April 3, 2010
Love them or hate them, I will always recommend a bicycle helmet for any ride, whether you're out on tour, or building up the miles for a future trip.
There are plenty of reasons why people don't like to wear while on the bike. Some riders like to feel the wind through their hair, others worry about aesthetics, and comfort can also play a role. For me personally, I have two reasons to continue wearing a helmet on every ride: the two broken helmets hanging in my garage.
One important thing to keep in mind is that a helmet is not any indication of your riding ability. A helmet does not indicate that you are a poor bike handler, and maneuvering your bike with expert care is not enough to keep you safe. Your helmet will keep your head protected from unforeseen dangers, such as vehicles, other cyclists, or in some cases even wildlife.
The price and style of helmets, like most touring equipment, can vary wildly. This is great news for you as a rider, providing you with a ton of options from road, commuter, and mountain style helmets, all of which are certified by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission if purchased in the United States (look for the CPSC sticker inside the helmet).
The helmet I recommend above any other is a helmet that fits you right. If you are not familiar with adjusting a helmet, have the sales person at your local shop give you a hand. Ideally, the helmet will fit snug so that it cannot slide around side-to-side or front-to-back on your head, but not so tight that it's leaving imprints on your head. Most helmets will supply additional pads to improve fit and comfort.
Lastly, it's not a bad idea to replace your helmet after a few years. While it may seem in good shape, the padding naturally brakes down over time, becoming brittle, which reduces it's effectiveness.
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.