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Wear a helmet
Sadly, the roads are busy and the risk to cyclists is great. That's why more and more people choose to protect themselves with a helmet. I do not wear mine all the time. My reason is churlish. I feel self-conscious in a helmet. I've tried many different makes and not one of them flatters the shape of my face. This is a poor reason not to protect my head every time I go out on my bike. I know it yet I still leave the helmet at home sometimes. This is a stupid decision. However, there is another reason, which doesn't involve vanity for opting out of the helmet wearing. The second influence is that, over time, I've noticed that drivers come nearer to me when I wear the helmet. It's like they see the helmet and decide they can close the gap. I was riding on the road, where the limited cycle path ends, when a driver deliberately edged up to me so that there was barely any air between my body and the metal of his car. I was forced into the gutter. As he drove away I saw that it was someone I knew. He later told me he wouldn't have driven so close if I hadn't been wearing a helmet. This, I am surmising, is the general opinion of drivers who do seem to behave worse when I wear a helmet. Could it be that wearing my helmet makes drivers take more risks around me? Am I more likely to have an accident because of wearing the helmet?
On the other hand, if I am involved in an accident, the helmet might save my life. Hit my head without a helmet and I am more likely to have a severe head injury or die. The helmet can't prevent an accident but it can offer some protection. It feels like a catch twenty-two situation as the chance of an accident may be more likely. But I want to survive, I want you to survive, therefore, I cannot advocate not wearing a helmet. I do wish we could have cycle paths all over the UK as good as the ones I have been on in North Wales. The majority that I have tried are unfit for purpose and the roads are so dangerous now that I am becoming a reluctant cyclist all together.
This product is a unisex helmet as it can be adjusted to fit. It comes down low on my forehead without impacting on my vision. I feel that this offers more protection.
For the purpose of this review I am wearing this helmet as I type!
This is well padded and feels quite cosy, warming in this cold but in summer it cools the head. Though when the air feels icy and bitter I would prefer to have no vents at all.
The padding can be removed and washed but I've never tried that and it doesn't need it yet.
The helmet is ventilated with seventeen holes, and some at the back of the helmet. This is good as other helmets have more vent holes, and that means you will be losing some of the important padding in exchange for a slightly less sweaty head!
It is best to go to a shop and try these on. You might not be surprised to learn that I bought mine online and took a risk in doing so because I didn't want the salesperson to see how bad I look in helmets. Having said that, I have ordered other makes, and sold them on because of vanity, unlike this respectable make, Bell, which doesn't look quite so ridiculous on me though it is hardly flattering.
The helmet comes with clear instructions on how to make sure it is correctly fitted for your head. It was a bit of a pain to get the helmet right and I did ask someone to help me.
You can adjust the helmet on the back so it is not too tight or too loose, to fit most head sizes. I don't think I have a particularly large head, so although it is designed for a universal fit, it is narrow, and so big heads look out!
The design of the helmet allows for adjusting with one hand when cycling. I have tried this and I was a bit wibbly wobbly but it did prove possible. I prefer to do this off road. The two straps can be adjusted to fit around the face and just in front of the ears but is meant to be looser around the chin. It took me time to get used to this because of the fear the helmet would be insecure as a result but it always fits snugly, on my head, and I am no longer concerned about the helmet falling off. There are straps to be adjusted inside the helmet as well as under the chin and by the ears. However, I did find strap adjustment fiddly but haven't had to play with it since I first wore the helmet. It took me a long while to thread the straps through until they were just right and the helmet didn't move or feel loose when trying to move the helmet forward and back and side to side.
Any part of the strap that is hanging loose must be tied up with a band as a safety precaution. The chin buckle doesn't always separate so easily, I can deal with that, unless, a handsome man is heading in my direction. That hasn't happened yet so the delay of unbuckling has not been too much of an issue just an irritant.
The helmet is narrow and sleek in a design that curves inwards to fit smugly on the head. It has a visor to keep out the rain from your eyes. I would say that this works best against the lighter elements and not heavy downpours. It is ideal at keeping the sun out of my eyes on those rare days when the sun truly shines. This visor is detachable too. After around a year of on and off use it still looks like new. It doesn't make you look fabulous. I have to swallow my pride to be safe. It feels so lightweight it is only vanity that makes me conscious that I am wearing it.
And now to the most important points:
A helmet sold in Europe must comply with strict safety standards. This is more of a budget-end helmet but, of course, in terms of safety, you are getting a helmet that meets the safety standards of high priced helmets.
I met someone who told me they were wearing this helmet in an accident. The helmet had a serious dent. The cyclist's head didn't have so much as a scratch. Therefore, I really trust in this Bell helmet for protection. Bell does have a good reputation as a company.
Remember if you are unfortunate to have an accident and land on the helmet always replace it with a new one even if it looks undamaged. The helmet might take the impact of the fall from your head but it may not be as effective a second time even if it appears to be in good shape.
I paid about twenty pounds but this year they are half the price. This is amazing value for money. Seriously, you can spend over a hundred pounds for a helmet but why bother when this one will bring you the same level of safety as the helmets in the high and mid ranges?
Riding away from the negatives:
Whilst the negative about not looking stylish applies to this Bell helmet it has stood up well in design against other brands that I have tried and refused to wear at all. I also find the downside of adjusting the straps has always been an issue and until the mass market produces a better way to make sure a helmet always securely fits the individual, Bell is no worse than any other brand. In conclusion, if you are going to wear a helmet, this is the one to try first. I'm impressed despite my objections to helmets in general. Four stars for the Bell Ukon helmet.
