Carnage makes great news – just look at the coverage of pile-ups in the Tour de France. There are broken bones, bruises and gravel rash, but no fatalities these days because helmets are now compulsory as they are in Victoria. Even if you’re not touring France at high speed, your helmet needs to be comfortable and well-fitted in order to do its job properly.
It should sit square, with the rim on your forehead just above your eyebrows. If it’s tilted towards the back of your head it will not protect you properly. It should be firm enough that you can’t move it easily forwards and backwards, or sideways. Some helmets come with extra foam to help make them fit more snugly.
The straps should sit just under your ears, with no slack in the straps at the back. Start loosening or tightening the back straps, then work the front straps into the right position. Sometimes it’s easier to put your helmet on and have someone else fiddle with the straps to get them right. When you finish the buckle should sit firmly under your chin.
Many people like to wear caps, sweatbands, bandanas, ear warmers or skull caps under their helmets depending on the season. If you generally wear something under your helmet, make sure you have it on while you’re adjusting the fit. You might have to recheck the fit between seasons.
Helmets are designed to take an impact, but not abuse. Your helmet will last a lot longer if you look after it. Store it carefully between rides. Keep it clean and out of sunlight. If you do have an accident or your helmet suffers a hard drop, replace it, even if you can’t see any damage. They are only designed for one impact.
What do you look for when buying a helmet? Buy from a reputable bike shop. They’ll help you get the right fit. Prices start about $50 and head up to several hundred dollars. Whatever you plan to pay, make sure it complies with Australian Standard 2063. Look for the sticker inside the helmet. People’s heads are different shapes, so are helmets for that reason. Make sure it’s comfortable. Let your kids choose their own helmets to get something they’re more likely to wear willingly. And when you’re out with your kids, set a good example and wear your own helmet properly.
See you on the road soon, God willing. Eddie Barkla
First published in the Bendigo Weekly Friday 14 July 2006