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Bicycle Helmet Guide

Research shows most of the cycling fatalities are attributed to head injuries. In a severe accident, your skull may be fractured and your brain may be torn by penetrating objects and bone fragments. Brain injuries can also occur by violent impacts that leave the skull undamaged. To protect yourself against those head injuries, the Snell Memorial Foundation urges you to wear a helmet when you are riding.

Finding a good helmet is as easy as remembering the 4 S's: Size, Strap, Straight and Snell.

  • Size: Try on several different helmets before you purchase one. The best way to gauge comfort level and fit is through comparison. The helmet should fit comfortably all the way around your head. Additional pads can be used to make it snug.
  • Strap: Pay attention to the chin strap. Make sure that the chin strap fits around your ear and under your chin snugly and comfortably. The helmet should not shift on your head.
  • Straight: Know how a helmet should fit. A helmet is meant to be worn low on the forehead, just above your eyebrows. Look into a mirror or have a friend/parent help you determine the proper fit.
  • Sticker: Look for Snell certification. Snell Standards are the most stringent in the world, exceeding those set by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Need to know which helmet is Snell certified? Browse through Snell helmet certification lists.

Technicians at two state-of-the-art laboratories, located in the United States and the United Kingdom, test helmets on two levels. First, helmet samples from manufacturers are tested to see if they meet Snell certification testing requirements. Then, once a helmet passes and receives the Snell certification sticker, it is subjected to random sample testing. These dual-testing procedures are designed to see that the product a consumer buys off the shelf is as protective as the one submitted for initial testing.

Once you've selected a helmet, remember that it must be worn correctly every time you ride a bike. A helmet should be replaced immediately if damaged, and at least every five years based on wear and tear.