black helmets = heat...right?



skorange

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Jun 4, 2010
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My head gets hot riding. Now I can't really say much, because I've got a older helmet with only moderate ventilation. I'm looking at replacements for the purpose of getting more airflow to my noggin. The thing is, the ones I like are black. These will make the helmet way hotter, right? This make intuitive sense, but I'm wondering to what degree. Do any of you avoid black helmets for this reason?

I guess I could always just cover it in tinfoil...
 

swampy1970

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Feb 3, 2008
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skorange said:
My head gets hot riding. Now I can't really say much, because I've got a older helmet with only moderate ventilation. I'm looking at replacements for the purpose of getting more airflow to my noggin. The thing is, the ones I like are black. These will make the helmet way hotter, right? This make intuitive sense, but I'm wondering to what degree. Do any of you avoid black helmets for this reason?

I guess I could always just cover it in tinfoil...

A pointy tinfoil hat could suit you...

I avoid most black items in hot weather, apart from Black Metal CD's to cheer up the poolside ambience.
 

alfeng

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Jul 23, 2005
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skorange said:
My head gets hot riding. Now I can't really say much, because I've got a older helmet with only moderate ventilation. I'm looking at replacements for the purpose of getting more airflow to my noggin. The thing is, the ones I like are black. These will make the helmet way hotter, right? This make intuitive sense, but I'm wondering to what degree. Do any of you avoid black helmets for this reason?

I guess I could always just cover it in tinfoil...
The FOAM which is designed to absorb any shock in a crash which involves the helmet should preclude the heat that is absorbed by the shell of the helmet from affecting the rider's head if the shell is bonded to the insulation (as is the case with many helmets) ...

So, your helmet's air flow (or, lack of!?!) is probably the only thing you need to be concerned with (other than cost & cosmetics) when choosing what you wear on your noggin.
 

Mak'em Lad

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May 31, 2010
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I'd agree with Alfeng, the polystyrene foam is such a good insulator that the sun's heat won't (or shouldn't) get through to your head but as a lot of the body's heat is lost through the head (posibly the majority) then the foam will keep it in so the more vents the cooler it will feel.

It's like a house without loft/cavity wall insulation cold in winter, hot in summer as against with insulation warm in winter, cool in summer.
 

alfeng

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Jul 23, 2005
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Froze said:
I disagree with Alfeng! And instead of giving you a bunch of personal experiences having lived in the high desert areas of California where color did matter, here is a web site to prove my points: 8h.6 Black vs White Helmet - Thermal Test
You could be right ...

And, the test may be valid (I don't have the inclination to look at all of the test data because I would like to think that the author of the "test" included the most meaningful numbers in his rambling) ...

BUT, I would have preferred seeing more realistic test parameters!

As you may-or-may-not know, a 60 watt incandescent bulb gets pretty hot. While a 150 watt bulb doesn't come close to producing the millions of degrees Fahrenheit as the Sun, having the lamp FIVE INCHES (!?!) from the measured surface would seem to produce an unrealistic temperature (i.e., I doubt the shell of your helmet ever exceeded 150º even if you were in Death Valley) by/from/whatever which measurements should be made ... that is, how do 'we' know that the test parameters weren't skewed until 'appropriate' results which fit the hypothesis were achieved?
I don't know what wattage bulb was used in the EASY BAKE OVEN (it can't have been more than 150 watts), but it got hot enough to bake a cupcake -- about 425ºF, I presume.
And, honestly, the only time when I am pedaling and my speed drops to about 6.5 MPH is when I am grinding on some uphill and gassed (which is certainly more often than not!) ... so, the dissipating effect of the 'breeze' created by the fan just doesn't strike me as a realistic situation.

AND, while the test does point to an outcome under some circumstances, 'I' just don't think that either the test paramters were realistic OR that the the data sampling was necessarily representative of the true difference.

BTW. I would trust YOUR anecdotal experience where you might have worn a Black helmet for a few miles, changed to wearing a White helmet for a few miles, the Black helmet for a few more miles, the White helmet for a few miles, the Black helmet for a few more miles, and then reported your subjective impression if you had ever run such a test (vs. chronologically unrelated impressions) rather than the data as presented.
 

dhk2

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Aug 8, 2006
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Froze said:
I disagree with Alfeng! And instead of giving you a bunch of personal experiences having lived in the high desert areas of California where color did matter, here is a web site to prove my points: 8h.6 Black vs White Helmet - Thermal Test
Maybe I missed something, but as I read it, the author of the test did not conclude that the black helmet was hotter. He said the small increase noted may be do to a rise in ambient temperature during the test. At any rate, after the fan was shut off, the white helmet showed a higher temp gain according to the table, which would tend to invalidate the experiment.

