Putting on a cycling helmet is not really an issue of fashion or fad, it is an issue of safety and well-being. In many countries, wearing a helmet is not compulsory. As a matter of fact, less than half of the states in the US require the wearing of cycling helmets while on the road.
Basically, the reason why bikers are not really required to have a helmet, except for racing, is that biking or cycling in general is not necessarily considered dangerous by all . After all, the manual-powered machine is very light, and it is not very fast.
Still, it would not do any one of us any harm if we take extra precaution. After all, the slightest misfortune can bring us all kinds of accidents – especially those that we do not really expect. Indeed, a basic helmet on our heads can be the difference between life and death.
Why do we need a helmet?
So, why do we need a helmet? There are several sound reasons. First, even the smallest fall in the smoothest and most paved roads can cause brain damage. Roads might be paved, but there can be debris on them or there can be cracks or just about anything which can cause us to trip over while travelling at 15 mph on our bike. The speed itself might not sound scary, but if you hit the pavement head first, it would certainly sound horrific.
Second, there are some states that require the use of helmet. In these states it’s not even a choice, you need to wear a helmet no questions asked.
Getting in trouble with the law because of not wearing helmets is actually the least of the reasons why we need to wear a helmet. Basically, you need to clearly see the advantages of wearing one.
According to studies, every biker is bound to meet an accident. Surveys say that bikers encounter accidents once every four and a half miles that they travel on their bikes. We cannot control accidents (that is why they are called as such), and we can never control how those accidents turn out. More often than not, you would dive head first to the ground in that unfortunate event. According to that same study, close to 80% of biking deaths involve head trauma. In other words, those who died were typically not wearing protective helmets.
How does a helmet work?
Helmets are made from a combination of thick and durable material including hard plastic and several layers of stiff foam. The external shell of the helmet which is most conspicuous is the plastic. It is not ordinary plastic; rather, it is something that is designed and created to be able to withstand intense abuse. Some modern helmets are made from Kevlar, some are from carbon fiber. The latter is actually lighter than typical plastic, but it is far more durable. Of course, cycling helmets are much lighter and less sturdy than a typical motorcycle helmet.
The internal part of the helmet is commonly made from expanded polystyrene (EPS). When a helmet made from this material crushes, as the name implies, the foam expands, protecting the head of the biker. The drawback of this material is that it does not go back to its original shape. In other words, once crushed, it cannot be used again.
Another material used is the expanded polypropylene (EPU). This does the same thing as the EPS, but it can be crushed over and over again (not that crushing yourself on purpose is encouraged). Of course the EPU is far less common precisely because it is far more expensive. Also, bikers know that care is still better than any expensive helmet.
How can you buy the right helmet?
There are several pointers that can help you. First, be careful with helmets that have too many vents. The vents, while they are helpful in keeping your head cool, also compromises room for the foam. In other words, this means less foam and less protection.
There are also the “Aero” helmets. These are helmets that are extremely aerodynamically designed. The speed bonus it gives, however, is not even slightly more noticeable than with an average helmet. And, in an event of an accident, the aero helmet can snag and cause even more devastating brain injury, thanks to the protruding aero design at the rear of this helmet.
Basically, the selection of the helmet design is the selection of fashion over safety. Those which are more fashionable will look good, but will not offer that much protection. Those which are not so very stylish will offer the needed head protection, but you may not like its overall appeal. The choice is yours.
Here’s a nice video on how to fit the helmet:
Finally, you need to make sure that the helmet that you want to buy has a sticker that says it is approved by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC is a commission that promotes standards in all products being marketed in the country. A worthy endorsement indeed.