There are 3 simple rules to make sure your helmet can actually do its job.
Sure, a naked head is the worst way to ride your bike, but simply throwing on a helmet doesn’t ensure your head is safe, either. If your helmet doesn’t fit, or you’re not wearing it correctly, it’s only going to be slightly safer than not wearing a helmet at all.
It’s important to remember that riding a bike can put you in a vulnerable position, especially if you’re sharing a street with cars and heavy traffic. While drivers are semi-protected by the frame of their car, you’re quite exposed on a bike.
You have two forms of protection: following traffic rules and wearing your helmet. Your bike helmet serves as a crucial protection for your head and brain against serious injury—but only if you don it each time you hop on your bike and wear it the way it was intended to be worn.
Before mounting your bicycle, make sure your bike helmet meets the following criteria:
1. Your helmet sits level on your head.
This is the most common mistake among helmet-wearers. It’s tempting to tilt the helmet back and let your forehead breathe, but the front of your helmet should hit just an inch or two above your eyebrows. This allows your helmet to protect the front of your head.
Yes, there is such a thing as wearing it *too* low. The helmet shouldn’t be so low that it obstructs your vision.
2. Adjust your “Y” straps to fit around your ears.
One strap should line up just in front of your ear, and the other should fit behind (and below your earlobes). You can adjust the straps if they’re pinching your ears—or if they’re affecting the fit of your helmet.
If the back strap is too long, your helmet might lean too far forward; if your front strap is too long, your helmet might lean too far backward.
3. Buckle the chinstrap to keep your helmet secure.
Without buckling the chinstrap, your helmet won’t do you much good. If you’re thrown off your bike—and your helmet isn’t buckled—it’s unlikely to stay on your head as you vault toward the pavement.
Even if you buckle the chinstrap, you want to make sure the chinstrap fits properly. The helmet shouldn’t wiggle or flop around, so tighten the chinstrap if necessary so it sits snugly at your throat.
Biking is a great option for both sneaking exercise into your daily routine and lowering your carbon footprint. But safety is important, and protecting your brain is a critical investment for your long-term health.
Get a heads up on bike helmet safety. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Accessed on May 9, 2019 at https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/pdfs/helmets/headsup_helmetfactsheet_bike_508.pdf.)
Helmet safety. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Accessed on May 9, 2019 at https://www.cdc.gov/bam/safety/helmets.html.)