If you’re anything like me, you know that choosing a bike helmet can be a strenuous experience. They all look a little funny on, and when you find one that’s comfortable and looks cool, you wonder how it stacks up against the competition. It’s clear that safety and fit are important, but reconciling those with looks and price can be a chore. This article will tell you the basics of helmet design and testing, so you know what to look for.
Standards are useful to consumers to cover the performance you can’t judge for yourself in a bike store–mostly impact management and strap strength. A standard sets minimum requirements, but does not tell you how far a manufacturer exceeds requirements. So a standard sticker inside a helmet does not necessarily tell you whose helmet is superior, but it tells you that the helmet always meets the minimum requirements.
- The CPSC standard is a legal requirement for any helmet manufactured for the US market. It was adopted by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, and is mandatory for all helmets manufactured for sale in the U.S. after 1999. It requires dropping the helmet 2 meters in the flat anvil test. To be sold in Canada, a helmet must exceed CPSC standards.
- EN1078 (CEN) is the European Safety Standard. It follows many of the same testing structures as CPSC, but notably does more UV-damage testing, tests in wider heat ranges, and conducts more testing for damage to helmet material from skin contact or allergic reactions in the wearer. CEN standards are less stringent than CPSC when it comes to foam thickness, though, allowing for lighter helmet weights.
- ANSI: The 1984 American National Standards Institute bicycle helmet standard, which was replaced by ASTM, and later superseded by CPSC. If you are participating in an event that requires an ANSI rating for your helmet, any CPSC rated helmet exceeds the required certification.
- ASTM F1952 (ASTM- DH): This is a beefed-up version of the ASTM standard, specifically for downhill helmets. Studies have shown higher risk to the head and face for this sport as compared to recreational street riding; hence, this specification requires greater impact protection. These standards significantly exceed those set by CPSC regulations.
Fitting the Helmet:
Use the “Eye-Ear-Chin” test when fitting a helmet.
When you look upward the front rim should be just visible to your eye
The Y of the side straps should meet just below your ear
The chin strap should be loose enough to allow two fingers to fit between it and your chin.
The CSA Group published the following safety guidelines for helmet fitting:
- Certification markings: Look for the certification mark of an accredited certification & testing organization to be sure it meets the applicable standard for safety and performance.
- Fit: Proper fit is essential for safety. Try helmets on before purchasing to make sure you pick one that fits comfortably and snugly.
- Stability: When the straps and comfort pads are adjusted, the helmet should not move forward, backward or come off. It should sit level on the head and extend down to about 3-cm above the eyebrows.
- Ventilation: Look for vents that allow heat to escape, providing coolness and perspiration control.
- Attachment system: Front and rear straps should meet just below each ear when tightly adjusted. The chin straps should be snug without pinching.
- Eye care: Visors provide cyclists with additional protection from the sun and rain.
- Visibility: Brightly colored helmets and reflective strips make the rider more visible in traffic.
Once you’ve selected a helmet, remember that it must be worn correctly every time you ride a bike. A helmet should be replaced immediately if damaged, and at least every five years based on wear and tear.
In the event of a crash, the helmet should be replaced. In an impact, the helmet does what it is designed to do- it’s liner compacts to absorb the energy from the impact. This compacting irreversibly damages the helmet, so that it can’t perform the same function again. Even if the helmet looks the same, it should be destroyed and replaced.
Many companies argue that helmet performance degrades over time. Many manufacturers will recommend helmet replacement every two to five years depending on activity.
Helmets to Consider:
IXS Trail RS Evo
Standards passed: CPSC, EN1078
LTP part number: 553425-01 – 28
Standards passed: CPSC, EN1078, ASTM F1952
LTP part number: 553410-01 – 15
We recently started a long-term test of the IXS Trail RS Evo helmet. We go over some of the updates to the design here.