What was the first thing your mom would say before you went out to ride your bike? Well if you were born anytime before 1985 probably nothing, or maybe just, "Be home before dark." BUT! IF you are too young to remember Mork and Mindy, your mom was probably screaming, "DON'T FORGET YOUR HELMET!" Of course now, as adults, we all know better and wearing a helmet is the only sensible thing to do. There is no better way to protect the sanctity of your brain than to cover your dome in a good quality helmet.
So what are some of the things we look for when choosing a helmet. Well fit is certainly one very important criteria. Beyond fit though, what else goes in to choosing the right helmet for you? Some of the qualities that people look for in a helmet are weight and ventilation. Does it have a visor? Is it best suited for warm or cold weather? Can I integrate headphones (yup even that is possible with some helmets)? With so many things to consider it can sometimes be hard to sift through all the helmet options.
In the most basic sense helmets are all about the same. They fit over your head, strap around your chin, and, well that's about it. And while that's the same for most all helmets its pretty obvious that we wouldn't want to use a football or auto racing helmet while cycling. Sure it will protect your head but at what other cost? In the cycling world we want to not only protect our head as much as possible but we don't want to sacrifice visibility. If we are to be riding for long periods of time we don't want to have our scalp over heating. If we are prepping for the Tour de France or the Kona world championships weight is probably a pretty big issue. All of these factors go into the design of a great cycling helmet.
What goes in to the modern cycling helmet? In general most helmets are made of a solid core of poly styrene with a hard plastic outer shell. Most also have a nice soft liners, perhaps even removable or interchangeable to create a more custom fit. Of course there is also the chin strap to make sure that helmet stays in place. Beyond just the construction of the helmet there are also some things which are unique to different helmets. Some helmets are better suited to mount lights. Others are very heavily vented for the distance rider. When choosing a helmet think carefully about which features you will want before deciding.