The Helmet Update
Volume 13, Issue 1 - April, 1995
Previous Issue: August, 1994
CPSC Progress On A Federal Standard
The Consumer Product Safety Commission is working its way through
the first round of draft and comments on its Federal bicycle helmet
standard. CPSC's initial draft was well done, producing a standard
similar to the ASTM standard with slightly more coverage. The
comments reflect that, but suggest a range of changes and improvements.
CPSC also held a roundtable discussion on the draft last September
in Washington which produced more feedback.
Working with CPSC, the ASTM bicycle helmet standard committee formed
a task group to review the comments, which was done following
the December ASTM committee meeting. The group's analysis of
the comments has been transmitted to CPSC, and is available from
us as well.
The legislation called for CPSC to approve a list of interim
standards to be used until its final standard is published.
The week of March 6 the Commission voted to approve a list including
ANSI Z-90.4, ASTM F 1447-93, ASTM F-1447-94, Snell B-90, Snell
B-90S (with the rolloff addition), Snell N-94 (their multi-purpose
standard), Snell B-95 (which will take effect next September) and
Canada's CAN/CSA-D113.2-M89. CPSC says that no helmet manufactured
after March 16, 1995, can be sold in the U.S. now unless it meets one
of those standards. This will finally remove the last remaining
junk from our market. It represents the most important benefit of the
legislation, since it will prevent any backsliding in impact protection
and has the force of law, unlike a voluntary standard.
CPSC is working on another draft, which should be ready for
comments at the end of the summer. The full Federal standard will
probably not take effect until 1997. It is possible that Congressional
action restricting new government regulations will prevent CPSC from
publishing its final standard.
The CPSC draft, our comments on it, and the ASTM task force's
comments on the comments are up on our Fax-on-Demand service and
our Internet website
ASTM Standard Revised
ASTM has made some minor revisions in the its bicycle helmet standard,
reflected in changes to the published versions of the F-1446 and
F-1447 standards. The test line language has been revised to effectively
lower the bottom edge of the test area by 25 mm (about an inch)
all around. The excessively sharp hazard anvil, which was flunking
helmets which performed well in the field, has been replaced by
a curbstone anvil with a more rounded edge. A new size O headform
(extra large, with a 62 cm circumference) has been added, and
the headforms now must be magnesium.
No matter what you may see in anybody's advertising, there is
not in the current published ASTM standard as of March, 1995,
a rolloff test for positional stability. A test has been developed
and is in the balloting stages, but is not yet included in the standard
we bought from ASTM in March. ASTM will be meeting again in Denver on
May 18th, and the committee will again consider the rolloff test
question as well as some further adjustments in the test line. The
meeting will be preceded by a symposium on legal issues in standards-making,
a much-discussed topic at ASTM meetings.
The ASTM standard is being certified for manufacturers by the
Safety Equipment Institute, and you will see SEI stickers on ASTM
helmets now. SEI certifies a wide range of safety equipment, much
of it related to fire and other emergency services equipment.
They have been around for a while, and seem competent. SEI's contract
test lab for helmet impact testing is competent, ad there is no
reason why their certification can't be as rigorous as any other.
But SEI's followup testing is minimal, and relies on samples taken
directly from the manufacturers' production lines. This does not
compare well to Snell's more frequent testing of samples purchased
directly from retail outlets. We will pass on any further impressions
of SEI's performance as a certifying organization. At present
we still consider the Snell standard as the most rigorous available,
but if you want a Bell helmet you will have to settle for ASTM
certified by SEI. SEI reports that they have now certified 34
helmets, (33 from BSI and one from Troxel). Their current certification
list is available from them by calling (703) 525-1695.
ASTM is working on a new standard for infant and toddler helmets.
It is being balloted now to committee members, with provisions
for a 1.5 meter drop onto the flat anvil and 1.2 meters onto the
hemispherical anvil. The permissible g level has been lowered
to 250 g from the adult standard's 300 g. ASTM is also balloting
a new standard for downhill bicycle racing helmets. Neither will
be in final form this year.
