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Helmets: what to look for

Old 05-09-14, 01:36 AM
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Helmets: what to look for

Looking to replace my 15 year old cheapie helmet this year... Not sure what to look for though, and how to differentiate good from bad other than price.

What do you look for in a helmet?
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Old 05-09-14, 07:16 AM
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1. Fit
2. Fit
3. Comfort
4. Airflow
5. Price

There is nothing wrong with cheap helmets but they aren't designed for comfort and many seem designed to fit weirdly shaped heads.
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Old 05-09-14, 07:37 AM
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Cheap helmets have more helmet and less air.
I look for moulded-in, not stuck-on shell.
Head-band, not pads
Removable visor
Holes big enough for shackle-lock.
Light colour.
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Old 05-09-14, 08:06 AM
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Protection. That's the whole purpose behind wearing a helmet. You wouldn't wear one otherwise.

Broad brush - two kinds of head injuries: penetrating/points hits (i.e. you fall and your head hits a rock) and diffuse axonal injuries (i.e. shearing of neurons - "Shaken Baby Syndrome"). Virtually all helmets protect largely the same on the first kind due to statutory standards in place. The second kind (and maybe the overall worst to recover from) is just now being addressed with new technology in helmets. The most prevalent of these technologies is MIPS (https://mipshelment.com). You can find this technology in POC, Scott and a few others. MIPS protects from an obtuse hit the head that causes the rotational acceleration on the brain that causes the shearing.

Having lived through a serious sports related TBI with a family member, we researched this heavily.

This excellent article from Bicycling magazine explains it very well from a cycling perspective.

SENSELESS | Bicycling Magazine

Because of the statutory requirement for specific testing and protection, virtually any helmet made today will provide equivalent protection to every other helmet made for cycling. The test is a drop from a specified height down to a hard floor of a specified hardness so that the helmet lands on it's top. It's about the least representative test one could ask for compared to the actual use of the helmet in practice. So you might as well pick for esthetics, fit etc... The only exception to this is MIPS and some manufacturers that are (finally) advancing the protection beyond the mandate statutes and addressing DAI injuries.

I've talked with the engineers at a couple of the helmet mfgs and I've corresponded with the MIPS people in Sweden. I'm also an engineer and I'm pretty convinced that this is a serious advance in helmet technology at long last. So much so that this year I replaced all our skiing helmets and we're in the process of replacing cycling helmets as they become available. My son just got a Scott MIPS helmet. Very nice, great fit and it's got MIPS. He's the one that suffered the TBI, so he's first because he's the most vulnerable.

Finally, helmets need to be replaced much sooner than 15 years. As you drop them and knock them around, you begin compromising the protection by actually crushing (and therefore losing) some of the lining. Virtually all bicycle helmets are the "one and done" type of protection so you have to be careful of this over time. As well, the materials can lose some of their elasticity and become less protective.

J.

Last edited by JohnJ80; 05-09-14 at 08:11 AM.
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Old 05-09-14, 08:10 AM
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Originally Posted by MichaelW
...
Light colour.
I just bought a new helmet this past winter. As a commuter, the first thing I was looking for in helmet models was whether it came in a high visibility color. All the other recommendations given are excellent as well.
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Old 05-09-14, 10:13 AM
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1. Fit
2. Adjustments (head band and straps - some are really awkward).
3. Style
4. Price
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Old 05-09-14, 10:15 AM
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Helmet Safety - Quick Answers
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Old 05-09-14, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnJ80
Protection. That's the whole purpose behind wearing a helmet. You wouldn't wear one otherwise.

Broad brush - two kinds of head injuries: penetrating/points hits (i.e. you fall and your head hits a rock) and diffuse axonal injuries (i.e. shearing of neurons - "Shaken Baby Syndrome"). Virtually all helmets protect largely the same on the first kind due to statutory standards in place. The second kind (and maybe the overall worst to recover from) is just now being addressed with new technology in helmets. The most prevalent of these technologies is MIPS (https://mipshelment.com). You can find this technology in POC, Scott and a few others. MIPS protects from an obtuse hit the head that causes the rotational acceleration on the brain that causes the shearing.

