Whether you're an avid cyclist or just starting out, finding a biking helmet that suits your preferences is one of the most important parts of being able to enjoy your ride. Not only can the wrong helmet prove cumbersome or uncomfortable, but wearing an improperly fitted helmet can even be dangerous should you find yourself in a crash. On the other hand, find a helmet with the right fit for your cycling discipline, and you'll be able to enjoy a safe, comfortable ride for a long time to come. Here are a few things to look for to help you find your best fitting helmet.
First, consider what kind of riding you'll be doing, as multiple design feature in biking helmets vary from application to application. As an example, here are a few differences between mountain biking helmets and road biking helmets:
Padding - Due to the rougher terrain of mountain biking and the fact that riders are more likely to fall backward than forward in MTB cycling, mountain biking helmets tend to be heavier and have more padding in the back of the helmet.
Weight and aerodynamics - Because road biking usually entails smoother surfaces and requires higher speeds, road biking helmets are often lighter and more aerodynamic. They also typically have more air vents for a more comfortable ride.
Visor and eye protection - While some riders just use a bicycle cap and sunglasses for protection, mountain biking helmets often employ a visor to keep the sun out of the rider's eyes, and some helmets that are more suited to downhill biking employ a full visor and faceguard similar to motorcycle helmets to provide facial protection as well.
Once you know what kind of helmet you'll need, the most important thing is to find one that best fits your head. To do that, first measure the circumference of your head at the widest point, which is generally about one inch above your eyebrows. The sizing specifications may vary slightly from brand to brand, but for the most part, size breakdowns are as follows:
Extra small - less than 20 in. (51 cm.)
Small - 20"–21.75" (51cm–55cm)
Medium - 21.75"–23.25" (55cm–59cm)
Large - 23.25"–24.75" (59cm–63cm)
Extra large - above 24.75" (63cm)
As with shoes, different manufactures employee different helmet geometries, so be sure to try some out while at the store to make sure that the helmet fits your head shape, even if it is listed as being the right size. It should fit snugly without being annoyingly tight, and should sit flat on your head (rather than tilting back) with the foremost lip resting approximately one inch above your eyebrows for forehead protection. If you need further customized fitting options, feel free to adjust the fitting mechanism, which is often an adjustable wheel at the back of the helmet, or look for helmets that offer adjustable padding for extra custom fitting.
There are all sorts of add-ons that you could get for your biking helmet, like built-in mounts, light or action cameras, and much more, but what counts is that you find the best-fitting helmet that suits your cycling adventures, and that you enjoy a safe ride that goes the distance.