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Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

The Helmet Update by Email

Volume 22, #1 - March 31, 2004

All Issues

Helmets for 2004

We have posted on our website our report on Helmets for 2004.


In contrast to previous years, there are some new helmets this year that are worth looking at if you are inclined to replace yours. The comments below identify some actual advances in helmetry, and some helmets at lower price levels with improved features.

At the high end, you still find big vents and bigger prices, with no verifiable improvement in safety performance. Giro is the price king for ordinary road helmets, with Lance Armstrong's helmet at $225. Target has a helmet that meets the same CPSC standard for $8.99 every day.

There are at least three new promising impact foams in this year's helmets: an improved multi-impact EPP in the Pro-Tec skate line, and a new type of foam called Tau ReUp foam to be used by Shain of Italy that encapsulates EPS beads in EPU to provide a limited level of multi-impact protection. The Shain helmet is not here yet. A third unusual high performance foam that has finally been certified for both bicycle and multi-impact skateboard use is the Zorbium foam described in our writeup on W Helmets.

We recommend looking for a helmet that:

    1. Meets the CPSC standard. (Look for the sticker inside) If you are a skateboarder as well, be sure to find one that also meets the ASTM F1492 Skateboard standard.

    2. Fits you well.

    And preferably:

    3. Has a rounded, smooth exterior with no snag points.

    4. Has no more vents than you need.

We usually recommend checking Consumer Reports for brand and model recommendations, but their most recent helmet article in 2002 covered only a handful of the helmets on the market, and none of the new 2004 models. They discovered that some of the cheaper helmets are more protective than the most expensive, top-of-the-line models. That should not be a surprise, since the cheaper ones have smaller vents and more foam in them, and the foam is what does the work of protecting your head from impact.

Since there is no comprehensive lab test data available until Consumer Reports produces its next helmet article, we do not make brand and model recommendations. We do recommend steering away from models with obvious disadvantages like snag points on the outer surface.

Most "skateboard" helmets now on the market are in fact bicycle helmets in the classic skate style. They are fine for bike riding, as long as they have a sticker inside certifying that they meet the CPSC standard. If you need a multi-impact helmet for aggressive, trick, extreme skating or skateboarding with daily crashes, look for a true multi-impact skate model that has a sticker inside saying it meets ASTM F1492. Beware of some inferior models still available in skate shops that only meet a European EN standard. The CPSC regulation covers only bicycle helmets, and there is no law that says a skate helmet has to meet any standard whatsoever. Fortunately the selection of dual-standard skate/bike helmets is expanding for the 2004 season. The biggest news for skateboarders is the revamping of the Pro Tec line for 2004 with a new foam that is a vast improvement over most of the older Pro Tec designs.

Outside the US, the basic features to look for are the same. Unless there is a CPSC sticker in the helmet, you will probably find one that attests to the helmet meeting one of the numerous national standards or the European standard. In some cases that applies to even major US brands, who produce less protective models for the European market to make them thinner and lighter and be competitive there.

What We Did Not Find Yet This Year

There has been almost no effort to apply emerging electronic and wireless technologies to bicycle helmets. You should be able to find a helmet with a rear-facing camera and a heads-up display to replace your old mirror, but you can not. You should be able to find one with a Bluetooth wireless headset that you could use with an intercom system or your Bluetooth telephone, but you can not, although the German company Vemar is selling a motorcycle helmet equipped that way. The efforts to build in lights to date have been pathetic, although there are a few helmets with LED flashers built into the rear and you can always add a flasher with a hook-and-loop mount. Bell even sells a saddle with a powerful built in 5 LED flasher, but nothing for its helmets except the Metro. It looks like we will be waiting at least until 2005 for those things to develop.

Designs for Women are still mostly a sham. Hold up the "woman's" model and the men's of the same size beside it and you will readily see that they came from the same mold, and the only difference is in colors and graphics. Only one helmet remains with a pony tail port (the Serfas Curva), and designers do not seem to have found anything more to do for women but cosmetics.

The web page continues with much more on interesting new 2004 models and a rundown of all helmet brands and models with pithy descriptions.

    The Helmet Update - Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute
    Randy Swart, Editor - info@helmets.org
    4611 Seventh Street South, Arlington, VA 22204-1419 USA
    (703) 486-0100 (voice or fax)
    info@helmets.org http://www.helmets.org

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