Having lived through a serious sports related TBI with a family member, we researched this heavily.

This excellent article from Bicycling magazine explains it very well from a cycling perspective.

SENSELESS | Bicycling Magazine

Because of the statutory requirement for specific testing and protection, virtually any helmet made today will provide equivalent protection to every other helmet made for cycling. The test is a drop from a specified height down to a hard floor of a specified hardness so that the helmet lands on it's top. It's about the least representative test one could ask for compared to the actual use of the helmet in practice. So you might as well pick for esthetics, fit etc... The only exception to this is MIPS and some manufacturers that are (finally) advancing the protection beyond the mandate statutes and addressing DAI injuries.

I've talked with the engineers at a couple of the helmet mfgs and I've corresponded with the MIPS people in Sweden. I'm also an engineer and I'm pretty convinced that this is a serious advance in helmet technology at long last. So much so that this year I replaced all our skiing helmets and we're in the process of replacing cycling helmets as they become available. My son just got a Scott MIPS helmet. Very nice, great fit and it's got MIPS. He's the one that suffered the TBI, so he's first because he's the most vulnerable.

Finally, helmets need to be replaced much sooner than 15 years. As you drop them and knock them around, you begin compromising the protection by actually crushing (and therefore losing) some of the lining. Virtually all bicycle helmets are the "one and done" type of protection so you have to be careful of this over time. As well, the materials can lose some of their elasticity and become less protective.

J.
I was unaware of MIPS; thank you for the link, I will check into my wish-list helmets to see if any already have them.

M.
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Old 05-09-14, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by MEversbergII
I was unaware of MIPS; thank you for the link, I will check into my wish-list helmets to see if any already have them.

M.

Here's a partial list but it's a starting point.

This is the helmet my son has. He likes it and it seems to fit a wide range of heads well.

https://www.scott-sports.com/gb/en/pr.../2276413698006


J.
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Old 05-09-14, 10:43 AM
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Fit, price, and aesthetics.
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Old 05-09-14, 12:32 PM
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I decided to go beyond the static and outdated CPSC standards last year. I bought a MIPS compliant helmet. Not cheap, but given that if I damage my brain I'll be out of a job that pays me enough in an hour to buy that expensive helmet, it's hard to justify not spending the money even if the marginal extra protection is small.
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Old 05-09-14, 12:41 PM
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By the way, the standards for helmets USED to evolve as new research discovered new threats and new ways to protect against them. But there was no legal requirement to conform to the standards. Then congress decided to pass such a law and they used the CPSC standard.

The problem now as I understand it is that even if the CPSC discovered that their standards are not sufficient given current knowledge of anatomy and brain injury, congress requires them to now put a monetary value on potential injuries that could be avoided by updating the standard, and weigh that against the monetary impact of requiring manufacturers to update their designs, and will only allow the change if the safer helmets save more money than it would cost.

A state of affairs only an actuary could love.
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Old 05-09-14, 01:09 PM
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Originally Posted by westrid_dad
I just bought a new helmet this past winter. As a commuter, the first thing I was looking for in helmet models was whether it came in a high visibility color.
I don't understand why this isn't a higher priority for more commuters. A helmet is a safety device. There's nothing it can do to enhance safety more than decreasing your invisibility does.

I got a Bell Muni about a year and a half ago. It started out hi-viz yellow. Over the course of 18 months it's starting to fade to white, but it's still better than most helmets in this regard.

The Muni also has built-in rear flashers and convenient options for mounting front and rear Flea 2.0 lights, which have an amazing brightness-to-weight ratio. I hate the pads on the Muni (because they collect sweat and randomly dump it in my eyes), but the safety options are enough to make that tolerable.
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Old 05-09-14, 01:25 PM
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I love my C&V high-viz helmet.




