Many activities involve riding bikes. People cycle to work or to school, children and families enjoy cycling across fields and through woods as a pastime. Riding is also involved in many competitive sports.

Indoor track events are becoming more popular due to the success of cyclists such as Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton and road racing is a favourable sport thanks to the televised coverage of worldwide tours, such as the Tour De France.

The first concern for any cyclist is safety. Cycle helmets protect the head, particularly the skull, so it is important that the helmet is a correct fit, otherwise it will not give maximum protection. To find the right size, measure the head circumference just above the eyebrow.

Cycling helmets are made from expanded foam polystyrene which is rigid and can be moulded into any shape. Upon impact, as the polystyrene crumples, it absorbs energy. meaning that the impact on the skull is lessened.

Cycle helmets can get a bit warm, especially in the summer, but some of the more expensive helmets have more air vents to help the air circulate. This does, however, mean that there is less polystyrene, meaning slightly less protection. Making polystyrene thicker would improve safety but would make the helmet bulkier, heavier and hotter to wear. Every helmet design represents some form of compromise, but the trend is towards thinner helmets with a greater number of large vents.

There is a particular demand for children’s helmets. These helmets have funky designs which will appeal to children and have large vents so the wearer does not get too hot. They are also designed to be easy fitting and have straps that can be adjusted with little hassle. Newer helmets for toddlers and children have flat backs to stop the helmet tilting forward.

Bell is a leading manufacturer in the motor sport helmet business. They designed the first polystyrene hard shell in 1975, followed by the first racing helmet in 1983 and the first children’s helmet in 1984. The cheapest helmet is priced around £20 with the most expensive being £160 for a specialised model. Bell has seen many competitors emerge in recent years including Fox, Giro and TSG. There is a big variation in cost even though all helmets pass the same safety standards, but sizes differ between manufacturers, so try on a number of helmets before buying.

It is compulsory that helmets are worn when in professional competition. Sportsmen need to regulate their temperature, so vents are important. For international Tour events, carbon fibre inserts are used to increase the strength and protection of the helmet, but for short time trials, helmets have a long tapering back end for streamlining.

Cycle helmets are not designed to last eternity and any helmet involved in an accident or marked should be replaced. They should also be replaced every 5 years, as materials deteriorate.

There are a whole range of cycle helmets on the market. They are intended to incorporate safety with great style, ventilation and are designed to be lightweight. Great helmets are designed for adults and children alike and there are designs specifically aimed towards women. A lot of research goes into the designing of helmets using the latest technology and materials.