Ah, the melon protector… Nothing says “I get it” or “I know what I’m doing” more than a decent dome cover – and fortunately I’ve been all over the map so I can offer a few tips for picking a helmet that will work for you whilst not looking stupid in the process – as it could be argued, I did.
First, I have a big problem when it comes to my dome in the first place… A size 7-1/4, I’ve got a small-ish head so finding the proper protector for it was not easy – they’re either too big or too small. Because of this reality I stuck with purchasing one from my local bike shop rather than attempting to get something from an online store so I could try before I bought. Of course, at first I had no idea what I was doing. Mistakes were made.
My first helmet was a low-end Specialized mountain bike helmet, a large and it was too big. Though it did fit, I always felt a little top heavy and goofy in it. I still have that helmet and I do use it occasionally as a backup – and it does match my mountain bikes (matching the steed is important but not entirely necessary) but in the case of this helmet, I’d crashed the day before (rather than running my 9 year-old daughter over, who crashed immediately in front of me) and I almost hit my head… I was that close to being in a diaper so I just wanted a helmet, now. I picked one that was less than $80 and felt okay. Unfortunately I didn’t look in the mirror, ’cause that thing was gnarly big:
For my next helmet I had evolved from mountain biking to road cycling and I’d read that having a decent aerodynamic helmet was on par with having a decent set of aero wheels… now, I already had a good set of wheels so it made sense to ditch the oversized mountain bike helmet for something a little more, um sleek. Add to that the fact that the old helmet clashed horribly with my new road bike and I was going to get into cycling with the big dogs on Tuesday night and I had to upgrade. The Trek helmet I chose, a small, ended up being too small – but hey, on the bright side, it matched the bike (this is written tongue-in-cheek):
Close but not quite (this photo was taken after my first sub-five hour century so forgive the fact that it’s a little cockeyed – I was beat). Here’s where the small is a problem: The dome cover rides high on my forehead. For a proper fit, you’re only supposed to be able to fit two fingers from the bridge of your nose to the brim of the protector… That’s three, so while it was vastly preferable to my old helmet, it was too small indeed. In this case I probably tried a little too hard to get the fashion end right while forsaking safety too much to get there… Sadly I missed on the fashion end too because unsafe is, well stupid and in my case a very noob-ish mistake.
Finally, last year I got it right. The idea behind the color scheme on my 5200 was “red, white and blue” so having a blue helmet didn’t make sense – I needed a little more white in there. This time, instead of attempting to figure this out on my own I went to the owner of my local shop for a little guidance. Unfortunately he’s quite a bit “old school” so the idea that I was making a big deal about my melon cover and its sizing seemed silly… Thankfully, one of his mechanics, a serious mountain biker and cyclist, understood my plight and helped out: We went tried out a few different options – well, almost everything he had in stock – and I finally settled on a medium Specialized Propero II. This is Specialized’s mid-grade road helmet so it’s not the lightest Specialized has to offer but it is aerodynamically sound, has a ton of vents and is reasonably priced:
This helmet has it all: The proper fit, aerodynamically sound, venting and it matches all of my bikes. All told, I wasted about $140 finding this helmet and I was on something of a fairly limited budget – I didn’t have the money to blow. Unfortunately I also have an “I want what I want when I want it” complex that I’ve been trying to work through for some time and cycling makes getting that worked out much more difficult. Worse still, going into shopping for cycling kit with that attitude can have you settling for something that seems good at first but really doesn’t work – and that’s exactly what happened in my case with helmets.
The key here is taking one’s time. That last time I went into the shop looking for a helmet I was prepared to A) Look elsewhere if necessary, B) walk out of the shop without a helmet and C) have one ordered if I found a size that suited me but they didn’t have the right color. It ended up we had to order the white one and I waited a couple of weeks to get it and was infinitely more satisfied with the purchase. In fact, when the little pads inside the helmet wore out (a fine excuse for getting a new one btw), I like that melon cover so much I paid five bucks for new pads rather than pick up a new helmet.
Now that I’ve laid my noobishness bare, let’s look at the really low hanging fruit – here’s what not to do when purchasing a helmet:
1. That Finding Nemo helmet is not cute on an adult. I don’t care if you love Dory.
2. Only go with Hi-Viz if you must – a Hi-Viz vest is enough, and the flag is only useful if you’re over 70 or under 12. Too much of a good thing is bad.
3. Fashion is fickle – don’t forsake safety for fashion (thankfully there are enough choices out there that both functionality and fashion are possible at the same time). Remember, unsafe on a bike is never fashionable. That stuff is for high school.
4. Do not, under any circumstances, settle. If you’re not sure in the shop, chances are you’ll be looking for something else before you should have to.
5. This goes for online shopping as well – Don’t settle. Send it back if it doesn’t work for you.
6. Pay attention to sizing. There are sizing charts on the helmet boxes… Get the right size for your melon.
7. Cycling helmets are the equivalent of “accessorizing”. So are gloves, shoes and shades. You can opt out, at your own peril. Goofy lookin’ is a waste of money. Trust me.
The final biggest rule is, even though we want to refrain from “goofy lookin'”: Don’t take yourself so seriously – nobody else does.