by Andy Shiu
Lake Forest (IL) Police Department
Bike helmets are designed for one primary purpose – to help protect the wearer’s head from injury. However, the typical bike rider doesn’t wear their helmet for extended periods (like an eight-hour shift) or worry about getting that helmet off or retaining it in a dynamic situation. Police officers do.
I had the opportunity to wear both the Freetown Revlr and Roughneck helmets while assigned to bike patrol during the 2017 BMW Golf Championship held in Lake Forest in September, and during two Bicycle Response Team (BRT) deployments. For seven days of the golf tournament, I was assigned to bike patrol functions and addressed situations both inside and outside the golf course property. During the BRT deployments, I responded to a fairly large protest in progress. I alternated use of the Revlr and Roughneck during the golf event, responding to calls, working entrance/exit posts, and routine patrol. I wore the Freetown Revlr during the BRT callouts.
This review will primarily address the comfort of the helmets. Wearing a helmet as a bike officer is required, just like having body armor. It’s like having added insurance and protection, all in one. Even though I did not crash during the periods I wore them, I’m positive these Freetown helmets would have protected my head in case of impact. Before I had the opportunity to review the Freetown brand of helmet, I wore a common brand while on patrol and it worked fine enough. To be honest, I did not think one helmet would feel much different from the next because of its important yet simplistic function of protecting the wearer’s head.
The differences, in my opinion, lie in the smaller details. Is it bulky? Does it offer ventilation? Will I be able to put in on and take it off quickly if necessary? Is it easy to adjust? Freetown pays attention to these smaller details.
The helmet distinguished itself with craftsmanship appeal before even coming out of the box. It has its own rugged yet sleek look, and appears built for both casual everyday riding and trail riding. On the head, it feels extremely light and well-ventilated. To me it was like wearing a baseball hat – it felt that light. The inside is well-padded as well – it cushioned the helmet while wicking moisture away from my skin. The dial-to-fit retention system was easy to adjust both before and while riding. Some helmets don’t retain as well and tend to slip forward or backwards on the head. During my BRT deployment, the Freetown Revlr stayed right where I dialed it in, so I did not have to worry about it.
As for helmet fit, I have a slightly larger skull (I wear an XXL, regrettably) and the Revlr helmet, with its max adjustment of 63cm vs. the 61 cm of the Roughneck, was a better fit for me. The Roughneck rear adjustment bracket rubbed up against the back of my head while I wore it – it was not very comfortable, but I believe the discomfort was due to my skull size, not the helmet construction. If you’re going to purchase one online, perhaps get one of each, try them on, and select the one that fits the best.
The Freetown brand of helmet utilizes a FIDLOC magnetic buckle that fastens itself upon contact. While this will be a matter of individual preference, I like the easy snap on/snap off of the typical helmet vs. the magnetic closure. The magnetized buckle slides on and off easily enough, but I like and trust the positive locking feature of my existing helmet better. It took awhile to adjust and secure the Freetown helmets before pedaling off to calls because of the magnetic buckle as well. Perhaps having the option to order it with either the magnetic buckle or the positive snap lock type might be attractive to some wearers.
Overall, I highly recommend the Freetown brand of helmet. There are many fine products out there, and the Freetown brand is definitely one of them. It offers a great balance of wearability, protection, and retention.
Freetown helmets can be purchased from IPMBA Corporate Member PoliceBikeStore.com. Police Bike Store participates in the IPMBA Product Purchase Purchase Program, offering 5-10% off web prices to IPMBA members.
Officer Andy L. Shiu is a 16-year police officer with the Lake Forest (IL) Police Department. He is IPMBA-certified as a Police Cyclist and as a Bicycle Response Team rider. He specializes in defensive tactics and firearms instruction. He can be reached at email@example.com.
(c) 2017 IPMBA. This review appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of IPMBA News.