The best lid isn’t the most expensive one

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1. Proper Fit is a Must Your helmet should neither dig into your scalp nor flop around.


The more snug the fit, the better the protection-your lid will stay put on your head when you don’t stay put on your bike. To ensure proper adjustment, start with the interior pads. Most are held in place with adhesive or hook-and-loop strips, which can be added or removed to customize fit or to wash when they get funky. Next, adjust the straps so that each yoke or V-buckle is positioned right below your ears, then cinch the main buckle so two fingers barely fit between your chin and the strap. Most helmets also have some type of adjustment device in the back; fiddle with yours until the helmet is comfortably tight. Fit check: Push the front of your helmet up. If it moves more than 1 inch, tighten the straps. Repeat with the back.

2. One Crash Kills most Lids The Styrofoam layer between the shell and your head will be your best friend in a crash.


The expanded polystyrene crushes under impact to give your head about 6/100ths of a second extra stopping time, which can be the difference between walking away unscathed and having to relearn the alphabet. The foam also distributes the point of impact over a larger area. For the most part, one hit is all you get: Whack your noggin and crush the foam, and the helmet is trash. As for safety, all helmets are created equal. Since 1999, helmets sold in the United States have been required to meet CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) standards – they must pass both impact and strap-retention tests, under hot, cold and wet conditions. Some companies submit to additional testing by the Snell Foundation.

3. Price is no object If all helmets sold in the United States must meet the same safety standards, why are some pricier than others? Vents, mainly.

The greater the size and quantity, the better. It takes a lot of engineering to design a lid that’s riddled with holes but is also safe and durable. In addition to the helmet, your hard-earned cash is also paying for the R&D that went into designing it. So is that $150 dome worth it? Those hand-sized holes let more air through, keeping your scalp cooler. Better helmets also use a rigid plastic shell that’s molded to the foam core, as opposed to the taped-on shells on bargain models. But the shell’s main purpose is to keep the foam core intact in a crash, not to absorb the impact itself, so either is fine. Of course, if you’re looking for a shell with more flash, you’ll probably shell out more cash.