It's no secret that the main advantage of wearing a helmet is increased safety. This is exactly why helmets were devised and it's the reason that they're suggested or required. If you've spent any time biking and never hit your head, you may question the legitimacy of the enhanced safety provided by a helmet. Indeed, if you never take a fall on your head, the helmet won't really provide much of a safety benefit. Since you can never predict exactly when, where and how you'll fall from your bike, it pays to look at some statistics to analyze the safety implications of bicycle helmets a little further. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cites that 70 percent of bicyclists involved in a fatal crash suffer from head injuries. The NHTSA further cites that helmets are 85 to 88 percent effective in preventing head and brain injuries and refers to helmets as "the single most effective way to reduce head injuries and fatalities from bicycle crashes". The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute states that non-helmeted riders are 14 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than helmeted riders. While there's no guarantee that a helmet will save your life or that you'll ever even actively use the helmet, it's clear that using one is much safer than not using one.
While wearing a bicycle helmet is often a decision left to the individual, in some cases it's not. Minors, in particular, are often subject to helmet requirements. Many states and municipalities in the United States have enacted some form of helmet legislation. Wearing a helmet when required by law ensures that you remain in adherence to the law and don't risk any penalties.
One of the biggest disadvantages of a bicycle helmet is the lack of comfort. No matter how aerodynamic and cool the helmet is, wearing a thick, clunky foam helmet is simply not as comfortable as wearing something like a bandanna, cap or nothing at all. Since most recreational bikers enjoy biking in the spring and summer months, helmets tend to become quite hot and stuffy. Head hardware and chin straps can feel itchy, irritating and unnatural.
Many dislike helmets for their unstylish, goofy appearance. Again, no matter how effective manufacturers have been at trimming the dimensions of the helmet and creating more aesthetically-pleasing shapes and colors, the helmet is still a large, oblong accessory that will never look especially stylish.
There is a cost associated with wearing bike helmets. Though they can be purchased for as little as $30 or $40, not wearing one is completely free. And if you're buying helmets for the entire family, the cost can certainly add up.
Despite the cost, style and comfort concerns, it should be clear that the advantages of a helmet outweigh the disadvantages. Like other safety equipment, such as seat belts or hard hats, wearing a bicycle helmet may bring some slight discomfort, but protecting yourself from a devastating injury is a top priority.
Helmets are relatively inexpensive and manufacturers are constantly coming out with new designs that make helmets more comfortable, more stable and better-vented. Some manufacturers have even started offering helmets designed to look just like hats. You won't run into many bicyclists that advise against the use of the helmet. If you decide to purchase a helmet, be sure to properly fit the helmet before buying.