The most overlooked piece of bicycle equipment is actually the most important. Helmets!
Spring is just around the corner and it is time to start thinking about getting ride ready. Most of us think about our bikes, bike upgrades like brakes and suspension, but helmets are a little less enticing. We invite you to make it the first thing you think about. In fact, when was the last time you bought a new helmet and why?
As responsible mountain and road bike riders, you want to make sure your equipment is as prepared as you are. The most important piece of equipment that a cyclist owns is going to be a helmet.
I (Andrew) am currently going through the process of choosing a new helmet for the 2021 season and here are 4 reasons you might want to do the same. Also, this blog post is meant to act as inspiration for your safety.
1. You’ve had the same helmet for 3 or more years.
After three years helmets can lose some of their protective capabilities. General riding wear, including small crashes here and there, will weaken the structure of the helmet to the point where the wrong type of impact can seriously injure you. Helmets are the best protection we have against traumatic brain injuries. While XC and road riders are not going to be rocking up to group rides in a full-face dh helmet it is still important to have the right helmet for the job. I have had my current helmet for four years and it is showing signs of wear from everyday use. The padding inside is also showing signs of wear from sweat and the fit is not as comfortable as some of the new options from Scott.
2. You have “used” the helmet.
Crashing happens. When it does, your helmet gets used. When it gets used it needs replaced.
Our instincts in a crash prioritize checking if first you are okay, and then you check out your bike. It’s time to add checking your helmet to the list. Learn more about checking out your helmet here.
Even if there is not an obvious crack in the shell of the helmet it is still damaged if it made an impact. Bicycle helmets are safety rated for single impact. It’s the only thing protecting your brain, so your due diligence is to replace it as needed.
The internal structure of the helmet may be compromised by any direct impact no matter how small to the point that it will no longer absorb a larger impact. It takes very little energy to damage the internal structure of a helmet and we often underestimate the force the helmet absorbs when it does its job. This means even after a small helmet impact we should look at replacing our helmets.
Reasons for checking out your helmet for damage are more to identify how the impact might affect you. Look for cracks in the foam, inside and out. As well as any dings that might be on the helmet, again, inside and out.
3. U.V. Damage
The more often you ride the more ultra violet damage your helmet receives. Jessica, our General Manager, replaces her helmet every year because of the amount of time she is spending out in the sun riding. U.V. Damage to the shell of the helmet is most noticeable by color fade. This is indicative of damage to the internal structure of the helmet making it less able to absorb impacts. This ties into the main wisdom we would like to share with you…if you use it often, treat yo’ self to new helmet day more often than the “every 3 years” rule of thumb.
In the Treasure Valley we don’t have a lot of cover when riding. Here in the high desert, we are riding amongst the sagebrush so our helmets see a bit more sun than in other areas of the Pacific Northwest. For those that ride multiple times per week, we’re talking to you. For those of you that ride a dozen times per year, and don’t crash, your helmet will last a little longer.
4. New technology/features
Have you heard of MIPS? It’s the most commonly requested safety feature in helmets at our shop. Click here to read a more in-depth article about it. Most of the brands we work with utilize the MIPS liner for safety. Other brands have their own proprietary safety features. Giro is one of our primary brands and they utilize their Spherical technology integrated with MIPS. Learn more here. All helmets meet a minimum safety standard, but as you spend a little more, you get a little more safety + better ventilation and fit. For example, a Scott Supra helmet is about $15 less than the Scott Supra Plus.
A lot of Smith helmets, another brand we carry, offers not only MIPS, but their own features. If you look at helmets like the Smith Forefront you’ll see what looks like straws. The Forefront uses both technologies. This is also the helmet that Jessica selected for the 2021 season.
Our service manager, Ben, is going to ride with Bell Super Air helmet with the Spherical technology. As he says, he only gets one brain and won’t compromise on safety. He also states, helmets are the unsung heros of bikes.
Unfortunately crashes happen. Ben and Andrew both have used their helmets and know it’s the most important piece of gear they own.
Our staff is pretty passionate about helmets and we hope that we’ve compelled you to also nerd out about helmets. Drop by and try on a few options, especially if it’s been a few years.
As spring is sprung we hope you all enjoy your rides and stay safe out there!
-Andrew “The Birdman” Bertram