When it comes to looking for a new helmet, your choices will be vast and numerous. As cycling becomes increasingly popular, the specializations have diverged and multiplied. You can now get helmets with integrated lights specifically for commuting, or personalized graphics, or even a helmet masquerading as a scarf until it senses acceleration and inflates protectively around your head (yes, it's real). The options can be overwhelming, so how do you know what to look for in a new helmet?
The kind of helmet you get depends in what kind of riding you’ll be doing. A lot of mountain biking? Full coverage, a big visor for sunny days, and good ventilation for strenuous climbs. Looking to set records at your lunch ride? Maybe opt for something more aerodynamic. Or, are you looking for something that will stay cool and ventilated for a long gravel ride? Beyond that, there are a few fundamental factors to consider, regardless of your two-wheeled pursuit of choice.
Factors to Keep in Mind When Selecting A Helmet
Fit –the single most important element to consider. When you try on a helmet, make sure you try it on like you’re going for a ride: If you wear a cycling cap, put the cap under the helmet; If you ride with your hair in a braid or ponytail, pull your hair back into your style of choice and make sure the retention system fits around your ponytail or sits on your braid comfortably. Play with different pad configurations—Rudy Project helmets come with a bug net and free pads—and find what’s most comfortable for you.
Simulate your riding position: if you ride in your drops often, make sure that you can comfortably and easily keep your head in a position like you are looking up the road, without the helmet slipping down.
Some heads are more circular, some are more oval, and if you choose the wrong helmet for your head shape, you’ll notice uncomfortable pressure points on your forehead and temples.
- Ventilation –Look at the number of vents in the front of the helmet, and the size and shape of vents in the back – that’s where warm air will exit. Are the vents large or small? Small vents in road and mountain bike helmets typically mean a lower grad of EPS foam (more foam = fewer vents). The best way to evaluate ventilation is to take your helmet out for a ride. Few stores will let you walk away with a helmet and bring it back if it doesn’t work out Rudy Project offers a 90 day return window, so you can always order a helmet and test it out. If a helmet is just not 100% satisfactory, you can send it back for a full refund.
- Weight – As you move above the $100 mark, you’ll find helmets are much lighter due to higher quality materials, like lightweight EPS foam, and use an internal structure, like the Rudy Project Sterling, which features the Batterfly Cage. This safety feature enhances the protection provided by the helmet, while maintaining a lightweight and superior ventilation. With higher quality helmets, materials like carbon fiber (seen in our Windmax road helmet) are chosen for their superior strength and weight.
- Warranty – Does the helmet manufacturer stand behind their equipment? Up-front savings can translate into costs down the road: if something on the helmet breaks, and you have to pay for a replacement, or buy a brand new helmet, you’re not saving money. Rudy Project helmets are covered by a 3-year manufacturing warranty, and a 6 year, industry-leading crash replacement guarantee. If you crash in the helmet within 6 years of purchasing it, we’ll replace that helmet at a very competitive price.
What does our staff ride in? We asked them.
Michael – Graphic Design
“The Sterling is my go-to. It’s racy enough that I feel fast in it, but comfortable enough that I can wear it commuting (and not look like I just came from a bike race). Most helmets sit kind-of high on your head, and you feel like a bobblehead. This is not that helmet. The Sterling sits low, feels snug, and wraps around like your favorite hat. Favorite color? Stealth!”
Simone – Public Relations
“Our new Protera helmet has it all – adjustable visor, comfy retention system, and occipital coverage. I just took it out for a spin in southwest Utah, and I felt so confident ripping down some really challenging terrain. It didn’t bobble, even when I was going over loose rock, and the visor was a necessity on 80F+ degree days with the sun beating down. 10 out of 10 on this one, I can’t wait to take it back out again.”
Alysia – Digital Marketing
“My favorite has to be the RaceMaster. I did a century wearing it last year, and even as it got up to around 80F degrees on the ride, the helmet stayed cool, and comfortable. The retention system is also very comfortable, whether I’ve got a ponytail or braids, and it’s hard to beat the look of the helmet.”