How To Make Sure Your Bike Helmet Is Secure
Most cyclists understand the importance of wearing a good bike helmet every time they ride. No one wants to expose their head to serious injury, and the helmet is essential for preventing long-term damage — or worse.
But, as committed as cyclists are to wearing a helmet, it’s surprising how many of them don’t give proper attention to how well it’s secured to their head. And riding with a bike helmet that’s not properly fitted and secured isn’t much better than riding without any helmet at all. It’s sort of like driving without a seatbelt: You’ll get away with it much of the time, but you’ll be in big trouble if an accident happens.
How should a bike helmet fit, and how do you make sure your bike helmet is secured safely on your head? Longtime cycling coach Darryl MacKenzie has you covered with tips on proper bike helmet fit.
Make Sure Your Helmet Fits Well
Before you can ensure your helmet is well secured, you need to choose one that fits properly.
“It’s extremely important for your helmet to be comfortable,” says Coach Darryl. “If it’s not comfortable, you’re gonna be in agony.”
In contrast, when the bike helmet fits well, it will last you for long rides and make it that much easier to ensure it's properly positioned to protect you. And the only way to make sure a bike helmet fits is to go into the store and try all of them on. Various manufacturers’ helmets fit various head shapes differently, and subtle differences can significantly impact how comfortable they are.
When Darryl tries on each bike helmet, he has a specific method. He tightens the rear adjustment wheel until it’s secure on his head. Then, without buckling the chin strap, he shakes his head back and forth six or seven times. If the helmet moves at all, he won’t buy it. That movement is going to turn into irritation over the course of a long ride with all of its bumps, twists and turns.
Once he’s narrowed it down to those that fit snugly and comfortably, only then does Darryl look at the price to make his decision.
For more on how Darryl selects his helmet to ensure proper protection, including how often to replace your helmet, read our other post, “Helmet Safety Tips for Cyclists.”
Keep the Side Straps Correctly Positioned
Having the right bike helmet is only half the battle. Now you have to make sure it’s secured to your noggin. This requires two regular adjustments.
The first deals with positioning the two side straps that come together to form a “Y” with the main chin strap. The connector that brings these two bike helmet straps together should always be positioned just under your ear. To ensure it’s in the right spot, hold a finger to your ear lobe. You should be able to touch both the adjuster and your ear with your fingertip. If not, slide it up until you can.
“This is the most noticeable problem people have with their helmets,” says Darryl. “Over time, that buckle is going to slip down.”
He’s actually seen it slip all the way down to the chin buckle on some cyclists. When that happens, the front bike helmet strap just flops in the breeze and won’t do anything to keep the helmet from flying backward if they fall off the bike.
“It’s very likely that helmet will not be on the person’s head when their head hits the ground,” Darryl says. And if the helmet’s not on your head when it hits the ground, you know what that means.
Darryl recommends checking this first adjustment once or twice a month.
Secure the Chin Strap Under Your Chin
The second adjustment is a bit more obvious: You want your bike helmet chin strap to hold your helmet securely on your head if you fall.
If you’re wondering how to adjust a chin strap on a bike helmet, you simply need to buckle the strap and then try to pull it over your chin. If you can do that, it’s too loose. It doesn’t need to be uncomfortably snug under your chin, but you should tighten it until it won’t be able to slide off.
Darryl recommends checking this adjustment before every ride. He usually has to adjust it once a week or so.
Bonus Tip: Use Your Helmet To Secure Your Bike
If you take the above steps, your bike helmet will be in a good position to do its job. As a bonus tip, though, you can use your helmet to secure more than your head. If you strap it around your rear wheel and the chainstay, seatstay or seat tube when you’ve parked your bike, it will prevent your bike from rolling away and make it harder for a thief to make a quick getaway with your bike.
Most important though, is your helmet’s ability to protect your life and mental health. Never ride without a helmet that’s safely secured to your head.
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Look for more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.
Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay