Q: How do you know which bike helmets are the safest? What is the criteria for coverage? – S. Thatcher
Q: I personally use a Specialized Prevail helmet. I’ve use Specialized helmets for years and survived one of the worst crashes I’ve ever had while wearing one of them. It was 2 or 3 am in the middle of 24 hour Worlds and I was on my way to my first win, delirious and exhausted. It was raining like crazy and the course was full of black mud ruts that were hard to see at night. I hit a rut descending at about 15 mph and torpedoed over the bars, flew in the air and landed far off the trail about 10 feet away from my bike. I landed squarely on the top of my head. I finished the lap, shaken. Got a new bike and my crew pushed me back out on another lap. I told them I’d crashed, but we were all in race mode, so I just kept going. Hours later, I won my first Worlds title and took my helmet off for the first time since the crash. Inside, the whole structure was broken and looked like a spiderweb of cracks and splits. I wasn’t hurt. The helmet obviously did it’s job.
Since you had a technical helmet question, I asked Clint Mattacola, head of helmet R & D at Specialized. This guy knows helmets. Here’s what Clint has to say. Long answer, but lots of good info here.
The bottom line is – any certified helmet will protect you better than not wearing a helmet. I don’t discriminate in this area, just wear a helmet. Find one that you like, that fits your style and wear it every time. An important thing to remember is to wear your helmet strap as snug as comfortably possible, this will keep the helmet in place if an accident happens.
How do you know which bike helmets are the safest?
All the helmets sold in the USA are required to pass the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) 16 CRF Part 1203, Safety Standard for Bicycle Helmets, it is a “Pass/Fail” test. Once the helmet passes the standard there is no comparison of data that rates the safety beyond passing the testing. The Specialized helmets go one step beyond the legally required CPSC standard and the helmets are tested by the Snell Memorial Foundation. The Snell standard for bicycle helmets is an elective standard and is more difficult to pass as well as being independently tested by the Snell laboratory.
What is the criteria for coverage?
The criteria for coverage is dictated by the federal standard to which the helmet is tested, for the USA the standard is the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) 16 CRF Part 1203, Safety Standard for Bicycle Helmets. The coverage is dictated by the impact testing area as marked on the helmet by the “test line’. The details of how to draw the test line on the helmet is outlined in section 1203.11 for the CPSC standard and reads as follows.
1203.11 Marking the impact test line.
Prior to testing, the impact test line
shall be determined for each helmet in
the following manner.
(a) Position the helmet on the
appropriate headform as specified by
the manufacturer’s helmet positioning
index (HPI), with the brow parallel to
the basic plane. Place a 5-kg (11-lb)
preload ballast on top of the helmet to
set the comfort or fit padding.
(b) Draw the impact test line on the
outer surface of the helmet coinciding
with the intersection of the surface of
the helmet with the impact line planes
defined from the reference headform as
(1) Figure 4 of this part for helmets
intended only for persons 5 years of age
(2) Figure 5 of this part for helmets
intended for persons age 1 and older.
(c) The center of the impact sites shall
be selected at any point on the helmet
on or above the impact test line.
Basically, this states that you draw the test line on the helmet using the directions from the CPSC and this becomes the impact testing area and thus dictates the minimum coverage for the helmet.
Posted in: Equipment/Technology