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Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

The Helmet Update by Email

Volume 23, #1 - February 22, 2005

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Today we posted our big article on Helmets for 2005, covering everything on the market. Based on research at Interbike and on the web, it summarizes information on helmets from 115 manufacturers.

Here are some highlights:


There are some new helmets in 2005 that are worth a look if you are inclined to replace yours. The comments below identify some actual advances in helmetry. And at last there are some new models appearing with the rounder, smoother profile that we think is best for crashing.

At the high end, you will still find bigger vents and bigger prices, but no verifiable improvement in safety performance. Target and Wal-Mart both have models that meet the same CPSC impact standard at an everyday price of $7.14. And for $15 they both have better looking and better fitting models.

Foams are finally evolving. In addition to EPS, EPP and Zorbium there is now a foam on the market called Tau ReUp foam in Shain helmets that encapsulates EPS beads in EPU to provide a limited level of multi-impact protection. Shain has published data in their catalog showing that the foam can take four impacts at the same location before it fails to pass bike helmet drops in the lab. That's three more impacts than EPS, although it falls short of being a true multi-impact foam equivalent to the liners in football helmets. In addition Pro Tec has a modified EPP as well that they are calling SXP. And some Hopus models have a layer of resilient APE foam in addition to EPS for multi-impact performance, a feature they call SIS. It is probably fair to say the foams are finally beginning to evolve.

We always recommend checking Consumer Reports for brand and model recommendations but their July, 2004 article rated only 29 helmets and is out of date. Since there is no lab test data available for most helmets 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. And it will not surprise you that it is advantageous to have lots of thicker, less dense foam in a helmet, leading to our recommendation that you find one with no more vents than you need. It is frustrating for us not to have specific model recommendations based on impact performance, but the data just does not exist in the public domain.

Some Interesting New Models

Alpha Micro Shell V-13: J&B's low-cost line for bike stores includes this very round and smooth helmet with decent vents, taped-on shell and a rear stabilizer selling for under $20 in a bike shop. Often the roundest, smoothest helmets are in the least expensive lines.

SixSixOne All Ride: new for 2005 and an exciting (to us) helmet that proves it is possible to design a rounder profile helmet with contemporary styling. There is no rear snag point. The All Ride has big vents, multiple shell pieces covering most of the foam all the way down, a ring fit system with dial adjustment and a removable visor. The shell could be smoother, and the strap anchors better recessed, but this is a good looking helmet. Retail price on the website is $70, but a dealer should be down around $50.

Bell Citi - Marketed for the commuter and in-town user. Bell's Metro was introduced in 2004, with a design marred by the addition of rubberized surfaces below the shell. The Citi is an improvement with a lower price that drops some of the "features" of the Metro for a plainer, better helmet. Strap anchors are only partly recessed and stick up well above the shell. Retail is $45 for the Citi or $70 for the Metro.

Bell Deuce and Bell Impulse: down near the bottom of Bell's mass merchant line are these two gems, so round and smooth and fully discounted. Inmolded construction. Look for them at a big box store near you, or find them on the Internet for $15 plus shipping.

Limar 801: new for 2005, this commuter-style helmet has the rounder, smoother lines and is the shape we recommend. This one has mesh in the vents for bug protection and a ring-fit system. It retails for $75.

Michelin MX Urban: another commuter style helmet with very large vents and rounded lines. Inmolded with a ring-fit system. Translucent gray visor. Retails for $45. With a black visor and different graphics it is the Street.

Shain BK51 Urban: Shain's 2005 round and smooth commuter model. The external strap anchors are partly recessed, and the vents are very unusual crescent shapes. It appears to have better than usual rear coverage, but we have not measured it. There is a light or light mount on the rear. Standard EPS foam, no inner shell, removable visor.

Shain BK 1000: a multi-impact helmet using their "Tau Multi Impact Technology" foam, with huge vents, a moderate rear snag point and internal strap anchors. Shain's catalog includes results of lab tests that show their helmet handling four hard impacts in the same spot before registering over 300g. Retail price is $218, up there with Lance Armstrong's Giro.

We invite you to our website for details now or any time during the year that you need more. We update the report frequently with new information.

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