What cycle helmet do I need?

The humble cycle helmet is no longer just protective cycling equipment, it’s a piece of fashion too. Designed to complement any cycling outfit whether you are mum taking the kids to school on your cargo bike or a weekend warrior tearing up the trails at your local trail centre.

Helmet technology has seen a significant shift in recent years. Gone are the old clunky, ugly ‘lids’. Modern helmets are stylish with sophisticated technical features built in.

In this guide, I will walk you through how to buy the correct size, I will talk about different styles and some of the features that protect the modern rider.

What Size Cycle Helmet Do I Need?

This is easy. Stand in front of a mirror, take a measuring tape and measure the circumference of your head about 2-3cms above your eyebrows keeping the tape level, close to your skin but not tight and above your ears. This will give you a measurement in cm.

Helmets are sized as a range which your measurement must fall within, e.g. Medium 52-57cm. If your head measured 55cm, this would be the correct size for you.

TIP: If you are struggling get someone else to help you and take a few measurements to double check.

A typical helmet size guide. This may differ slightly between brands.

a typical bicycle helmet size guide

Cycle Helmet Features To Consider

Let’s breakdown some of the key features in a helmet to look for:

Padding

The inner lining of the helmet. More expensive helmets will have removeable pads you can wash or replace. Important for comfort and fit.

Retention system

Modern helmets have a ratchet system at the back to help secure it on your head correctly and reduce movement. This is a really important feature.

Ventilation

Basically the holes in the helmet that let air in to cool you down. Bigger holes let more air in.

Chinstrap

Keeps the helmet on and in a fixed position. This is really important for comfort too.

Weight

Only really important on full face or competition helmets.

a lady standing aside a bike wearing a helmet

Reflectivity

If you are commuting or riding in the dark, this may be a consideration. Some commuter-type helmets have rear lights built in too

Impact protection

MIPS is a popular feature which offers additional impact protection. We’ll talk about this more below.

Visor

Some helmets, particularly those for MTB and leisure, come with removable peaks or visors. These are useful in the sun and the rain.

Safety standard

All helmets are certified to European safety standard EN 1078

TIP: Focus on comfort and the correct type of helmet within your budget.


Further Reading


What Style Of Cycle Helmet Do I Need?

Let’s talk about five styles of helmet which may align with the type of riding you may do but it’s fine to use helmets in other disciplines too:

  • Kids
  • Leisure
  • MTB
  • Road
  • Urban

Kids Helmets

These helmets are always colourful and designed for young children. Sizing will be dependent on age and head size. For really small children manufacturers adopt a one-size approach

Cube Kids Helmet

Leisure Helmets

These have removeable peaks and are similar in look to mountain bike helmets but less technical and are usually a lower to mid-price point.

Cube Leisure Helmet

MTB Helmets

These feature open face or full-face helmets with removable visors. They often include technical safety features like MIPS (see below) and good quality padding, ventilation and are low-weight. Price points are often mid to high.

Cube MTB Helmet

Road

These helmets don’t have visors and have the widest price points. The most expensive will be super-light, aero and technically the most advanced in terms of retention system and impact protection.

Cube Road Race Helmet

Urban helmets

These are helmets that have elements that would be useful in urban environments. Often not as ventilated as leisure helmets, they may have a peak or visor and they may be reflective or sometimes incorporate a rear light.

Cube Urban Helmet

How to check your cycle helmet fits correctly?

  • Always try a helmet on before you buy it. Different brands will fit slightly differently for similar sizes. You need to find one that feels right. Think of it like trying on shoes. Concentrate on fit not just size.
  • When you put the helmet on, it needs to sit level on your head. Not too far forwards or backwards.
  • If it feels too tight before you’ve adjusted it, you need the next size up.
  • Tighten up the rear retention system. It needs to be tight enough to stop any sloppy movement of the helmet.
  • If you can’t tighten it up any further, the helmet is too big.
  • Pay attention to any pressure points, particularly around your temple areas. You don’t want any pain.
  • If you are happy with the fit, adjust your straps so they are under tension but not tight and form a V-shape around your ears.
  • When the chin strap is done up leave 2-3 fingers worth of space in between your chin and strap.
  • Colour and design is your choice! Be cool, be bold!

TIP: Always adjust your helmet in the mirror or get someone to help you.

What Is MIPS?

MIPS technology uses a slip-plane system that moves inside the helmet. This layer is designed to rotate inside the helmet upon impact with the intent of trying to slow down the energy transfer to and from the head and ultimately reduce the effect of that impact.

TIP: If you are at a higher risk of coming off your bike (eg MTB, Downhill riding) I would recommend a MIPS helmet for the extra impact protection it gives you

Some Final Thoughts

You know what size you need, and you know what type of helmet you want. Here are a couple more things to think about

  • Helmets don’t last forever. Age, UV from the sun take their toll. Aim to replace your helmet every 3-5 years.
  • If your helmet ever takes an impact from a crash or just being dropped. Replace it no questions asked. Even if you can see no damage. They are designed to absorb impacts which might not be visible but will compromise it’s integrity.
  • Keep them clean. You will sweat and they may get dirty. For hygiene reasons clean them with soap and water and consider a helmet sanitizing product.
  • Don’t share. Its your helmet, setup for you and only you. Don’t let anyone else use it.
  • Know the law. Helmets are not mandatory in the UK but are in other countries. Check before you go.
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