Saturday, December 4, 2010

Back on the Bike, With a New Helmet

Thursday morning, Little and I woke up feeling healthy again, but Austin was a groggy, nauseous mess.  The kids and I needed some fresh air and a chance to see something other than the walls of the living room, and poor Papa needed a quiet house.  Happily, we had a fun errand to run: Bigger's new helmet had arrived at Paul's!

Bigger has had a string of ill-fitting helmets this year.  First there was a little Giro helmet, which fit him for quite awhile.  He was starting to outgrow it, so we measured Bigger's head and cashed in a gift certificate to order this Nutcase helmet in size S/M.  This was Nutcase helmet #1.

Bigger and his 8 ball helmet with Auntie R, who gave this bike its wild custom paint job
Nutcase helmet #1 should have fit Bigger (according to the size charts) but it didn't.  We tried various adjustments to the padding and straps, and even took it into a couple of shops that sold Nutcase helmets to see if the experts could help us make it fit.  It never did.  It slid around his head in all directions, and never managed to hit the safety target for protecting the front part of the brain: you should only be able to fit about two fingers above a person's eyebrows.  (I learned this and lots more in a confident cycling class offered by our local bike club: GEARS.  This is a great class if you're in Eugene, and it's taught by two papas who cycle with their families, Paul Adkins and Shane Rhodes.  I recommend it if you are interested in learning more about biking for transportation.   There's also a class for families with kids age 5 and up: Traffic Skills for Families.)

Enter Nutcase helmet #2.  Just before we figured out that the first helmet was never going to cut it, we entered in a drawing to win a Nutcase Helmet from Arriving by Bike at the Blackberry Jamboree Ride.  Guess what?  We won.

Bigger chose this gray model in the next size down, XS.  This is the model they call the Little Nutty, and it has a dial at the back for adjusting the size of the helmet to fit smaller noggins.  According to the size charts, the Little Nutty also should have fit Bigger.  We worked with a very kind woman at the shop to adjust the fit of the helmet until it was almost right.  We had foolishly set out a little too close to Little's naptime for this errand, and had included the purchase and installation of a new rear rack on our to do list at the shop.  It was a long morning at the shop, and we finished with the helmet sizing (boring to the point of tantrum-induction for a sleepy toddler) and moved to bell ringing as quickly as possible.  When we left, crying toddler in my arms, I thought to myself that the new helmet would fit better with just a little bit more adjustment to the straps.  Adjustable dial = better fit, right?

Wrong.  In fact, Nutcase #2 would go on to win the Wost Possible Helmet for Bigger award.  Nutcase #2, adjustable dial and all, would slide sideways towards his left ear, leaving half of his head completely uncovered.  (I can't find a photo of this stunning helmet malfunction now, but will search for one to include here.)  While the smaller helmet size fit his head better, the straps on the left side were too short, and seemed to yank the helmet off the right side of his head while we were in transit.

Now, I'm sure that the good people at Arriving by Bike would have been glad to take Nutcase #2 off our hands and exchange it for a properly fitting helmet.  We have never had anything but positive experiences with them (they sold us our Bobike Mini and windscreen), and I love the mission of their shop: cycling for transportation, as opposed to cycling for sport.  But they cannot re-sell a helmet that has been returned, and the idea of this helmet going into the landfill when others could make use of it just doesn't feel right to me.  Also, Arriving by Bike does not carry Bern, the brand of helmet that we discovered fits Bigger's head perfectly.  (We read Julian's review of the Bern helmets on Totcycle, and tried one out.  It was like we had met Bigger's soul mate.  Perfect fit, good coverage, and it comes with a cold weather liner or visor.  What's not to love?)

Bigger, delighted with his new helmet
We haven't had great experiences with the Nutcase helmets for kids, obviously, but I think it's possible that certain brands of helmets just fit certain people's heads better than others.  If it's the case with shoes, why not with helmets?  I love that the Nutcase helmets are available in so many fun colors and designs.  It seems to me that the Nutcase helmets have been a part of the rebranding of cycling -- it's not just for people who are comfortable in spandex.  Lots of stylish women in particular seem to choose Nutcase.

We're going to hang on to Nutcase #1 (we have a friend in need of a new helmet that we suspect it may fit), but we're looking for a new home for Nutcase #2.  Are you interested?  Check back next week (or spread the word to folks who might be looking for a kid-sized helmet that they may want to check in next week), when I'll be giving this helmet away.  We'd prefer a local kid (Eugene, OR), but if there isn't one, we'd consider shipping it to someone whose child has tried on an XS Nutcase and is sure one would fit its new recipient.

Now I'd better get going.  We have a big day of bike errands and swinging at the park planned.  I love my job.


  1. Thanks for the great plug of the GEARs and SRTS Confident Cycling classes!

    We tried an XS Nutcase for our little one, Isadora when she was a year old. She's pretty tiny though and though the helmet fit okay it just looked so big on her head that we decided to go with the smallest helmet we could find. Through the great Totcycle review I discovered the Lazer and the folks at Arriving by Bike ordered us one. It works great for her- lightweight and good fit. We'll save the Nutcase for when she is 4 or so.
    You're right, just like adults- every helmet fits everyone differently. Giro helmets generally fit me well while Bell helmets don't. Like the look of the Bern and it looks great on Bigger too.

  2. Thanks for offering these great classes! We look forward to taking the family cycling class once bigger turns 5. (And thanks for the clarification -- I didn't realize that SRTS is also responsible for the classes.)

    You know, it makes sense that some helmets would work better for each individual than others. We're so used to being able to return things that don't work out for our kids (you can even do it at the Goodwill, right?), that I didn't really consider how important it was to get the fit just right before leaving the shop. Next time, we'll shop for helmets with that information in mind.

    Glad to hear you found the right toddler helmet for Isadora. She is such a cutie!