Snell Standards Revised
The Snell B-90 bicycle helmet standard now has a Supplementary
Standard for positional stability. The helmet is placed on the
smallest appropriate ISO full chinpiece headform, tilted forward
45 degrees. A hook is attached to the helmet's rear rim and wire
rope run over the helmet and down to a test apparatus permitting
a 4 kg weight to drop .3 meters and hit a stop, jerking the strap.
This test is repeated with the headform face pointing upward,
jerking the helmet from front to rear. The helmet may shift but
must remain on the test headform. Snell has issued a second sticker
for helmets certified to this additional test.
The positional stability test is part of Snell's new B-1995 bicycle
helmet standard, which has already been approved and published
in final form by Snell but takes effect in September. That standard
will slightly increase the energy of the drops, and will lower
the test line somewhat in the rear of the helmet. Snell commissioned
a study by Technisearch on impact sites, which shows that a significant
percentage of impacts occur below the test line of the B-90 standard.
As we noted in our last issue, Snell also has published an N-94
standard for multi-purpose helmets. That standard provides for
four "conditioning impacts" around the back of the helmet
with a 1 meter drop before the full 2 meter drops are performed.
It also has a lower test line in the rear, corresponding to the
requests from skaters for more rear protection for backward falls.
Several helmets have been certified to N-94, which is perhaps
best met with Expanded PolyPropylene (EPP) foam rather than the
standard Expanded PolyStyrene (EPS) foam used in most bicycle
helmets. Snell's certification list is huge, with more than 800
helmets from more than 50 manufacturers.. The current list is
available from them by calling (516) 862-6440. A list provided
to us in late March is available from us as BHSIDOC #63.
ANSI Z-90.4 Standard Expires
The ANSI Z-90.4 bicycle helmet standard passed its 10th birthday
on December 31 and has been "administratively withdrawn"
by ANSI in accordance with their normal standards administration
procedures. ANSI will still sell you an "archived copy"
of the standard, which will of course continue to appear on many
helmet stickers for years to come. Readers will recall that the
standard provides only one meter drops, and has been antiquated
by helmet technology for more than five years. The Z-90 committee
has not met in years, and the effort to revise the ANSI standard
has stalled completely. The Snell Foundation, which chairs the
committee, announced at the end of March that it was calling a
meeting to revise the standard. The meeting will be held on April
13th in Washington, DC. Consumer representatives who want to join
the ANSI committee would be welcome. Contact Dr. Channing Ewing,
Snell Foundation, at (504)891-5065.
Helmet Trends in '95
The biggest news in helmets for 1995 is price. The bottom has
fallen out of the low-priced helmet market, and we find local
discount department stores selling Snell and ASTM helmets regularly
for under $15. Our local champ is Ames, which had helmets on sale
for $7.99 in March, advertising the regular price as $9.99. The
trade press is speculating on large industry inventories and the
likelihood that prices will fall in the specialty bike stores
as well. We now find at least some helmets in nearly any bike
store under $30.
Price competition means manufacturers are in some cases cutting
corners. Not many of them are still providing reflective tape
or graphics, which adds as much as 30 cents to manufacturing costs,
or about a half dollar to the retail price. We even see many manufacturers
using a silver tape which mimics the former reflective tape, which
we consider a gross deception since consumers make assumptions
and do not check reflectivity in a store. This is all the more
problematic because the fashion in helmet colors remains dark,
dark, dark. Combine those factors, and this year's crop of helmets
probably would score lower in conspicuity than any year since
The second biggest change in 1995 is in certification to standards.
Bell and Troxel are no longer using Snell, relying instead on
meeting the ASTM standard and having it certified by the Safety
Equipment Institute. This will be less expensive than the Snell
stickers they are now buying. Most other manufacturers are sticking
with Snell, but realizing that the CPSC standard will take effect
in about two years and probably overtake all others. Snell may
retain a niche as the highest quality certification in the market,
although SEI could cut into that part of the market as well. Manufacturers
are continuing to put ANSI stickers in their 1995 helmets as if
that standard were still in effect, and perhaps it is in the de
facto sense despite what ANSI says.
