It’s crucial to wear bike a helmet while cycling anywhere. Even more important is having the bike helmet fit right to save a life? Not to make light of Kanye West’s motor vehicle accident, but if he was in a bike accident he may have “thanked God he ain’t too cool for the safe lid”.
To wear a bike helmet properly, the helmet should fit snugly on the head with the front sitting above the eyebrows and the side straps fastened securely below the chin.
Which Way Is Front
You might be surprised to know that some people wear their helmets backward.
Why is this the case?
Some helmets where the front and back are not clearly visible may cause some confusion.
So how can you tell?
There are 6 ways to tell:
- The helmet has retention systems (or stabilizers) in the back
- Some helmets that are aerodynamic are made longer in the rear
- Almost all helmets have the brand stamped on the front
- The straps on the helmet are secured at the rear. Not angled forward across your cheek
- Inside some helmets, helpful stamps labeled “Front” and “Back” are visible
- The back of the helmet is thicker than the front
- According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC): “Every bicycle helmet must have instructions telling riders how to make sure the helmet fits properly and how to wear it properly. The instructions must include a picture showing the proper way to wear the helmet.”
Another way to ensure your helmet doesn’t fit the wrong way is to look in the mirror. Holding the helmet level, check to see if the fit looks funny. If you notice one end rises higher than the other, then you probably have the helmet on backward.
Also with some helmets, if there is a light attached to it, then this is most likely the rear end.
Now, it would be very obvious to onlookers that your helmet is on backward the moment they see it. But just how helpful would they be to tell you? Let’s hope they don’t leave you hanging like that thing in your nose that everyone looks at and acts like it isn’t there.
In order for helmets to protect your head as it was designed, they can’t be worn backward. In fact, there isn’t one as of yet that can be worn forward or backward.
How Tight Should It Be
Most helmets come with a retention system in the back which helps to have a tight fit. But you don’t want the helmet to fit too tight that it causes pain or even a headache.
If your helmet has retention adjustments, then tighten it up and it should be pretty snug. It’s important for the back of the head to be comfortable with the retention adjustment.
You’ll have little room between the temple of the head and the helmet. A finger might be able to squeeze in there but not loosely.
Tip: The helmet should be able to stay on your head without it being strapped.
Check to see if the helmet may be too small for your head. One way to tell this is when you wear it for a few minutes then the area around the forehead has a marking.
Also, check the fit of the helmet if you are going to wear a head covering or bike cap. This will definitely affect whether the helmet is too tight or not.
A good idea is to try on a bike helmet in your local bike shop. If you are going to wear a head covering try on a helmet and get a feel for how tight it is. Way too many people make the mistake of buying a helmet online only to find out it’s too small or too big.
Tip: While you are at the bike shop ask if they can measure your head. This might give you better results in finding the right helmet.
Many may find that their size head is in-between sizes. Unfortunately, bicycle helmets of today can’t stretch to fit. But then there are some collapsible helmets that may work for some.
When you have a helmet that feels right, and it’s secure then you have a tight fit.
How To Adjust The Straps
For beginners wearing a bike helmet for the first time, you may find adjusting the straps can be annoying.
Don’t make the mistake of forgoing the helmet all together as that is not safe.
Helmet straps should lay flat against your head making the “V” shape from the top to the bottom of the ear.
It may be necessary to adjust the straps by pulling it through the buckle until the straps lay comfortably around the ear and the buckle sits under the earlobe.
Some buckles have a quick release to make adjusting the straps even easier. All you have to do is pull back the lever allowing it to move freely on the straps. Then pull it down just below the ear. This not only will make for a great fit around the ear but ensures a safe fit helmet.
The straps should be snug like the helmet but not too tight that you can’t open your mouth. A good sign that the straps are too tight is if there is a pinch where the buckle comes together.
If somehow your straps become defective and need a replacement you can check and see if the warranty that came with the helmet is still good or buy new straps.
To learn how to replace the straps, you can check YouTube or Wikihow which may give you the details on this.
With most bike helmet straps there will be some extra material. This can make noises on your helmet or even worse scratch up again your neck.
Tip: You can cut the excess strap but still allow some slack for wearing under your chin. Then use a lighter or match to melt the ends so they don’t come loose.
Now if you find that messing around with the straps drives you crazy, consider buying a different helmet that is simpler to adjust.
Can I Wear A Used Bike Helmet
Some bike helmets can be expensive. The greater the cost the more features it may have. But this can really turn off someone that’s new to cycling.
It may cross your mind to go the cheaper route and just get a second-hand helmet. But take caution when doing so.
Never wear a helmet that has been in a crash or suffered from an impact.
The reasoning behind this is that the helmet will not be effective at protecting your head should you become involved in an accident. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Another caution to consider is taking a hand-me-down helmet. You may not know what that helmet has been through and if it may be defective. It may be best to purchase a budget helmet until you can buy one with more quality and features.
Even if the used helmet shows no evidence of damage, it would still be wise to just purchase a new helmet.
Think about how an aged used helmet would not be beneficial or safe. For 1), the foam wears over time with use, and 2) once the foam is crushed by an impact it’s useless.
Many helmet manufacturers place an expiration date on their helmets. So if your helmet doesn’t have one then a good rule of thumb is to retire that bad boy if its’ greater than 10 years old.
For example, you can compare helmets to a car seat for children. You never know what happened to that car seat before you decided to buy it. Also, most car seats have an expiration of 6 years or once it has been in an accident.
It’s really simple when it comes to used bike helmets to avoid them altogether. Helmets should be a one-use product. Especially when you consider the caution signs and questionable history it may have. it’s best to buy new.
By now you have the knowledge on how to wear a bike helmet properly and how it should fit.
In summary, you want to make sure the helmet fits correctly and not backward on your head. You also want a snug helmet but not too tight that it’s painful or uncomfortable.
Checking out your local bike shop will help to get an idea of what type of helmet fits your shaped head. It may not be as easy as measuring your head. You’ll want to get a good feel of what works for you.
It may take some time to get the fit right and you may have to purchase a more expensive helmet to get what you need. But you don’t have to break the bank, just find a budget helmet and upgrade later when the time comes.
Remember that wearing a helmet can be the difference between keeping your head intact or suffering terribly even from a minor accident.
Practicing how to adjust and maintain the straps on your helmet will make the perfect fit. It’s a good idea to check your straps before going out to ride each time.
In conclusion, it is to your benefit NOT to buy used. Since helmets are considered one-time use, be safe and purchase that new one whenever possible.
Troy StampsTroy Stamps is an avid cyclist based out of California. Road cycling is his passion which he's been doing his whole life and he has even competed in some local races. He loves getting new people into the sport and teaching them how to change their life through cycling.
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