You leave on a bicycle tour in a few days and you’re busy making last minute packing adjustments. You’ve gone through the painstaking work of deciding which shoes you can leave at home, whether you need a back-up jacket, and if you can get by without your favorite body lotion. All that remains is figuring out where to pack your helmet – that lovely, lifesaving mass of polycarbonate, Expanded Polystyrene Foam (EPS), comfort padding, straps and retention system.
You might start cursing ExperiencePlus! for asking you to bring your own helmet, but safety is our top priority and no single bicycle accessory is more adept at keeping your glorious brain intact and functioning than a helmet. So, while a helmet might seem like a cumbersome item to carry across the globe with you, we’d rather you think of it as bringing along a special friend who can help you return home safe and sound.
But, Carol, you moan, your suitcase is full and you absolutely need every last thing you have packed. Oh what the helmet should you do? I’m so glad you asked. Because guess what? You have options. Here are two for your consideration.
Many of us in the U.S. office don’t pack our helmets, but rather attach them to the outside of our carry-on backpack with one of the pack’s straps, with a carabiner, or with some other simple hook system. There are countless ways to go about this. And in an instant – your suitcase space issue goes away.
Here’s the thing. Bicycle helmets are not heavy. Most standard adult-sized helmets weigh between 250 grams (8.8 ounces) to 400 grams (14.1 ounces). Lightweight helmets made with advanced materials or specialized designs can weigh even less. When I sling my helmet to my backpack, I hardly notice it’s there. What’s more, your helmet serves as a wonderful conversation starter – at least for those of us whose curiosities can’t be quelled, or who are always in search of kindred spirits.
The bottom line is that attaching your helmet to the outside of a backpack, bag, or carry-on is pure simplicity. You always know where it is. You can secret away a wind jacket (socks, tissues, shorts, scarf, gloves, outlet adapter) inside of the shell for added storage and if you have faith it will stay secure. And, coming in at zero expense, you won’t break the bank. There’s no need to size up your suitcase. In fact, that’s the last thing we want you to consider.
Acquire a folding helmet
While it makes perfect sense, I had never heard of a folding helmet until this year. I mean, it never occurred to me to go in search for one because who ever thinks of a helmet as a foldable device? How does a folding helmet, fold? But when the idea came across my desk, and I was less than two weeks from going on a tour in Italy, I knew I had to try to get my hands on one for a wee test.
My sources pointed me to Fend, a company dedicated to improving safety for urban riders, skate boarders, and other city-based wheeled enthusiasts, while encouraging these users to adopt helmet use by making the device more compact. Within moments on their website, I got the visual for how the helmet works:
The concept of packability translates perfectly to international bicycle travel. With airlines ever-imposing more luggage weight fees and size limitations, we’ve heard from more and more of our customers that they just don’t have room to pack their helmets. Yet, from where we sit, the helmet should be at the top of one’s packing priorities.
I reached out to the very kind folks at Fend to see if I could get a sample sent my way in time for my trip – being involved in the bicycle tourism industry has its perks! – and sure enough, within a week I had the helmet in hand.
The helmet, which you can order in a S/M or a M/L size, arrived in a shoebox sized container inside a smooth, black fabric, drawstring bag. Inside the box was a selection of a adhesive pads that I could affix for proper fit. As you can see in the video above, the folding mechanism is controlled by a simple finger pull/push on a ‘lift’ tab. It took me a several operations to get the helmet to fold back into itself without one of the side vents getting caught up on a pad. But the more I opened and closed the helmet, the easier it got.
As for fit, I was not disappointed. The adjustable retention system on the back had plenty of range so that I could accommodate a ball cap under the helmet if I wanted. The chin straps were a bit too long, but they always are. After some fiddling and slicing and melting, I got them right where I wanted.
On my way to Italy, I carried the helmet in its bag slung over my shoulder along with my backpack. I only had those two pieces for carry-on. I checked one suitcase. On my return, I packed the helmet inside my suitcase without difficulty. On tour, I found myself more delighted than normal to wear a helmet. It wasn’t the design. It wasn’t the fit. It certainly wasn’t the color. I think it was the proof of concept.
Undoubtedly, this will become my dedicated travel helmet.
What’s your go-to strategy for helmet packing? Drop me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org – explaining your strategy for burden-free helmet travel across the pond, or to any destination that requires you get on a plane with limited luggage.