Bicycle helmet do's and don'ts
A bicycle helmet only works if you wear it correctly. Here's the lowdown on bicycle helmets, from choosing a bicycle helmet to avoiding common helmet mistakes.
By Mayo Clinic staff
It's a beautiful day for a bike ride. You fill your water bottle, lace up your shoes and head out. The thought of a head injury doesn't even cross your mind — but it should. Without a bicycle helmet, you're taking a chance that may cost you your life.
Why wear a bicycle helmet?
It's simple. If you fall from your bike, the bicycle helmet takes the force of the blow — instead of your head. When you're biking, wearing a bicycle helmet is the most effective way to prevent a life-threatening head injury.
And don't assume that bicycle helmets are just for kids. Adults face the same risks as children. The average careful bicyclist may still crash every 4,500 miles, according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. Although collisions with cars or other vehicles are likely to be the most serious, even a low-speed fall on a bicycle path can be dangerous.
Selecting a bicycle helmet
Bicycle helmets are cooler, more comfortable and easier to adjust than ever before. There are plenty of inexpensive choices for kids and adults alike. Just remember the ground rules:
Make sure the helmet is safe. Look for a seal of approval from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or Snell Memorial Foundation.
Make sure it fits snugly. You shouldn't be able to move the bicycle helmet more than one inch in any direction, front to back or side to side. The sizing pads included with every bicycle helmet can help make the fit more secure. If you have long hair, consider a helmet with a ponytail port.
Think about visibility. If the bicycle helmet straps block your vision — even a little bit — choose another helmet. Likewise, make sure motorists and other cyclists can see you. Choose a white or brightly colored helmet.
Wearing a bicycle helmet
The rules for wearing a bicycle helmet are the same for kids and adults, too. Wear the helmet flat on the top of your head. The helmet should cover the top of your forehead without tilting forward or backward.
Fasten the chin strap just below your chin. If the bicycle helmet doesn't feel snug, use the foam sizing pads that came with the helmet to get a better fit. The helmet shouldn't rock from front to back or side to side.