Which Helmet?

Discussion in 'Commuting and Road Safety' started by daxwax, Jul 29, 2004.

  1. daxwax

    daxwax New Member

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    Sorry if this has been asked before (I had a look and couldn't find anything), but I'm wondering if skateboard style or full face helmets offer better protection than the regular style helmets? I'm fully aware of the helmet vs. no helmet debate and I'm definitely a wearer. I just want to be sure I get the best ie. safest one. I do mainly commuter cycling but I try to use it as a work out as well so I'm not just crawling along in the kerb.
    I'd be very grateful for any recommendations.
    Many thanks
     
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  2. zumbrunndbla

    zumbrunndbla New Member

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    Nobody seems to want to reply to this, so here a few thoughts:

    1. you are probably right: helmets provide some protection; it is hard to argue otherwise. However, the protection is likely not the 85% that some "scientific" studies have claimed to prove. Don't take any risks you would not take riding bareheaded. Otherwise you lower your safety rather than otherwise.

    2. Like for any safety gear (think about airbags injuring small persons) there are scenarios where helmets may make things worse rather than better. Main problem: When the hit on the helmet is not straight but more or less glancing (i.e. almost in all cases) the helmet may exert a swivel force on the head exposing your brain to the kind of motion used to whip cream. This can result in serious and hard to treat brain injury. This risk depends much on the design. You want a smooth slippery surface of the outer shell, so the helmet slides on the road surface rather than sticking to it. Any airhole can get stuck in an unevenness and cause the above effect. Any object protruding out from the helmet can cause the same problem: aerodynamic designs with peaks sticking out front and/or back, mirror, light, visor and anything else mounted on the helmet. I have chosen a rounded, almost spherical design with few airholes. It also protects the back of my head. Plenty of helmets ride on the very top of the head and leave much of it exposed. And I don't clip anything onto the helmet.

    3. People tell you that a helmet is "comfortable". Guess what: it is not supposed to be: protection does not come for free, you pay a price in comfort. A good helmet is comfortable enough not to be unbearable. The question for everybody is: how much comfort for how much safety. (For me the answer depends - among other things - on the wheather: I don't wear my helmet at more than 90 degrees F). There are more and less comfortable helmets out there, but I would be weary of very comfortable ones if maximum safety is your goal. You can not cheat the laws of physics.

    4. All helmets on the market meet government standards and pass the mandatory tests. But I have no doubt that some models surpass these standards. If you find a way to get at these data (I have not, I don't even know that anyone cares to do the comparison tests) you might find some useful information. The government tests measure only how much force it takes to damage an articificial test head inside the helmet, no tests measure the rotation problems discussed above. There you are on your own.

    5. Lots of people think that bicycling is very dangerous. It is not. If you follow the traffic rules, ride defensively and use your brain (the best way to protect your brain is to use it!) you will be fine. A helmet will improve the safety from that level - nobody knows quite how much. I spent half my life riding without a helmet (there weren't any), riding in heavy city traffic and never came close to a head injury. You are a commuter yourself and obviously know how to ride safely. A bicycle has some obvious disadvantages as to safety, but it has one big advantage: from the saddle you have a much better overview of the traffic situation than a driver: you see right across the roofs of the cars (unfortunately this advantage has suffered from the recent SUV craze! But it is still there).
     
  3. Powerful Pete

    Powerful Pete New Member

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    In responding more directly to your question, most probably a 'full face' helmet (of the type worn by MTB downhillers) is more protective, but then again, there is a major comfort issue.

    You are, after all, making a compromise in terms of safety vs. comfort - you will be exerting yourself riding, and having a full face helmet will only make your riding more uncomfortable.

    Go to a local bike shop and try on a number of helmets - anything you will find for sale in a reputable shop will be Government certified - I believe in the US that means an ANSI or SNELL sticker, in Europe every country has a testing agency, but you can rest assured that most will be TUV certified (the German agency). Find a helmet that fits well (certain makes do not do well with certain head shapes), purchase and wear it religiously.

    Remember, there is a level of diminishing returns with helmets - the sales guy will try to get you to purchase the 'helmet that is good enough for Lance', which is probably overkill for you. Why? Expensive cycling gear does not usually give you significantly improved performance, but rather lighter weight, and that means more exotic materials that cost more, often at the cost of reliability.

    Also remember that you should change your helmet immediately if you crash (even if it looks fine) and in any event get a new one every two years or so.

    Happy cycling!
     
  4. Powerful Pete

    Powerful Pete New Member

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    In responding more directly to your question, most probably a 'full face' helmet (of the type worn by MTB downhillers) is more protective, but then again, there is a major comfort issue.

    You are, after all, making a compromise in terms of safety vs. comfort - you will be exerting yourself riding, and having a full face helmet will only make your riding more uncomfortable.

    Go to a local bike shop and try on a number of helmets - anything you will find for sale in a reputable shop will be Government certified - I believe in the US that means an ANSI or SNELL sticker, in Europe every country has a testing agency, but you can rest assured that most will be TUV certified (the German agency). Find a helmet that fits well (certain makes do not do well with certain head shapes), purchase and wear it religiously.

    Remember, there is a level of diminishing returns with helmets - the sales guy will try to get you to purchase the 'helmet that is good enough for Lance', which is probably overkill for you. Why? Expensive cycling gear does not usually give you significantly improved performance, but rather lighter weight, and that means more exotic materials that cost more, often at the cost of reliability.

    Also remember that you should change your helmet immediately if you crash (even if it looks fine) and in any event get a new one every two years or so.

    Happy cycling!
     
  5. jtfleming

    jtfleming New Member

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    A skateboard helmet will provide greater protection to the area of the ear, but other than that they are substantially the same assuming they are of equal quality.
     
  6. TrekDedicated

    TrekDedicated New Member

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    Full face helmet.. no. Unless your are going down huge mountains.

    Skateboarding helmet's 'shells' are a lot closer to your head. So if you land really hard, might not protect you as well. Also, the front of the helmet doesn't 'stick out' as far as a bike helmet, it may be a few millimeters/cm/in, but it can make a difference as to whether you lose your nose or not.

    Bicycling helmets have plenty of protection I feel and I feel extremely safe in mine. You can get a great helmet for like 40-60 bucks.
     
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