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At four, Hollie is not a brilliant cyclist. She tries so hard but even with stabilisers has a habit of falling off her bike, which is why I bought her a helmet from our local bike shop (yes, such a thing still exists!) despite the fact that she was only going to be riding slowly on grass for a while. The Oxford 'Little Madam' helmet caught my eye instantly as it's a pink/silver mix with the design being a cute face (definitely a girl, she has long eyelashes!) which is cheekily sticking her tongue out; I knew that Hollie would love the look of this helmet and didn't quibble at the £16.99 price tag, despite the fact that I'd been imagining a bike helmet for such a young child would cost a maximum of a fiver!
It's a comfortable fit, the size is adjustable through both the chin strap and also the plastic 'head band' that runs around the crown of the head once your child is wearing the helmet. I found adjusting the head band was a bit fiddly but Hollie's dad saw me struggling and took it off me, altering it to the perfect size within seconds so that it was a snug fit on her head but wasn't so tight that it dug into her skin. There were no details of a maximum age or head circumference but there's plenty of growing room for Hollie and I'm guessing the helmet will fit her for at least another couple of years.
The helmet has a foam inner (or 'shock absorbent EPS') and this is topped with a hard but brittle feeling plastic, or 'shell' for you bikey-types. The foam is extremely dense and it's this that will protect your little ones head should they fall off their bike, it also makes the helmet comfortable to wear as the foam hugs the head nicely. Tapping on the plastic outer reassures me that it's of excellent quality and strong enough to cope with bumps and bangs without damage. Hollie is notorious for throwing her stuff down (not in temper, just without thinking) and looking at the helmet now I can see there's not a mark on it - no paint chips or anything to indicate that damage has (or can) occur through rough treatment.
The chin strap is a bit of a pain for her as the clip to open and close it is located beneath a section of padding to ensure the cord strap doesn't rub against her skin, for an adult it's easy enough to move the padding with a finger while doing up the strap but Hollie just hasn't got the dexterity to manage this yet and that's quite frustrating for her. Still, I suppose this is a good thing in the long run as it prevents her from removing her helmet when she should be wearing it.
During her semi-regular bike rides Hollie seems to find the helmet comfortable; she complained about the tightness to begin with, but after explaining to her that it had to be tight to keep her safe she soon got used to it. The shaping of the helmet is good, streamlined but the onus seems to be on fun as far as this aspect goes - as it should be when creating a safety product with such young children in mind. I personally don't like the 'bumpy' shape at the back of this particular helmet, but presumably it's been designed like that for a reason other than aesthetics so I'll trust in Oxford on that score.
It's hard to say how reliable this (or any other) helmet would be in the event of an accident and luckily I haven't had to put it to the test as recently Hollie has been a little more stable on her bike, Little Madam conforms to EU safety standards however so I can't see why it wouldn't be as safe as any other cycling helmet designed for young children. I know I'm happy to put my trust in it, I'm a bit of a worrier when it comes to the kids safety so am very pleased to have found such a high quality helmet for Hollie to wear while learning to ride her bike. There was a more 'boyish' version of the same helmet available from the shop where I bought Hollie's, so if pink and eyelashes aren't your little lads thing then you'll be able to buy him something a little more suitable.
Oxford Little Madam / White EPS with colour coordinated upper and lower protective micro-shells.