Welcome to our ultimate guide to kids bike helmets. One of the questions we commonly get here at Bike&Scoot is whether your child really needs to wear a bike helmet even when simply riding on the sidewalk in front of your home. The answer is: absolutely. Sure, riding a bike is a lot of fun, but accidents happen. Head injuries are one of the most common injuries that can happen when riding, and when an injury involves the head, it often involves the brain too.
That’s the prime reason for wearing bike helmets no matter what your age. Protecting the brain is even more important in children whose cognitive facilities are still developing. Now that we have settled that issue, we can concentrate on how to select the best one for your child. Remember that a kids bike helmet doesn’t give your child license to be reckless, but provides protection for the head, brain and face in the event of a fall. Here’s our definitive guide for the proper selection of kids bike helmets.
Kids bike Helmet Size and Fit
If you’ve ever purchased a bike helmet, you know that one size does NOT fit all and that all models fit a range of head sizes. Even within a specific size range, i.e., toddler, you’ll find different styles that have different fits. Properly measuring your child’s head is the key to well-fitting kids bike helmets.
When measuring circumference, use a flexible tape measure and place it one inch above your child’s eyebrows, which corresponds to the thickest part of his or her head. Once you have this number you can select a model that corresponds to your child’s head size. Look at the specifications of each model to determine if your child’s head circumference fits within the stated range.
Because all helmets fit a range of sizes, adjust-ability is an important feature. Lower-end helmets often don’t offer adjust-ability, so skip these if you want a good fit. Most helmets have either traditional dial-adjust systems or come with pads to place inside the helmet to make it fit more snugly. Pads, however, have a number of drawbacks. For one, parents often forget to change the padding as their child grows. Others lose the extra padding that comes with the original purchase, which ends up leading to an ill-fitting helmet. Dial-adjust systems provide a better fit because the dial located in the back of the helmet adjusts the internal cage to secure a better fit. You’ll find dial-adjust systems on most high-end helmets.
Another option is Lazer’s unique self-adjusting system that automatically fits to your child’s head via a tension wire inside a plastic housing. The tension wire always ensures a proper fit, even when your child puts on a habit by him or herself. The video below shows how the Lazer Autofit works.
Every kids bike helmet also needs a sturdy chin strap and adjustable sliders to help keep it from sliding forward on your child’s head High-end kids bike helmets will have locking sliders that make the fit even more secure.
Type and Construction of Kids Bike Helmets
There are two main type of kids bike helmets: in-mold and hard shell. Both provide sufficient protection but vary in durability, style and the number of vents. How the outer shell adheres to the foam core is the distinguishing characteristic between the two types. For in-mold types, the plastic shell and foam core are fused together, which allows for more vents and usually lighter weight. Most higher-end kids bike helmets have in-mold construction.
Hard shell helmets are found in lower-end models for bike riding and skater-style helmets. For the latter, the thick plastic shell is glued to the foam core, which makes it durable and has the ability to withstand multiple impacts that skateboarders encounter. The most inexpensive hard shells use PET plastic, the type used for water bottles, taped onto the foam core. PET plastic has little durability as it can melt and warp. If your child has a hard-to-fit head, skater-style kids bike helmets will generally provide a better fit.
What About MIPS?
All kids bike helmets sold within the United States, must follow strict standards. Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) helmets are taking that standard even higher. Long available as an option on adult helmets, this technology has recently become widely available on kids models.
MIPS helmets have an additional layer of protection that consists of an inner layer attached to a foam core with flexible rubber anchors. This layer reduces rotational forces on the brain caused by angled impacts to the head when an impact occurs. The helmet absorbs the impact no matter where the impact may originate. Research shows that helmets equipped with MIPS can reduce brain injury by 30 percent.
CSPC Safety Certifications
All kids bike helmets sold in the United States must have Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) certification and be labeled with a sticker. There is no industry-wide standard label but check to make sure that your intended model has a sticker. This certification ensures that the helmet will provide protection but only when a proper fit is achieved. High-end models tend to fit better than lower-end ones. CSPC age certifications fall into two categories, but the labeling is confusing. Certifications labeled 1+ are for really small baby and toddler helmets that fit children with a head circumference of 50 cm. or less. The 5+ certification applies to all helmets larger than 50 cm. circumference, meaning that some children younger than age five can fit into this category. The 5+ certification applies to youth as well as adult helmets.
In addition, if you are seeking kids bike helmets for BMX riding or downhill mountain biking, these require a separate level of certification beyond those regarding age. CPSC kids bike helmets can also be used for inline skating and scooters, however, don’t use another type of protective headgear on your child that is not certified for bike riding.
Buckles may not seem like a big deal to adults, but they can make a difference on kids bike helmets. A child who constantly gets pinched when fastening his or her helmet may start balking at wearing one. To avoid such unwanted battles, several companies have developed pinch-free buckles that have plastic guards under the buckle. These guards absorb the pressure that would otherwise be exerted on your child’s skin. High-end helmets, such as Lazer, Nutcase and Melon, have magnetic buckles, while Uvex has its own system that avoids pinching. Below are a few types of helmet buckles commonly found on helmets.
Bike riding is a lot more fun when your child doesn’t have to squint in the bright sun. Traditional bike helmets can accommodate built-in or clip-on visors to shield eyes from the sun, while biker-style helmets don’t come with them. Only Nutcase skater-style helmets come with small sun visors. In the case of the latter, purchasing a pair of good sunglasses for riding is an option.
When selecting visors, make sure the material it is made of is not too sturdy. The reason for this is that some visors have been known to shatter upon impact, causing cuts to the face. Also look for visors that readily detach, which will help avoid any issues with the visor injuring your child during an impact. Visors that do not easily flip off can jerk your child’s neck during impact.
We truly hope you found out how-to guide on kids bikes helmets useful. Stay tuned for detailed helmet reviews and additional buying guides here.