My modern one is dull black but I primarily wear it in races on closed courses. If I ever see a comfy, hi-viz lid for $30 or less I'd grab it in a heartbeat.
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Old 05-09-14, 04:02 PM
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I look for fit, airflow, weight, and price, in that order. I don't mind paying a little more for a good helmet. I mean, i'm going to be using it every day so i'll get my money's worth.
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Old 05-09-14, 04:17 PM
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One hopes all approved helmets are similar in safety. I go for airflow.
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Old 05-09-14, 04:41 PM
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Originally Posted by ItsJustMe
By the way, the standards for helmets USED to evolve as new research discovered new threats and new ways to protect against them. But there was no legal requirement to conform to the standards. Then congress decided to pass such a law and they used the CPSC standard.

The problem now as I understand it is that even if the CPSC discovered that their standards are not sufficient given current knowledge of anatomy and brain injury, congress requires them to now put a monetary value on potential injuries that could be avoided by updating the standard, and weigh that against the monetary impact of requiring manufacturers to update their designs, and will only allow the change if the safer helmets save more money than it would cost.

A state of affairs only an actuary could love.
Motorcycle helmets were often rated by Snell (who uses a different rating system than CPSC) as well as the CPSC when I was a biker. For many years the Snell rating was considered better and safer as they offered protection from larger more severe impacts, but eventually their standards led to helmets that actually transmitted more of the more common low impact forces to the head that lead to more injuries. Which led to some people complaining that Snell was using unrealistic standards to sell their Snell approved labels for helmets. And then there are the N.O.T. approved helmets.... if you've got a $10 head wear a $10 helmet as Bell used to advertise.
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Old 05-09-14, 05:27 PM
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For the past 5 years my primary commuting/mountain biking/road helmet has been a black Bell Citi. It's always been comfortable but recently I wanted to replace it and looked mostly for a light color and better air flow.
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Old 05-09-14, 10:05 PM
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My helmet is a Bell whatever from Costco, I've been wearing it a couple years and the pad in the front is starting to smell rather ripe. I contacted Bell and asked if/where I could buy a replacement set of pads and they said they don't sell replacement pads for that model. So I would recommend checking that whatever helmet you get you can buy replacement pads for. That's a criterion I'll be using next time anyways. In the meantime I'm going to try to rig something up by cutting up an old tshirt or washcloth or something.
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Old 05-09-14, 11:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Andy_K
I don't understand why this isn't a higher priority for more commuters. A helmet is a safety device. There's nothing it can do to enhance safety more than decreasing your invisibility does..
I don't use a helment to be seen by motorised couch riders. Every bone I've broken and every red smear I've left on tarmcac has been due to my risk taking behavior.
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Old 05-09-14, 11:39 PM
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The main thing I was looking for in the last helmet I got was lightness, to reduce the stiff neck I sometimes get from cycling.
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Old 05-09-14, 11:46 PM
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Fit

Price

Airflow

fit

Aesthetics

Fit
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Old 05-09-14, 11:48 PM
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Originally Posted by halcyon100
The main thing I was looking for in the last helmet I got was lightness, to reduce the stiff neck I sometimes get from cycling.
Really? How heavy was the old helmet?
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Old 05-10-14, 12:01 AM
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My old helmet wasn't that heavy, but I've been trying to rule out various things to reduce neck stiffness. I think the lighter helmet helped, though it didn't make a huge difference. I also got a higher-angle stem and I think my glasses are also a factor... I've been trying to wear contacts again so I can avoid wearing regular glasses while riding, but my prescription is tough for contacts.
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Old 05-10-14, 01:36 AM
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I'm all about protection. I'm waiting for nutcase to send me a replacement for the 8ball model i had that saved me in recent crash. While i appreciate the vented aerodynamic helmets and wear one, i prefer maximum protection, especially since i ride primarily on roads & in traffic. Fit and comfort, if is not comfy & doesnt fit, will you even wear it? If it's too expensive, ca you even buy it? The real question for me is protection. Ones with built in reflectivity is a good idea too.

Good luck!

- Andy
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