If you’re new to the world of cycling, you will probably not be aware that ‘The Great Helmet Debate’ is an epic battle which rages on and seemingly has done since the beginning of time.
There are cyclists who say you should and some who say you shouldn’t, however both sides are incredibly passionate when it comes to whether or not you should wear a helmet when riding a bicycle.
The bicycle helmet first started appearing on heads as early as the 1880’s because cycling clubs became popular and more and more head injuries were occurring – although this was a very different helmet to the ones we see nowadays. It was not until 1975 that a more modern style of helmet was invented by Bell Auto Parts which was made of a hard-plastic shell with foam lining. Since 1975, helmets have continued to get lighter, more aesthetically pleasing, even more comfortable and, most importantly, even safer. This is thanks to the amount of impact testing that is undertaken nowadays, as well as advanced materials which are used in the manufacturing processes.
Safety – Since day one helmets have been designed for one reason alone, and that’s for the rider’s safety. Whilst it can be hard to quantify just what they bring to the table in terms of safety, there are plenty of medical reports which show the importance of protecting your skull with a helmet. This is imperative for children as they tend to have the most incidents on their bikes, and their brains and bodies are still developing so it’s incredibly important to keep the head protected. We also recommend wearing a helmet when riding your e-bike - often you'll be riding at a greater speed than you would without the added power.
Laws – Depending on where you live, laws can be varied when it comes to wearing a helmet when bicycling, however in Australia the law clearly states that you MUST wear a helmet which has passed a specific set of Australian standards during testing. You will want to look out for the AS/NZS 2063 Safety Standards sticker on any helmet you are thinking of purchasing. If you are riding in a helmet which doesn’t have this, you will effectively be breaking the law!
Comfort – Whilst helmets have come on leaps and bounds from the days when they first became popular, some people still find them to be uncomfortable and much prefer the feel of a simple cycling cap or the wind in their hair. Finding a comfortable helmet can be even more difficult if you have an uncommonly large or small head, or if you have a slightly more unusual shape to your head. Your best bet is to try as many as you can before making a choice on what to buy.
Style – The way we look in other people’s eyes is incredibly important to us nowadays, and when we envisage a bicycle helmet, we tend to picture this huge, mushroom-like object wedged on our heads. Thankfully helmets are far more streamlined and safe than ever before, however this can still be a concern for someone who wants to ride to work, a meeting or a social event and doesn’t want helmet hair all day. Unfortunately, there’s not really any way around this, besides having a shower at your destination.
Overall, here in Australia there isn’t really a choice between wearing a helmet or not, however hopefully you can see that the Pros outweigh the Cons, in that the cons are slightly more superficial and the pros are all about safety and laws.
Even style is not a real inhibitor now – there are so many funky designs around – you will surely find something to suit your personality if you look far enough!
If you’ve not found a helmet you like yet, be sure to keep looking because you will find something you like and there’s no point buying one you don’t totally like as you won’t ever want to wear it!