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The Helmet Update

Vol. 9, No. 3. December, 1991

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Bike Show Indicates Few Surprises for '92

The helmets on display at the fall 1991 bike show in Atlantic City were not radically different from past years. Thin shell helmets probably represent about 75% of the market at present. Most of the rest is taken by soft shells, although there are still hard shell models available from several manufacturers. Most soft shells are now reinforced internally or externally to prevent breakup in an initial impact. An interesting new development was the arrival of several Australian manufacturers, who are seeking export markets now that their market is reaching saturation.

Another interesting development this year is the use of extra hard foam around large vents in thin shell and no shell helmets. This technique allows the vents to be larger and still pass the hemispheric anvil test when the anvil strikes a vent, but it raises questions about point loading on the skull from the harder foam. Our current U.S. standards do not address point loading, but a 1990 modification to the Australian standard (of which we were not aware) includes a point load test which we should be considering.

Some highlights appear below. References to the Snell certification list are to Snell's list on October 22, 1991. The Snell list changes daily, and some helmets listed below may have been added (or more rarely removed) since that date. We report only the Snell list and do not report any statements at the show that a given helmet "will have Snell certification." For the latest list, call Snell at (516) 862-6440.

Bell showed its new "Cyclone" thin shell, which features extra hard foam around the vents. Bell's literature stresses the weight savings and lower bulk from this technique. Other helmets in the line include new Cruzer and Streetrider models with thin shell coverings, and a Bell Shell child's helmet with a thicker thin shell. Bell has a Turtle model for kids with a helmet holder with turtle legs and head to keep the helmet at home. This is the first attempt we have seen to expand the helmet market with non-wearable accessories. There are few changes in the Spectrum, Quest, Image and V-1 Pro models. The best news for consumers at the Bell booth was a new buckle which seems to be a vast improvement over previous Bell models. It should pinch less, permit tighter strap adjustment and crunch your jaw less than the last model, and it has a positive release catch. We do not know if upgrades are available for old Bell helmets, but call 1-800-456-BELL to find out. All of the above models appear on Snell's certification list.

Headway Helmets of Australia showed some interesting new models. Their thin shell uses a proprietary mould for a somewhat different fit, has extra cover in the rear, and has a patented epoxy coating that produces bright colors. They also have an ABS hard shell and a soft shell model. Their Joey child helmet is said to be shaped differently to fit child heads. Their helmets all meet the Australian AS 2063 standard. We learned more about helmet design from the Managing Director of this family business, Mr. Frank Matich, than anyone else at the show. Their helmets can be ordered in custom sizes called "Way Outers" for extra large heads or for post-surgery use (fax them in Mona Vale Sydney at (02) 979-6440, asking for the measurement form). Headway does not appear on the Snell list, and since the Australian standard uses a 400 g threshold rather than the 300 g's used here we will be interested in knowing when it does.

Innova-Dex Sports showed their Leader helmets, including the Avanti and Avanti Youth models available for school safety programs through dealers. Their Pro G-7 has harder foam surrounding the vents and has ribs on the rear top surface of its liner which are covered by the thin shell coating. A Leader ad in Velo News promises a free video of race footage and Julie Furtado training tips with every Gara Pro sold through December 31. The Snell certification list for Innova-Dex lists the Leader Avanti, Leader Gara and Tempo.

Louis Garneau (himself) showed an innovative new helmet of his own design with a thin ABS inner structure to which the EPS foam is bonded. Garneau said this construction holds the helmet together in an impact. The Snell list for Vetements Louis Garneau includes their LG 1,2,3,4,5,6 and 7, as well as the Look 1 and Look 2.

LT showed its extensive line, including soft and thin shells. Some use dual-density liners with softer inner shells to reduce g's further below the standards threshold in low energy falls. Their representative said they no longer manufacture the Time helmet, but now make helmets for Trek. LT tried d-rings on a child's helmet, but the helmet was rejected by dealers, who said they could not sell a helmet with d-rings. LT has a schools promotion program. The Snell list includes their Enduro, Life Sense, LT 550, 650, 700, 850, 900, 1100, Master Lite, Matrix, Sabre and Trek models, some of which are also known as Performance, Scott or Kastle brands.

Protec showed several new models including their 8.5 Police Patrol model and a prototype of a new child's helmet. Their school promotion program is channeled through their distributors. The Snell list includes their Mirage soft shell (the first model we saw on the market with internal nylon mesh reinforcing) as well as the Pro 8.5 thin shell and X thin shell.