Visors and other add-ons are making an appearance as the helmet
market grows and accessories become more profitable. Consumers
should bear in mind that the standards specifically exclude these
add ons, including visors, from testing, whether they come with
the helmet or are an after-market item. You have only the manufacturer's
assertion that the visor will not snag or shatter in a crash,
or that the accessory will not degrade the sliding resistance
of the helmet and result in more strain to your neck in a fall.
Here are some highlights of what is available this season:
American Safety Awareness Programs, a non-profit based in Harlowton,
Montana, is now providing Snell-certified helmets to police departments
and non-profits for $6.95 including shipping. You must order at
least 12 helmets. These are basic thin-shells, available in black
or white. Most are without graphics, although some have graphics
if the manufacturer happens to send them. The sample they sent
us had a Tech 1 graphic and even had reflective tape around the
Bell Sports Inc. has indeed dropped the Snell sticker from their
helmets, even those which were formerly Snell certified. Bell
Sports has just announced a merger with American Recreation, a
Canadian-based company which owns Denrich Sporting Goods and Service
Cycle, with a claimed 20 per cent of the world market. Added to
Bell's claimed 50 per cent of world bicycle helmet production,
the new company will be very large, with gross sales of about
$270 million. Bell has a new "Bellistic" full face helmet
for downhill racers, which will be very expensive. It looks a
lot like a light motorcycle helmet with vents in the top. Bell
also has announced a patent on its Hardcore technology, which
unfortunately uses very high density foam rims around vents. This
permits the helmet to pass the ASTM standard, since a magnesium
headform will bridge the hard foam without complaining. Human
skulls are unfortunately not as rigid as magnesium headforms,
and we advise consumers to avoid those helmets. Unfortunately
Bell has announced they would be making more use of the hard foam.
They also are continuing to promote their "pump" models,
with inflating headbands. Bell had already dropped their Image
model prior to Consumer Reports' naming it among the best helmets
they tested, and are now marketing the Image Pro, which Consumer
Reports rated only average for impact protection. (As noted below,
Cannondale may sell the old Image in 1995.) Bell also is pushing
their visors, and has a child helmet called the Bellster with
the visor built permanently in, adding to the length, providing
a protrusion which could snag, but at least included in certification
testing. Bell now has 16 models in their lineup, not counting
the BSI helmets they sell through discount stores. For all our
carping about their hard foam models and other design excesses
we think Bell still produces a good quality product. Now if they
could just avoid implying in their ads that the ASTM standard
already has a rolloff test...
Cannondale has added a new line of clothing and accessories to
their bicycles. Among the things they will be selling in the
1995 season is what appears to be the old Bell Image, which is
now called the Cannondale HT-500 and is made for them by Bell
Sports. If in fact it is the identical model it is unfortunate
that most consumers will not be aware that it is the model Consumer
Reports rated number two and awarded its highest impact protection
Louis Garneau continues to produce their two-shell helmets, with
an inner plastic liner as well as an outer thin plastic shell.
They have a titanium inner ring reinforcing one of their models.
You can get them with black and white graphics to match Louis'
Giro has a number of new models, including three with a supplemental
rear piece they call the Roc Loc to stabilize the helmet on the
head. Their Riccochet has additional coverage in the rear. They
continue to emphasize fit through multiple shell sizes. They have
three models out under the LeMond Bicycle Helmets label, endorsed
by Tour de France winner Greg LeMond. Giro is still using Snell
certification, and they are still aimed at the high end of the
Helmet Worx is a new brand which started up last year. They have
a unique design with a supplemental rear strap they call the Lidlocker
which stabilizes the helmet on the head. They can also do custom
paintjobs at low prices.
Renaissance Marketing is another new company in 1994, but with
a difference. They are true mass merchandisers, and claim to have
sold two million helmets in 1994, expecting to sell three to four
million in 1995. Renaissance ships to Target, Toys R Us and other
discounters. They sell to dealers and non-profits in large numbers
at less than $8 per helmet, ranging up to perhaps the $25 level.
