Whenever you’re riding a bike, you should be wearing a helmet. Whenever we ride outside, we are sharing the road with many other users and are confronted with uncontrollable factors such as weather, road conditions, etc. In bike racing, USA Cycling requires helmets that meet certain safety standards for all races. Luckily for us, today’s helmets are anything but dull: In addition to outstanding safety technology used, there are options that come for all formats, purposes, and styles.
One of the most recent safety features in helmets is MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System). MIPS has been developed and tested by leading researchers and brain surgeons. It hails from Sweden, and helmets subjected to oblique impact testing and the results showed that it was possible to reduce rotational acceleration by up to 39% with a new type of helmet design, without changing the desirable energy-absorbing properties observed in purely radial impacts. MIPS helmets are equipped with traditional foam padding and an additional low friction layer that is attached to the helmet via an elastomeric attachment system. This system allows the helmet to rotate upon an angled impact, dispersing the shock absorption, which means less strain on your brain.
With MIPS being one of the more recent features to look out for, in the end, choosing the right helmet depends on your definition of comfort and your style of riding. Weight, price, ventilation and sizing are all crucial aspects of making the optimal choice of how to protect your head – here are some great examples to consider:
The Commuter – Abus Hyban & Louis Garneau Shine
The Abus Hyban is a wonderful commuter helmet – it’s much less sportive and more urban, and comes in six color ways to complement your favorite outfit. While it is an ABS tech hard cover helmet, it uses the Zoom Evo Easy system for perfect adjustment and fit. My favorite feature is the integrated integrated LED rear light with 180° visibility – especially for those gloomy fall days coming up, this is such a great addition to keep you safe on your commute. Additionally, it features a removable visor, which I always find helpful for added rain/dirt protection in quick-changing weather. The helmet features extensive netting to keep out unwanted visitors like bees and bugs, which I like. Despite its 13 air inlets and 5 outlets for ventilation, it is a hard cover and thus on the warmer end of the helmet scale but will definitely become a staple for my winter commutes.
The Louis Garneau women’s specific RTR Shine is another great alternative for city adventures. It is part of the #ReclaimTheRoad collection that focuses on higher visibility and safety on early mornings and late summer evenings. It comes in pink, which is definitely not a subtle color in traffic, and its color allows for higher visibility and a safer ride. The entire bottom half of the outer shell is actually painted in reflective ink, which makes you more easily-seen in low-light conditions. The Spiderlock® 4D adjustment system allows for the helmet to be adjusted both laterally and vertically. Louis Garneau’s Super MSB technology, a ring-shaped protection at the base of the helmet that reinforces the perimeter, creates excellent protection. The Shine’s 22 vents and moisture evacuation channels provide superior airflow and make this helmet a great choice for riding in the summer.
The Training Helmet – Lazer MIPS Blade & Catlike Mixino
The Lazer Blade helmet combines great looks with high performance. Belgian cycling specialist Lazer put it out at a very reasonable price tag, which is probably why it has won several awards in the past years. What’s really special about the Blade is not only its MIPS feature, but its Advanced Rollsys® (ARS) retention system. It is let into the rear top of the helmet and provides a more comfortable fit and better adjustment than its roc-lock peers in my opinion. The ARS is also an ideal feature for women, as it leaves ample space at the rear of the helmet for long hair. The Blade has 22 vents, which have been keeping me cool on commutes and training rides alike. I just recently completed a century ride with the Blade, and the helmet definitely kept me cool for hours and hours of pedaling on end, which makes it one of my favorite helmets for everyday riding.
Catlike’s Mixino is quite a helmet – not only in design but also in safety features. Catlike has developed multiple proprietary technologies that are as unique as its style. The Mixino uses a process called In Mold that combines layers to increase resistance to impact. Catlike’s Low Nape Protection keeps the occipital lobe safe, and in case of crashes, the helmet’s Crash Energy Splitter design diffuses impact throughout its Aramid cage, a composite of heat-resistant synthetic fibers. Ventilation is another aspect in which the Mixino scores big time: its 39 air vents are arranged in the same Dual Flow design, which creates a constant airstream through the helmet, directing cooling air across your head to the rear exhaust ports. Catlike uses a patented technology that it calls an Airtube System to maintain the Mixino’s structural integrity despite all of that negative space. This system uses air-filled hollow elastic tubes that create an inner mesh within the helmet, reinforcing the open design, and eliminating the need for bulky construction material.
The Racer – Louis Garneau Course
What I noticed first about Louis Garneau’s Course Helmet is its superior fit. with my head being on the smaller end of the spectrum, I often struggle with existing sizing and adjustment systems. However, the Course fits me perfectly, even though it is not a dedicated women’s helmet. Modeled with LG’s Computational Fluid Dynamics Software, the Course was designed to optimize aerodynamic performance by maximizing the frontal surface of the helmet. With the 31 openings and an aerodynamically designed inner-nerve system molded inside of the EPS liner, air is guided internally to the back of the helmet, keeping you cool and aero at the same time. LG released an interesting video about their special design process of the helmet in the actual cycling position. While it is a light, sleek and fast helmet, LG didn’t compromise on safety: the Course features MSB technology that reinforces the perimeter of the entire helmet for enhanced protection in case of impact.
The Speedking – Limar Speedking TT
Limar is an Italian brand that’s been at the forefront of developing helmets for decades. Limar helmets are produced through the in-mould process: a highly technical production method to fuse the external microshell to the polystyrene lining of the helmet. The Speedking is new for 2016, and its aerodynamic design makes it a special candidate for anything fast: pursuit, triathlons and time trials. The relatively short shape of this aero helmet allows for a more efficient bike position and works especially well in courses that force you out of the aero position. At first I was skeptical of the one-size approach as I tend to have a smaller head, but the fitting system was pretty amazing. The ultralight fit system allows real ergonomic fitting thanks to its vertical and horizontal adjustments: The horizontal adjustment allows up to 4 cms size adjustment, while the height adjustment offers 4 levels of nape sizing. The helmet’s 6 air vents keep your head relatively cool – while being aware that you’re sacrificing airflow for aerodynamics in a TT helmet. Overall, I have been really impressed with both fit and performance of the Speedking – and immediately PRed my 40k TT time with it.
For time on the Trails – Kali Maraka XC
Being as light as possible while being as safe as needed for a cross-country helmet- that’s the Maraka XC by Kali Protectives, an athlete-owned company that focuses on the latest breakthroughs in helmet safety technology. At only 268grams, the Maraka XC has a complex mold construction featuring Composite Fusion™ Plus technology and dual density EPS foam, which reduces impact and rotational forces in crashes significantly. The proprietary Bumber Fit system provides extra shock-absorbent padding that allows for a light, comfortable and strong helmet. What stands out in the Maraka is the vent technology: 25 vents in the front allow for maximum airflow, which makes the Maraka ideal for hot days on the trails. The SuperVent technology adds a reinforced superstructure to critical airflow vents in the front and maximizes structural integrity of the helmet. Kali uses a different fit adjustment system than most helmets I’ve worn. The dual-sided closure system at the rear of the helmet needs a little getting used to but works quite well. The Maraka comes with a removable visor is easily put on or off depending on weather and trail conditions. Overall the Maraka XC is a pretty versatile helmet that will keep your head safe and cool on hot summer rides and races – whether you are hitting the trails with the visor on or without it pedaling on the road.
Jasmin is a Moxie Cycling Ambassador and blog contributor. Check out her bio here!