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The Bicycle Helmet: the Most Essential Piece of Safety Gear

September 12, 2023


The most critical piece of protective gear for any cyclist is a helmet. Protecting your head from potential injuries is paramount as, despite all precautions, falls and accidents can happen on the trail and roadways.

Interestingly, the earliest known helmets date back to 900s BC. Like many modern advancements, these protective shells were designed for military battle. And in fact, pre-1970, the bicycle helmet existed in a surprisingly basic form.

As the sport of cycling grew, impact-related data was accumulated and it became clear that the most distressing injuries to cyclists were blows to the head. Industry leaders began designing helmets specific to the type of riding cyclists engaged in, and helmet technology evolved significantly to provide enhanced protection.

These days, you can choose between a vast array of helmets to best suit your needs. For example, if you enjoy mountain biking, your options range from half dome helmets suitable for cross country (XC) and all mountain (AM) riding to full face for downhill (DH). For even better AM protection, opt for a helmet with a removable chin bar.

If riding pavement is more your jam, your options range from basic lids to get around town in to aerodynamic, fully ventilated helmets for fast, long road rides.

Love playing around on the pumptrack? There’s a helmet just right for that, too!

When choosing a helmet, you’ll want to consider your personal preferences, budget, cycling discipline, and safety priorities. That said, it’s important to note the most critical factors come down to proper fit and regular helmet maintenance.

Helmet Fit

A properly fitted helmet can significantly enhance its effectiveness in protecting your head during accidents or falls.

To check for fit, first ensure that the helmet sits level on your head, covering your forehead without tilting forward or backward. The front edge should be about an inch above your eyebrows. The straps should form a V-shape under your ears, and when buckled, they should be snug but not overly tight.

The helmet's side straps should meet just below your ear and create a comfortable Y-shape. Adjust the chinstrap to ensure it's snug enough to prevent the helmet from rocking side-to-side or front-to-back, but not so tight that it causes discomfort or restricts breathing.

To check the fit, shake your head gently. The helmet should stay in place without shifting. Lastly, perform a quick two-finger test: you should be able to fit two fingers between your chin and the chinstrap. If you can't, loosen it slightly; if you can fit more than two, tighten it a bit.

Remember that an ill-fitting helmet can compromise your safety, so take the time to adjust it properly before every ride. A well-fitted helmet ensures not only your protection but also your peace of mind while cycling.

The 3-to-5 Rule

It’s absolutely necessary to replace your helmet every three to five years (depending on use) or if it’s been in a crash, whether you see cracks in it or not. This is because some of the materials used to make it degrade over time. UV light degrades the outer shell, making it brittle … and a weak shell may compromise the structural integrity of the foam.

Keep in mind, too, that helmets are constantly being improved, so a current new model will keep you much safer than that three-year old rarely worn one in your closet.

Pro tip: Bontrager helmets offer a 1-year crash replacement guarantee.

Helmet Technology

Two prominent advancements in helmet technology are MIPS and WaveCel, both of which have revolutionized head protection for cyclists.

WaveCel

WaveCel’s ground breaking technology is proven to be significantly more effective than standard EPS foam at preventing concussions from common cycling accidents.

Standard EPS foam helmets are designed to protect against direct impacts. But WaveCel accounts for how most cycling accidents actually happen: ungracefully, with twists, turns, and angled impacts. On impact, WaveCel's collapsible cellular material absorbs energy in multiple ways and then disperses it in a remarkably effective way.

On impact, the layers of the WaveCel material move independently and flex until the cell walls crumple and then glide, actively absorbing direct and rotational energy and redirecting it away from your head.  

This three-step change in material structure—flex, crumple, glide—is remarkably effective at dispersing the energy from an impact.

One of the significant advantages of WaveCel technology is its ability to provide consistent protection across a wide range of impact scenarios. Unlike some other helmet technologies that may excel in specific conditions, WaveCel is designed to offer comprehensive protection, giving cyclists confidence in their helmet's ability to safeguard their head in various situations.

WaveCel is exclusive to Bontrager helmets. Browse Bontrager helmets with WaveCel here. Learn more about WaveCel here.

MIPS

Prior to the debut of WaveCel technology, MIPS (which stands for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) was developed to address the limitations of traditional helmet designs. 

MIPS helmets are designed with a low-friction layer inside the helmet, located between the helmet's liner and the rider's head. This layer allows the helmet to move slightly upon impact, mimicking the brain's natural protective mechanism.

In the event of a crash, the MIPS layer lets the helmet rotate relative to the head, redirecting and absorbing some of the rotational forces. This reduces the strain on the brain and can significantly decrease the risk of traumatic brain injuries.

MIPS is available in Bontrager, Bell and Giro helmet models. Browse helmets with MIPS here.

Trade In Your Old Helmet for 20% Off a New One

Whether you ride trails, crush road miles, or simply pedal around town — be sure to wear a properly-fitting, cycling-specific helmet every single time you throw a leg over your bike. 

Here at Epicenter Cycling, we carry a wide range of styles and colors for every riding discipline from top brands like Bontrager, Electra, Bell, Giro, Fox Racing, and more. Browse all helmets here.

Although keeping your noggin intact should be enough motivation to keep your lid fresh, we’re giving you $20.00 off a new one when you trade in the old. Offer good through September 30, 2023.

Mention code HEL202023 at the register to receive your discount. Limit one per customer; no cash value.