Gearing up for Summer Bike Riding: Happy Helmet Heads

Summer is nearly here, which means that long, warm days are ahead- perfect for family bike adventures morning, noon and night! To help get you ready for fun family riding, we’re planning to share a series of blogs based on frequently asked questions, rad local riding spots, and our favorite bike gear for minis.

First up, helmets! Thanks to PedalPower Kids’ friends Whitney and Leah for their recent questions on the topic of bicycle helmets! It probably goes without saying that helmets are a must-have piece of bike equipment and provide absolutely essential life-saving protection for children. But with literally thousands of options on Amazon alone, how do parents choose the right helmet for their child? And how do you know if a helmet is properly fitted?

The Basics:

1.     It’s the law here in Maryland that anyone under the age of 16 must wear a bicycle helmet when riding on public property. Be a role model and do the same, parents!

2.     All bicycle helmets sold in the U.S. must meet standards set by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). Some helmets are also endorsed by other safety organizations, including the nonprofit Snell Foundation. It’s important to know that bicycle and skateboard helmets standards are different- skate helmets require additional protection for different impacts. If your child skates, scoots and bikes, look for a helmet with dual certification like the Nutcase- which happens to come in a TON of cool designs:

3.     Why the major price disparity if all helmets must meet standards?  Should I just get the cheapest one? Yes, helmets must meet basic safety standards, but there are wide disparities when it comes to weight, comfortable, ventilation, visibility and added safety features. Investing in a better-quality helmet might not just keep your kiddo’s melon safe, but will encourage consistent wear and more comfortable riding in all seasons. My daughter loves her helmet so much, she often forgets to take it off and will wear it straight through meals!

What to Look for in a Helmet:

1.     “Flip” Sequins– Haha, only kidding- wanted to see if you were paying attention! The other day in Target, my 7 year old spotted this “must have”- and I couldn’t imagine a WORSE option for bike riding in Maryland in the summer. Yes, the style caught her eye but the breathability and ventilation were as bad as a hardhat. No thank you! That said, style points do count so let your child pick a helmet that speaks to their personality! Or even let them decorate their own with permanent markers. A lightweight, breathable AND rad-looking helmet just means one less battle for Mom and Dad!

2.     Breathability and Ventilation– Does your little shredder run hot and sweaty? Ask to take their helmet off after riding hard for a few minutes? If so, you’ll want to look for a helmet with large openings for ventilation- I really like the Melon helmets for this reason- they’re a super lightweight skater style helmet but well-ventilated unlike typical skate helmets- they’ve got great Coolmax liners in different sizes as well

3.     Weight– As helmet price goes up, weight often comes down. Just like bikes, I recommend going as light as you can afford, which will enhance your kid’s comfort greatly, particularly if you are starting to do some longer distance riding.

4.     Fit– To properly protect the child’s head, the helmet needs to sit straight across the forehead, not sliding backward as is often the case with some of the cheaper helmets, with minimal adjustability. Every child’s head shape is unique, and you may find that some highly rated helmets just don’t fit your kid particularly well. That said, I’m a big fan of Bern Unlimited Jr Nina/Nino helmets, which offer tremendous adjustability and tend to stay put: The Bern helmets also come with a visor which is awesome for sun protection and can be swapped out for a winter cap- a feature I love to encourage all-season cycling. You may do best to actually bring your child along to try helmets- locally, I’d recommend Bike Doctor Arnold and Bike Doctor Annapolis for great service and a nice selection.

5.     Added Safety Features– Pricier helmets include some very nice “extras” for safety and comfort! Things like magnetic “anti-pinch” chin strap closures go a LONG way towards kid comfort and satisfaction (if you’ve had a little one’s chin pinched before, you know!). Better helmets include “auto fit” systems to take human error out of the fitting process. I’m particularly excited about Woom’s new helmet, available this summer, that is designed such that it’s virtually impossible to wear incorrectly:

The buzzword in helmet safety features these days is “MIPS”, which stands for Multi-Directional Impact – long story short, the MIPS protection helps reduce rotational forces from certain impacts by adding a low friction slip-plane layer inside the helmet. Definitely a good thing! Giro, Bell, Lazer, and other manufacturers incorporate this technology:

Here’s to a safe summer on two wheels! Questions? Feel free to ask away!

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