Wearing a helmet while cycling is now de rigueur on Malaysian roads. While there is no law that requires the use of cycling helmets, many riding clubs and groups have imposed a “no helmet, no ride” rule.
The survival rate of cyclists sustaining head injuries while wearing a helmet is higher than those who take a direct impact to the skull. Like all pieces of personal protective equipment, a helmet is only effective if it is worn properly.
Incorrect adjustment of the straps, or a wrongly sized helmet, can be more dangerous than going without. Helmets are made from expanded polystyrene foam molded into shape, with a hard plastic outer shell. They absorb the impact by deforming and crushing, preventing the majority of the force of the impact from reaching your skull.
Helmets also degrade over time with use, and exposure to sun and sweat, hence should be replaced on at least a bi-annual basis, whether they have sustained any impact, or not.
1 SIZING YOUR HELMET
Helmets come in a variety of sizes to suit various head shapes. Cheaper helmets tend to be one-size-fits-all with an internal adjustable strap, while higher end models have different sized shells with a smaller range of adjustment.
Your helmet should sit square on your head, with about an inch gap above your eyebrows. You can take a rough measure by using 2 fingers placed above your eyebrows. The helmet should not sit too far back on your head and must cover your forehead. It should not rock from side to side.
2 ADJUSTING THE STRAPS
Strap adjustment is critical in ensuring that your helmet will protect you the way it was designed to. First, center the left buckle under your chin. Adjust the length of the strap using the buckle. It may be easier to take the helmet off for adjustments, then checking the fit by placing it back on your head.
For the side straps, adjust the slider so that it sits about an inch below, and slightly forward, of your ear. Repeat for the other side.
Buckle the chin strap, and adjust the tightness till you can just fit one finger under the strap.
3 READY TO RIDE
Check your fit. The helmet should sit snugly on your head, and not move side to side to rock forward and back. If this happens, adjust the straps till correct fit is achieved. A loose helmet can slide backward or come off in a crash, so take the time to adjust the straps.
Tuck away loose ends of the straps, or cut to trim excess.
4 CARING FOR YOUR HELMET
Helmets as personal protective equipment must be cared for to ensure they work properly.
After every ride, wash with soap and water, and air dry. Foam inserts may be removed and washed separately, or replaced if perished.
Check straps for signs of wear and fraying. Replace if any strap is worn or torn.
Check helmet shell for cracks or dents. Replace if any cracks or dents are seen.
Check helmet inner for signs of deformation. Replace if necessary.
If you take any impact to your helmet in a crash, replace the helmet as soon as possible. Crash damage may not be seen, but the performance of the helmet may be compromised.
Lastly, buy a helmet based on its fit and suitability for the way you ride. A helmet that fits comfortably will let you enjoy the ride. Spend your money on the best possible helmet you can afford, and check to see that it complies with current safety standards.