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Old 02-25-09, 09:37 PM   #1
Abneycat
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Helmet falls 5 feet onto concrete

So, the other day I placed my Giro Xen onto a shelf at the shop, and it was bumped in the middle of the day, sending the Xen to the concrete below.

After inspecting the helmet, I could find no cracks or defaults, but it could potentially have problems. Do you think a fall of this level is enough to structurally compromise the helmet?
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Old 02-25-09, 09:48 PM   #2
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Five feet of freefall onto concrete.... Its fine. If that was enough to hurt a helmet, then helmets would be worthless. My head is higher than 5 feet off the ground when I am riding, and if I fall off while rolling just a couple mph, the force hitting the ground will be harder than simple falling off a shelf (plus my heavy head in it to increase the force on the helmet).
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Old 02-25-09, 09:51 PM   #3
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If you want a real, correct, answer - contact the manufacturer - it's not likely you will find a true "expert" here!
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Old 02-25-09, 10:07 PM   #4
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If you want a real, correct, answer - contact the manufacturer - it's not likely you will find a true "expert" here!
One might get a slightly biased answer from the manufacturer trying to avoid any risks of a potential lawsuit if you feel the helmet has been compromised later on during an accident.

However, my spidey senses are telling me that this helmet is probably fine.
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Old 02-25-09, 10:10 PM   #5
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Most manufacturers will inspect it, and send it back - some even replace it with a new one.....
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Old 02-25-09, 10:45 PM   #6
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Five feet of freefall onto concrete.... Its fine. If that was enough to hurt a helmet, then helmets would be worthless. My head is higher than 5 feet off the ground when I am riding, and if I fall off while rolling just a couple mph, the force hitting the ground will be harder than simple falling off a shelf (plus my heavy head in it to increase the force on the helmet).
All true, but they're only designed for one shot. There's also a chance that any damage incurred could weaken the helmet over time and spread. For what it's worth, structural damage for a material isn't always visible.

I'm OK with a 3 foot drop onto a wood floor, but 5 feet onto concrete is pushing it, in my opinion. I agree that the most likely scenario is it's fine, but I don't mess around with my head.
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Old 02-25-09, 10:55 PM   #7
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If a 5 foot drop ruins helmets than mine's been ruined for a long time. I doubt there's a cyclist out there who hasn't dropped his/her helmet half a dozen times. If they can't handle that fall than they truly are useless in practice.

The key thing is that when there's nothing in it you're not going to do much damage to it. If you dropped it with a bowling ball inside it'd be ruined.
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Old 02-26-09, 01:13 AM   #8
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You need to call the manufacturer. Bike helmets are not motorcycle helmets. Five feet onto concrete is probably not a big deal, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
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Old 02-26-09, 08:31 AM   #9
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To be honest, the only thing that bothers me is the fact that you specify the model of helmet. Is a Giro Xen an especially good helmet? Does it protect your head better than others? Or does it have some other advantage?

To me, the only distinction among new helmets, assuming they fit, is the price. My helmets start out new and end up looking worn out; in between there is a gradual degradation involving the application of dirt, abrasions, etc. If I dropped a brand new helmet 5 feet onto concrete, I am not sure what I'd do; but if I'd had it a while, I'm sure I'd be happy for the excuse to order another one, whatever Nashbar has on sale, along with some other stuff to round out the order.

If you do throw away the helmet, be sure to save the straps and buckles. Very useful!
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Old 02-26-09, 08:32 AM   #10
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You need to call the manufacturer. Bike helmets are not motorcycle helmets. Five feet onto concrete is probably not a big deal, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
Motorcycle helmets supposed to be replaced after one drop too.
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Old 02-26-09, 10:54 AM   #11
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Personally, I would wear the thing and not worry about it. I am still wearing my specialized King Kobra that I have taken quite a few hits in. It is dented in some spots and has been down against a few rocks on Pheonix's National Trail but I am not too worried about that. The foam is only designed to to impacted one single time....and that holds true in practice. But the degree to which it is impacted is a continuim and not a dichotemy as helmet manufacturers and safety nannies would lead you to believe. In other words, the only point at which the helmet continues to offer no additional protection (relative to no helmet) is the point at which the foam can no longer be compacted further and even then it is better than nothing.

Not to flout my ignorance here but I have even hammered on the inside of a helmet's foam a little bit to allow room for my winter cap and I feel absolutely fine about that.

So, in reality, your helmet may no longer offer the extent of protection that it once did; but it still probably offers a substantial portion of the original amount. Moreover, any accident that may cause your helmet to disintegrate will have so many other counfounding variables in it that you will likely never be able to trace any given damage to your head to the lack of this amount of protection.

