Cycle paths that end abruptly in nothing (if they can be described as such), dense traffic, drivers who are not very careful, or a poor road surface: factors that make cycling in the city a challenge again and again can increase the risk of falling, even for experienced drivers. A high-quality bike helmet is the best insurance against serious head injuries and the resulting permanent damage, should the worst come to worst.
15 Bike Helmets in the Test: A colorful mix
Fischer impressively demonstrates that a helmet with effective protection does not have to cost its wearer much with the sporty Urban Plus with 19 ventilation slots for only 60 euros. In return, you get an all-around fastening system that helps to avoid pressure points by distributing the pressure evenly around the head.
Helmets such as the models from Fischer, Uvex, Cratoni, Urge, Bell, and Alpina focus on low weight and excellent ventilation. Qualities that predestine them for use on the brisk morning commute, where you may even have to overcome a few sweaty meters of altitude. In addition, the aforementioned sporty-styled city helmets can easily be used on a racing bike or gravel ride. A versatile helmet saves money and is more environmentally friendly.
On the other side of the test spectrum, there are visually a bit more muscular and even more stable bicycle helmets, such as Bontrager’s Charge WaveCel or Lazer’s Urbanize NTA. You can of course be carried on the purely muscle-powered wheel; their more solid construction is also certified according to the NTA 8776 standard and is therefore also approved for use with fast S-Pedelecs.
The Dutch NTA 8776 certification therefore identifies bicycle helmets that are approved for S-pedelecs that support speeds of up to 45 km/h. To do this, the helmets have to withstand higher impact speeds in the corresponding laboratory test without any problems or absorb the resulting impact energy to a greater extent than is the case with a “normal” bike helmet (compliant with the EN 1078 standard).
As a consequence, the manufacturers of NTA 8776-certified helmets use more material for even higher stability reserves, which makes products like the Bontrager Charge WaveCel heavier at 463 g than a sporty Luftikus à la Uvex.
Extensive test procedure
In order to work out the respective properties and qualities of the 15 test subjects in detail, they were compared with one another in six central aspects: After trying them on and driving on asphalt and short gravel/dirt road intermezzi, the knowledge gained with regard to adaptability (weighting: 15 percent), comfort (25 percent), ventilation (15 percent), support (= forehead wipe test, 15 percent), details (20 percent), and weight (10 percent)
Elementary for Comfort: Good adaptability
Essential to the comfort of wearing a helmet is its optimal adaptability to your own head. It is therefore helpful if the desired helmet is available in as many sizes as possible, covering a wide range of sizes. Three helmet sizes were available in the test: Alpina, Bollé, HJC, Bontrager, Electra, Met, and Lazer, with Electra having the widest range of sizes at 48 to 61 cm. Bontrager, HJC, Alpina, and Met follow.
Cyclists with a small head circumference should take a closer look at the Electra; those with a particularly large head should take a closer look at the Met or the helmets from Bontrager, HJC, Urge, and Alpina (each with a head circumference of up to 63 cm). The size variance between Rudy Project and Nutcase is quite manageable.
Almost all helmets can be adjusted to your own head circumference using the adjustment wheel on the neck holder. The exception is the HJC, whose neck holder automatically adapts to the wearer. A practicable, well-functioning alternative. The BOA adjustment system on the Bontrager and Ked helmets, which can be adjusted in small steps, is super precise and therefore rated particularly positively.
A height adjustment in the neck is advantageous because you can use it to adapt the adjustment system to your own head shape. A plus point that tends to increase comfort, which is what the bike helmets from Electra, Bontrager, Lazer, Uvex, Alpina, Ked, and Rudy Project offer. Particularly smooth is the click height adjustment on the Alpina, Uvex, Lazer, and Bontrager.
Safe alignment and final fixation of the helmet by means of a Y-strap under the ear and webbing work very well and quickly with all models. A plus are fixable Y straps that cannot be adjusted in their position. Pre-fixed and non-variable Y-straps can be found on the HJC. Functionally, it is not a problem as long as the noble leather straps do not interfere with their position on the ear. Therefore, try on the helmet in the shop!
