Now that spring is in full swing, the kids are eager to get outside, play with their friends, and enjoy the fun activities that come with the season. So open up your garage, dust off your bikes and get active!

With all the excitement, however, it’s easy to forget that with any outdoor activity there are safety rules, and biking is no exception. The Canadian Institute for Health Information cites cycling injuries as the most common among summer sports. Their 2009-2010 study notes, “4,324 Canadians were hospitalized as a result of a cycling injury, with close to half of these injuries occurring in June, July and August,” highlighting just how important it is to wear a helmet when biking.

Here are four steps to help you choose the right bike helmets to keep you and your family safe.

Step 1: Look for the seal of approval

To ensure your bike helmet has met safety standards and will properly protect you, look for the approval sticker from one of the following organizations:

  • ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials)
  • CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission)

Step 2: Choose the right type of helmet

Different sports require different helmets. Even different levels of biking activities such as beginner, recreational, mountain, or competitive biking need different helmets.

  • A bike helmet made for a young child/toddler will have a rounder shape with full head coverage, especially in the back of the head.
  • A recreational/road helmet will have a round shape, be lightweight and provide air holes.
  • A competitive biking helmet will have lots of ventilation along with an aerodynamic design.
  • A mountain biking helmet is similar to a recreational/road helmet, with a few more peaks to protect against debris and extra ventilation, and may provide more facial coverage.

Step 3: Ensure a proper fit

Finding a helmet with the right fit and features is the most crucial factor in getting the best protection.

  • The bike helmet should fit securely so that it doesn’t move around when buckled up. The front of the helmet should sit on the middle of the forehead and be parallel to the ground.
  • Adjust the chin strap so it’s tight enough to secure the helmet but not so tight that it’s uncomfortable to wear.
  • If you fit in between helmet sizes, choose the larger helmet and use extra padding/foam liners to create a snug fit.
  • Ensure the straps fit around the ears properly: one strap behind the ear and one in front.
  • Select a helmet that is bright and visible so you can be seen by other bikers and drivers.

Step 4: Know when to replace a helmet

Knowing when to replace a bike helmet is vital:

  • If a helmet has any visible dents, bumps, or has been hit hard, its ability to protect your head has decreased.
  • A bike helmet that’s used often should be replaced every three to five years to ensure you’re always wearing one in top shape that fits well.
  • Remember, your helmet needs to be treated with respect and stored properly away from too much heat or heavy objects that could impact it.

It’s important to remember to wear your bike helmet regardless of where, how long, and how fast you’re going. According to Annie Urban, a mom and blogger of the PhD in Parenting Blog, “debris on the bike path, a malfunction of something on the bicycle, misuse of the brakes, turning to look at something interesting, or careless cyclists, are all things that can cause an accident even on a dedicated bike path.”

Stick to these simple steps and always wear your helmet to help ensure your family has a safe and fun season outdoors.

Four ways to inspire your kids to wear a bike helmet always

  1. Be a good role model – always wear one yourself.
  2. Take them shopping for their helmets to ensure a good fit.
  3. Allow them to influence the style of helmet you choose.
  4. Always store their helmets in a handy spot near their bikes.