As I said, if you got the Citi Bike welcome package in the mail, one thing you got was a $10 off coupon for a new bike helmet.
You can only use the coupon at participating bike shops around the City, but if you don’t have one or have one that’s really old, this is a must-do. Regardless of whether or not there’s a law in place yet in Manhattan, all it takes is for one idiot driver or clueless pedestrian to get in your way and cause an accident. As an avid cyclist for many years who’s had a few falls over the years, every time I see a new Citi Bike rider casually riding alongside traffic without a helmet, I just want to shake them and tell them to go out and get on. It’s one thing to get a couple scrapes and scratches to heal, but something altogether if your head impacts with the ground or a car.
One thing I’d suggest is to do your research on Amazon for which bike helmets commuters rate the highest, and then go into your local bike store. While most bike shops sell the helmets at retail, a lot of bike store owners will cut you a break, especially if you’ll go in often to buy more accessories and get tune-ups from them.
Again, the $10 coupon is good for a limited set of manufacturers. Here are the highest-rated ones on Amazon, along with some quotes from some of the reviews.
This is the overall highest rating bike helmet on Amazon right now. It’s not cheap at $250, but word is that it’s comfortable and light, with ample ventilation to help you keep cool, which is perfect for riding in those summer months. One reviewer noted that “it provides additional visibility, which I believe is important as a NYC commuter rider”.
Bell makes a very highly rated Multi-Sport Helmet, but for biking, their Solar Bike Helmet is both economical and very highly rated. Several of the reviews on Amazon recount some pretty horrific bike accidents ranging from minor falls to serious injuries, but over and over again they talk about how this helmet saved them from much worse. It’s the cheapest one on this list in price, but in terms of quality it looks like it rivals all of them.
This Bern Macon Summer Matte EPS Helmet with Visor is typical of Bern helmets in that it’s specially designed for summertime riding, complete with a removable cloth-material visor (a separate Winter liner is available). Since it’s ASTM, CPSC, and EN 1077B/1078, it’s suitable for snow, ski, bike, and skate. There a review from a rider who actually got hit by a cab and hit the pavement with her head and came out of it. As for the look of the helmet, the folks who write the Bern product copy probably said it best when they said that this helmet “doesn’t look like a spaceship landed on your head”.
Nutcase Gen 3 Helmets come in a variety of designs, including an Evel Knievel-like Americana design, an 8 ball design, and my personal favorite, the watermelon design you see to the left. You can see all their designs here. The designs aren’t just for cheeky good looks, but provide 360 degree reflectivity, so you’ll have maximum safety at night. I also like the idea of the magnetic buckle. These also meet both CPSC and ASTM certifications for biking and skateboarding. If you have little kids at home, their Nutcase Little Nutty Bike series lets you get some of the same patterns for the little ones if you’ll be riding together.
The Triple Eight Certified Rubber Helmet is double-certified, meaning that it meets CPSC safety standards as a bike helmet and ASTM standards for skateboarding, so if you’re into multiple sports, this is the one for you. It sports a high-density ABS outer shell and was supposedly engineered to fit a variety of head shapes. A lot of the reviews are commenting that sizing is a bit tricky, so this is definitely one you’ll want to get fit at a bike shop rather than buy online.
The Uvex Urban Bicycle Helmet is the most highly rated Uvex helmet and has rave reviews from urban riders. It’s been called “super cool for city commutes” and looks “somewhere between a bike helmet and a skateboard helmet”. It’s only 325 grams and has 15 ventilation openings and a soft feel that’s “almost like rubber but it is not soft”. If you like great German engineering, this is the bike helmet for you, and it’s pretty reasonably priced at around $60.
The safety quality of all these helmets are pretty comparable, as they have to be in order to meet CPSC safety standards. That means that it really comes down to your personal style and budget. But the one thing I’ll leave you with is, in a city like New York City. with over 13,000 taxis, over 40,000 livery vehicles, 6,000 buses, 200,000 other bicyclists, over 500,000 walking commuters, and everything from pedicabs to street vendors to horses to motorcyclists to dollar vans weaving in and out, a helmet is the one thing anyone riding a bike in the City cannot be without.