Keyword webbing and fastener: Even if the click fasteners that are still frequently used (e.g., Urge, Bollé, etc.) work perfectly, it remains to be noted that Fidlock magnetic fasteners (Electra, Bontrager, Lazer, Met, Nutcase, HJC, and Ked) are surprisingly easy to close. Ratchet fasteners (e.g., Uvex, Alpina, and Fischer) offer even more ease of use and can be loosened by a few locking points during long, slow climbs.
Wearing Comfort for Lasting Driving Pleasure
An important factor influencing the wearing comfort of a city or urban helmet is large, high-quality padding, such as that used by Ked, Bontrager, or Cratoni. However, they alone are not a guarantee for the best wearing comfort. Ultimately, a fit that is perceived as successful by as many drivers as possible is decisive for this. Disturbing, selective pressure points on the forehead and back of the head could be identified in the test, depending on the head shape (!) on the Ked and Electra helmets.
Here, the helmet shape does not always optimally suit every head. A circumstance in which the forehead pressure points are also due to the mead. At the Go! Mips from Electra, the back of the head rubs uncomfortably on the uncomfortable Mips plastic film. On the other hand, the comfort experts Uvex, Alpina, HJC, and Cratoni, which shine with light, pressure-free wearing comfort, are completely different.
Since ultimately only the helmet that is permanently comfortable is worn, it is essential to try on several (desired) models in the bike shop. Ideally, you should take your cycling glasses with you to test whether they fit perfectly with the desired helmet in terms of space and whether the low-lying underside of the helmet is not pressing uncomfortably on the glasses.
Bring on the Fresh Air!
In the case of the Uvex, Alpina, and Cratoni helmets, this is promoted in the form of excellent ventilation in the forehead and neck area. The numerous sophisticated air intakes have a very positive effect here. The head gets a little warmer under intense stress under helmets from Lazer, Bontrager, Electra, and HJC, a tribute to a partly low, more massive construction that is less ventilated.
Security relevant details
The LED rear light on the Ked is beautifully integrated into the helmet design. It has normal and gaze modes and is charged via a mini USB port.
In addition to the bright rear light, Alpina has integrated stylish front/rear light LEDs in the top and back of the helmet for top visibility on the Haga LED.
Reflectors on the Urge STrail also optimize the cyclist’s visibility in the dark.
In the form of a yellow plastic film, the Mips system is used by a number of manufacturers (here: Uvex). Attached to the inside of the helmet, it significantly reduces shearing movements that occur in the event of a fall and thus strain on the brain.
Integrated over a large area on the inside of the Bontrager helmet, the honeycomb-like WaveCel structure absorbs the impact energy that occurs in a fall and absorbs shear forces in the process.
The large visor, which effectively protects the eyes from wind and dust, is easily and securely fixed to the Lazer helmet with a magnet.
Desirable: Low weight and firm hold
A light helmet is always an advantage, not least on longer city trips, where it can increase wearing comfort even further. Cratoni builds the lightest model at just 274 g, and Bontrager is the heaviest at 463 g. While light test models à la Cratoni score with an airy feel, the Bontrager, Lazer (462 g), and Nutcase (448 g) require a little getting used to the heavier weight. But this is not a problem. All 15 bicycle helmets passed the manual forehead wipe test very well, guaranteeing the best possible grip. Only the Electra can easily be moved out of position due to the imperfect fit.
Details: Light and reflectors required
The editors awarded plus points in the details rating for a rear light built into the helmet and a reflective Y-strap, both of which significantly increase visibility and safety on the road in the dark. Fortunately, ten manufacturers equip their helmets with a rear light. Unfortunately, the HJC Calido Plus does not have one, but it pleases with the greatest depth of detail in the test. It is the only one that comes with a protective transport bag.
Bike Helmets in the Test: Conclusion
Overall, it is noticeable that all 15 bicycle helmets are at a good to very good level, and there are no lower outliers. All in all, the excellently wearable test winner, the Uvex City I-Vo Mips, the Fischer Urban Plus as a price-performance tip, and the Cratoni Velo-X, which deserves a recommendation, were particularly convincing. It is followed, just behind it, by Bells Avenue LED.
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