagrees. Very sad.

  5. A sport helmet is good for any time you’re on a bicycle.While choosing helmets first ensure your helmet fits well to give you vital and adequate protection. It should sit level on your head, not too tight, but snug.
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  6. Thanks for sharing,It is better to purchase the mountain bike helmets from a specialized store since they will be able to find the perfect piece for you. It is very much essential to purchase the perfect size and it should rest about one inch above your eyebrows.

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  7. [...] year Dirt Demo had some rain, but this is a pretty good 3 minute slideshow on the bikes, helmets, components and general scene out [...]

  8. Ray Arnott says:

    When your brains are splattered on the pavement your not going to look to pretty and stylish no matter how cool your helmet is. A helmet is to protect your brain and I guess it is too late in your case. Miss Walker sounds like the only one with any common sense. If your idea is looking cool while riding your bike then don’t wear one. Fashion over brains.

  9. Many thanks for making the sincere effort to explain this. I feel fairly strong about it and would like to read more. If it’s OK, as you find out more in depth knowledge, would you mind writing more posts similar to this one with more information?

    Regards
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