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If you’re browsing for commuter bike helmets, you probably don’t need convincing about their effectiveness. Whether local law requires them or not, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. We can all agree that urban areas, with their amount of foot, bicycle and vehicular traffic, are epicentres of potential accidents and there can never be too much prevention. Let’s look at a few rules you need to follow to pick the perfect commuter helmet and go over a few product tips.

Correct size is key when picking a bicycle helmet

As with everything that’s supposed to be worn on a body part, your first and most important task is to get the proportions right. You’ll need to properly measure your head for your new bike helmet as an ill-fitting one will not protect nor function properly. It becomes an expensive piece of useless plastic that can detract from your much needed attention when urban cycling.

Yes, a helmet needs to fit properly to do its job. That’s why you also should never borrow someone else’s or lend yours out – unless your heads fall into the same size category and both parties are OK with making changes to the helmet’s setting (not to mention swapping sweat!).

An urban cyclist commuting over the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC.
A variety of safety organisations, cycling associations and other cycling stakeholders have insisted for years that the solution to cycling head injuries and fatalities is wearing a helmet. © Profimedia

How to measure your head

You need to measure the circumference of your skull with a measuring tape. Start about 2.5 cm above your eyebrows and wrap the tape around the entire circumference of your head, at its widest point. Keep the tape level and above your ears. Use a mirror to check if it’s straight if you need to.

Et voila, the resulting number determines your helmet size. Pro tip: if torn between two sizes, go for the smaller one. If the helmet feels larger anyway, you can wear a cycling cap underneath or add additional padding. Different helmet designs fit different head shapes too, so even though you may have your heart set on one model in particular, try on another brand or model to compare fit and comfort.

The table below offers the usual sizing used in the industry, but always be sure to check the measurements the manufacturer you’ve chosen is using.

Metric X Small Small Medium Large Extra Large
Head Circumference 47 – 51cm 51 – 55cm 55 – 59cm 59 – 63cm 61 – 65cm

Adjusting and fitting your commuter helmet

A well-fitting and stylish commuter helmet should be snug, not tight, and sit comfortably on your head about 2.5 cm above your eyebrows to protect the forehead. Never wear your helmet slid back on your head like a cap. Many helmets have a rear adjustment wheel on a retention system harness, so play with that until you find a comfortable fit. Alternatively, you can adjust the size and amount of the inner removable padding.

Next, the chin strap. Most brands use a seatbelt-like material or vegan leather straps. The straps should form a “V” shape around just below each ear lobe and not interfere with or chafe the ear in any way. You should be able to fit no more than one finger under your chin, between the strap and you. Some helmets are secured by a clip, others with a magnetic buckle.

To see if the strap’s retention system is adequately set, open your mouth wide – the helmet should press against the top of your head. If it doesn’t, adjust the harness until it does, but avoid uncomfortable overtightening. A bicycle helmet should also, under no circumstances, obstruct your vision.

Bicycle commuter in London riding at night on a road bike, stopped in front of a variety store.
Over the past few decades manufacturers have made helmets sturdier to increase rider safety, reduced its weight, provided greater ventilation and improved aerodynamics. © Profimedia

When talking about safety features, it’s worth investing in a helmet that offers MIPS liner mechanics. MIPS stands for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System, which is a slip-plane technology developed by leading brain surgeons to prevent severe head injury. A plastic liner inside the helmet is designed to reduce rotational forces that can result from certain impacts.

Commuter helmets with style

Never underestimate how fashionable cycling helmets can be.  You’re sure to run into a multitude of stylish commuter helmets while browsing the internet. When purchasing your best commuter bike helmet, it might be wise to consider your other cycling activities too.

Do you go on road cycling trips on the weekend? To save money, get a well ventilated road helmet that can be also worn in the city. Or do you sometimes partake in light and casual MTB outings? Get a versatile helmet with a sturdier build and more protective features such as a peak or a (removable) visor also suitable for mountain biking.

And if it tickles your fancy, a lightweight helmet matching the colour of your bike and cycling kit isn’t something to wave aside either. When it comes to safety equipment, if an item is more aesthetically pleasing, people are more inclined to wear it – and that’s a good thing.

Helmet care and regular replacement

Never store a helmet where heat tends to accumulate, such as in the attic, garden shed, car boot and other such places. Excessive heat causes structural damage to its in mold construction by creating bubbles in its plastic polycarbonate exterior, rendering the helmet potentially dangerous to use.

