Time for a new helmet: shall I go urban?

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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.

A T intersection in a Dutch 1950's neighbourhood with red pavers and hedges
The earliest fall I remember is at this intersection. While my friend and I were cycling to school, in 1975, there was some black ice and we did a nice synchronised slide into this street. Clearly, I had never experienced black ice
An asphalt road and a red asphalt bike lane. Three cyclists are apporaching from between a row of trees between the road and the pathway
I flew over my bars once on a stone dust pathway near Rotterdam airport when I hit the front brakes too hard where the three cyclists are cycling in this picture. I must have been around 15-16 year old. The pathway is now paved. The airport is on the right
A large intersection. Two high towers are situated just after the intersection. A red star on the road shows where Hans fell in 2008
I fell on Prince of Wales at Carling on my way to work in 2008, in a brand new dress pants no less, but protected by my wind pants. A driver turned right without noticing me, more or less where the red star is. Frustrated, I threw my hands in the air while I was steering the bike hands free around the car, when the driver all of a sudden stopped anyway right in front of me 😳
A tidy row of red brick town houses on a red paved street. ON the left is a stret light on the side walk where Hans walked into in around 1970
Once upon a time I walked into this streetlight somewhere around 1970 while walking home from primary school. It was embarrassing

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.

Changing helmets

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.

A selection of kids helmets

Padding in the Melon helmet

A Melon helmet upside down with padding shown
I am using the 8 mm padding

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.

another 8 colourful adult Melon helmet show in different coolurs and patterns, from roses to the Britsh flag to flames
A selection of adult helmets

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.

a close up of a buckle designed to hold the two straps of a Melon helmet together
The magnetic buckle

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?

Ah, a good reason to use the slider option again

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.

Straps slip

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.

Melon winterkit

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.

Integrated lights

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.

A part of a VW Beetles is shown, specifically the driver's door. Behind the door there is a semaphore style signal that jots out of the door frame as a signalling device rather than blinkers.
Inegrated semaphore style turn signals on a 1953 Beetle

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 paddingsstrap could be better
magnetic bucklevisor not great
cool designs
TÜV tested
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.

Image sources

helmet images from the Melon website

Gray helmet images are my own

Google screenshots of road situations

Volkswagen image from https://bringatrailer.com/2014/10/18/nicely-balanced-resto-1953-volkswagen-beetle-oval-window/

Previous posts on Hans on the Bike:


  1. Hi Hans,
    Great post on helmets. I chose the ABUS Pedelec 2.0 MIPS Signal Yellow helmet. It has a rechargeable rear LED lignt, integrated rain cover, removable insulated ear covers for cold weather, and reflective tape strips and a magnetic buckle. It has a small visor, which I wish was larger. I wanted to ‘buy local’ to support our bike shops, but the North American distributor offered was only black or white helmets. I wanted only the signal yellow, which is super visible…I ended up ordering my helmet from an on-line bike shop in Holland, which in the end was less expensive than purchasing this helmet here in Ottawa. This model of helmet is also recommended for higher speed e-bikes.
    In my experience, being visible is essential for staying safe.


  2. While in Norway this Summer i saw the new air bag helment at a bike store. I checked it out and thought it was heavy, only later did i realize that the weight is on shoulders not head. A waiter who told us from Copenhagen and i were discussing helments. She mentioned that the air bag helmet was being used alot because of hair vanity. So from cruise ship to Cph Airport. I estimated that there was 1 airbag at least every 10 cyclists. Was not paying attention to helmets.

  3. Hi Hans: I don’t have detailed recall of my bike accidents as you do but I do remember one that confirmed my decision to wear a helmet. I was cycling through the farm roads on the weekend , no cars, and was hit from behind by a “spandex Speedo” careless cyclist and flew over the handlebars and landed on my right temple. No injuries other than a split helmet and a bad. It. I hate to think what the result would have been without a helmet. This confirmed my wearing of helmets. One bad incident is all it might take.

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