I freely admit that I am very likely to be found helmetless when riding around town, but almost never go on a road/sport ride without one. How that tradition started, I'm not entirely sure, but I struggle for some reason to remember or care about using one on short trips around the city. I do know that it upsets a certain segment of the cycling community to see (or hear about) me wandering about town on a daily basis without a helmet, but I am still of the belief that this is (unless required by law) entirely my choice.
But (as per my usual digressions), this is not intended as a time to argue the merits (or not) of donning a helmet, but rather, I am curious as to how others go about making a decision about a type or style of helmet, and even whether or not the looks of the helmet matter to you personally?
As I've found myself riding in the dark more frequently over the years, I've thought it might behoove me to wear a helmet around town on occasion (I am naturally clumsy and riding at night just adds to the potential for hitting unseen items in the road), and thus started my search for a helmet that wasn't too sporty-looking, that fits properly, isn't weighty, looks good (or at least acceptable), and that isn't boring. I have to admit, it hasn't been a very fruitful search.
Throughout this multi-year hunt, I've tried on, purchased and borrowed a variety of styles, and I have yet to find one that seems to check all the boxes.
Nutcase has been making helmets for a number of years now. It's easy to spot them in retail establishments because they are more than likely one of the more colorful and aesthetically creative designs one will see. Their rounded shape, unlike most of the more oblong road and mountain bike helmets is yet another easy way to spot them. Not to mention that they're placed strategically in magazines, often times when not even advertising for the Nutcase brand.
|*Image from Nutcase helmets|
My biggest issue with Nutcase helmets (and those of similar shape, such as Bern) is that they are on the heavy side. If I wear them for any length of time (more than a few minutes), I find that I have a strained neck for days afterward. I haven't quite decided if it's the fact that these helmets ride so low on the back of my head, or if it's the weight itself, but strained neck muscles are something I'd rather avoid.
Additionally, I also prefer more venting in a helmet, so the minimal hole design of these helmets doesn't particularly appeal to me. They seem to work fine in cool or cold months, but when the temperatures rise, I find it difficult to continue wearing this style of helmet.
|*Image from Bell (Solara helmet pictured) Approx. $40 USD|
For me, finding the right shape for my head seems to be challenging. I own one in particular that fits well overall, has a lower profile (which I prefer), has lots of large vent holes, and is lightweight; however, I end up with painful dents in my forehead every time I wear it due to the shape of my head - which seems to be in opposition to the shape of the helmet - despite the fact that it fits better than most helmets I've tried. I've been told in the past that people have either a Specialized shape head or a Giro shaped head, but I seem to have difficulty with both brands, depending on the particular model.
|*Image from POC (model is Trabec)|
Helmets have such a huge range in price, and (at least in the U.S.) they all must meet Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) requirements in order to be sold on shelves. In my experience though, it seems as though the more a person is willing to spend, the lighter the weight becomes and often, though not always, they seem to look better. Is it some kind of trick to attempt to get me to spend more money on a bike helmet? Perhaps. But, I suppose the more accurate answer is that the higher the price tag, the lighter the materials the company can use to manufacture the product and still meet safety needs.
After years of looking for the near-perfect, more casual, everyday type of helmet, I still have nothing definitive to point to. There are a lot of options to choose from, but it can be challenging to know which way to go - even when able to try them all on in person. Sometimes, I find the most information when actually using the helmet on a ride, and at that point it's too late to return the one selected.
How do you go about choosing your helmet(s)? Do you prefer to have just one helmet for all different types of riding and or bicycles, or do you like to have options to choose from? If you've had problems selecting based on your head shape, what have you found to be successful? Do you care about looks more than fit, or perhaps the opposite?