How to choose a bike helmet for your child

Cadel Evans tells you what you need to look out for when purchasing a bike helmet.

Written by Cadel Evans

In Australia, bike riders of all ages must wear a helmet – and for good reason. Research shows that wearing a bicycle helmet can reduce the risk of head injuries by 69%, and of serious brain injury by up to 74%.

But not all bike helmets are created equal. Bike helmets come in a variety of styles, sizes and shapes, so you’ll need to try a few to find the right one for your child.

What to look for when buying a bike helmet

To make your search a little easier, Tour de France legend and Medibank ambassador Cadel Evans shares his top tips on what to look for.

1. Australian standards

All bicycle helmets sold in Australia are required to meet the Australian Safety Standards (AS/NZS2063). Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for helmets bought online or from overseas. If you’re buying a helmet online, buy from an Australian store and always make sure to check the safety standards.

2. Correct fit

“A helmet is not an item that you buy to grow into. If a helmet doesn’t fit correctly it won’t protect your child,” says Cadel. “If you’re not sure, ask the staff at your local store and I’m sure they’ll be happy to help you find the right fit.”

A helmet should sit firmly and comfortably on top of the head and shouldn’t move from side to side when your child shakes their head. When buying, look out for helmets with adjustable dials or straps. Helmets with these features offer a more comfortable and precise fit.

“A helmet is not an item that you buy to grow into. If a helmet doesn’t fit correctly it won’t protect your child.”

3. Construction

Bike helmets come in two construction styles: in-mold and hard shell. Both have an exterior shell that's made from plastic and an interior layer of protective polystyrene foam.

If purchased from a store in Australia, both styles of helmet will provide adequate protection while riding.

The main differences in styles are:

• In-mold helmets have a thinner outer layer, so they are lighter and usually have more air vents, which makes them cooler to wear.

• Hard shell bike helmets have a thicker outer layer and look more similar to round, skateboarding helmets, which may be more appealing to some kids. However, because of their thick outer layer, hard shell helmets are heavier and have fewer vents, making them hotter to wear.

4. Design

The colour and design of a child’s helmet is a lot more important than you might think. If you let your child have a say in which helmet you buy, chances are they’ll be more likely to wear it and be excited by it.

These days, you can find bike helmets that are spotted, striped or even have mohawks –so you can be sure to find one that your child will love.

When should you replace your child’s bike helmet?

Most bicycle helmet manufacturers recommend replacing a helmet every three to five years. While this is just a guide, it is something to think about if you’re planning to pass your child’s helmet on to a sibling or friend.

There are also three situations when you should definitely replace your child’s helmet.

1. If it no longer fits correctly

If your child has grown out of their helmet, it won’t offer adequate protection so it’s time to size up.

2. If the helmet is damaged from a crash or a hit

The inner foam layer of a bike helmet is designed to crumble or shatter to absorb impact. If a helmet has received a heavy blow, it will no longer provide adequate protection.

3. If any part of the helmet is broken or worn

Broken or worn straps, broken buckles, cracked outer layers – anything that affects the fit or construction of a helmet is a sign that it’s time to buy a new one.

Written by Cadel Evans

Cadel Evans is a Medibank ambassador, former Australian professional racing cyclist and winner of the 2011 Tour de France.

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