Sunday, July 17, 2011

Buying a Bike Helmet at MEC

So I got a bicycle (an older model Diamondback Sorrento) this year. For FREE! -- Our condo was cleaning up the bike room of abandoned bikes -- those that have been there over a year and with no one acknowledging them as theirs.
Repairs and parts replacement of the somewhat banged up bike at Reckless Bikes (downtown Denman, at the SeaWall) cost more than half what a new bike of the type is worth, and I needed a helmet on top of that.

Mountain Equipment Co-Op was recommended (of course) and I got a middle-of-the-price-range $70 Alpina Spice helmet at MEC's West Broadway location. It was my very first helmet purchase, and I really didn't know what the heck I was doing. Fortunately, the busy but super-helpful staff took care of me.

Something that very much impressed me was how one of the staff members who was helping another customer at the time remembered I was waiting and automatically looked me up as soon as he was able, and snooped around for another staff member who was specialized in the department I needed help with, to make sure I got helped.
Also, the staff member who did help me checked in before she went on her lunch break to let me know she'd be gone a little while, and to see how I was doing before she left.
These are all some really nice customer service touches.
Having a person right at the entrance for initial inquiries (like, "I've never been here -- where do I find _____?") is also handy.

Anyway, I learnt the basics of looking for a helmet:
  • They are all disposable one-shots. Basically, the helmet sacrifices itself for one crash to save your noggin. After it's broken, you really can't trust that it will save you a second time. No matter how much it costs, you should buy another if you bust it.
  • There shouldn't be much more than a 2-finger-width clearance between the top of your nose bridge and the lid of the helmet. Otherwise, it might be sitting too high.
  • When snug on your head,
    • The chin-strap need not be super-tight -- you should be able to slip maybe 2 finger-widths underneath.
    • You should not be able to pull it off when the chin-strap is in place.
    • Just by bending over, it shouldn't slide free or fall off.
    • When you move it around on your head once it's properly on and strapped in, your eyebrows should move -- indicating a tight enough fit without being skull-crushingly tight.
    • The bug-like oval-shaped helmets are really for bicycling only. The rounder helmet-like caps with more side coverage are more "all-sports" and also good for snowboarding, for example.
At MEC, the try-it-out procedure is basically to find a helmet from the store display models that fits you properly then remember the size (a numerical range usually on a sticker on the inside of the helmet). Next, find a model you like. Then find a new one by looking at the box for the size that fits you.

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