So, IMO, it all comes down to personal comfort level with risk. Some people can handle risk while others have almost no tolerance for it. If someone (anyone) tells my wife that she has a 1/1,000,000 chance of something going wrong, she will assume it is going to happen. That explains all of the RIDICULOUSLY expensive baby safety CRAP we have all over our house and cars. Eliminating risk is like buying bike parts....the marginal return for a given dollar decreases significantly after a reasonable point.

Last edited by Sawtooth; 02-26-09 at 11:04 AM.
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Old 02-26-09, 12:06 PM   #12
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To be honest, the only thing that bothers me is the fact that you specify the model of helmet. Is a Giro Xen an especially good helmet? Does it protect your head better than others? Or does it have some other advantage?
It probably doesn't protect my head better than others, that would be hard to say. It fit very nicely, I like the way it looks, and it has nice little touches like a covering on the bottom edge of the helmet as well, keeping it from being chewed up over time.

One of my tenants had one and while my old helmet was chewed up around the edges over time, her Xen still looks perfect. So, I liked it.
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Old 02-26-09, 12:59 PM   #13
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A lightweight foam bike helmet fell 5 feet onto a hard surface, was it scratched? What's the velocity here? Your head wasn't in it and you weren't traveling 15mph+....

Wear it!
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Old 02-26-09, 01:42 PM   #14
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I would keep wearing it without concern. I replaced mine when a delivery truck mirror cracked me along the side of the head and put a good dent in my helmet when the truck whizzed by me at 50mph. But I replaced it mainly because the driver's insurance was covering it.
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Old 02-26-09, 02:06 PM   #15
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If it was my motorcycle helmet I would definitely replace it.
But not my bicycle helmet.
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Old 02-26-09, 03:01 PM   #16
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I would wear it. Heck, for all I know, my kids and wife have knocked my helmet off the 5 foot hanger in the garage a dozen times and simply picked it up and put it back.

But I went down a couple of weeks ago and whacked my head real hard, that warranted a replacement.
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Old 02-26-09, 03:13 PM   #17
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You might check out this site:

www.helmets.org

Which is run by the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

According to this website, bicycle helmets in the US are tested to survive a 2-meter drop onto an anvil.

Here are the guidelines on when to replace your helmet (I included the details of the first two points, you can read the others on the website):

Summary:

Did you crash it? Replace!

Did you drop it hard enough to crack the foam? Replace.

Is it from the 1970's? Replace.

Is the outside just foam or cloth instead of plastic? Replace.

Does it lack a CPSC, ASTM or Snell sticker? Replace.

Can you not adjust it to fit correctly? Replace!!

Do you hate it? Replace.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Did you crash in it?
For starters, most people are aware that you must replace a helmet after any crash where your head hit. The foam part of a helmet is made for one-time use, and after crushing once it is no longer as protective as it was, even if it still looks intact. Bear in mind that if the helmet did its job most people would tell you that they did not even hit their head, or did not hit their head that hard. And the thin shells on most helmets now tend to hide any dents in the foam. But if you can see marks on the shell or measure any foam crush at all, replace the helmet. (Helmets made of EPP foam do recover, but there are few EPP helmets on the market. Yours is EPS or EPU unless otherwise labeled.)
You can also crack the helmet foam or damage it by dropping the helmet on a hard surface. The cracks may be small and hard to see, so you need to look carefully. Cracks in the foam always require replacement of the helmet.

You may be reluctant to replace a helmet that looks almost as good as new, but if you did hit, you don't want to take chances on where you will hit next time. If the foam is cracked under the thin shell, it will be more likely to fly apart in your next crash. Many manufacturers will replace crashed helmets for a nominal fee, and most will also inspect crashed helmets to see if they need replacement. Call them if you are in doubt. For contact info check our list of manufacturers. (You can also ask them if they think the advice on this page is valid!)
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Old 02-26-09, 04:09 PM   #18
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I hope not I toss mine around all the time. It has taken plenty of abuse.
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Old 02-26-09, 08:36 PM   #19
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i agree with those who have suggested you have it inspected by the manufacturer... Most (not all) helmets are designed to sustain a single large impact before requiring replacement i.e. "if it breaks or is weakened, at least you're not dead or brain damaged, now go buy a new helmet to celebrate".
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Old 02-27-09, 11:30 AM   #20
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The way I see it, if a helmet can't survive a 5 foot fall with nothing in it, then what good will it do to protect my head in a real crash?

