Tuesday Tip: Buying a New Helmet

A helmet is the most important piece of protective equipment you will buy, so you want to be sure you make a sound decision when facing the dizzying array of helmets available at your local dealer. TWMX reader, Chris, recently emailed us about this very question:

Could you please do an article on what to look for when choosing a helmet? I can’t spend $400 to $500, but I do want to get the best helmet my budget allows.

To help Chris with his purchase, we turned to the Snell Memorial Foundation. Snell is an independent organization that tests and certifies helmets under their strict, independent standards.

According to Snell, finding a good helmet is as easy as remembering “the 4 S’s: Size, Strap, Straight and Snell.”

Try on several different helmets before you purchase one. The best way to gauge comfort level and fit is through comparison. The helmet should fit comfortably all the way around your head. Additional pads can be used to make it snug.

Pay attention to the chinstrap. Make sure that the chinstrap fits around your ear and under your chin snugly and comfortably. The helmet should not shift on your head.

Know how a helmet should fit. A helmet is meant to be worn low on the forehead, just above your eyebrows. Look into a mirror or have a friend/parent help you determine the proper fit.

Look for Snell certification. Snell Standards are the most stringent in the world, exceeding those set by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Need to know which helmet is Snell certified? Browse through our helmet certification lists.

We also checked with the guys over at SIXSIXONE to see what they recommend. Let’s face it, beyond basic safety requirements; the final decision you make on a helmet has a lot to do with look, fit and feel. Here are a few of their recommendations:

Buy a helmet that fits properly by being snug, but not tight. Ask people that own different brands of helmets how they like theirs. Most people will be more than happy to tell you what they like and don’t like.

Some helmets are made with one shell size. This is OK if you’re at the large end of the size range, but it creates the “bobble head” effect on smaller heads. We’ve all seen it: the pee wee rider with the enormous helmet! The SIXSIXONE Flight helmet size range is covered by two shell sizes: one for medium and smaller, and one for size large and up. The sizes can be changed if you like to alter the fit or customized with different size liner parts. Fro example, if your head is a medium, but your face is small, you can put in size XS-SM cheek pads to create the perfect fit. Or say you change bike brands and your red helmet doesn’t work on your Kawasaki; you can change the Medium to a X-Small for your little brother!

Don’t be afraid to spend a little more for a quality helmet. This is the one piece of equipment that makes the most difference in the even of a crash. You can bargain hunt on gloves and wear the jersey of whoever wants to sponsor you, but it’s your head at risk when it comes to helmets. In the same breath, just because a helmet costs a small fortune doesn’t mean it’s the best thing out there. Again it boils down to making sure the helmet has all the best safety standards, the comfort & fit, and the right reputation from people who have worn them.

Buy a helmet from a company known for making good protective equipment. Just because a factory guy uses it, doesn’t make it the best. It taakes more than a cool logo or slick paint job to protect you in a crash.

No matter how good a helmet is; it has a limit. Crashes, no matter how minor reduce the usable period for any helmet. Sometimes that one big crash is enough to replace the unit even if it looks okay on the outside. The helmets job is to absorb the impact by crushing the liner. Once compressed, it’s not going to protect you the same way again. Replace and destroy it so no one else can use it.

Hopefully shopping for your next lid will be easier now that you’re armed with some info and know what to look for.