A cycling helmet is often obligatory if you're going to be road biking and cycling in organised sportives and multi-sport races. It's important that you have a helmet that is perfect for you, so follow our guide to find out everything you need to know before buying a bicycle helmet.
Many thanks to Cycles UK for their collaboration on this guide.
Safety is always paramount, and this is the primary reason you will be wearing a helmet for cycling. Thankfully, all cycling helmets sold in the UK have to pass the same safety standards and so this is not something you need to worry about when buying a cycling helmet.
Aerodynamics have been one of the main areas of innovation in cycling in the last couple of years. Aero helmets used to be reserved for specialist track racing and time trials but they are now also a common sight at road races, triathlons, and club rides. Modern aero road helmets can save you as much as 40 seconds over a 40km ride compared to a standard cycling helmet, while a dedicated time trial helmet could save you almost double that. The major difference between the two is the amount of ventilation they have.
On a short sprint triathlon, a full aero time trail helmet could save you 30 to 40 seconds on the bike leg. The downside of this is that to achieve good aero performance, the helmets have very little ventilation and you need to keep your head relatively still. If you are on a closed road where you are not going to have to look up and around a lot, and it’s not a particularly hot day, this could be a good option.
Sundried pro triathlete ambassador Alice Hector wearing an aero helmet while competing at the Sundried Southend Triathlon
If you are doing a longer triathlon, or it’s going to be hot, you will probably be better of with an aero road helmet like the Specialized Evade. One of these helmets will save you 40 to 50 seconds on a standard triathlon bike leg but will still have enough ventilation to keep your head cool on all but the hottest and hilliest days.
Not everyone gets on with aero helmets and some people will want more ventilation on their training rides. You’ll also be looking at spending well over £100 to get a time trail or aero road helmet so it may not be an option for you if you are just starting out. In this case, go for a standard road helmet like a Kask Mojito or Specialized Echellon. These helmets still have some basic aero performance but will keep your head cool and your wallet relatively intact!
The hardest part about buying a helmet is the fit. Most manufacturers will give the size of the helmet in centimetres so you can roughly match them to your head. The helmet will then normally have adjustable systems inside so you can get the fit exactly right.
However, not all helmets are the same shape. Some manufacturers make their helmets long and thing oblong shapes, others make them rounder. Many cyclists find that certain brands' helmets simply don’t fit their head. If it’s your first time buying a cycling helmet, it’s well worth visiting a few bike shops and trying on as many different brands of helmet as you can until you find the one that works for your head shape.