They handle several brands, including Wolf Pro, Headstrong, Lazer
and more recently Star. Their helmets are Snell certified for
now, but eventually they will offer retailers other certification
options. Other manufacturers were talking about Renaissance, one
joking that "somebody better buy those guys out quick and
raise their prices." There have been rumors reported in the
trade press that other companies have in fact tried to buy them.
Renaissance is just the sort of operation consumers have needed
to bring prices in the industry down to cutthroat competitive
N.B. - Renaissance did not exhibit at the 1995 show, and at least
one manufacturer has ended its relationship with them. We do not know
their current status.
Ride Safe, in its fourth year of offering non-profits and PTA's
a packaged helmet campaign complete with low-cost helmet procurement,
is offering BSI helmets at prices ranging from about $25 for the
models with the Reebok air pump for inflating fit pads down to
about $11 for the standard thinshell. Since Bell has dropped Snell
certification, these are all ASTM certified only. Ride Safe also
has toddler helmets, protective skating equipment, helmet videos,
reflective t-shirts, lights and other safety gear.
Specialized has a new rear projection to hold the helmet more
firmly on the head, similar to those from Giro, Helmet Worx and
Headwinds. They call it the Headlock, and it is on a helmet advertised
for off-road use. Specialized is now on the Internet with a World
Wide Web server up at http://www.specialized.com/bikes/ftrdacc.htm
where you can see their helmet ads, or leave a message for their
Shinn & Associates can deliver Headstrong helmets to groups
along with a kit for setting up a local program for prices beginning
at $9.75 delivered (in poly bags, white foam, no graphics). They
charge more for colors or individual boxes.
Star helmets caused a small stir in 1994 with several models which
had a very high quality appearance for a very low price. Star
is another brand selling to non-profits at low prices--in the
below $10 range for some of their models. They have a helmet certified
to Snell's N-94 multi-purpose helmet standard.
Troxel has a new model with a thin titanium shell. Called the
Radius Ti, it will have only an ANSI sticker since it can't meet
the ASTM standard, and will sell for $199 retail. It should at
least have very low sliding resistance. Troxel also has added
an off-road model with greater coverage. Their pony tail port
is our nominee for this year's Most Ripped Off Design Feature,
and idea so useful you wonder why it only surfaced in 1994.
A manufacturers list with addresses and phone numbers for all
the manufacturers and importers we are aware of is available
from our Fax on Demand service (BHSIDOC #535), and the discount
suppliers are available by selecting our "Cheap Helmets"
document (BHSIDOC #539).
European Standard Progressing Slowly
The draft CEN European standard for bike helmets has been revised
once again and may receive final approval by the end of this year.
Meantime, the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) directive comes
into effect on July 1, which will probably require a transition
period using national standards until the CEN standard is final.
We do not have the new draft yet to update our standards comparison,
but it apparently introduces a second helmet type with a self-releasing
buckle designed to prevent children from strangling on playground
Bike Club Puts Up Helmet Billboards
The Quad Cities Bicycle Club put up 45 full sized billboards in
Iowa last summer, with a graphic of a helmeted rider and the message
"Be Head Strong. Wear a Helmet! A message from the Quad Cities
Bicycle Club." They placed the billboards under a public
service announcement fee schedule through Ragan Outdoor Advertising,
who designed the billboard. Photos of the full sized signs are
impressive. Suggestions for a theme or artwork for their next
campaign would be welcome, says Kathryn B. Storm, Quad Cities
Bicycle Club, P. O. Box 3575, Davenport, IA 52808.
The Government Wants to Help You
The Centers for Disease Control, part of the U.S. Public Health
Service, just published in February a new set of Injury Control
Recommendations: Bicycle Helmets. The introductory material is
about bicycling and helmets, standards, barriers to helmet use
and means of increasing helmet use. The Recommendations:
- Every bicycle rider should wear a helmet whenever they ride.
- The helmets should meet the ANSI, ASTM or Snell standard.