Believe a more accurate test could be performed simply by placing the helmets in the sun side by side for say 30 minutes and then measuring the interior temperatures with an IR thermometer. The test could be easily repeated in varying wind conditions.

Basically, I'm in agreement with alfeng's opinion that the color of the helmet shell doesn't matter in the real world.
 

64Paramount

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Jul 25, 2009
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dhk2 said:
...Believe a more accurate test could be performed simply by placing the helmets in the sun side by side for say 30 minutes and then measuring the interior temperatures with an IR thermometer. The test could be easily repeated in varying wind conditions...

I would think so too and I believe it would be more realistic.

As stated earlier, as long as the helmet has good air flow I doubt if you'll notice much heat difference due to color.

My C-Dale is black and a black helmet would look really good with it, but I wear a brightly colored helmet because I think/hope it will make me more visible.
 

Froze

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Jul 13, 2004
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I understand this is subject to debate. I've never worn both a black and white helmet alternatively to find out which was hotter. When I first moved to the desert I had black cycling apparel and a black helmet, I felt very hot in this garb, so I went to white clothes and white helmet, this garb seemed cooler; then I switched to white loose fitting jersey (can't find this in a short other then mtb but they have tight liners), and found the air bellowing through a loose jersey was cooler then a tight one. When I say loose I don't mean a parachute! Just slightly loose from a tight one. I also felt my head was cooler with the white...BUT, there was better venting with that one so it may be a mute point. But if you scan the other forums on this topic you'll find that the majority of riders find the white helmets to be cooler then the black.

Here is another site: Cozy Beehive: Cycling In Heat & Helmet Cooling Power

Here's another thought: Why is a Black T-Shirt Hotter Than a White One? | Fibers.com

And here's why: WikiAnswers - Why does a dark colour absorb more heat than white

Now all of this begs a question, why do some people in certain parts of the world where it's extremely hot wear black like Arabs? Weird thought uhh? But go to other parts of the world where it gets hot like India, Bermuda etc they wear white. So again there is a oddness about all this. All I can tell you is that I felt cooler in the desert with a white helmet (and more and larger vents) and white loose fitting jerseys.

By the way, now that I live in a milder climate I wear a bright yellow helmet to attract attention, but still wear white jerseys unless it's cooler then switch to black.
 

Mak'em Lad

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May 31, 2010
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Yes, it is a well known fact that white clothes do tend to keep you cooler as they reflect the heat while black tends to absorb it.

In the case of a helmet there is polystyrene foam (also known for it's insulation properties) between the shell & the head & this should stop the transfer of heat through the helmet skin reaching the head. It also reduces heat from the head being transferred through the helmet.

Where the holes are there is nothing to prevent heat passing in either direction (other than airflow) so perhaps a more realistic test would be using a solid skin (no vents) helmet in a variety of colours including black & white. You would also need a large sheet of polystyrene (with a hole approx. the size of the helmet acting like a hat brim) to reduce the possibility of the heat from the source affecting the readings under the helmet. Temperature on the top surface of the helmet should be approx. equal to expected summer temperatures. Allow time for ambient temp. to return to normal between each test & repeat each test at least 3 times for each helmet.

As I said in an earlier post it is body heat that escapes through the top of the head that we are trying to disperse and the size & number of the holes will be a biggest factor than the effect the colour has when choosing a new helmet.

I noticed that helmets for 'city slickers' had less (or smaller) holes than those for the fun rider & those for the 'serious sport' riders had more (or larger/specially designed).

Now that said, I have for the first time today wore a helmet when riding a bike & found that my head seemed cooler than it did without. Is that due to the foam preventing some of the suns heat from reaching my head?
 

Froze

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Jul 13, 2004
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Maybe the sun not hitting the head directly might be part of the reason, but more then likely those vents on the helmet are designed to "ram" the air through the front of the helmet and exit out the back. So I think it's that constant air movement is the reason why your head felt cooler.
 

ryan_tran03

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Apr 24, 2010
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Kirchhoff's Law of Thermal Radiation would kinda dictate that the black helmet would lose heat faster.

Kirchhoff's law of thermal radiation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia <---click that

As I personally wear a white Giro Atmos (has pretty nice vents), I think it'll probably be not enough of a difference from helmet to helmet as mentioned about the foam insulation.

Keep in mind that the exposed area of the helmet to the sun is also being cooled by the air and not only that, if the air vents are fairly adequate it would also be cooling from the inside too... but that's just too fancy to worry about. Regardless the helmet, the color seems irrelevant UNLESS you're sitting still. Then you're gonna get frisky.

