Ultimate Bike Helmet Guide
In this comprehensive guide to buying a bike helmet, we’re going to give you everything you need to know in order to pick the best model for you and your style of riding. We’ll talk about the different styles, best features, safety technology, proper fit, and more.Then we’ll show you our top bike helmet brands here at Skiis And Biikes as well as answer some frequently asked questions. Read on to dive in!
Helmet Style: What is the best bike helmet for me?
The first thing you need to think about when beginning the search for a bike helmet is to consider what kind of riding you’ll be doing most. Bike helmets are often made with specific purposes in mind, especially the higher end models. There are some great all-arounders, but if you want something tailored to the kind of riding you like to do, it’s best to check out the options below.
Road bike helmets
Road bike specific helmets are all about speed. They typically have lightweight, well-ventilated designs that focus on protecting the front and sides of your head. Road helmets are the most aerodynamic style you’ll find, so if you want to save weight and increase your speed, this is the category for you. As you progress to helmets designed for triathlon and other races, the models will get lighter and more aero.
Mountain bike helmets
Mountain bike helmets usually feature more coverage than road helmets. While they are also well ventilated for highly active riders, they are tailored more towards protection on the trail and less about aerodynamics. Almost all mountain-specific helmets will have a visor to keep the sun and other elements and branches out of your eyes.
Commuter bike helmets
Commuter bike helmets are often more affordable than the higher end road and mountain models and less concerned with ventilation, since urban riding is not as strenuous. Commuter helmets will often have a more discrete design that has more city style than the athletic look of the models above.
Kids bike helmets
Kids helmets often resemble small mountain or bmx style helmets. They typically have a range of color and design options provide plenty of protection for neighborhood cruises and trail explorations.
Baby + Toddler bike helmets
Aside from the obvious difference of being suited for smaller heads, infant and toddler helmets feature a shell that better protects the back of the head, which is especially important for young children. Getting your little guy or girl to wear a helmet can be challenging, but these models usually sport fun designs that will make them smile.
What should I look for in a bike helmet?
After you’ve decided on the style of helmet you’re after, you’ll want to take the following factors into consideration to narrow down your search.
Obviously, comfort is key. You won’t enjoy wearing a helmet that’s uncomfortable, so it’s important to find a model that has the right fit, amount of padding, and adjustability. The best-fitting helmets will feel like they’ve disappeared on your head when you ride.
Different helmets use different adjustment mechanisms to help you dial in the perfect fit. You’ll want to consider how easily the straps and helmet tightness adjust. Many riders have come to love the simplicity of the BOA dial spinning systems, and there are even models with magnetic buckles that make clipping your helmet easy even with gloves on.
If you ride on the roads and bike paths, you might want to pick up a helmet with a high vis color scheme or one with reflective elements so it’s easier for traffic to spot you.
Many middle and upper level models will let you attach accessories like lights to your helmet, making night rides or city riding safer.
Having a visor can make a big difference when you’re out on the trail or the roads. Keeping the sun out of your eyes is a big perk of helmets with visors, and some models allow you to detach the visor when you don't need it.
When you start to sweat it’s important to have proper ventilation so your head can breathe and keep you from overheating in the summer or freezing in the winter.
If you’re a road cyclist, odds are you’ll be considering aerodynamics a fair bit. Higher end designs feature vents that cool you down while also reducing drag so you don’t sacrifice any performance in order to stay comfortable.
Weight is certainly a factor to consider as well, especially if you race or just like an unobtrusive helmet. Lightweight models will help you stay focused on the road or trail in front of you instead of thinking about how your helmet feels.
We’ll go into more detail in the next section, but you may want to consider the different safety technologies that new helmet models offer. Spending more on your helmet will typically give you increased protection in the event of a crash, and for many, that is money well spent.
Safety Tech: Are expensive bike helmets safer?
In this section we’ll break down the common types of safety technology you’ll find in modern helmets so you can decide whether you want to upgrade your lid to a more protective model.
Basic helmet safety tech
Every helmet sold at Skiis And Biikes has been approved by the Canadian Standards Association safety requirements. This means that any helmet you buy from us will be certified for adequate protection. While all the helmets from major brands are equally certified, some models feature technology that goes above and beyond those requirements to provide even more protection.
Advanced helmet safety tech
Cyclists rarely even fall directly on the top of their heads. Most crashes involve angled impacts to the sides of a helmet, and companies now have come up with solutions to help reduce the risk of brain injury from those rotational impacts.
Helmets in higher price ranges often feature these additional safety technologies that go even further to help protect your brain from injury. Here are some of the most sought after styles.
MIPS, or Multi-Directional Impact Protection System, is a technology designed to reduce the amount of rotational force absorbed by your head in an accident. MIPS is essentially a thin plastic liner that fits between the helmet’s pads and the outer foam shell. In the event of a crash, the liner helps separate your head from the helmet shell by absorbing part of those forces.
