Beginner’s guide to bike helmets

How to choose a bicycle helmet and look after it - and our pick of what's out there

Bike helmets aren’t compulsory in most countries – except for racing – but a good-fitting lid can help protect your head when you’re commuting by bike or out for a weekend ride.

When choosing a bike helmet it’s essential that it’s a perfect fit – snug without being tight or pinching. When the retention system is properly adjusted the helmet should stay in place if you shake your head quite hard. A helmet that doesn’t fit well won't provide as much protection as one that does because your head will still be able to move around inside it in the event of a crash.

The shape of the inside of a helmet differs between manufacturers, so it’s important to try lots on. Most people find that their head shape – be it rounder or more oval – corresponds to one or two brands.

It's also good to try on helmets in your local bike shop and get someone to help you fit them properly. Remember that you must do up the straps – if you don’t then the lid won’t protect you.

A well-looked-after helmet should last for about eight years. You can clean it with mild detergent or simply soap and water. Store it in a dry, well-ventilated place when not in use and avoid heat sources such as radiators and airing cupboards.

For more detailed information on buying helmets see the BikeRadar buyer's guide to cycle helmets.

Here’s our pick of helmets to consider:

Abus Urban (£59.99/US$92)

This award-winning helmet has 21 vents for very efficient cooling, reflective strips for safety, an insect mesh and a rear LED light. Great for city riding. www.zyro.co.uk

Raleigh Extreme III (£25.99/US$40)

A bargain helmet with 22 vents, this shows that you don’t need to spend a fortune to protect your noggin. www.raleigh.co.uk

Limar X Ride (£59.99/US$92)

This great value, one-size-fits-all helmet has a deep rear section and a very effective retention system that results in a light and comfortable feel. www.todayscyclist.co.uk

Giro Reverb (£49.99/US$60)

Giro’s distinctly retro-looking helmet has a fabric peak that’s attached using Velcro, plus nine vents, and is available in 11 different colours. www.madison.co.uk

Cannondale Teramo (£69.99/US$120)

Cannondale’s ponytail-friendly helmet weighs a very impressive 245g and has 23 large vents. We like the fact that it comes with a shoulder bag too. www.cannondale.com

Bell Muni (£59.99/US$65)

This features an insect mesh, rear flashing lights, fittings for extra front and rear lights, and weighs just 275g. It’s also available in hi-vis green. www.madison.co.uk

MET Camaleonte Executive (£49.99/US$77)

Reasonably cooling in spite of only having small vents, this urban-specific helmet has a small peak, reflective highlights and a push-operated rear light. www.fisheroutdoor.co.uk

Specialized S3 (£110/US$149.99)

This super-light women’s helmet comes with the arguably more stringent US certification standard, while Kevlar reinforcing allows for huge cooling vents. www.specialized.com

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