by Lisa Brooke
You sit up in a state of confusion looking around for your bicycle and wonder what happened and how it occurred so quickly. You’re asking the questions: Am I alright? Is my bike OK? Can I still ride? What about the upcoming race? Will I be OK to work? That is if your crash didn’t knock you beyond a state of being able to worry about these things.
We’ve nearly all had this experience, whether at five years old or 55. Wearing a bicycle helmet plays an important role in preventing minor to severe head injuries and should be worn with certainty. A comforting thought in the scenario above, you know that you had on the correct helmet and that it was made to protect you from the fall that you just took. There are many different safety standards and types of helmets as you will see below. Choosing the correct helmet, for the riding of your choice, will not only help you in the event of a fall, but also in the comfort and functionality when it’s waiting to do its’ job while on your head.
Bicycle Safety Standards
There are many safety standards around the world which vary in their rigorousness as well as where they apply. Many helmet companies obtain the standards for which their intended market resides so if you are looking for a specific helmet made elsewhere, it may not meet the safety standards of your country. That aside, your head doesn’t care which safety standards your helmet meets, just that it does its’ job when you do have a fall. The beginning of finding the right helmet can be the safety standards a helmet meets, but more importantly and also easier to identify is what type of helmet you should wear.
A Bicycle helmet will most likely meet one of the following four standards. These vary in applicability and testing procedures, but they are the four most known and widely used standards.
– CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission Standard) – This is the newer form of the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standard in the United States which is one of the most widely used given its vast market. It’s a fairly rigorous test that all bicycling helmets in the US must pass.
– Australian Standard (which is combined with New Zealand, AS/NZS) – One of the most rigorous standards. More so than that of the CPSC Standard
-CEN European Standard – This covers all European member states and is a bit less rigorous with the allotment of less foam and lighter helmets of which often do not pass the CPSC tests.
-Snell Foundation – The Snell Standard is the most rigorous having its roots in motorcycle helmets.
These are not all of the standards by any means and just because your helmet doesn’t meet one of these doesn’t mean it’s a poor helmet. Other standards can be just as vigorous but do not have the volume of sales to be well known. One particular example is the Canadian Standard which can be just as good if not better in some regards to the CPSC Standard.
Bicycle Helmet Types
Helmet standards can be tricky and not always equal. The best way to ensure that your helmet is going to protect you is not only making sure it has one of the standards, but also that it is intended for what you are using it for. Bike riding these days comes in all shapes and sizes from commuting to work, to road racing, to mountain biking, summer and winter. All of these disciplines have different dangers so require different body armor, bike wear, and helmets. A bicycle helmet plays an important role, regardless of discipline, and there are a number of steps to help protect yourself.
Road cycle helmets are designed for impacts at higher speeds while also still being lightweight and breathable. Many of these, particularly in the past few years, have a trend toward aerodynamics. These helmets still do the job of protecting your head, but do so with less wind resistance. If you were to wear protective bike helmets like POC offered, you would be able to customize the fit you wanted and get the best combination of speed and protection.
Mountain bike helmets have some of the same needs of breath ability and lightweight but also have the need for extra protection, particularly around the back of the head. Mountain bike helmets typically are built to achieve a higher protection standard due to the potential for direct head impacts, such as with trees. If you are mountain biking, you should have a helmet that is specific to it.
Downhill Mountain Biking
A form of mountain biking is downhill, only this is where riders are transported to the top of a trail and they only ride downhill, often at high speeds and risk. This type of riding requires a helmet that offers protection like that of mountain biking, but to a higher degree, as well as protection to the face. These helmets are more similar to that of motorcycle helmets. However, they are lighter weight and offer more breath ability.
Enduro Mountain Biking
“Enduro” is where you ride uphill to the tops of trails where you then ride a timed segment of downhill. This type of riding requires the protection of a downhill helmet as well as the lightness and breath ability of a regular mountain bike helmet. These helmets do a good job of not only protecting your head to a very high degree, but also give you the comfort you need to enjoy all aspects of the ride.
BMX – BMX helmets are similar to that of downhill and motorcycle helmets in that they offer full face protection. These also are built to withstand impacts to a greater degree due to the speeds and types of crashes.
City/Urban – Not all riding falls under the categories mentioned above. A vast majority of the riding done is by everyday commuters. Having a helmet that protects you in the event of a fall or an impact with a vehicle is crucial. These helmets have more protection over a greater area of the head, most notably the back. These often have less breath ability and are a bit heavier but have a harder outer-shell due to the potential of higher impacts.
Bicycle helmets come in many different varieties and styles along with having different safety standards that they abide to. Having a helmet that protects your head in the event of a fall in your particular style of riding is the most crucial. Checking the safety standards your new helmet will meet is the first step, but it’s not the most important. As long as it meets one of the viable standards, having a helmet specific to your type of riding is critical. Those helmets are designed for the specific impacts associated with that style of riding. In the future when you are sitting up from a fall, wondering what happened, you’ll be less worried knowing you had on the proper body armor for your style of riding. Is there a specific type of cycle helmet that you prefer? Tell us about it!
About the Author
Lisa Brooke is a sports person and wants to explore each and every hidden hamlet in the world. She is an alumni of the University of London and has done her graduation in English literature. Her hobbies include indulging outdoor activities, participating in boot camps and creative writing. You can follow her on G+.