Buyers guide to bicycle helmets

In order to give you a better idea of what to look out for, we’ve put together this handy guide below.

When it comes to gearing up to go cycling, your helmet is almost as essential as your wheels. Whilst strapping on a plastic helmet for a leisurely Sunday ride may feel over the top, wearing the correct protection can prevent injury, and even save lives.

Sadly it’s not as easy as simply picking any old helmet though, in order to ensure you’re properly protected you need to find one that’s a perfect fit for your head.

full face helmet

Safety first

You wouldn’t ride in a car without a seatbelt, so why leave yourself at risk when you’re on your bike by not wearing a helmet?

Although there are currently no laws that require cyclists to wear a helmet in the UK, making the wise decision to do so will give you an added layer of protection.

Whilst there are no studies that prove helmets reduce the risk of fatality among cyclists, there are heated debates on the topic, and plenty of evidence exists to argue each side of the claim.

One thing is for certain though, a helmet adds an extra layer between your cranium and the concrete, and wearing one can’t hurt (unless you pull your straps too tight).

Just your type

Much like the bikes they are used with, helmets come in different shapes and sizes.

There are many different types of helmet to choose from, each with their own unique qualities relating to the type of cycling you’ll be undertaking. We’ve presented a selection of the most common types below, alongside explanations of what makes them unique.

Road cycling helmets

These lightweight, aerodynamic helmets provide plenty of ventilation and are specially designed to reduced wind resistance, whilst still offering all the necessary protection you need.

Mountain bike helmets

Often slightly larger than their road based counterparts, mountain bike helmets are optimised for protection.

Full face helmets resemble lighter versions of motorbike headgear, and their specialised retention system ensures that the helmet stays held firmly in place no matter what terrain you’re traversing.

Multi-use helmets

The ideal choice for casual cyclists, this helmet is the standard headgear that can be found in almost any sporting goods store.

The lack of special features often make these helmets the most economical choice, and unless you plan on going off-road during your next trip, they offer perfectly adequate protection against everyday dangers.

The type of helmet you pick will obviously depend on which kind of bike you have, but there are plenty of styles available.

Road Helmet

Picking the right size

Finding the right size helmet is a vital part of ensuring you’re properly protected. Whereas cheaper, multi-use helmets will often be made to fit all head sizes, with just a strap to adjust the size; specialist headgear will be available in small, medium and large sizes to provide a better fit.

In order to find the appropriate size, you will first need to measure the width of your head. This is relatively easy to do, either by using a tape measure or by marking a piece of string. Wrap the measuring device around your head a few centimetres above your eyebrows.

Once you’ve got your measurements, check which size of helmet suits you best. Specific sizing information may differ depending on the brand and type of helmet, so be sure to check product specifications before you make a purchase.

If you fall somewhere in between two different sizes, opt for the smaller size, as this will ensure the headgear doesn’t move about too much when you’re riding.

Mountain Bike Helmet

Adjusting the fit

Before putting it on your head, you’ll notice several adjustable components on your helmet; including a sizing wheel and chin straps. These can be used to ensure that your equipment fits perfectly.

In order to get your headgear fitted properly, adjust the sizing wheel so that the straps are expanded to their maximum scope. Place the helmet on the top of your head, so it sits level, and slowly tighten until the helmet does not move from side to side when you shake your head.

Next, buckle the chin straps and open your mouth. If you can feel the helmet pushing against the top of your head, then it’s tight enough.

Everything should fit snugly, but if it feels restrictive or uncomfortable then it’s probably too tight, and will need to be loosened slightly.

Once everything is on and it feels secure, you’re ready to start riding, so jump on your bike and let the adventures begin, safe in the knowledge that your head is protected.

Which bicycle helmet should you buy?

Leisure riders reap the benefits of helmet technology trickling down over the years. Any helmet that passes the required CE testing regulations will be fine. Go for a very vented helmets if you’re a hot sort of person. If you’re not prone to overheating then a lot of casual riders like the less-vented skate-style helmets.

Regular riders should aim to spend a bit more and go for a design with a good amount of vents. Mountain bikers will appreciate a helmet peak to keep the sun glare (or rain drops!) out of their eyes. A helmet that has minimal amount of exposed polystyrene will generally stay looking better for longer.

Racers should go for the most vented and lightest helmet that they can afford. Top end helmets these days can be cooler than riding without a helmet once you’re going at a decent speed. Even mountain bike racers may wish to ditch the peak and save a few grams too.

Shop for bicycle helmets at Merlin Cycles


  • Christian Moss

    Christian is the Social Media manager at Merlin Cycles. Christian brings an air of levity to the blog, coupled with a generous splash of irreverence. As part of his responsibilities, Christian manages the Facebook and Twitter accounts. Christian is also the resident photographer here at Merlin.

One comment to “Buyers guide to bicycle helmets”
  1. The most important thing is to make sure its comfortable and safe. People spend lots of money on flashy designs which are uncomfortable and inconvenient due to the designs. When picking road cycling helmets make sure you choose comfort over style, take a good look at the priorities of the helmet.

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