Bike helmet manufacturers can't have it both ways. They can't say their helmets are strong and will give you protection in a crash and at the same time recommend that you replace them (with their newest, most expensive model ) if they have a minor fall. Either they're tough or they're not. If they're tough, then the helmet should be fine. If they're not, then why bother even wearing it?
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Old 02-27-09, 11:49 AM   #21
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To be honest, the only thing that bothers me is the fact that you specify the model of helmet. Is a Giro Xen an especially good helmet? Does it protect your head better than others? Or does it have some other advantage?

To me, the only distinction among new helmets, assuming they fit, is the price. My helmets start out new and end up looking worn out; in between there is a gradual degradation involving the application of dirt, abrasions, etc. If I dropped a brand new helmet 5 feet onto concrete, I am not sure what I'd do; but if I'd had it a while, I'm sure I'd be happy for the excuse to order another one, whatever Nashbar has on sale, along with some other stuff to round out the order.

If you do throw away the helmet, be sure to save the straps and buckles. Very useful!
Actually the XEN being a rounder and deeper helmet than most does fare especially well in the eyes of some experts since it has more coverage and is less likely to get "caught" on the pavement like a roadie type helmet.
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Old 02-27-09, 03:12 PM   #22
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Welp, I'm $53 lighter... After reading this I decided I needed to check my Bell Influx a bit closer since I crashed a few weeks back, and yep it was cracked in a spot I didn't see before. Performance had a similar model on sale so I rode down and bought it and rode off safe and sound...
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Old 02-27-09, 10:31 PM   #23
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The way I see it, if a helmet can't survive a 5 foot fall with nothing in it, then what good will it do to protect my head in a real crash?

Bike helmet manufacturers can't have it both ways. They can't say their helmets are strong and will give you protection in a crash and at the same time recommend that you replace them (with their newest, most expensive model ) if they have a minor fall. Either they're tough or they're not. If they're tough, then the helmet should be fine. If they're not, then why bother even wearing it?
Faulty logic. Helmets are designed to absorb energy by deforming. IE they are supposed to "break". Thats how they protect you. I'm not saying that a 5 foot fall wll ruin the helmet, I think the OP's helmet is probably fine. But helmets are not "tough" if by tough you mean supposed to survive a crash. The problem is what is a "minor fall" and what isn't.
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Old 02-28-09, 08:44 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by jeffpoulin View Post
The way I see it, if a helmet can't survive a 5 foot fall with nothing in it, then what good will it do to protect my head in a real crash?

Bike helmet manufacturers can't have it both ways. They can't say their helmets are strong and will give you protection in a crash and at the same time recommend that you replace them (with their newest, most expensive model ) if they have a minor fall. Either they're tough or they're not. If they're tough, then the helmet should be fine. If they're not, then why bother even wearing it?
They are tough and will survive a 5 foot fall---ONCE. AND ONLY ONCE. if you crash, it will protect your head. it takes the damage instead of you; that means that once it's damaged, it's done for.

And they don't recommend that you replace with the newest most expensive model. All certified helmets, regardless of price or style, have the same protection. The extra money is for aesthetics.
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Old 02-28-09, 11:19 PM   #25
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Yes, it is faulty logic to claim that if the helmet is not tough enough to be undamaged by an impact, then it can't protect the wearer in a fall.
If it were armor plated and totally elastic - in other words, did not absorb impact but merely transmitted it - it would be undamaged in a crash. However the brain inside the skull of the head inside the helmet might be scrambled eggs.
As an interesting aside, car bumpers work the same way. They absorb the impact of a crash. Then they have to be replaced.
That's in contrast to how they used to be made. They theory back then was to clad the bumpers with heavy steel and chrome, to keep the occupants safe. That might work too - at 10 times the weight. But it really doesn't work - armor plate might stop a bullet, but if it is struck by a massive object (namely, another vehicle) it will transmit the impact force into the body of the car, and into the occupants.
Race cars are designed to disintegrate on impact as well - thus protecting the driver.
The LEM (lunar excursion module, for you young'ns) also worked like that. The struts that were connected to the "feet" had a honeycomb material that was designed to crush and absorb the impact of the landing - a 1 time event. A repeatable system was unnecessary and would have weighed far more.
Weight savings was enormously important for the moon landing.
Just like it is to we bikers.

Having said all that, I think the helmet should be fine after a 5 foot fall. It's light. That's the whole point. The lighter it is, the less affected by a fall it is. If a visual inspection reveals nothing, then I wouldn't worry about it a bit.

If it's better to be safe than sorry, as somebody said above, then it's better not to ride at all. Or ever leave your house. A bike helmet is only a modicum of protection in the first place.

Last edited by Libre; 02-28-09 at 11:29 PM.
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