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Old 12-04-05, 08:21 PM   #1
roccobike
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Helmet Differences, Are There Any?

Apparently I am Helmet Knowledge Challenged. I don't know what the difference is between an inexpensive helmet, like a Schwinn and a more expensive Giro.
In my family, we own 4 cycle helmets. Nothing fancy, nothing full faced, just standard cycling helmets. They range from a Wallyworld $15 Schwinn to a $45 Specialized with a Bell inbetween. They are all adjustable, all have visors and all look pretty much the same as far as construction, but the Specialized does have a slightly larger rear plastic plate that holds the helmet in place. I recently looked at a fairly expensive Giro, it looks just like the helmets we have. So my question is, what's the difference? I'm sure there is something that separates the lower priced helmets from the higher priced brands. I just feel really dumb because I don't know what it is.
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Old 12-04-05, 08:25 PM   #2
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Great question!

I am sure you will get a great diversity of answers, many disagreeing with mine. But, IMHO.

1. Snob appeal and weight - perhaps a few grams difference. Did I say snob appeal?

2. Ventilation - the more expensive have more ventilating openings, and therefore require stronger construction (because of the missing material) to meet CPSC guidelines.

A really good summary:

http://www.bhsi.org/ideal.htm

They all have to meet the same safety guidelines.

I use the cheapest that I can find that meets my needs.
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Old 12-04-05, 08:31 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by DnvrFox
Great question!

I am sure you will get a great diversity of answers, many disagreeing with mine. But, IMHO.

1. Snob appeal and weight - perhaps a few grams difference. Did I say snob appeal?

2. Ventilation - the more expensive have more ventilating openings, and therefore require stronger construction (because of the missing material) to meet ANSI guidelines.

They all have to meet the same safety guidelines.

I use the cheapest that I can find that meets my needs.
+1. Hit it on the head. Giro may be more pricey now because Lance Armstrong wears them. Maybe, maybe not. I find that Giro fits my head better than Bell, but I have both, and they are fine. Paid about $25 each on sale.
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Old 12-04-05, 08:43 PM   #4
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One of the differences in brands of helmets is the shape of the head they are designed to fit. Bell helmets fit round heads best and Giro fit elliptically shaped heads. I can only wear Bell helmets. They don't seem to know this at many bike shops that sell helmets.
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Old 12-04-05, 10:14 PM   #5
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The only thing worth paying extra for is sizing: unless your head happens to match a universal fit helmet perfectly.
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Old 12-04-05, 10:41 PM   #6
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One of the differences in brands of helmets is the shape of the head they are designed to fit. Bell helmets fit round heads best and Giro fit elliptically shaped heads. I can only wear Bell helmets. They don't seem to know this at many bike shops that sell helmets.
What if one is an egghead?
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Old 12-04-05, 11:19 PM   #7
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Or maybe a blockhead?
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Old 12-05-05, 01:48 AM   #8
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There are differences in helmets, in design, ventilation, comfort, but not so much in quality. All helmets sold have to meet a specification, so provideded they meet that, there will not be a difference in safety. Then there is street cred, and to some this is very important. In the UK a roadie will rarely be seen riding with a peak on the helmet. If you see one then you know he is a Mountain biker having an away-day.

Only way to choose a helmet is fit and comfort. For years I have used Giro helmets and been happy with them, but my LBS no longer stock them. Tried on every helmet in the shop and was happy with the Met range. Lighter, more ventilation and better fit for me than the rest, so then it is model and colour and that was where the problem lay. No way was I going to have the most comfortable, well not in green with fluorescant orange stripes on it, so settled on a neutral silver one.
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Old 12-05-05, 09:16 AM   #9
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Not to start any further helmet wars but the more expensive helmets are probably very much LESS protective than the least expensive varieties.

When you carve more holes in a helmet (ostensibly for ventilation but in fact only for looks) you have to make the foam more dense in order to pass the tests. The result of this is, I believe, that LOCAL loadings can exceed the fracture force of the skull.

