Buckle Up and Bike In Style: The Autostraddle Helmet Guide

Attention, Autostraddlers who also straddle bicycles! I know you! I see you around all the time! You have your awesome kicks and your sporty messenger bags and your shiny reflectors, but many of you do not have helmets that are right for you! In fact, many of you don’t have helmets at all. Perhaps you think yours is ugly, or you don’t want to mess up your ALH, or you “forgot it at home.” It’s ok. I know you’re sheepish, but I also know you’re ready to change your ways. I know you realize that any dyke on any bike is sexy but any traumatic brain injury is not. Are you interested in transporting yourself efficiently, looking cute AND not perishing? Excellent! Here are some helmets that will keep you safe and stylish.

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Giro Section Multi-Sport Helmet

$30-$55

Minimalist design at an appropriately minimalist price, the Giro Section looks like a puzzle piece for your cranium. It’s lightweight and sits low on your head, so you have a higher likelihood of being on time for work or catching that cute girl who blew past you at the intersection. It also comes in unobtrusive colors, like black and brick, so it can match your lower three quartiles.

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Bern Macon Summer Matte EPS Helmet with Visor

$45-$60

A great addition to your colorblocked wardrobe, this helmet has vents to cool you off while making your head look like it’s topped by rays of sunshine. A visor insert keeps the glare out of your eyes so you can watch for potholes and read the lower back tattoo of the person in front of you without squinting. Pick one that matches your snow jacket if you bike year-round or do some icy XTreme sport; you can even swap out the summer lining for a warmer winter one. The very similar Brighton comes in softer colors.

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Nutcase Helmets

$60

If bike riding always puts you in a particular mood and you want your fellow bikers to know that, a Nutcase Helmet might be for you. Are you proud of your helmet’s precious cargo? Show it off by covering it with a “Glo-Brain.” Do you ride like the British are coming? Perhaps the “Union Jack” is appropriate. Are you one of those people who disobeys traffic laws? Warn everyone with a “Danger” or an “Urban Caution” (pictured). If you’re interested in sending a message that’s subtler but still bold, you can go for a more abstract design or a solid color. The Nutcase also has a spin dial and several sets of removeable foam inserts, so it will hug your noggin just right.

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Yakkay Helmets & Covers

$60-$140

Do you love masquerades and palindromes? The Yakkay might be for you! One lightweight, neutral-colored helmet + one hat-shaped “cover” = one piece of protective gear coyly pretending to be something it’s not. Put on the “Cambridge Stripe” and be mistaken for a zebra equestrian or wear the subtly rainbow “Tokyo New Jazz” and get safely to the venue and through the door. Or get a bunch of covers and pick one according to your outfit/mood/coin flip. The stainless steel buckles are a classy touch, and probably match your kickstand.

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Belle Helmets

$150-$300

“Tropical Storm”

Your brain is one-of-a-kind; maybe you want your helmet to be too! Illustrator Danielle Baskin hand-paints these helmets herself, so each one is a protective covering, a fashion statement and a conversation piece when it’s slung over the back of your office chair. Some of them are educational as well, so you can teach your co-commuters about geography or the solar system. And if you send her your own helmet to paint, she’ll even give you a discount!

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Hovding, The Invisible Bike Helmet

3998 Sek, or $600

Once upon a time, two Swedish designers wanted to bicycle safely without sacrificing comfort or fashion so they worked for seven years, raised ten million dollars in venture capital and came up with this. You wear the collar around your neck and sensors within it keep track of your body. If your movements indicate you’re going to fall, an airbag releases and surrounds your head like a hood, protecting it from impact. This is more than a bike helmet; it’s the first ripple of the wave of the future! And it’s yet more proof that no matter what some ignoramuses think, women make fantastic inventors, engineers, and entrepreneurs.

So there you have it — helmets that are bold, helmets that are pretending not to be helmets, helmets that are art and helmets that will save the world. All guaranteed to keep you looking smashing and feeling smash-free. Happy trails!

