TCI Friday

TCI Friday works best when you play along. Read, comment. Heckle. Whatever. But get involved.

I need a new mountain bike helmet. Maybe I just want a new helmet. Yes. I want a new helmet. I’ve never crashed the one I’m wearing now, but I’ve dropped it a fair, few times. It’s 5 years old anyway, and I’ve sweated in it so much it’s starting to have the texture of a ripe mushroom. Random deer wander up and lick the side of my head if I sit very still in the woods.

It’s time.

Now that MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) is here, I don’t really know what differentiates one helmet from another. I also, don’t all the way get what makes MIPS such a game changer, if I’m honest. Is this just a prank being pulled on us by the Swedes? Good one, Sweden! The helmets don’t seem that different than they used to.

Another real question: As the prices go up, do the helmets get safer? Do I just go with the one with the most vents, because sweating is my biggest challenge? Or do I try to find one that looks good, because style matters? As I scroll through page after page of dome protectors, honestly, they all kinda look the same. This year they come in matte colors instead of gloss.

I feel matte. So that’s something.

As with many things bike-related, fit probably does matter. I’ve typically been a Giro helmet wearer because I know they fit my head shape, which is more oval than round, but they can’t be the only ones who make a me-shaped pot lid. I’m inclined to go with some small, side brand, because that’s what I like to do. It’s all part of my contrarian nature. As you can see, I have no idea what to do.

This week’s TCI Friday asks, how do YOU pick a helmet? And how often do you replace them? Am I barking up any of the right trees?

Join the conversation
  1. DaveinME says

    I was a Giro man for years before trying out a Specialized helmet 12 years ago. I loved everything about that helmet, so when it needed to be replaced, I looked for another Specialized, but the strap configuration had changed and no longer worked for me. I returned to the Giro fold and now am considering a Lazer. Phil Gaimon provides this link to save 25% on Lazers:

    I’ll be interested to see what you end up with.

  2. alanm9 says

    $30 Bell helmets saved my brain/life twice. Not even mild concussions, and no MIPS, although all helmets seem to have it now, and it can’t hurt. Case closed for me.

  3. tcfrog says

    When I need a helmet, I just walk into one of the LBS and find something on the wall that fits the riding type and venting that I want. If I start doing research, I inevitably start down a rabbit hole that leads to a weeks-growth of stubble on my chin and no helmet on my head.

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      @TC – I relate.

  4. Jeff vdD says

    From among the highest rated helmets based on crash protection, I look for fit and appearance.

    I’ve currently got 5 helmets in use (but never more than one at a time):
    1. Primary helmet (MIPS, from Giant, 2018)
    2. Aero helmet (MIPS, from Lazer, heavy and fits tight, I don’t use it much, 2021)
    3. Somewhat older but still serviceable non-MIPS Giro that has a strap on it for mounting a light for night riding
    4. Even older and should-be-retired something-or-other that I keep on my commuting bike (1-mile commute)
    5. Relatively older but still serviceable non-MIPS Giro kept with a bike at another location

    I aim to replace helmets every 5 years as recommended. 3 and 5 above are 5-6 years old, 4 is probably 10+.

  5. dr sweets says

    A few years ago I became intrigued with the idea of sweat redirection. I live in the deep south, ride year round in this schvitz and I’m a schwette(sometimes fat)fuk. I went through several helmets that integrated sweat gutters (Oakley, TLD) as well as external ones from Veo and Gutr). Nothing compares (2U? sorry) to Wickflow head bands. They actually work and are inexpensive. All this is to say that I no longer concern myself with overly fancy helmet liners. Now my two main priorities are airflow, and eyeglass storage. Storing my specs is a holdover from my road/cx fever dreams of yore, but it’s just damn useful. Once again Specialized hooked me with their Tactic and Ambush offerings. I’m currently rocking the later as while both are similar in looks and features the Ambush is just a wee bit better. Lastly, a tiny piece of advice…to prevent funky helmets (armor, gloves, packs and anything that you drench in sweat that you don’t wish to roach out from washing multiple times a week do the following. Get a spray bottle; nothing fancy just something that will create a mist. Fill it with water and b/t 10-20 drops of whatever aromatherapy or essential oil you like the smell of (sandalwood, vanilla or anything that turns you on). Shake well and spray your gear with it when you get home. Let it it hang to dry. I’ve done this for more than 20 years and it works like a charm even to the point of others saying I smell good without trying to hit on me.

  6. schlem says

    MIPS is designed to prevent a transfer of rotational energy to your neck when you hit something with your helmeted head. I went down hard several years ago, owing to superannuated lightweight Michelins on my SS. The sidewall burst during an exultant swoopy turn and my helmeted head kissed the dirt. Despite a couple cracked ribs, the helmet spun around my melon and didn’t wrench my cervical vertebrae in that particularly paralyzing manner. Number one good.
    I found out that my Bontrager helm had a crash replacement discount, and I picked up another at significant discount. Number two good.
    Any helmet is better than no helmet. Helmets have a lifespan and your safety bits should be tip-top. The spendier ones are more stylish and have some gee-whiz features.
    I use Halo headbands to mitigate the tsunami of sweat that floods my eyes. It keeps the helmet a little fresher, too.

  7. spokejunky says

    I am a Giro head as well as compared to: Bell, Specialized, Lazer, Smith, LAS, and Kask. I’ve tried all of the latter and while they kinda fit, they never really fit the head like I’m wearing now. I changed from a Giro to a POC about two months ago and can say that the POC is the lightest and one that brings in the most channeled air. It also does not bake my head at low speeds, but gives plenty of venting for airing/sweating out. I do buy the MIPS since I had a concussion that resulted from an on bike crash. I honestly don’t think the noggin would take another blunt trauma like the crash gave me. Any technology that could possibly save me from that is worth the $$$. TL:DR – something that fits; something that protects me from a bad crash; something that doesn’t make it feel like my head is in an oven; somewhere to store the sunglasses while riding through a rock garden downhill on an MTB and not fall out.

  8. TominAlbany says

    My road helmet is a Bell Ghisalo. The pads are shot. It’s old. I don’t know how old. (Well) Past 5 years for sure though. Time to replace. In the same place you are. What to buy. What to buy.

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