The testing procedure cannot tell this because it is performed on an aluminum headform which only measures the ultimate deceleration and not the local loads.

Having said all this let me also say that statistics demonstrate that a helmet that is required to perform at its limit is on the head of a dead man. There appear to be TWO distinct levels of accidents -

1) Relatively "minor" (those which do not involve motor vehicles) crashes in which the helmet us usually used well below it's crash levels because the rider lands on his hands, arms or side which mediates the head blow to levels well below those for which the helmets is specified.

2) Accidents involving motor vehicles in which the helmet is stressed at several times the capacity of the helmet.

Let's note that MOST motor vehicle accidents are not mortal accidents by a long shot. But some 80%-90% of all fatal accidents involve a motor vehicle.

There are presently approximately 600 deaths to cyclists each year so about 100 at the most are involved in fatal accidents in which a motor vehicle is not involved.

And unfortunately in my experiences every one of them is wearing a helmet. And at least two of them argued with me endlessly in internet discussions that everyone should wear a helmet at all times to "protect" themselves.

To prevent head injuries, fatal or otherwise, you must prevent "accidents" and to do this you must use your head at all times. While this isn't a 100% effective way to prevent serious injuries statistics show that experienced cyclist stand a very small chance of having a serious accident - that is one in which a visit to the hospital is warranted.
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Old 12-05-05, 09:20 AM   #10
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Yes, I don't believe anyone ever claimed that a helmet would protect you much in an accident with an automobile.

Yet, I still wear one becuase it does provide protection in more minor crashes, and, hey, it might help a bit in a medium level crash.

Last edited by DnvrFox; 12-05-05 at 01:32 PM.
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Old 12-05-05, 09:28 AM   #11
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The study accomplished by John Forester found that highly experienced club cyclist still crashed once or twice a year. So minor crashes are BY FAR the most common by probably 10,000 to 1.

It is highly unusual for a rider to hit his head in these crashes the human reaction system being designed to prevent just that thing. But since most people don't fall down much their reactions to protect their heads are dulled by non-use and helmets are probably a good idea because of this.

I just want to make the point that you wear a helmet to protect you from relatively minor accidents such as scrapped heads (hey, us bald guys have to worry about our looks don't we - scabs and scars are ugly) up to perhaps concussions. Not to say that a concussion isn't a pretty serious injury but it can't nearly compete with death.

The ONLY way to prevent serious to fatal injuries is to prevent collisions involving motor vehicles and a helmets will have no pertinent effect in that sort of case. The very best tool in that case is the thinking brain of the cycle operator.
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Old 12-05-05, 10:01 AM   #12
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What if one is an egghead?
Any Buddha heads out there?
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Old 12-05-05, 11:56 AM   #13
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Still looking for some good reference:

Types of helmets: road, or mountain
Road== no visor and usually more streamlined
Mountain== visor option and not as streamlined

Unknown helmet issues:

1. noise generated by helmet at speeds above 25 mph
2. effect of "streamlined"
3. effect on "safety" by number of helmet holes
4. why isn't there an aero visored helmet.
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Old 12-05-05, 12:29 PM   #14
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I agree that the important thing for one to consider (since you already are committed to wearing an approved helmet) is fit. I can wear Bell comfortably but have not had much luck with others.
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Old 12-05-05, 06:21 PM   #15
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Not sure about brands, but I can tell you that helmets do work! I was descending down a mountain road and rounded a curve at twice the speed (about 40) I should have been going and lost control. Ultimately, I wound up flying over the handlebars and landed on top of my head.

Hitting the ashalt was the softest blow. The subsequent hits to my shoulder and back wound up separating my shoulder and fracturing a rib. My helmet was split but my head had nary a scratch. (Fortunately my brand new bike came away with no damage either!)

I wear Giro but it fits me better , it feels lighter and I seem to sweat less in the summer using it-especially on my longer rides. This is compared to a Bell I have that is comparable in price and quality. Plus, I now have confidence that the Giro will work.

