A complete guide to helmets and how to choose one
Helmets are without a doubt the most important piece of equipment you wear on a bike. They protect the head and therefore the brain. Gone are the days of cyclists not wearing helmets. In fact, New Zealand has the most rigorously enforced and successful all-age mandatory bicycle helmet law in the world. New Zealand Transport reports the helmet wearing rate has sat at around 93% since enactment in 1994. We are the only country (apart from Australia) that actively enforces mandatory all-age helmet laws.
There are, however, many different types of helmets on the market. So how do you pick? Well, your choice of helmet will depend on your choice of bike and your riding style. There are various styles of helmets for all types of riding. Below we run through the basic styles and below get a little more technical.
Road helmets are sleeker, more compact, and have more air vents. Although some new helmets are starting to limit the amount of air vents in preference of aerodynamics. They are usually the lightest type of helmet and keen road cyclists won’t be seen with a visor on the front of their helmet.
Time Trial (TT) helmets:
These are also worn on the roads, but sometimes have built-in sunglasses and run to a point at the back. The main aim (apart from protection) is pure aerodynamics. These helmets are specialist equipment for time trials and triathlons only.
Mountain bike helmets are bulkier and protect a bigger surface of the skull due to the higher risk of falling in MTBing. MTBing consists of high-speed downhill riding and jumps on uneven terrain so a bit of extra protection is key. MTB helmets cover more of the side of the head and back of the head than road helmets. They have smaller and fewer vents so trail objects don’t puncture through during falls. They are usually heavier and thicker, too. Some MTBing helmets are specifically for downhill and offer a chin-strap protector that may or may not be detachable.
BMX helmets (also used for skateboarding) are designed with two things in mind; safety and style. These types of helmets aren't as aerodynamically designed as other helmets. What they lack for in aerodynamics they make up for by looking cool. Little to no vents give a big surface area which is commonly covered in stickers.
We also stock recreational, commuter and urban helmets which are a more relaxed fit of a road bike helmet. These offer all the protection needed for riding on cycle paths, roads and trails.
Diving more into the technical side of helmets, new features continue to hit the market to improve head safety. One stylish safety feature is the addition of integrated lights on the back of helmets. Whether us cyclists like to admit it or not, visibility to drivers is still an issue and cyclists have to do what they can to ensure they are seen. Reflectors are a start, visible coloured clothing help and good front and rear bike lights are important additions. Helmet lights add another layer of visibility and protection. Used with bike lights helps to illuminate the outline of riders so drivers can quickly identify riders as they approach on dark roads.
One of the groundbreaking safety technologies that has flooded the market is MIPS technology in selected helmets. MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection. In 2020, there were around 729 helmets with MIPS on the market and 7.3 million units sold. This revolutionary technology is a low friction layer that sits between the EPS foam and the helmet liner, and allows for a sliding motion of 10 to 15mm in all directions. This aims to reduce the transfer of rotational motion onto your brain in the event of a crash. MIPS’ own testing shows that a helmet fitted with MIPS leads to a significant strain reduction compared to the same helmet without MIPS.
Visit a store today to see our full range of helmets.