Cycling has taken quite a turn these last decades. Bikes are faster, electric or not, more people on bike paths, more cars that cyclists have to share the road with; in short, the risk level for today's bike riders is way higher then it was in the 60's. Still, a lot of debates around wearing a helmet or not. First of, do you have to?
Is there a Quebec law that forces cyclists to wear a protective helmet?
Yes if you are riding an electric assist bike, it's actually the same as for small scooters. You risk a 60$ to a 100$ fine; pretty much the price of a helmet.
It is however not the rule for traditional bikes, it is a personal choice.
Does it really protect?
Purists against wearing a helmet would tell you wearing a helmet would not make a difference for many fatal accidents involving bikes. It's true that some accidents are just unforgiving, helmet or not.
« Among cyclists involved in fatal events, 13% were wearing a helmet»
(Sources Statistiques Canada)
So no, it doesn't not protect against all accidents, but 13% wearing one, implies 87% more fatals injuries amongst riders not wearing one. It is simple logic after all, it's easy to imagine that hitting your head at a good speed on a hard surface can easily be fatal without protection.
You're a pro, you're very confident on your bike and have no intention of falling? Sure, but you can bet that all those riders who ended up kissing the ground abruptly and roughly, had no intention of doing so!
It's uncomfortable and cumbersome.
One reason often raised for not wearing a helmet is the comfort. You'll be happy to know this industry made giant strides regarding both, protection technology and comfort too.
Lighter weight, good aeration, with or without a visor, adapted for glasses, some with MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) which protects against impacts coming from all direction.
The main reason for discomfort is usually adjustment. But the new helmets have systems that makes it easy to adjust them to perfection. In fact, it's not just annoying to wear a helmet not well adjusted, but it also impacts the safety in cas of a fall. Once well adjusted, you should practically forget you are wearing it.
How long is it good for?
As long as there is no impact from a fall. There is of course a degradation of the components in time, but it does take a long time. However, after an impact, to be safe you should think about getting a new one, even if there is no visible cracks.
The way helmets protect is by dispersing the energy of the impact by cracking. Helmets are usually composed of a lightweight stiff foam inside and a harder shell on the outside, which breaks first in case of impact and the foam inside will absorb the rest. The soft foam pads inside that are also used to help with adjustment on the head, also contribute to disperse the choc. Les casques ont pour but d’absorber et de disperser l’impact au maximum.
So even if it has not openly cracked on the first impact, if it shows scratches, chances are the outer shell has been compromised and might not protect as much next tumble. So literally, use your head to decide if you should change it or not.
The real question is...
Why is protecting your brain is even a question? We all see the benefit of wearing one for a motorbike, we all understand that a fall from a motorbike even at low speed, would be fatal for the head on pavement or concrete. It's no different for a cyclist, even a good one, you can be sure that the asphalt or concrete is just as hard for the motorbike rider than for the bicycle rider.
So, which one to choose?
There are many with various prices, you can find good helmets even with MIPS under 100$. The price is influenced by weight, components such as carbone and technology that are added like Bluetooth connected bike helmet or those offering LED lights.
You've spent a good amount of time choosing a bike, take the time to also try on helmets until you find one that is really comfortable once well adjusted. After that, it's just a matter of taste, styles, colours, with or without visor or brands like Bell, Giro or others.
The good news is: there's a lot of choices.
Ride on and be safe!