There you are, pedaling along, when another rider flies by you, bicycle helmet on backward and tipped aft at an angle that suggests hoodie rather than brain bucket. Definitely no style points there. But worse: Potentially diminished head protection.
“Improperly adjusted helmet straps absolutely compromise the ability of the helmet to do its job in the event of a crash,” says Christopher J. Smith, spokesperson for Lazer Sport. “If the helmet is in a position too far back, it exposes the front of the head to potential injury.
“If the straps are too loose, the helmet can then move around on the head during an impact, even if the helmet is positioned correctly before the impact takes place,” he continues.
It’s not just newbies who suffer from bicycle helmet adjustment issues. Even experienced cyclists sometimes neglect to tend to optimal fit and safety.
So here’s a quick refresher on bicycle helmet fit for maximum benefit. Grab your lid and follow along:
Level off: Make sure your helmet sits level, like a hat, and stays put on your head. Depending on the model, the fit of the crown can often be adjusted by means of an interior fitting mechanism or a set of extra pads that come with the helmet. The space between your eyebrows and the overhang of the helmet should not exceed two finger widths.
Make a V: To promote stability and prevent the helmet from shifting from side to side or backward and forward, place the strap adjusters so that they form a neat V on both sides of your head. Picture an inverted triangle with the point just below your ear (photos above).
Adjust the chin strap: How do you know how much slack to leave in the chin strap?
“I tell people to adjust the strap tension so that when the buckle is closed and they open their mouth fully they feel the strap tight around their chin,” says Smith.
A word about hair: Individual hair styles and volume can vary widely. That’s why it makes sense to try on a helmet wearing your hair as you would on a ride, says Kasia Nikhamina, co-owner of Redbeard Bikes in Brooklyn. That way you can find the model and size that looks and functions best for you.
“Realistically, you may have to compromise a bit,” Nikhamina says. “For example, a bun perched on the top of your head won’t work with any helmet. We recommend low ponytails or braids.”
When it comes to helmet wear versus helmet hair issues, there’s no contest in Nikhamina’s reckoning: “We think the helmet protection outweighs the hair hassle.”
Need some helmet-friendly hairstyle inspiration? This Pinterest board offers stylish suggestions:
Check before you ride: You may need to make small adjustments to your straps. They may give a little and require tightening up, or you may need to loosen the fit slightly if you add layers beneath the helmet — for instance, with a headband or cycling cap.
If you have questions about bicycle helmets or finding the proper fit, your local bike shop is the place to get advice.
Now you’re ready to ride safely and with greater confidence – and you won’t be, you know, that guy or girl with the tippy helmet.
Photos: Top, Lazer Sport