Avatar of Cara

Cara is a writing reading bicycling fiend and a lab mouse to the world. Sometimes she's also Hat Benatar. She lives in Jamaica Plain with five cool roommates and an ice cream machine, and is generally thinking about gender, words, sustainable biodiversity, and/or electric guitars. You can follow her on twitter @cjgiaimo if you want.

Cara has written 107 articles for us.

44 Comments

  1. Thumb up 4

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    A helmet saved my brother’s life when he was a kid. His brakes failed while he was going down a hill and he hit a wall. You could see a line across his forehead where the helmet protected him – below it, it was a mass of cuts and bruises.

    WEAR YOUR HELMET.

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    I have the Bern and love it. Added bonus, some of their helmets are summer/winter hybrids and you can change the liner to be either breezy or super-insulating. Living in Austin, the lightweight/breezy addition is quite welcome!

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    I avoided a concussion thanks to my helmet a year and a half ago. Unfortunately it only covered my head, but still, I would have been much more badly injured without it. As it was, I spent a week in hospital and three more weeks in bed at home before I was well enough to venture out for two hours at a time. Bike safety is important.

    Australia has had laws about wearing helmets while riding bikes for yonks. What say you? To legislate or not to legislate?

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      My hair naturally has a lot of volume so it’s actually kind of nice to get a slightly sleeker look via putting my helmet on every morning! My ALH is not too dramatic as they go, short on the back and sides with a longer top and asymmetrical bangs that go down into a little flippy part (that sounds crazy, it’s normal though I promise, ANYWAY the point is yes, it is totally possible. Or just do it real short all over and it’ll work even better!).

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      I don’t know if this really counts as ALH, but I have a shaved head so the helmet doesn’t do a damn thing to my “hair”. Part of the reason I shaved it is not having to worry about times like these, who knows when a cute girl will see me getting off my bike.

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    I don’t care if you are on a cycle or a motorcycle, WEAR YOUR HELMET! Doing so makes life easier for the rest of us cyclists who value safety because you make the community look better as a whole. Also, stop riding on the sidewalk – it is illegal (usually), it is dangerous, and it makes everyone hate you. Love, Me.

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      True story: When my girlfriend went to college in a big city she rode her bike everywhere, however, she was unaware of the sidewalk rules. Ironically enough, this resulted in her getting hit by an ambulance while riding to class one day. Staying off the sidewalk is a must!

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    I hit a bus with my bike last year and as I went down face-first my clearest thought was ‘thank god I’m wearing a helmet’ as it scraped the gravel.
    Granted, it’s my basic helmet from the sixth grade and not as awesome as the Nutcase and Yakkay ones, but now it’s got battle scars!

  6. Thumb up 0

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    This article just made me realize I forgot to pack my helmet on Saturday when I moved to a new city. Suppose I would have figured it out when I went to grab for it before my first ride to campus…hmm, a conundrum. Those helmets look cute but I don’t have the money to spend another $50-100 for another helmet when I already have one. Guess it’s slow sidewalk riding and dodging pedestrians until the helmet situation is sorted (I believe sidewalk biking is legal here btw).

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      I think it depends on where you live, too. In Holland nobody wears a helmet on their bike, not even kids, but I don’t think there’s more injuries or worse because of it. If you have bicycle-lanes and all other commuters are aware of cyclists it’s far less dangerous.

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      I don’t think helmets should be mandated by law–I think the social good of having more bikers on the roads without another prohibitive law in their way probably outweighs the risks–but there have been a number of incidents even just in my own riding experience to convince me that helmets are definitely the way to go:

      - Two nasty falls sans helmet where I got some bad bruising and, in one case, an ambulance ride because I was super dazed and could barely stand up for awhile — turned out to not be concussed but that was still a hospital bill and several days of pain. In both cases, a helmet would have meant standing back up and hopping on my bike with maybe a skinned elbow or two.
      - Couple of falls with helmet where I got horrible road rash on other parts of my body and definitely would have on my face if I hadn’t had the helmet.
      - With helmet, one fall and two instances of being doored that resulted in slamming my head really hard on the ground — ended up with some bad headaches that likely would have been concussions or worse, but that was it.