BTW, I used the helmet replacement program the helmet companies offer for cracked helmets. It saved me a few bucks thanks to my LBS. Not sure I would have gone ahead with it had I had to send it directly to the helmet company.
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Old 12-05-05, 06:30 PM   #16
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Thank You for all the great replies. I've got my answer, be sure the helmet meets safety requirements, then buy the one that fits the best that is within my budget. That makes good sense.
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Old 12-05-05, 07:26 PM   #17
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...I use the cheapest that I can find that meets my needs.
+1
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Old 12-05-05, 10:21 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiYoSilver
Still looking for some good reference:

Types of helmets: road, or mountain
Road== no visor and usually more streamlined
Mountain== visor option and not as streamlined

Unknown helmet issues:

1. noise generated by helmet at speeds above 25 mph
2. effect of "streamlined"
3. effect on "safety" by number of helmet holes
4. why isn't there an aero visored helmet.
MTB helmets have visors for the same reason as helmets for motocrossing: to help keep mud and bits of flying debris out of your face. This normally isn't a problem on the road.
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Old 12-06-05, 12:54 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flatlander_48
MTB helmets have visors for the same reason as helmets for motocrossing: to help keep mud and bits of flying debris out of your face. This normally isn't a problem on the road.
I understand, but how about a visor that is aero for those who will never ride cross country but need more than just sunglasses for glare protection?
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Old 12-06-05, 04:13 PM   #20
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I can attest to the fact that a cheap helmet works well in a medium speeed crash. Most of you have read my golf ball story but the bottom line is I fell off the bike at 16-17 mph and hit my head HARD. Broke the collar bone too. I was wearing a 20$ Specialized "Airforce" helmet. I bought because it was cheap and it matched my RED WHITE AND BLUE MEDONE 5.2. The crash ruined the helmet but as soon as I was able I ran out and bought another one. I had to pay $25.00 the second time. I still shudder every time I see a rider without a helmet
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Old 12-06-05, 05:01 PM   #21
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Just wondering? Is it unorthodox to ride a road bike with a visored helmet? When the guys on their $2k+ road bikes pass me on my '79 Schwinn Traveler with it's stem shifters, MTB-SPD pedals and blinky lights, I thought they were glaring at the goofy looking Rev. But just maybe I'm an Air Head ! Because I wear a helmet with a visor. (At least I don't ride with a clerical collar !)
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Old 12-07-05, 12:46 PM   #22
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Here is an earlier discussion of some Bell helmets.
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Old 12-07-05, 12:54 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by pastorbobnlnh
Just wondering? Is it unorthodox to ride a road bike with a visored helmet? When the guys on their $2k+ road bikes pass me on my '79 Schwinn Traveler with it's stem shifters, MTB-SPD pedals and blinky lights, I thought they were glaring at the goofy looking Rev. But just maybe I'm an Air Head ! Because I wear a helmet with a visor. (At least I don't ride with a clerical collar !)
I have a helmet with a visor that I used on the road for a few years. I know that some of the young flat-bellies out there thought I looked like a dork , but that wasn't because of the helmet. I am a dork. The visor really helped out when I got caught in the rain.
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Old 12-07-05, 12:56 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Robert Gardner
One of the differences in brands of helmets is the shape of the head they are designed to fit. Bell helmets fit round heads best and Giro fit elliptically shaped heads. I can only wear Bell helmets. They don't seem to know this at many bike shops that sell helmets.
If only I'd known this years ago. Only when I went to a good bike shop to try on several did I discover earlier this year that fitting the right helmet to head is crucial. Now, my helmet is comfortable as all get go. I guess I have a round head cause it's a Bell.

The ventilation is extremely important to me as well. Tired of coming home with a head of hair that is sopping with sweat.

One last thing: At places like Performance, certain helmets can be had at a great discount. Price does matter.
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Old 12-07-05, 04:47 PM   #25
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So what do people think when I wear my skiing/snowboard helmet with ski goggles in the sub freezing weather? Does that make me an Ice Head?
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