Rhode Gear showed several models, emphasizing price competitiveness and the tendency for their black foam models to stay cleaner than white foam. They showed some nice neon colors, as did many other manufacturers. Their helmets appear on Snell's certification list under Bell, and include the Airlight thin shell, Ultralight, Rhode Runner and Rhodester child's helmet.

Rosebank is another Aussie manufacturer now appearing in the U.S. market for the first time. Those who are familiar only with their venerable Stackhat will be surprised by the upscale look of their new helmets, including soft shell and thin shell models. Their thin shells are constructed of GE's Xenoy thermoplastic, which John Rose, their Managing Director (and another very knowledgeable manufacturer), said was a high quality material which requires some care in the manufacturing process. The helmets shown were all certified to the Australian standard, but do not appear on Snell's list. Mr. Rose informed us that three other Australian states have already joined Queensland and Victoria in mandating helmets, and three more will require them as of January, 1992. His comments brought home the fact that we are years behind the Aussies in bicycle helmet use and bicycle helmet standards.

Time showed a helmet which they said would replace the former model in February. It had "sculpted" inner grooves and one more vent on top. We do not think the consumer needs lighter helmets than the current crop, or grooved liners either. No Time helmet appears on the Snell list, which will surprise those who purchased one earlier this year with a Snell sticker inside.

Troxel showed three adult helmets, including the hardshell Coronado, thin shell Elan LX II, and soft shell ELAN CX. The Elan LX II has reflective trim, as does the Spirit child's helmet with thin shells inside and out. Troxel's Nino and Lil Nino child's helmets continue, and their literature says the Lil Nino has "a specially softened inner liner." Troxel advertises a Lifetime Impact Replacement Policy, stating that "if a Troxel helmet is ever in an accident simply return it to us for a free replacement." Their school promotion program is now channeled through bike shops. Troxel's Nino, Elan and Coronado models appear on the Snell-certified list.

Wolf Pro showed thin and soft shell models, and had literature for a direct sales program to schools. Their Wolf Pro and Wolf Pro Micro Shell appear on the Snell list.

XL Marketing showed a new helmets in thin and soft shell designs. Their "ICE" trademark denotes an airflow system using front and rear vents to move air over the head.

We did not see the following manufacturers in evidence at Atlantic City: All American, Aria Sonics Bieffe, Davies Craig, Denrich, Etto, Giro, Helmtec, Jago Sports, Levo N.V., MPA, NV International, OGK, Shoei Kako, SLG Produkter AB, Specialized, Top Tek and M.Y.Trondex.

ANSI Standard Languishes

The ANSI Z90.4 Committee met in Dallas in late May to revise the proposed draft for a new standard to replace the one which expired more than two years ago. A subcommittee is working on labeling requirements. A draft was circulated for comment after the meeting, but there has been nothing further. The Z90.4 committee represents the U.S. for meetings of the International Standards Organization (ISO). The first ISO meeting in years will be held in Spain this month, and Snell, as Z90 committee Secretariat, will be sending two representatives.

ASTM To Adopt A Bicycle Helmet Standard

The F08.53 Committee of the American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) has been working on a child bicycle helmet standard for some time. The committee has tabled that standard pending availability of new research, but has decided to issue an adult standard as well. The committee met in May and has developed a draft for final ballot. The standard will probably include a rolloff test and other features as well, but we have been unable to obtain a copy of the draft. BHSI has applied to join ASTM and will participate in the activities of the committee, which meets semi-annually and promises to be somewhat more active than the ANSI Z90 committee has been. ASTM can be contacted on this subject by writing to Jennifer Holiday, Staff Member, ASTM, 1916 Race Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1187, telephone (215) 299-5499. The next committee meeting will be in San Diego in December.

New Pamphlets and More Bibliography

We are sending you with this issue a new pamphlet designed to reach parents of small children, a revision of our Consumer's Guide to Bicycle Helmets, and 62 new additions to our annotated bibliography. There is also a copy of our latest workshop writeup titled "The Most-Asked Questions About Bicycle Helmets." You have permission to photocopy all of them for non-profit distribution. We can supply copies of the pamphlets. We expect them to be about 13 cents each. If you want a complete copy of the bibliography, we can provide one for $6.

The Helmet Update - Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute
Randy Swart, Editor
4611 Seventh Street South
Arlington, VA 22204-1419 USA
(703) 486-0100 (voice)
(703) 486-0576 (fax)