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We’re not here to lecture, and we’re certainly not going to argue about a helmet’s ability to mitigate damages. They can’t protect in all situations, but they are very effective for certain kinds of impacts. My personal choice is to wear one while mountain biking, and while riding on busier roads. For quiet surface streets, as well as low speed multi-use paths closed to vehicular traffic, I’m usually inclined to go without. If you’re a commuter that wants to protect your noggin, here’s two brands to consider. We saw Bern and POC at Interbike, and like their styling and features for commuting much better than the typical road or mountain biking helmet designs. There are plenty of other helmet manufacturers out there, but these two brands have been recognized with industry awards as well as the much harder to gain street cred of urban cyclists in the US and abroad.
Bern specializes in helmets for non-motorized sports. Although they offers models for winter and water sports, we’re sticking to the cycling helmets for this article. They offer high quality with plenty of style and innovative features, and pricing as low as $60. This is one of those cases where you get more than you pay for. Take the Watts, for example. Skate inspired, it’s a thin ABS shell wrapped around an EPS foam core. There’s a small visor built in, the liner is interchangeable, and it’s fully adjustable for a good fit. Available in small to XL, there are nearly a dozen color options to choose from. If you’ve got the coin to go a bit upscale, the Brentwood starts at $80, and boasts nice touches like channels for both airflow and your glasses. For cold weather commuters, swap in the extra cozy winter liner, available separately. While there are only nine color choices, sizes go all the way up to XXXL. In addition, Bern offers women their own helmet line, which includes the Brighton, Lenox, and Berkeley. Sizing is smaller, colors and graphics are more feminine, but the features, styling, and protection are held to the same high standards as the men’s models. Pricing runs $60-$80. bernunlimited.com
POC is a Swedish company that makes helmets for cycling as well as skiing and boarding. Think of them as the Volvo of cycling helmets, but not the stodgy 240D, more like the current high performance turbo and crossover vehicles. (Check out the amazing POC Bike Excursion video with trials rider Danny MacAskill here) They understand that the pace at which sports are advancing means that athletes are going faster, farther, and higher. With that comes the increased risk of injury. And while it’s still up to individuals to know their limits, POC mixes materials and design in an effort to reduce the likelihood of injury, should things to wrong. All their research and technology into head protection for extreme sports has trickled down to n0-compromise commuter models too. To that end, they offer their Receptor Commuter helmet. The Receptor combines a durable outer shell with an impact-absorbing liner. Other features include an anti-odor treatment (Polygiene) and magnetic buckle. It’s neither as light or as ventilated as a racing helmet, but more suited to urban cycling. Color choices are limited to black or white, but sizing options range from extra small to two XXLarge. Expect to pay around $120. pocsports.com