Getting the right helmet for your bike commute is a tricky thing as you need a helmet for the obvious safety considerations, but you also want one that suits both you and your specific journey so that you will want to use it regularly.
How to choose the best bike helmet for commuting? Look for a helmet that is comfortable first of all as this will make you want to wear it; helmets should also have reflective detail for night-time visibility, while having a bright colour will help you to be seen a little more during daylight hours. In addition, check that any helmet you buy for commuting is safety certified in your country as this means it will be guaranteed to withstand impact, if needed.
Which cycle helmet is best?
In terms of deciding which cycle helmet is best for you, let’s look in a bit more detail the points discussed above.
I have put comfort as the first part of looking for a good bike meeting helmet for a simple reason.
This is because if you do not have a comfortable helmet, you will likely use it less frequently.
This obviously means that you will not be protected on those journeys without your helmet, defeating the object of owning a helmet!
The key points around comfort are really looking for padding on the inside of the helmet and also a strap that is soft.
Chin straps on cheaper bike helmet often have less padding and can therefore start to chase or rub around your neck.
Also look for a bike commuting helmet that is adjustable at the back. This adjustment is often done with something like a wheel or disc at the rear of the inside of the helmet.
For men, this is particularly useful as small changes like growing longer hair can also mean that you need to slightly adjust the size of the helmet, making it that bit more versatile for you.
Getting a safety certified helmet for your bike commute is also essential because this will guarantee a certain level of protection.
You will notice that cheaper helmets online do not have this kind of safety certification, and you should therefore avoid them like the plague!
Think extremely carefully about getting this kind of certified helmet if you spend a lot of time cycling on roads, and if you have a longer commute.
Obviously, a helmet is recommended whatever to terrain you are bike commuting on, but falls on roads often lead to worse injuries than those off-road.
Examples of Safety Standards for Bike Helmets in Different Countries:
These different safety standards for bike helmets differ by country, but a couple of the key ones in the English-speaking world are listed below:
- USA: Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
This commission in the USA looks too reduce the risk of harm from consumer products and provides a detailed list of safety standards.
In fact, the commission’s website has a dedicated page on bicycle helmets.
The website also details the fact that helmets are tested for visibility, staying on after a fall or impact, that the straps are strong enough not to stretch from an impact, and that the helmet reduces any impact on the riders head significantly.
As such, buying a helmet in the USA with CPSC certification should give you peace of mind for all of the situations above.
UK: EN 1078:2012 (European Union, for now!)
The safety standards for bicycle helmets in the UK is covered by a European Union (EU) wide law which, if you are reading this after the UK has “Brexited”, will have become UK law due to something introduced by previous Prime Minister Theresa May.
The tests here involve drop testing from a variety of angles, and onto surfaces with different angles.
It also looks at specifically testing weaker areas of the helmet like the ventilation slots or points for retention, provided that these are listed in the safety coverage area of the helmet described by the manufacturer.
This certification also requires a test for retention on the head in the case of a fall or impact.
Australia: Trade Practices (Consumer Product Safety Standard [CPSS]) (Bicycle Helmets) Regulations 2001
In Australia, the key points for the safety certification are around “construction, design, performance markings and safe use instructions”
This again considers things such as absorbing impact, distributing the load of the impact and how the helmet is retained on the head after an impact.
There are other key features around instructions for safe use and care, stating that this must be printed on the helmet in text that is more than 1.5 mm in height, hopefully making legible to all.
Reflective detail simply means any parts of the helmet which have material that will reflect light that shines on it.
This is a major help for being seen by car drivers in low light or at night, as their headlights should reflect this part of your helmet.
When you are looking at a helmet, check that the product description includes reflective detail.
This may not be visible to the naked eye but if it is stated as having reflective detail, then you can be sure that you will be that bit more visible in darker conditions.
Having any element of reflectivity on your helmet is a value add because it’s yet another point for you to be seen by drivers.
It also works for other bike commuters or cyclists as their lights will also reflect in this way.
Ideally, your bike commuting helmet will be in a colour that has high visibility, or hi-viz for short.
The best colour for this is a fluorescent yellow as it is more visible to drivers during daytime than oranges or any other colours.
Please note that hi-viz does not help visibility at night, so this reduces the impact of it for those of you riding in dark/night-time conditions.
Although you may want to get a more stylish helmet, if your commute is mostly spent riding on the roads, then a hi-viz helmet seems like the most obvious choice to keep you safe.
Remember that you could always get another helmet for casual rides or cycling in your free time.
But please remember that wearing hi-viz clothing and accessories does not guarantee that you will be seen by drivers, so always take care even when using these items.
Works in Your Climate
This might sound a little bit strange but bear with me!
As you will know exactly what you local temperature range is, you can also therefore factor this in when deciding on a cycling helmet for your commute.
Helmets for Warm/Hot Conditions
If you are cycling in warmer weather with some periods of hot weather, make sure you look for a helmet that has excellent ventilation.
You can see this in the design of the helmet from the product images but also in the product description on the product page.
Think about having the possibility of adding/removing inserts for different temperatures as these can have an insulating effect, making your head uncomfortably hot and sweaty in certain conditions.
Helmets for Cold/Freezing Conditions
Some helmets designed for colder climates and journeys and can cover you more fully, offering space for ear warmers or balaclavas, for example.
Some will also have additional inserts for insulating your head, face, ears and neck.
If cycling in extreme cold, meaning freezing conditions, you might need to look for more extreme options.
In the video below, the commuter talks about using a skiing helmet for his snowy/icy commute, but be sure to check the safety specifications as they will likely differ slightly.
If you’re concerned about how your helmet looks, then there are certainly some very stylish helmets on the market for commuters.
Again, when looking into these stylish commuter helmets, simply make sure that they have all the requisite safety certifications that you need because style with a cracked head is not much good!
You might also be looking for a helmet that is quite discrete when you arrive at your work or office.
The good news is that there are several helmets on the market. These are discreet from a design point of view as they either fold or collapse when you take them off.
Are MIPS helmets better than normal bike helmets?
So you might first want to know what ‘MIPS’ in bike helmets means. It stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System and is an advanced technology used in cycling helmets to prevent serious head injury from falling violently at an awkward angle, where a regular helmet would not protect the user.
Note that MIPS technology is an advanced feature and is not used in all cycling helmets.
However, given that it means a bit more technology has been used in creating it, MIPS helmets are usually a little more expensive than the regular version.
As such, if you can afford and MIPS helmet for your bike commute, it will offer that extra protection to your head in the event of a fall, giving you great peace of mind knowing that you have that added safety feature.
So I hope you now have a clearer idea of which bike helmet will be most suitable for your commute.
At the end of the day, whichever helmet you go for, just remember to wear it as often as you can, ideally always!