Gear Guy

Indicator Helmet     Photo: courtesy, Giro

Q:

How can I tell if a bike helmet fits my child properly?

My nine-year-old son informed me that my helmet fits him. I wear an adult medium helmet. Do I really have to go with one that’s youth specific? Dave Sierra Vista, Arizona

A:I think that when a nine-year-old kid says something “fits," what he/she really means is, “I can climb inside." So I am not at all sure that an adult medium helmet fits, or anything close. And this matters. Bike helmets have saved my life once and saved me from serious injury twice, so I am an absolute hardcore believer in their efficacy.

You should do a fit test. Have the young man don said helmet, and attach the chin strap. The helmet should be level and snug around the head. And the chin strap should also be sung; he should be able to open his mouth to talk or eat, but not much else. Can you wiggle a finger up under the helmet rim? Can you easily pull the helmet off by pushing it forward or back? If the answer to any of those questions is “yes," then the helmet does not fit. Period. To do any good, a helmet must be snug and level.

That said, at age nine, perhaps a small adult helmet will fit just fine. And I’d certainly recommend him having his own helmet, rather than borrowing yours. You can fine-tune fit even with same-size helmets.

There are lots of possibilities. Giro’s Indicator ($40) is an excellent helmet—tested and approved—with lots of vents and a cool-looking visor. Bell’s Trigger ($35) is sort of a ‘tweener—a youth helmet that should fit your son well. So go to a bike shop and try on some helmets. Let him get what he likes! That way, he’ll wear it.

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