The days are getting longer and the average daily temperature is gradually beginning to rise—so this week I’m going to review a couple more winter cycling products, and then next week we’ll move on to warmer weather cycling gear. I always wear a helmet when I’m on my bike, but those lightweight summer helmets with the large air vents just won’t cut it in the dead of winter. When the temperature drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit I wear a helmet that is normally intended for snow skiing. This past winter I bought a Giro Encore 2 Multi-Sport Helmet and was very happy with the way it performed.
The Giro Encore 2 is certified as a multi-sport helmet, which means it is suitable for use by skaters, bicyclists, and snow skiers (certification: ASTM 2040 / CE EN1077 / CPSC). If you experience an unplanned dismount (crash is such an ugly word) while riding in deep snow you probably aren’t going to get hurt. However, snow can also hide some nasty rocks, broken fence posts and sharp objects—not to mentioned a layer of slippery ice.
Unlike regular bicycle helmets, snow helmets usually allow for a bit of customization. The Giro Encore 2 has removable ear flaps (black padding). These covers will definitely help keep your ears warm, but they do inhibit your ability to hear ambient noises. If you are riding off-road where you are not worried about getting hit by a car, you can install a set of Skullcandy headphones into these ear flaps (like the Skullcandy Home Brew Kit). All of my winter cycling jackets have headphone ports—a small opening inside a vest pocket so you can run a headphone jack into your iPhone or MP3 player. And let’s face it, riding in a blinding snowstorm is a lot easier when you are listening to Air Supply (does that officially make me old?)
This helmet has thirteen small cooling vents with mesh covers (the mesh helps keep the snow out). When the temperature drops to below -5F I wear a Smith Optics Variant Brim Snow Helmet that has air vents I can close. Also, because this is a snow helmet, you can wear snow goggles and when you don’t need them they will rest comfortably on the front of the helmet without falling off (there is a small clip at the back to keep the goggles from moving around).
The Giro Encore 2 Multi-Sport Helmet retails for $60. I bought mine at a brick-and-mortar Dick’s Sporting Goods store and paid full-retail for it, but it is also available from several online retailers, including Amazon.com. This helmet is available in three sizes: Small (52–55.5cm), Medium (55.5–59cm), and Large (59–62.5cm). This helmet comes in several colors, but since the names they use won’t mean much to you, I’ll say the color selection is red, black, white, hi-viz yellow, and ivory (not all colors are available in all sizes). I chose the red helmet because, in my opinion, red objects are the easiest to see in the snow. Sometimes I have to ride on the same off-road trails used by snowmobiles—and getting hit by one of those things could make for a really bad day.