A properly adjusted helmet is level from front to back and about two fingers above the eyebrows.
Bike New York requires that all participants wear helmets. Here’s our advice about choosing and adjusting a helmet for maximum comfort and protection–plus mistakes to avoid.
Correct Helmet Usage
Your helmet should be level, adjusted correctly, and fastened snugly under your chin. We sure hope you don’t ever take a fall, but if you did and you were wearing a properly adjusted helmet, it would reduce the chance of a serious head injury.
- Overall fit: Fasten sizing pads to the inside of the helmet to make it snug, yet comfortable. Most new helmets come with pads in a few different thicknesses.
- Straps: Adjust the straps so that your helmet is level from front to back, just above the top of your eyebrows, with little room for movement. The straps should meet just under each ear, at your jaw. Buckle the strap. Then open your mouth wide. The chin strap should feel fairly tight. It may take a few minutes to get the adjustment right the first time, but after that it should be easier.
- Readjust as necessary: Your helmet may need to be readjusted every once in a while–the straps may loosen with use, for instance. Be sure to check it regularly.
When Buying a New Helmet
- Find the smallest size that fits your head.
- Choose an easily visible color.
- Look for certification by the U.S. Safety Product Commission (CPSC), the Snell Memorial Foundation, or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
- Don’t be afraid to consider fashion and personal taste. Get a helmet that you won’t mind wearing!
Mistakes to Avoid
- Unfastened chin strap: In order for a helmet to work, it has to stay on your head even if you fall upside down. Fasten the chin strap.
- Loose straps: Not only must a helmet be on your head with the chin strap fastened, but the straps have to be tight enough to keep the helmet in place in the event of a collision. Otherwise, the helmet can move around easily and might just move out of the way when it’s most needed.
- Improper position: This is a symptom of loose straps, commonly manifest as a helmet that slides back, exposing the rider’s forehead, or a sideways helmet.
- Backward helmet: It happens, and it’s uncomfortable. Most helmets have “front” or “back” labels on the inside. Check them if you have any doubts.
Extensive information about choosing and adjusting a helmet is available from the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (tel. 703 486 0100), the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (tel. 800 638 2772), and the League of American Bicyclists (tel. 202 822 1333).
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