(Speaking of being active, I just finished reading The First 20 Minutes, a book about research on exercise/movement and health. It was fascinating, particularly the last chapter or two on inactivity’s effects on gene expression. Really reinforces the knowledge that you should spend less time on the couch! Also a fairly easy read- the author has a good sense of humor, covers a wide variety of topics, and moves from concept to concept at a good pace.)
The bikes are purchases we’ve been considering since we loved riding so much in Annecy last summer, and since we’ve watched my brother take up biking pretty seriously for both fitness and transportation. We’re calling them our four-year wedding anniversary gifts to each other, as well as an investment in health, wellness, and sharing fun activities for years to come. Now they’re living in our second bedroom, ironically leaving less space for my other fitness endeavors like weights and yoga DVDs.
Anyway, I was absolutely certain that the perfect biking accessory would be a cute, protective helmet in a pretty color like pink. Surely I was not the only casual, recreational rider out there equally interested in both style and function!
The Bern website also had three designs of attractive women’s bike helmets in eye-catching colors, some solids, some stripes. Both Nutcase and Bern also make stylish helmets for skate, water, and snow sports. Nutcase has motorcycle helmets as well.
So many cute colors and styles to choose from! I wanted to make sure I wasn’t putting fashion ahead of safety though, so I made myself do a bit more reading before I clicked one into my cart. This buying guide was helpful, and I also looked on the Consumer Reports website.
It turns out that all bike helmets made after 1999 have to meet U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) standards, but then there are additional certifications by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the Snell Foundation for helmets that provide even higher standards of protection.
On the Consumer Reports scale, the Bern Brighton Thin Shell and Nutcase Street Sport helmets they tested ranked last, with scores of 13 and 14 out of a possible 100, and “poor” ratings for impact absorption. Yikes.
I like my brain quite a bit and I’ve always been cautious by nature, so I reconsidered my desire to look cute and my affinity for pink, aqua, and green. The only adult helmet in the Consumer Reports test with a “very good” rating for impact absorption was the Specialized Echelon, $60, pictured above in women’s fit, white color. (The only youth bike helmet with CR’s “very good” rating for impact absorption was the Bontranger Solstice, $45.)
I learned that the Echelon meets the Snell Foundation certification standards, as does the less expensive Specialized Sierra, $40, pictured below in gold. (You can go to this website to find out which motorcycle and bike helmets are Snell-certified.) I narrowed my choices down to the white Echelon and the gold Sierra, and decided to go with the gold in the end.
We got the Specialized Max, also $40 and Snell-certified, for my husband, who has a pretty big head and appreciated the XL sizing. If your head is a more normal size, the men’s Align is also $40 and Snell-certified. The Sierra, Max, and Align were not tested by Consumer Reports, but since they are all Snell-certified, made by the same company, and priced/described similarly on the Specialized site, I felt fairly comfortably generalizing the Echelon’s high safety ratings to them for our very casual, just-getting-started-riding purposes.
I should also mention that we had a great experience buying the bikes through our local bike shop, Velocity Pro Cycle. The staff was friendly and incredibly helpful for weeks, from our initial “What is up with bikes?” visit to most recently finding us a map that color-codes Tuscaloosa roads according to bike-friendliness. Not only did we keep our dollars local, but surprisingly we ended up saving money by ordering things like these helmets and our car bike rack through the shop; we didn’t have to pay shipping, and they gave us a 10% discount on all the accessories we bought with the bikes. My brother told us that a good local bike shop is worth its weight in gold, and so far we could not have be more pleased with the knowledge, helpfulness, and service of the guys at Velocity.
If you’re just starting out like we are, happy biking!