Like me, you might remember the era of “hairnet” helmets or the complete absence of helmets in competitions. When helmets were made compulsory in races, this led to the debate (which is still ongoing) over whether or not people should always have to wear a bike helmet.
The aim of this article is to talk about head protection and its importance for you, whatever kind of cycling you do.
Wearing a Helmet? Ok! But Why?
Even though the number of cyclists killed on the roads has been decreasing over the last twenty years, there are still quite a few number of recorded injuries due to bike accidents.
Should you fall, the part of your body that is most likely to be hit is your head. It’s also your head that tends to suffer the most severe injuries.
Designed to limit impacts, helmets absorb the force of the impact up to their resistance limit. If the power of the impact exceeds this limit, the helmet will crumple. The way it absorbs the shockwaves is a bit like the role of a car airbag: its main aim is to protect your head from direct impacts.
It also protects mountain bike from low-hanging branches or flying rocks.
Note: wearing a helmet is compulsory in certain countries (Finland, Netherlands, Australia, Turkey, etc.). There are also certain criteria (age, weather conditions, rural or urban area, etc.) that make it a requirement on roads in Canada, Czech Republic and Spain, for example. Before setting out on your bike in a foreign country, read up on the local laws about bike helmets.
How to Choose Your Bike Helmet
There are different models for the different kinds of cycling. For downhill MTB or BMX, go for a full-face helmet.
For MTB, you might want one with a visor. On the road, opt for a helmet with as many vents as possible for summer and with small nets to stop insects from getting inside.
Nowadays you can get helmets to suit all tastes and budgets. So go for whatever takes your fancy. You don’t need to spend a fortune to stay safe and stylish!
Your Helmet Constituents
A bike helmet is composed of three parts. The outer part (the shell) covers a polystyrene cap whose job is to absorb the impact in order to protect you. There is also a layer of foam inside that helps you adjust it to the right size and makes it more comfortable to wear.
The size of your helmet can be measured in two ways: with a standard size or with your head measurement.
To give you a better idea, here is a size guide for the B’TWIN product range.
Size XS - < 47 cm head size
Size S - 47-52 cm head size
Size M - 52-57 cm head size
Size L - 57-61 cm head size
Size XL- 61 cm head size
Check that the helmet you are buying complies with at least one of these standards: ANSI, ASTM, TUV/GS or CE. The CE mark guarantees that tests have been carried out to check the helmet’s resistance. To see whether it complies with one of these standards, check inside the helmet.
A lot of cyclists are now fixing a small camera to the top of their helmet so that they can relive their rides or share them on social networks. I do not recommend doing this for two main reasons.
This additional weight can cause excess strain and lead to neck pain. When you get on your bike, you need to listen to all of your senses and pay attention to any slight pain so that you can adjust your position. This accessory distorts your judgement, especially if it is not fixed in the centre (side or front/back)
If you hit your head, you won’t be effectively protected. In fact, your helmet is designed to cushion you from impacts with the ground. It absorbs the impact and then crumples to protect your skull. But it is not designed to withstand the pressure of the ground against a very impact-resistant solid object. The camera could tear your helmet and come into contact with your head. Michael Schumacher’s recent low-speed skiing fall is proof of this.
Before throwing yourself into your favourite activity, check your safety equipment. Don’t forget to replace your helmet regularly. It will need changing after five years as the materials will have reached the end of their design life. In the event of a fall, even at low speeds, you should change your helmet if it has come into contact with the ground. Even if it doesn’t seem damaged, it could be cracked, so it’s not worth taking the risk.
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