Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

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Can I find a thinner helmet?

Summary: You might, but thinner helmets don't protect as well, and you need that thickness for impact protection even if it seems disproportional.

The Question: My helmet makes me look like a mushroom. Where can I find a thinner helmet?

The Answer: Unfortunately, what you are running into is a law of physics, not fashion.

If a head is hurtling toward absolutely rigid pavement at about 14 mph, and you have to stop it in a half inch rather than 3/4 or 7/8 of an inch, you just have to stop it a lot faster, and that means your brain will see a much harder impact. And that means more likelihood of a concussion or worse.

On a small adult head the required thickness to stop your head looks outlandish, because it is essentially the same thickness as a helmet for a person with a great big head. An inch of helmet on a size 8 head looks thinner than an inch of helmet on a very small head. So the proportions seem out of whack, and you look like a mushroom.

US manufacturers of helmets for racers produce the thinnest helmets you are going to find that meet the CPSC impact standard, and provide the minimum impact performance to be sold as a bike helmet in this country. You could look on the Internet for one of the CEN standard euro models that does not meet CPSC. Those are thinner. But they are not legal for triathlete events even though they are accepted by USA Cycling for racing events here in the US until January 1, 2010. They offer less protection, and when it comes to preventing brain damage, you may be in a world of hurt when you hit. That could end your riding or your triathlete career, and possibly your life or your ability to eat unassisted and tie your shoes. So it's not recommended, and even racers who have been permitted to use them in USA Cycling events will be required to use CPSC helmets after January of 2010.

Obviously you will be looking for a model whose graphics and exterior design minimize the mushroom look. Unfortunately the best advice we can offer is to encourage you to make an attitude adjustment, and get used to looking like a mushroom. Your brain is too important to you to let the looks of a helmet determine how much protection you wear.