Also, avoid using chemical solvents to clean its exterior. A soft sponge and mild detergent are enough on the outer surface. The inner removable pads and parts will do with just gentle soap and water.

One final tip: don’t forget to replace your commuter helmet from time to time. How do you know it’s time? Bike helmets are a single-impact item, so always assume that a helmet involved in a crash isn’t suitable to be worn anymore.

Even if it looks OK, it’s recommended to replace your bike helmet every five years as sweat, pollution and UV light may damage the eps foam and weaken its components over time. Most helmet manufacturers offer a crash replacement policy. Take advantage of it next time you’re involved in an impact to save some money.

Now that you know all the basics, let’s look at some handy and stylish examples with impressive features that you can compare against your needs and budget.

Giro Camden MIPS 

Giro Camden Cycling Helmet in Matte Black

Camden MIPS is a low-profile minimalist bike helmet for commuters designed for city riding. It provides extended coverage, anti-microbial inner pads, a large integrated rear led light and great ventilation. If you’re looking for a helmet that won’t make your head look bulky while keeping it safe, this is the one.

It is a good looking choice among bike helmets sold to urban cyclists that will keep your head cool on your commute with 10 deep internal channels, four of which include closable upper vents when temperatures drop.

POC Omne Air Spin Bike Helmet

POC Omne Air Spin helmet in black

POC makes some of the best bike helmets in the cycling industry thanks to their state-of-the-art gear and SPIN (shearing pads inside) technology, and the streamlined Omne Air Spin helmet is no different. Its optimal EPS liner density and thicker core protection zones provide ideal all-around, multipurpose protection. The Omne comes in a beautiful range of 11 shades.

Their inner proprietary SPIN padding acts similar to a MIPS system, protecting commuting and other cyclists from rotational forces and concussion in the event of a crash. Wide air vents in its polycarbonate shell provide great air flow for urban commuters and other cyclists.

Kask Moebius 

Kask Moebius helmet in black with visor

This simple, elegant, effective and scratch-resistant commuter helmet will make a nice addition to your commuter setup. Its Ergo Fit makes it supremely comfortable, has excellent ventilation properties, a durable build and detachable peak. Kask Moebius will meet both your safety and fashion demands.

While the Moebius is a non mips version helmet, it meets all concussion prevention safety standards in the event of impact. It you plan on doing some night riding, the rear of the helmet includes reflective details. Its modest price point and the choice of 10 colours, from HiViz tones to more sober earthy shades, make it an excellent choice. An optional merino wool inner cap is available post purchase if you ride year round or in colder weather.

Bontrager Solstice MIPS Helmet

Bontrager Solstice MIPS helmet in black with visor

This very light and durable and well ventilated helmet comes with a friendly price tag. It’s one of the most popular models sold not only due to its budget helmet price, but also for offering the most bang for your buck. The Solstice MIPS helmet is a great choice for casual rides to the office or when getting groceries.  

The Solstice is also a great choice for younger riders who accompany you on all or part of your commute with safety features rated for persons age 1 and over. It’s also proof you don’t have to break the bank to benefit from MIPS safety. Available in six colours.  

Bern Hudson Bike MIPS Helmet

Bern Hudson Bike Helmet in black with inner visor

This sturdy and compact-looking helmet became the 2021 Innovation Award winner from Outdoor Retailer, which tells you a lot about its qualities. The Hudson MIPS helmet provides 25% more impact absorption compared to previous models and is also approved for e-bikes and e-scooters, making it the ideal micro-mobility helmet.

If riding through winter or chilly mornings during the change of seasons, opt for Bern’s Cold Weather Bike Beanie to help keep you warm on your demanding commuter. An integrated rear light has three modes, lasts up to 10 hours, and is micro USB rechargeable. Its air vents are U-lock compatible so you can attach it to your bike when parked.

Thousand Chapter MIPS Cycling Helmet 

Thousand Chapter MIPS helmet

An all-time commuter favourite, style- and price-wise. Its smooth, compact shape features MIPS technology protection against rotational impacts, strategical active ventilation, a multi-use magnetic light, and even a secret pop-lock, so you can lock your helmet up with a U-lock and leave it behind with your bike. The Chapter MIPS helmet is also lightweight and includes an adjustment dial for fit.

Reduce glare and improve your field of vision with its premium visor, available in different colours if you want to mix and match. The Chapter is rated for kids aged 5 and over, and Thousand offers free accident replacement and is a Climate Positive business that offsets 110% of the carbon emissions, an impressive feature.