It was time for me to start looking for a new bicycle helmet. And just like that someone called me and we discussed the Melon helmet this spring and I ended up trying one out.
One of the most contentious debates in the world of urban cycling is to wear or not to wear a helmet. While the vast majority of the Dutch absolutely despise the idea, actually can’t even imagine wearing one, the Danes are kind of split about the idea. In Canada it’s generally accepted that you wear a helmet while out on a bike, although there are voices against the idea of wearing a helmet, be it for bad hair, risk calculation or just plain Libertarian.
Never wore a helmet
I am not going to discuss if you should wear one. Growing up in the Netherlands, I never wore a helmet; I didn’t even know a bike helmet existed.
When I moved to Canada I initially didn’t wear a helmet “because I never wore one“. That is not a good argument, and taking Ottawa’s traffic in consideration and (in 1998) very little cycling infrastructure, eventually I thought it would be wiser to protect myself from drivers’ mistakes as I felt I wasn’t even being noticed half the time.
Falling of your bike
But, you say, how about making mistakes yourself? Recently I tried to think of the times that I fell of my bike, and I think it happened three times in my life.
Falls are rare
Given that I have been cycling for over half a century, the chance that I fall off my bike is clearly very small. I bike fairly slowly and defensively, in the 15 to 20 km/h range usually and often on pathways nowadays. But as I do cycle in traffic too, I am fearful that drivers don’t pay attention, especially with the touch screens in today’s cars. I am not sure if it is me, although I do hear it from others too, but I find a number of drivers appear more impatient and aggressive since COVID in 2020.
I have read that you have to change helmets frequently, which I suspect few of us do. But I think my old helmet is now about 15 years old and apparently stuff deteriorates. Just when I was contemplating a new helmet, I got an email from a friend who was doing some market research for a German helmet manufacturer: Melon. If we could have a chat.
I am always in for a talking cycling so off I went to meet at Allô mon Coco (“Modern Breakfast”) at College Square. Marc brought some helmets and we discussed the merits of Melon helmets. He left one for me to try out and I have been wearing it this summer.
The Melon helmet I tried out was gray. Not the most exciting colour, but the company has a ton of great, colourful designs fortunately. I think the closest brand with similar designs we have here is Nutcase. Melon is based in Germany. I saw on the website the helmets are TÜV tested (TÜV is well respected German technical testing agency), which is reassuring. (TÜV stands for Technische Überwachings Verein)
A helmet that looks like a melon
Many of the Melon helmets have the shape of, well, half a melon. Rather than the streamlined looking helmet with slots as we know them, the Melon helmets are rounder and come with holes, which I actually appreciate as I think the sun is burning a bit less on my near hairless head.
Padding in the Melon helmet
My helmet came with several padding sizes in 5, 8 and 12 mm thickness, which can easily be removed if you want to wash them. There is an adjustable wheel at the back to further fit your helmet. The straps can be adjusted too.
Melon magnetic buckle
A neat feature is a patented Fidlock® magnetic buckle with pinch protection. It took me a bit of practise to use it, but now I am used to it, I really like it. You can basically take your helmet off with one hand.
Removable visor on the Melon helmet
The helmet has a removable visor (sold separately) which is I attached with small pins to the inside of my helmet. I found the visor a bit hard to take out. Perhaps Melon did it on purpose as you don’t want to lose your visor halfway a ride. But… why did I want to take the visor off?
Because it is mounted on the inside of the helmet, it is less integrated in the helmet. I found it was sticking out a bit too much and when I would bend over my bars cycling into the wind, the visor somewhat obscured my view to a point that I decided to remove the visor. To be honest, I don’t really miss it.
Another point of contention is that the straps keep loosening, something in the material is too slippery. Not a big deal, and I think that should be an easy fix.
On the other hand, although the helmet looks heavy, it is actually still very light. I wore it the whole summer for at least about 1500 kilometers and I never really noticed I wore a helmet. I found it very comfortable even in over 30 degrees Celsius (90F) during my guided bike tours. My old Bell helmet weighs 299 grams, with an integrated visor. The new Melon helmet weighs 315 grams without the visor. The Melon visor weighs 41 grams.
Another optional part is the winterkit, basically an inner liner that keeps your head and ears warm and toasty in the colder months of the year. I didn’t test it, but here is the page with the specs and a photo.
Lastly, Melon says they are working on helmets with integrated LED lights. I have always been luke warm about lights in helmets (remember the ones with built in turn signals and a wireless system on your bars to activate the signal lights?) but on the other hand, not having to look after removable lights is something I can probably warm up to.
Availability of a Melon helmet
Check with Melon directly for availability as the helmets are not omnipresently available. Melon is working on a reseller network but helmets should retail for under CAD 100 (before taxes) I was told. That is competitive.
So, to sum it all up:
|different size paddings||strap could be better|
|magnetic buckle||visor not great|
|optional winter kit|
|very affordable pricing|
|future integrated LED lights|
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Make sure you check out my Ottawa Gatineau bike route maps that I am creating for you.
helmet images from the Melon website
Gray helmet images are my own
Google screenshots of road situations
Previous posts on Hans on the Bike:
- Cycling infra updates in Ottawa in 2023 – part 1/2
- New Raised Bike Tracks on Byron Ave
- Time for a new helmet: shall I go urban?
- A 52 km loop along the Estriade and Yamaska National Park in Quebec
- Retracing the First Train into Ottawa: the Bytown & Prescott Railway
- Prince of Wales Bridge Reopens as Active Transportation Bridge with New Name