- States and communities should legislate and educate to increase
Appendices cover some elements of legislation, components of a
community-based helmet promotion campaign, and some of the organizations
providing campaign materials. One chart in this publication was
so useful that we include it with this newsletter: Evaluation
of Legislation and Community Programs to Increase the Use of Bicycle
The Recommendations are narrowly drawn, and basically follow the
formula used by injury prevention professionals in the U.S. for
any sort of injury prevention strategy, including a heavy reliance
on legislation. There is no acknowledgment that Australia and
New Zealand are years ahead of us in this field, and we could
profit from analyzing how they did it.
The 24 page pamphlet is available from us or through our Internet
In addition to this publication, the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration has formed the National Ad Hoc Working Group
to Prevent Bicycle-Related Traumatic Brain Injuries. The group
has met three times so far and is working on its mission statement.
The meetings have been useful for sharing information on helmet
promotion resources and programs. They are coordinated by Darlene
Curtin of NHTSA (202) 366-9832, and Julie Russell of CDC (404)
Finally, the Federal Highway Administration is sponsoring the
clearinghouse explained in the next article.
On November 1, 1994, the new National Bicycle and Pedestrian Clearinghouse
opened, sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
and run jointly by the Bicycle Federation of America and the Rails
to Trails Conservancy. The clearinghouse will distribute US Department
of Transportation documents related to bicycling and walking,
including information on trails. It will also make referrals to
other resources, and has requested organizations involved in bicycle
and pedestrian issues to send in lists of contacts and publications
if they want callers referred to them. Finally, the clearinghouse
will develop fact sheets on specific topics and provide brief
technical assistance to bicycle and pedestrian professionals,
safety experts, planners and engineers. (According to FHWA officials
the clearinghouse is not designed for the general public.) The
Manager of the clearinghouse is Peter Moe. Their address is 1506
21st Street, N.W., Suite 210, Washington, DC 20036. Their telephone
is (800) 760-NBPC, and their fax is (202) 463-6625.
Voigt Hodgson, Helmet Pioneer
One of the veteran researchers of helmet design and testing passed
away at age 71 last August after a brief illness. Dr. Voigt Hodgson's
career at Wayne State University began with the team which developed
the original Wayne State Curves for acceleration tolerance in
humans, and continued with active work on football helmets for
forty years. He developed a unique humanoid headform designed
to mimic the response of the human head which was used to develop
NOCSAE football helmet standards and test football helmets. Hodgson
was particularly pleased when the 1990 football season ended without
a single fatality for the first time in 60 years. Dr. Hodgson
did some remarkable research on sliding resistance of bicycle
helmets in 1989-90 which showed that no-shell helmets did not
skid well in crashes, possibly increasing forces on a rider's
neck. We visited him in his lab in 1989 to discuss that research
and see his test rig, and we were immediately impressed by the
depth of his background, his commitment and his compassion. Voigt
Hodgson will be missed.
We have connected our BHSI LAN to the Internet. You can find this
newsletter, our latest annotated bibliography, the latest revision
of our Most Asked Questions About Bicycle Helmets, our latest
helmet standards comparison dated March 14 and a lot of other
helmet stuff on the Internet at our World Wide Web server, reached
at http://www.bhsi.org. A lot of people are finding us, including
browsers from at least 22 foreign countries in our first few weeks
of operation. And don't forget that you can reach us directly
by email here at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We still have our 24 hour interactive Fax on Demand service at
our regular phone number, (703) 4860100. You can call us from
the handset of your fax machine and receive documents by fax immediately.
Selections include statistics and background information for preparing
press articles or speeches, recent helmet industry articles from
Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, this newsletter, our helmet
standards comparison and more. We have a comment on current developments
in helmets, our pamphlets, our current list of helmet laws, a
list of manufacturers, our bibliography, the draft CPSC standard,
our comments on that standard, the ASTM comments on that standard,
the Technisearch study on impact sites in relation to coverage
lines, and more. The same number continues to be our regular phone
number, and you can leave voice messages or even reach a live
volunteer as well as use the Fax on Demand. If we are in the office
we pick up the line when you select the message function.
Improving our access has been very satisfying for us, and we hope
it will be useful to you.