Bicycle helmets are an integral part of bicycle safety since they can and often do provide a protective effect during a bicycle accident or mishap. A bicycle helmet has three major components: 1) the outer or hard shell; 2) the inner shell or EPS (expanded polystyrene); and 3) the retention system. The hard shell allows the helmet to slide along the ground as opposed to catching on the pavement and inducing injurious neck loads. The EPS liner is the heart of the helmet and absorbs the energy of impact. The retention system keeps the helmet on the head during a mishap and consists of the chinstrap (Y- straps on each side) and a rear adjustment in the back to tighten the helmet around the circumference of the head.
Bicycle helmets must fit and be worn properly to maximize their protective effect. Helmet sizes will vary depending on manufacture. Try them on! Make sure the helmet is level and completely covers the forehead. Adjust the chinstrap so that the Y of the chinstrap is below the ear, and then adjust the chinstrap tightness with the chin buckle. You should be able to slide one finger between the strap and the chin. Tighten the rear adjustment if your helmet has one. Test the helmet fit by shaking your head and trying to push the helmet up and back with your palm on the front of the helmet. If the helmet has excessive motion when shaking your head or pushing on the front, readjust it, or select another helmet.
Remember to always wear your bicycle helmet when riding, as it offers you the best protection from head injuries in an accident or mishap.
TIMOTHY JOGANICH, MSES , C.H.F.P. is an ARCCA expert with more than 20 years’ experience in the sciences of human movement, biomechanics and human factors. He specializes in the analysis of bicycle accidents, based on his educational background and his own personal and extensive cycling experience, including competitive racing, touring, fitness/recreational riding, commuting and coaching.