Wavecel is a Trek and Bontrager helmet technology for minimizing brain injury. The idea is similar to MIPS, as Wavecel helps absorb rotational forces from angled impacts, but they achieve this in a different way. Wavecel is also a liner that sits in between the helmet’s outer shell and the padding, but it is designed as a honeycomb-like structure that twists, crumples, and sheers so your head takes less of the impact.
How do I know my bike helmet size?
There are no universal sizes for bike helmets, so before we break down all the individual bike helmet size charts, here are a few tips for making sure your helmet is the right size.
Measure the circumference of your head
You’ll need to take a tape measure or some string and wrap it around the widest part of your head. That circumference is going to be the measurement you’ll use to find your specific size on the brand specific charts below.
Proper helmet fit
Everyone’s head is a little different, so whether you buy in store or online, you’ll want to try it on and make sure the helmet fits properly.
Here are some tips for a proper bike helmet fit:
- The helmet should cover your forehead; if it sits up too high on your head it’s probably too small.
- It shouldn’t be painful; if your temples and sides of your head feel cramped and uncomfortable, try a bigger size.
- The straps should form a V below your eyes; readjust the straps if they do not.
- Got hair? Be mindful of the helmet’s design in the back if you have long hair so you can comfortably pull your hair through or under the helmet.
- Check how much room you have; if you plan on wearing a cap or thermal layer underneath your helmet you’ll want to make sure you have enough space.
- Examine the tightening mechanism; different brands and models will use different tightening systems. Make sure yours is easy to use and durable. We find the BOA system to be one of the best.
What are the best bike helmet brands?
At Skiis And Biikes, we carry the brands that we know will provide durability, comfort, and performance to our customers. Below are our most popular bike helmet brands, their corresponding size charts, and shopping links.
Giro Bike Helmets
|Women Adult||50 - 57 cm|
|Unisex||54 - 61 cm|
|Extra Large||58 - 65 cm|
Adult Super fit
|ADULT SUPER FIT SIZE||CIRCUMFERENCE|
|S||51 - 55 cm|
|M||55 - 59 cm|
|L||59 - 63 cm|
|XL||63 - 65 cm|
|XS (Scamp Model)||45 - 49 cm|
|S (Scamp Model)||49 - 53 cm|
|XS (Dime Model)||47 - 51 cm|
|S (Dime Model)||51 - 55 cm|
|Universal Child||47 - 54 cm|
|Universal Youth (Ages 5+)||50 - 57 cm|
Bontrager Bike Helmets
|Helmet size||Fit range (cm)||46||47||48||49||50||51||52||53||54||55||56||57||58||59||60||61||62||63||64||65||66|
|Youth / XS||50-55||Youth / XS|
Specialized Bike Helmets
|S||20 - 22||51 - 56|
|M||21 3/4 - 23 1/4||55 - 59|
|L||23 1/4 - 24 3/4||59 - 63|
Bike helmet FAQs
Are bike helmets mandatory in Ontario?
Anyone under 18 is required to wear helmets while riding on the roads in Ontario. But we obviously recommend that every rider where one any time he or she hops on a bike. Wearing a helmet is a simple habit that just might save your life.
How much does a good bike helmet cost?
The helmets with the most advanced safety technology and performance boosting features can cost upwards of $200 or more, but even a $50 helmet from a major brand will have passed all the safety requirements to do the job. At Skiis and Biikes we carry safe, well-fitting helmets that suit any budget.
Do bike helmets expire?
While bike helmets do not have specific expiration dates, most manufacturers recommend that you replace your helmet every 3-5 years, as the foam and glue in helmet materials will degrade over time. Sunlight, sweat, dirt, and grime are all natural factors that can contribute to shortening your helmet’s lifespan. While your helmet may remain in good condition for longer than the 3-5 years, the absolute best way to check if your helmet is still safe is to routinely check for cracks and degraded materials.
Can I still use my helmet after a crash?
Helmets are a one and done situation. Your helmet has done its job if it protects you from injury when you crash and hit your head, but bike helmets are not designed to protect against multiple high-impact accidents. Many manufacturers offer deals where you can get a new helmet at a discount if you’re involved in a crash, and in some cases you can even get a free replacement. Make sure to check what your brand offers.
How do I know if my bike helmet is too small?
Head back up to the section on helmet sizing to read more, but if the helmet feels way too tight or doesn’t come down over your forehead, it’s too small.
Are cheap bike helmets safe?
All the bike helmets that we sell at Skiis and Biikes have been approved by the Canadian Standards Association safety requirements. More expensive helmets with more advanced safety technology will provide the most protection, but even our least expensive helmets are certified safe.
What color bike helmet should I get?
As we explained earlier, helmet color is definitely something to consider, and not just so you can match your outfits. Choosing a helmet that’s bright and highly visible will help keep you safe on the roads.
Can adults wear youth helmets?
Yes! While you typically won’t find the most advanced safety technologies in youth sizes, many adults with smaller heads can get a great fit that also doesn’t look awkward with a youth helmet. Youth helmets have to pass the same basic safety tests as adult helmets, so they’re often just as safe.