But besides... un casque blanc est teh secks... :cool:
 

dabac

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Sep 16, 2003
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Froze said:
.... why do some people in certain parts of the world where it's extremely hot wear black like Arabs?

There are (at least) two things to consider, the reflectivity(~the color) and the transparency of the cloth. If the black cloth lets less light through it might result in a net sum of less warmth to the body than a white cloth, even if the black cloth as such gets warmer.
 

Froze

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dabac said:
There are (at least) two things to consider, the reflectivity(~the color) and the transparency of the cloth. If the black cloth lets less light through it might result in a net sum of less warmth to the body than a white cloth, even if the black cloth as such gets warmer.

That's a great answer...but you forgot the other part to my sentence, and that is why do people in India, parts of Asia and Bermuda (just to name a few) wear white when these places are equally hot.

By the way I tricked you with the Arabs wearing black...ONLY THE WOMEN DO!!! The men wear white!!! Maybe the men like their women well done? :eek:
 

dabac

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Sep 16, 2003
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Froze said:
That's a great answer...but you forgot the other part to my sentence, and that is why do people in India, parts of Asia and Bermuda (just to name a few) wear white when these places are equally hot.

Keep in mind that there are more things that influence our clothes than the utility value of the garment when worn.
Starting way back it's probably something like:
1) what material is locally available? This can affect both cloth and color
2) tradition/religion
etc etc
 

alienator

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Jun 10, 2004
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The white vs. black helmet thermal test was poorly done. Very poorly. The only conclusion that can be deduced from that test is that there were too many unconstrained variables to make a conclusion.

On the subjective side, I live in the desert and have worn black helmets and red on white helmets of late. They were the same models, so they vented the same. They also felt the same on hot days. There's a lot more to the thermal comfort equation than just color.
 

Chainringtattoo

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Jun 10, 2010
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Well "tests" or no tests. I ride in Las Vegas, NV and avoid any kind of black cycle wear, helmets or jerseys.....like the plague! the only thing I wear thats black on the bike is shorts and thats because most std lycra shorts are black and it does not show chain grease should I get any of it on my shorts.

Maybe its just psychological or maybe "cyclelogical"....lol, but when it's 108 degrees out I want light colors ! :cool:
 

Froze

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Jul 13, 2004
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Chainringtattoo said:
Well "tests" or no tests. I ride in Las Vegas, NV and avoid any kind of black cycle wear, helmets or jerseys.....like the plague! the only thing I wear thats black on the bike is shorts and thats because most std lycra shorts are black and it does not show chain grease should I get any of it on my shorts.

Maybe its just psychological or maybe "cyclelogical"....lol, but when it's 108 degrees out I want light colors ! :cool:

This is EXACTLY what I've been saying, but it's fallen on deaf ears. I too lived in the Bakersfield, Palmdale/Lancaster area of California, and like Las Vegas NV temps over 100F degrees is not uncommon in the summer. And I too found that light colored clothing made me feel cooler as did wearing loose fitting jerseys. I also found that a $12 Walmart 100% polyester jersey felt just as good as a $80 100% polyester bicycle boutique brand
jersey; but nobody wants to believe that either.

Personally I think it's psychological, those that think that if their paying $80 give or take a bit for a official cycling jersey found a their LBS, and it has US Postal Team or some other gaudy words sprayed all over it then it most be cooler then a simple cheap Walmart jersey...never mind both say 100% polyester! It's probably more pride though then psychological, pride keeps them from wearing the cheap Walmart, they got to act the part and wear the expensive stuff.
 

alienator

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Jun 10, 2004
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Froze said:
This is EXACTLY what I've been saying, but it's fallen on deaf ears. I too lived in the Bakersfield, Palmdale/Lancaster area of California, and like Las Vegas NV temps over 100F degrees is not uncommon in the summer. And I too found that light colored clothing made me feel cooler as did wearing loose fitting jerseys. I also found that a $12 Walmart 100% polyester jersey felt just as good as a $80 100% polyester bicycle boutique brand
jersey; but nobody wants to believe that either.

Personally I think it's psychological, those that think that if their paying $80 give or take a bit for a official cycling jersey found a their LBS, and it has US Postal Team or some other gaudy words sprayed all over it then it most be cooler then a simple cheap Walmart jersey...never mind both say 100% polyester! It's probably more pride though then psychological, pride keeps them from wearing the cheap Walmart, they got to act the part and wear the expensive stuff.

Wow. You've got it all figured out. It must be beautiful to be you.

Alas, there's nothing subjective in your commentary, so it's worth less then the electrons with which it's conveyed.
 

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