I used to run around town sans helmet. I am way cooler (literally and figuratively) without a helmet.
And, where I lived, there were no laws regarding helmet usage.
At best, you might find me sporting one of those snazzy cycling caps. You know, the ones with the hip little bill that flips up.
I was just as cool as all of those tour de France riders from the early 1900s, riding up the Alpe d’huez with a cigarette dangling from their lips. Neither one of us had any idea how much we were flirting with death.
Here’s the thing: none of us plan on crashing. If we knew it was going to happen, we’d prevent it.
I’ve seen enough cracked helmets in my day — and had enough close calls — that I finally recognized the danger and started becoming anal about wearing a helmet.
Just like that, wearing one was no longer enough. I needed to know what was the safest helmet.
The Safest Helmet And Rating Agencies
Motorcycle helmets are tightly regulated. You have the ECE regulation and the Snell regulation, and they all must be DOT approved.
In other words, you have the US government — for better or worse — looking out for you.
The same goes with bike helmets, sans the DOT sticker of approval (for what it is worth).
Our helmets must pass CPSC impact tests. These are more stringent than ASTM tests, and so you are advised to always go with a CPSC certified helmet. However, this is the only test helmets undergo and it is not possible to purchase one with a verified higher “rating.”
Spending more on a helmet typically just results in one that is more lightweight and has more ventilation (two key elements of a more comfortable fit!)
Giro Sutton MIPS
Giro — and their sister company, Bell — have done a respectable job creating a helmet that is designed specifically for the dedicated commuter.
You get more of an Urban style that is smooth, functional and low-key. The racing-style helmets with their huge air holes and swooping styles seem to be so over the top in the urban environment.
I recognize that there is no official way to measure whether a helmet is more crash resistant, but I have to think that a solid design with this one has to offer more integrity. You never see a motorcycle helmet that is dotted with holes. And we all know that every time you cut a hole in something, you make it weaker.
So it stands to reason that this helmet — with its solid design — is possibly offering greater protection for the unforgiving urban environment.
It has a removable visor and full adjustability of the straps so you can customize it to your comfort and your (constantly changing) riding conditions.
I’ve found this helmet sizing to be very on point. Whatever their sizing chart says, you can measure your head and make your purchase decision directly off of the chart.
A unique idea is the notable rear ports that are carefully measured to allow you to slip a U-lock through. This allows you to lock your helmet to the bike rack, and frees your arms for more important things, like school books and milk.
Probably the largest selling point of this helmet is the light clip. This small clip lets you attach a blinking light to help capture motorists attention. Most of us already ride with a small light clipped on a backpack or near our saddle.
By moving a flashing light to the helmet, we are setting it closer to eye-level for the drivers who are trying to avoid us. I think that is a smart play and makes this helmet a top consideration.
Finally, it comes in safety yellow.
I’m sold. Shut up and take my money. This is hands-down my favorite option on the list.
The Bern Allston (Hard To Find)
The Bern is a fun helmet for the cyclist who wants something different. You have to hunt for this one.
The bulky, block-helmet style looks a lot like the Giro Sutton. However, it adds more ventilation to the top which keeps your head cooler while also adding a lot of style points that the Sutton is missing.
It has a cloth visor like the Sutton. It is also removable for hand washing if you have an exceptionally nasty commute. It also has winter inserts you can purchase to insert for those colder commutes.
The sizing chart is pretty accurate, but, if you are close to the top of a size, go ahead and step up to the next size.
It also has more protection that extends down the back of your head, protecting that critical area in the event you go down backwards or get knocked to the side.
The downside is that the surface of this helmet seems to pick up more scratching.
I’d say that if you shopping for a helmet that stans out from the crowd while still offering every feature you could hope for in safety and functionality, this is an excellent option.
Specialized Echelon II
The Specialized Echelon II is an affordable helmet option that is attracting a large following amongst riders who want a quality helmet without overpaying for it.
There are several different colors available, although most end up going with a neutral color such as white or black so it will match your clothing.
The straps work really well. They lay flush against the face and aren’t always getting wadded up behind your ears like some of the other brands tend to do. It has the standard spin wheel on the back like most of the high-quality helmets in this category do.
This one does have reflectors on the back. Studies have shown that helmet reflection may or may not appear to vehicle drivers because they are so thin. However, I do like to have them, anyhow. The more reflection, the better is the motto.
The velcro holds the interior pads in place, which means you can remove them and wash them with soap and water whenever they start to get too grungy. I appreciate this as there is nothing nastier than a grungy, smelly helmet (except, maybe, grungy smelly socks.)
For an upper-mid-range priced helmet (just under $100), this is one of the lightest, most comfortable helmets you can get your hands on. You will need to find a Specialized dealer near you to purchase it from.
A good choice for the rider who also does a lot of long-distance and club rides and who wants a helmet that blend in both with the commuting environment as well as the club riding world.
This one cleverly does both.