In What Year Was Helmets made Mandatory for Pro Cyclists?

history of bike helmets

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In the global cycling community, nothing has been hotly debated and more polarizing than that of laws regarding helmets.

See, you don`t have to that old to recall a time when riders were not required to wear helmets.

For much of the history, helmets were not a mandatory item. Instead, only protective leather caps were used for “protection.”

A Brief History of Helmets

To look when helmets were first made mandatory, it would be prudent that we have a brief history of this protective gear.

Helmets, as we know them now, did not exist until 1975.

This is the year that Bell Sport introduced their first polystyrene helmet to the United States market.

Though basic, the Bell Sports helmet would protect the skull by crushing on impact.

First Mandatory Helmet Laws

The first mandatory bicycle helmet laws went to effect to effect in California in 1978 and New York in 1989.

However, the helmet laws were only restricted to young children who were passengers on the bike.

The Great Debate

The helmet laws were increasingly getting contentious and saw many attempts to repeal the law.

The helmet debate was not localized in the United States alone but had a fair share in Europe and Australia.

In Europe for instance, there had been various attempts to institute mandatory laws on helmet safety, but it had time and again been shot down.

A notable case is after the death of veteran cyclist Fabio Carsatelli-Lance Armstrong`s mate after crashing in Col de Porte d’ Aspet.

Not even Fabio`s death was enough to make helmets in the professional racing compulsory.

Before then, it should be remembered that in 1991, four years before Fabio`s death, UCL had tried to impose a mandatory helmet law in Paris-Nice, but this met with a strike from the riders in protest.

Turning Point

The turning point came after the second death of Andrew Kivilev in 2003, where we saw cycling professionals required to wear protective helmets.

Ironically, the incident happened in Paris-Nice.


Since the Kivilev death, we have experienced rapid development and refinement of the helmet.

As it stands, the helmet has undergone much improvement, and the equipment can provide serious-race advantages.

Besides the safety aspects, the modern-day helmets offer unmatched aerodynamics that provides remarkable performance gains.

It`s a pity, however, that we had to experience the death of two of our cyclists to experience the awakening.

Do I Need a Helmet?

In my opinion, the helmet is the essential safety gear that you need when cycling.

Much like a seatbelt, a helmet cannot stop injury or death. However, the helmet will cushion and protect your head against collision impact and might decrease the chances of death or major injuries.

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