I am one of the 30% of UK adult cyclists who chooses to wear a helmet. For so simple an item they are objects of great controversy, and arguments seem to rage about whether you should wear one or not; my own research into the matter suggests that while there are benefits to wearing a helmet while cycling, the safety features of them should not be over-estimated. All the UK safety standard requires is that the helmet is able to withstand the impact of a "standard weight" rider falling from a height of 1m metre onto a stationary object while moving at 12mph. In other words, they will project most adults riding at a moderate speed from injuring their head if they fall off their bike and hit their head on the kerb. That is it. If you are in a collision with another vehicle the helmet is going to be of little or no use to you, and they have other drawbacks such as discomfort, heat and making you look a bit silly when you are commuting to work. So why do I continue to wear one? Well, as any child can tell you, falling off a bike can really hurt - even at very slow speeds. Having been left with an impressive scar on one knee from a slow speed accident on a bike as a child, I imagined what it would be like if a similar injury was to happen to my head. The answer was that if I was to be in any sort of accident where my head ended up hitting something, I would rather that happened with a helmet than without one.
It was therefore a logical next step for me to purchase a helmet when I bought my bike, especially as it had been years since I'd been in the saddle and I was bound to be a bit rusty - a wobbly cyclist is one that is more likely to have an accident after all. I bought my helmet from my local independent bike shop, and the one I ended up with - the Bell Ukon - was bought at the recommendation of the assistant.
As all helmets have to meet UK safety regulations to be sold in this country, all models are therefore as safe as each other. Prices for cycle helmets can vary from around £15 to £60, and if they are all essentially doing the same thing, what is the difference and why pay any more than £15? Basically, it is down to comfort, fit and styling. The cheaper products don't feel that good to wear, are fiddly to adjust to the correct size and arguably look sillier while on. I did try on a cheap helmet by way of comparison, and it felt like it was sitting on top of my head, didn't feel very secure and had very little means of adjusting the helmet for a good fit. Therefore, the more you pay, the better the comfort, the easier the adjustment (and the fancier the aesthetics too). As I wouldn't be a heavy user of my bike there was little point in buying a top of the range helmet, but I wanted one that felt comfy enough that I wouldn't be tempted to stop wearing it - my first cycle helmet was so hot, uncomfortable and restrictive that I stopped using it after just a couple of uses, making it a rather a waste of money. The assistant therefore recommended the Ukon as a recreational use helmet that was good for comfort in its price range. After trying it on, I saw what he meant. Although at £25 it wasn't much more expensive that the cheapest helmet available, it felt like it fitted around (rather than on top of) my head, felt incredibly light at just 260g and it came with an adjustment dial that makes fitting easy. As a well-fitted helmet is a more protective helmet, I took his advice and bought the Ukon. It is currently available in five colours - red, blue, silver, white and black, has modest Bell logos on the visor and sides, and looks fairly good. Well, as good as any helmet is likely to look on a commuter, anyway.
Once home, I set about adjusting my new helmet. I was very impressed by how easy it was to achieve a good fit; the helmet is a "one size fits all" model, with an adjustment dial on the back to make final alterations. The dial is very easy to use and just involves turning the plastic cog until you feel it has a snug, but not restrictive, fit around your head. The chin straps can also be adjusted to achieve a good fit using the cam-locks on the straps. The cam-locks are a simple open-adjust-close system that I found a little stiff on first use, but which do achieve a good fit ultimately (you just have to take care not to let the straps twist while you adjust them). All in all, it took me less than 10 minutes to go from helmet in the box to helmet on with an excellent fit - and it has needed no further adjustment despite repeated use since then, so it holds its fit well.
The feel of the helmet when cycling is also pretty good. The helmet remains in position and feeling comfortable throughout use, and I like that it has a removable visor to shield your eyes from sun and rain. The level of ventilation you get is also very good for the price; helmets make you head hot no matter what you do, so the greater the ventilation, the greater you comfort when you cycle. More expensive helmets are designed to increase the number of vents, and therefore the airflow to your head, without compromising safety and the Ukon has 17 vents, which is good for the price (I have seen plenty of pricier helmets out there with fewer vents than this). My head still gets quite warm when I wear it in the summer, but nothing so uncomfortable that it would discourage me from continuing to wear the helmet - to be honest, I find the worst of it is the plastic clip on the chin strap rather than the main body of the helmet. The clip has to be close to your skin for safety, but I find that it feels like it is sticking to me with even the smallest amount of sweat. This is not a major gripe, but a small pad on top of the clip would improve comfort in this area for me.
It terms of the Ukon's effectiveness in an accident, I'm afraid I cannot personally comment - as dedicated as I am to reviewing products fairly, I am not about to throw myself off my bike it the name of product testing. I have done the next best thing, however. A little research online has thrown up some positive commentary from other users who have been wearing this model of helmet when they have fallen from bikes and hit their head on hard surfaces, and these comments suggest a good level of cushioning and protection from the impact. I know that it is not too scientific, but I do promise to update this review if I can ever add to these comments from personal experience!
In the end, I am pleased with this purchase - the helmet is good value for money, easy to adjust and mostly comfortable to wear. The only downsides I have found are a moderate level of discomfort around the plastic clip on the chin strap and a couple of teenage girls sniggering at me for wearing it (but then again, they would probably have sniggered whatever I was wearing). The Bell Ukon is a great helmet for recreational users and commuters.
Bell Ukon Helmet / This helmet conforms to, or exceeds EU Standards only.