Hair and Helmets
Summary: "Helmet hair" is a problem. So are braids with beads or balls. There are a few solutions proposed at the bottom of the page.
One of the consistent problems in selling helmets is riders' concerns about managing "helmet hair." The combination of
heat and humidity under a helmet in summer is disastrous for all but pixie cuts or very short hair. Although not caused
by the helmet, drying in the sun and wind is another hair problem.
A different sort of helmet fit problem is posed by those who wear caps under their helmets or those whose hair styles
disrupt the fit of a standard helmet.
What is a rider to do with long hair? A low pony tail seems the most practical, but hair on the neck is hot. Some use a
French braid. Others use a higher pony tail, but thread it through the stabilizer on the back of their helmet.
A number of members of one Internet chat list
seemed to agree that the low pony tail was the most practical, but the hair should be either held with a rubber band
every few inches or put in a "Hair Glove" to keep it off the neck. Reportedly Harley Davidson makes a black leather bag
with snaps, useful also for beards. The discussion brought out that there are
many types of hair, and many different lengths, and the happiest riders are those with some imagination who develop a
Hair styles that are thicker than plain hair affect fit:
- The thickness of hair braids high up on the head, particularly with beads included, raises the helmet above the
head. The result is that the helmet covers less of the head than it should, leaving part of the sides unprotected. This
is a problem, since studies have shown that a significant number of impacts occur below the helmet line anyway,
and that the helmets would be more protective with more coverage, not less.
- Raising the helmet on the head destabilizes it by moving the sides, that normally keep the helmet steady, up and
away from the sides of the head. Combined with the loss of coverage from the helmet perched up higher on the head, this
has potential for disaster in a crash, where the helmet must be stable to remain in position and actually be between
the head and the hard place upon impact!
- If beads are included, they are a possible impact hazard. They may of course shatter in a fall if they are brittle
enough and hollow. The shards could cut the scalp. More serious injury might result, however, if the beads did not
shatter but instead concentrated the force of the blow on one spot. The helmet is designed to spread out that force to
prevent the skull from fracturing. Concentrated impact force from the beads could fracture the skull, and could
transmit more g's to the brain whether or not the skull fractures. We have not seen reports of this happening in the
field, but the data will not show up in statistics anyway.
This is not a fad. It will not go away any time soon. Some people wear their hair in this style for months or years,
not for the day. A helmet for them to use now has to work with the hair style, not ignore it.
The ideal solution for this problem would be a helmet that adjusts for braided, beaded or otherwise thicker hair.
There is finally a helmet on the market from Bold Helmets
that has a dome extending above the top of the helmet.
It is designed for Sikh kids who wear their uncut hair in a topknot, but there is now an adult medium size as well. It may
be the answer for some who need a place for more than the usual hair. The company was founded by the mother of Sikh children
who did not like the idea of cutting out foam from the top of her kids' helmets an compromising protection to make room for hair.
In addition to the Bold helmet, a few helmets have pony tail ports that actually may work. In the meantime, we have heard
from one helmet promotion program that they are fitting adult size helmets on riders with beaded hair styles, and tightening the ring fit
headband below the beads and balls. This was confirmed by a seasoned bicycle educator with a lot of field experience as
the only practical way to deal with the hairstyle when a rider in a class you are instructing has beaded hair. Fitting rings alone
are too flimsy to keep a helmet in place in a crash, so careful strap adjustment is required.
We also have a page up on using caps under helmets
, and a page on turbans