Whether you’ve just picked up an electric scooter for the daily commute or you’re an avid cyclist putting miles in on a daily basis, helmets are vital to your safety during your travels. A good helmet can protect your head in the event of a collision, but with so many types of helmet available to buy, which is best for your needs?
That’s where we at Tech Advisor come in. Whether you’re riding a scooter or riding a bike, here’s everything you should consider when buying a helmet.
Key elements to consider when buying a helmet
There are certain elements that you should consider when on the hunt for a great helmet; is it safe enough? Does it fit properly? Is it the right type for the activities I’m taking part in? While it sounds like a daunting task, it can be made simpler by following our advice.
The most important element to consider when looking to buy a helmet for cycling or scooting is the safety rating.
Specifically, keep an eye out for helmets that meet – or exceed – Europe’s EN 1078 helmet safety standard, such as Halfords' Advanced E-bike Helmet (£40). The European standard assesses various elements of the helmet including construction, shock absorption, field of vision, retention system qualities and even the quality of the chin strap to make sure that it’ll provide adequate support in the event of a collision.
Ventilation is another key aspect of any decent helmet – you’ll want to avoid a sweaty head during long rides, after all! The idea is that the holes allow heat to escape from the back of the lid while funnelling cool air through the front, and while most helmets offer some form of ventilation, the design – from small circular holes to larger rectangular openings – will vary from helmet to helmet.
It should go without saying that helmets with more air vents are generally lighter and cooler, but this may also have an impact on the level of protection on offer so try to find a nice balance between keeping cool and being protected.
A lightweight helmet is key to gaining that bit of extra speed needed to shave a few seconds off your personal best – the issue is, generally speaking, you’ll be paying more for a lightweight helmet than its heavier counterparts.
It’s down to personal preference, of course, and if you’re planning on wearing it when riding an electric scooter, chances are you won’t care too much about the incremental speed increases anyway.
A key element to the overall comfort of any helmet is the padding that lines the inside of the lid. This helps keep the helmet snug on your head without causing sores or irritation over long periods of use, and also has the additional benefit of mopping up sweat to keep you feeling fresh.
Padding is often removable, and some brands even provide extra padding in the box to achieve the best fit for your head. The key is finding something with enough padding to keep you comfortable and protected.
It goes without saying that a good helmet should fit snugly and comfortably onto your head to provide the best possible coverage in the event of a collision. It’s crucial that you take the time to properly measure your head and find the right size as a helmet that’s too big or too small won’t actually protect your head in the way that it should.
A helmet that slips off on impact isn’t going to do you much good, is it?
The different types of cycling helmets
As well as all of the above, you have to take the type of helmet into consideration. There are several kinds of helmet tailored to riding bikes and electric scooters, each with unique benefits to improve the experience depending on how and where you intend to ride.
Road cycling helmets
Road cycling helmets like the Lazer Compact Helmet (around £100) are what most people imagine when picturing a bike helmet; these helmets are generally lightweight with plenty of air vents to keep you cool as you put in the miles.
Road cycling helmets are more aerodynamic than other types of helmet to help reduce drag and improve speed, with most also featuring large vents that force cool air from the front to the rear of the helmet at you ride.
There’s a new category of helmet that has built-in tech. Lumos has made a few models, but its latest – the Ultra ($79 / £63 from Kickstarter early birds - $99 / £79 afterwards) – has built-in front and rear lights and even connects to your phone for firmware updates and customisation.
It comes with a remote control which attaches to your handlebars and controls the turn signals (indicators for us Brits) which flash orange just like a car or motorbike. They’re intended to supplement the traditional hand signals rather than replace them, because motorists aren’t necessarily going to watch your head to determine which way you’re turning. Those with an Apple Watch can turn on the indicators by raising their wrist.
The helmet recharges via USB and not only are the high-level lights better for safety, but they also mean you don’t have to worry about your bike lights being stolen, or having to reattach them to your bike each time you want to ride it in the dark.
We tested out a pre-production model, but final models will be available in a variety of colours and there's also an optional sun visor.
Folding road cycling helmets
You can also find collapsible helmets like the Morpher (£74.99), which folds flat to stow away in a backpack or satchel. It comes with buckles on the side which lock the helmet into place once opened and is light weight at 441g. On the inside, you'll find a strap which can be adjusted to accommodate head sizes up to 58cm in circumference, which makes it compatible for both men and women.
In our experience though, it was a bit tight for larger heads. The Morpher has safety certifications both in the US (CPSC 16 CFR part 1203) and in Europe (EN 1078).
Urban helmets (otherwise known as leisure helmets) like the Triple 8 Brainsaver (from around £31/US$37) are more stylish than most other helmets, offering a lightweight design and great ventilation without the angular look of road cycling helmets. They’re traditionally used for snowboarding and skateboarding, but they’re perfect for commuting in the city and come in all kinds of eye-catching finishes too.
Urban helmets are the go-to option for electric scooter riders that don’t need the aerodynamics design of road cycling helmets.
Mountain bike helmets
Mountain bike helmets like the HardnutZ Stealth Hi Vis MTB Helmet (£45) offer a more robust design than road and urban helmets, providing more overall coverage that can extend to around the neck and ears too. The downside of the extra protection is that ventilation can be restricted, but modern designs should help keep you cool and comfortable when off-roading.
Due to the nature of the helmet, mountain bike helmets tend to come with a built-in visor to help prevent mud and dirt flicking up into your eyes, and many also feature a mesh on the vents to avoid leaves, dirt, bugs and other foliage from getting caught inside the helmet.
If you’re planning on off-roading on a mountain bike, the mountain bike helmet is, somewhat obviously, the best option.
If you’re looking for the most protection possible, full face helmets like the Lazer Phoenix+ (around £65) are the way to go. They’re heavier than most other helmets and offer little in the way of ventilation, but the helmet will protect not only your head but jaw, teeth and cheeks too.
It’s a bit too heavy duty for everyday riding and commuting, but if you’re a Downhill or Bike Park rider, this is the type of helmet to go for.
Should I replace my helmet after a collision?
Yes, your helmet will most likely need replacing after a collision – or even a particularly hard knock – as most helmets are classed as ‘single impact’. It’s due to the fact that, generally speaking, the EPS core of most helmets can’t regain the original strength or form once it has been compressed on impact.
It’s also recommended that you replace your helmet every few years on the off-chance that standard wear-and-tear might affect the overall safety of the unit.