Know the Facts About Helmet Safety

Many riders chose not to wear a helmet for their own reasons: too hot, too cumbersome, flattens the hair, etc. But like anything else, you should get all the information before you make you decision. Here's what a helmet does: The helmet's job is to provide a stopping distance between your head and the ground.

Story originally posted by: Sharon Biggs

A fall on the head causes the brain to ricochet inside the skull, which causes bruising. Immediately the body begins to produce histamine, a biochemical that causes swelling. If the swelling continues, the brain tissue will crush neighboring healthy cells. This is why you may feel fine after hitting your head but not so good an hour later. With this in mind, designers have built into the helmet a “bubble wrap” system. The padding of your helmet has been injected with millions of gas bubbles set in 10 or more layers. When you fall, the bubbles burst, taking much of the impact. The idea is that the bursting will slow the impact and help keep bruising down to a minimum. The outside shell of the helmet offers protection against outside factors such as hooves, rocks and branches.

Helmets won’t deteriorate over time or constant wearing. However, the padding will begin to break down if you store your helmet in a hot area such as the back of your car or by a heater. If you need to dry your helmet, don’t put it near a heater leave it to dry naturally. If you’ve fallen on your head and lost consciousness, chances are that you’ve maxed out your helmet’s bubbles. Throw the helmet away and buy another. If you’ve landed on your shoulder before your head, your shoulder has taken the maximum impact so you may have only popped through one layer and diminished your helmet 10 or 20 percent. Is only 80% protection okay with you?

You won’t be able to see if your helmet has been affected inside, but outside is a different story. A painted helmet will show concentric rings on the top and striated lines on the sides and a velvet helmet will have crushed pile. If your helmet looks like this, replace it.

If you are in the market for a new hat, ask the staff at your saddle shop for help. Fitting isn’t as easy as you might think and you may need to try on many, many models before you find one whose fit and style suits you. If your local saddle shop doesn’t have many models or sizes in stock, contact a catalog company with a good return policy, order several models/sizes, and return the ones that don’t work for you.

Since buyer beware is the best policy, here are a few helmet fitting tips: (1) Put the helmet on and leave the throat strap undone. Move the helmet around. If you can move the skin of your scalp or your eyebrows move the fit is good. If the helmet moves your hair around instead, the helmet is too loose. (2) The helmet should feel firm and snug but not tight. Your head will expand a bit when it gets hot and the padding will begin to mold to your head after a few wearings. (3) Take the hat off and put it back on three times. You’ll find that the helmet will begin to feel molded to your head and you’ll get a better idea of fit. Note: the throat strap’s job is to make sure the helmet doesn’t come off the way it was put on. It shouldn’t hold the helmet to your head; the proper fit should keep the helmet from shifting. The strap is properly adjusted when you can talk comfortably.

Helmet Do’s and Don’ts

* Don’t wear your helmet without the strap or with it hanging loose.
* Don’t wear your helmet on the back of your head.
* Do be suspicious of loaner helmets. You can’t know how many times it’s been in a fall. Buy your own.
* Don’t have a ‘lucky helmet’. Just because your helmet helped you win, if you’ve had a few falls in it, change it.
* Don’t wear a bike helmet. They are better than nothing, but a riding helmet is specially designed for rider’s needs.