      And that’s just my own experience. Which makes it sound like I fall or get hit a lot, I guess! but is really just a factor of having been on the road for at least a hundred miles a week year-round at reasonably high speeds for the past five years or so. (Should note that I’m a commuter, not a racer, and definitely not a risk-taker by nature — I don’t even listen to music while biking, since I like to be as alert as possible. Even so, I’ve still been prone to the unforeseeable bad decisions of drivers, freak road conditions, and my own lapses in attention. It happens.) And yeah, I probably wouldn’t have died in any of these instances had I not been wearing a helmet — but even “surface injuries” are fucking painful!

      I find the “helmet vs. defensive biking” argument really bizarre, I gotta say. If I care about my safety, why on earth wouldn’t I do both? I’m keenly aware at every moment of how vulnerable I am among cars (and other cyclists, and pedestrians). My helmet’s just a thing I put on when I hop on my bike, like tossing my u-lock in my bag — I certainly don’t think it’s some magic talisman, and I don’t know of any other riders who conceive of it this way. No one wants to crash; no one *wants* to have to rely on their helmet at all.

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    I wear my helmet not because I’m worried about getting hit by a car, but I’m generally worried about running into something random that will cause me to fall off my bike. Some of my worst crashes have been due to the muni tracks in SF and just crashing into random things.

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    Great article! As a trauma nurse I see all sorts of head injuries. I believe that a lot of people think they should wear a helmet based on the size of their ride or speed they can achieve. Others don’t think it’s “cool”. I’m hear to tell you they’re all wrong! I can’t believe all the students zipping around on scooters without helmets thinking that because it’s not big like a motorcycle they don’t need a helmet. It’s not the size of your ride that matters. It’s the size of the vehicle that hits you that matters. We have had two really serious scooter accidents in recent months and one died from the head trauma and the other will never be the same person they were before. I have a sticker on my motorcycle helmet that says “You can’t ride if your dead, that’s why I wear a helmet.”
    Get your head in gear! Wear your brain bucket!

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    I never liked helmets until I got a really good bike and was able to go as fast as a car if I found a good downhill. When you’re going >20mph with basically nothing between you and the road, you suddenly feel insanely vulnerable.

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    I bought a new bike on Sunday ready for my campous to university daily commute that starts next month.
    HOW DOES AUTOSTRADDLE KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING IN MY LIFE?

    Also, I bought a new helmet at the same time. To be honest (/vain), I’m seriously worried about what this commute is gonna do to my long wavy/curly hair for lectures and also if I’m gonna be a hot mess when I get there. (and not in the good way)
    someone reassure me!

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    I’ve been riding bikes all my life and have never, ever worn a helmet. Like someone mentioned above, it all depends on where you live. I’m from Holland too, and we have bike lanes, plus cyclists are not seen as a special group as pretty much every driver is/has been a cyclist too, so people are much more aware. Riding a bike is not a statement, it’s a way to get around, most bike rides are daily commutes & don’t go very fast- also, everything is flat. The only people I ever see wearing a helmet are people who ride for sport instead of commuting, and, very rarely, little kids (who are allowed to ride on the sidewalk, unlike older people)…

    I’m not going to judge anyone who does want to wear a helmet though, especially in countries/areas where bicycles are not that ubiquitous/accepted/used in the same way. Some of those Nutcase helmets are pretty cute! :)

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    This is so relevant to my interests! As someone who has had a traumatic brain injury, I can back helmets 110%. Also, I think it’s really adorable when I see girls wearing helmets that are too big for their bodies. I just want to squeeze them.

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