Can we be honest for a sec? Kids are falling machines. Their inner ears have all the expertise of a drunken penguin trying to slackline. Naturally, a bike helmet is a good idea not just for when they are riding a bike, but probably any time they are doing something other than walking while holding hands with an adult.
No, I’m not a proponent for burrito-wrapping children in bubble wrap, but if I can prevent a concussion, I’d like to. So I let my kids rip, but they do so with buckets affixed.
Back to that honesty. Kids fall. A lot. And they were unreliable witnesses long before the advent of Hayden Caulfield.
I ride around a bend and see Mini-Shred on the ground. I start with the superfluous.
“Hey, did you fall down?” (Side is dusty and there’s a splotch of dirt on the helmet.)
“Did you hit your head?”
“Well, my tire slid and I saw that rock; it’s kind of diamond colored.”
“Yeah, cool. Did you hit your head?” (Looking at dirt on helmet.)
“But did you … nevermind.”
So the thing is, we know that the average helmet has the lifespan of a ketchup packet—strictly single-serve. The thing is, because kids deck-check with the frequency of news broadcasts, it’s hard to keep track of every time they hit their heads. And just how hard does a hit need to be to kill a helmet? Obviously, if you see cracks in the EPS, it’s time, but what about after, say, a dozen little falls that don’t crack the liner? Is it still good?
Well Bell’s Reflex helmet is a great response to those nagging questions. Technically, this is a BMX helmet (popular with the dirt jumping set, I’m told) and not a kids’ helmet, but the small is small enough to accommodate my six-year-old ninja’s noggin.
The Reflex begins with its Double-Walled Construction, a plastic hard shell stout enough to stave off piercing impacts. Inside, instead of EPS, Bell uses EPP, a material that isn’t a fragile as EPS. EPP can compress and rebound, and as a result can sustain multiple impacts without degradation.
You’ll notice some scratches on the front of the helmet. Those happened between when he first put the helmet on and before I could take any photos. I went around the corner to cuss. But hey, he wasn’t hurt. Eight lives left (for the helmet).
Bell also incorporates its FormFit, which is a system of using multiple pieces of EPP material bonded to the helmet shell to give the helmet more flex and therefore better fit.
The Reflex includes eight vents, which is just enough to keep a kid from being completely doused in his own sweat. It’s available in three sizes and goes for a super-reasonable $65.
Final thought: The most intelligent design advance to happen in kids’ helmets since they started making them.