What Price Head Protection?



What Price Head Protection?

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute recently released data on some safety tests they had performed against a variety of helmets along a considerable price range ($9.96 – $206.99).  The results show that the helmets tested stood up equally well to the destructive onslaught of the masses dropped on them – regardless of their retail price.

That’s good news because it confirms that effectively protective helmets are available to virtually everyone.  It also points to the potential value of the youth helmet program that the RI State Health Department and the U.S. Open Cycling Foundation have been providing for the past couple of years by delivering and individually fitting hundreds of helmets to kids around the state.  All good news to those concerned about society’s health care cost burden.

One caveat – these tests, where a mass is dropped onto a helmet strapped to a simulated head, are only part of the appropriate measurement of a helmet’s effectiveness.  Whether you are a rider or the parent of a rider, you must consider three additional issues:

1. Does the helmet fit and is it adjusted correctly – some studies show that over 90% of riders wear their helmet incorrectly

2. Is the helmet comfortable and will it be worn when it is hot outside

3. Does the intended wearer find its styling attractive enough to wear?

In fact, with the tests showing that helmets offer the same amount of crash protection regardless of price, these three are, perhaps, the only questions you need to ask.


When, during Cycle-for-Health programs in schools around the state, I ask kids why they don’t wear helmets, they usually say because they are good riders.  So we talk about famous, helmeted athletes ranging from Tom Brady to Tony Hawk to Lance Armstrong.  I try to make one point: that being a great rider – or athlete – doesn’t mean that you are immune from things you can’t control…like wayward dogs, potholes or drivers…the avoidance of which can cause you to fall and bump your head.

The good news from these Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute tests is that – as long as it is on your head correctly – one helmet is as good as the next.

– Durishin


  • Noman
    Feb 11, 2010 at 5:44 am

    There is no gear as important, but don't forget bright jersey (be seen), lights and reflectors at night, padded gloves (protect hands) safety glasses (cars fling stones up to 50 mph).

    Also, an airy helmet might be too cool for winter, but helmet covers can help.

    Once helmet skin is cracked, unit should be replaced, or if styrofoam dries out after a decade. In any case, a helmet is cheap insurance against brain damage.

  • Feb 11, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Dick… I'm often asked, "How frequently should I replace my helmet?" Obviously, if you are in any sort of accident, it should be replaced, but it must wear out over time as well. Do you know what the current best practice is?

  • Bruce Masterson
    Feb 16, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Rule of thumb used to be every 2-3 years. The foam was said to degrade over time. Many "Sportif" cyclists, myself included, change for style, reasons every season or two. Even at $150.00-$200.00 a pop it's cheap insurance.

    I would not recommend keeping a helmet more than 4-5 years. Incidental bumps, whacks and drops will probably ding it up enough to make replacement a good idea.

  • Bill Lewis
    Feb 20, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    I know I'll probably start a war but helmets are not as important for safe cycling as paying attention. In fact it has been shown that helmets can not protect you in any but dead stop falls like at a stop sign in cleats. There is also a risk of rotational injury to the spinal column due to the helmet dragging on the pavement.

    It has also been shown in studies that wherever a manditory helmet law has been enacted cycling numbers decline. If we are to promote cycling we must emphasize that it is a safe and healthy lifestyle choice. Millions of people ride millions of miles every day all over the world without a piece of foam strapped to their heads and don't die.

    As a life long car free cyclist I can say that I have been hit by cars and fallen on my bikes and have never hit my head once.

    Also note that helmet makers state that a helmet offers no protection in a collision with a motor vehicle, to state so is to delude yourself and others.

    There has been a lot of press about the increased incidence of concussion in football and hockey players because of risk compensation.

    Brain injuries are cause when the brain hits the inside of the skull, all a helmet can do is keep you from a scalp wound or a bump on the noggin.

    If you would like a more thorough discussion go to bikeforums.net and click on the safety and advocacy section.

    We need to fight the peception of cycling as being a dangerous activity.

  • bruce
    Feb 21, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    So, if you don't want to start a war why throw out the troll line?

  • Noman
    Feb 22, 2010 at 4:04 am

    ^To see which fool would snap at it.

    Inattention? Ridiculous. Cyclists notice everything. Cycling attracts aspies, autistics, and obsessive compulsives who can recite every license plate and roadside sign they’ve ever seen. Most have annoying habits and smell bad. What's there not to hate? Let's blame the victims, as usual.

    In 95% of the low number of bicycling fatalities, rider wasn't wearing a helmet. Perhaps that's because they couldn't afford one, since most are young adults 18 to 26. Or maybe its just the same reasons for car fatalities: inappropriate speed and substance abuse, with a small percentage inattention. But how many cyclists do you think are texting? Wake up!

    If you live your life according to uninformed opinion on bike forums, I pity you. That's just like listening to hate mongering conservative opinion on talk radio, from Hannity to Limbaugh to Savage.

  • Bruce Masterson
    Feb 22, 2010 at 5:44 am

    So, why do you call me a fool? Same reason?

  • Feb 22, 2010 at 6:51 am

    Why I wear a helmet…

    1. Brain injury results from the brain hitting the skull – caused by a force impinging on the skull. If said force is lessened by absorption due to a foam/pvc/nylon device strapped to my head, perhaps there is less chance there will be enough force to make brain hit bone.

    2. I ride in the city. That means dodging potholes, cars, sandy shoulders and ferocious drainage grates. If I do a "flying W" because I don't see a pothole – or because it's pothole or suddenly stopped car – I want even the essence of protection.

    3. The human body is a self-righting unit. Reflexes are designed to protect the head – but it isn't always possible (see "flying W" above).

    4, I've a friend with a couple of kids – she was in a terrible cycling accident a few years ago where a car juked left, then turned right – into her as she was passing at 30+ mph (country road). Several facial and dental surgeries later she is back to her – really – stunning self. Had that accident occurred sans helmet, her kids would be motherless.

    5. Nothing is perfect. But if there is a non-cumbersome piece of equipment that improves your chance of survival in some instances and you can find it in a style and colorway that gives you pleasure – are you a fool or not to go without it? Ask your favourite actuarial agent, lawyer or neurologist.

    N.B.: If you haven't yet seen cyclists texting, you need to spend some time in a real city.

  • Bill Lewis
    Feb 22, 2010 at 6:55 am

    You guys are funny. I re-read my post and can find nothing in it that suggests trolling, I just happen to have a different opinion backed by my experience of 45 years of bike riding car free and research of the matter.

    I made my points logically and can back them up.

    I didn't get my information from a helmet industry lobby website.

    All the real data I've seen helmeted riders die in equal numbers as un-helmeted ones.

    My point is that cycling is a safe healthy activity and should be promoted without this chicken little mentality that it's so dangerous you have to wear special equipment. As far as opinion on bike forums goes if you haven't read the safety and advocacy threads and seen the amount of scientific studies from researchers in Australia, USA, England and Canada that is presented.The reason for the english speaking slant is because helet use is an american helmet manufacturer's invention.

    The comment that 95% of the fatalities are un-lidded is a fabrication, If you get hit by a vehicle and die it's most likely from internal injuries to your body.

    Here is the llink for the bikeforums threads, read for yourself: http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?619097-H

  • Feb 22, 2010 at 7:09 am

    @ Bill Lewis,

    Great comments here!

    I agree with what you say about the need to promote cycling as safe and healthy. That's why in our Cycle-for-Health classes we don't dwell on the accidents that can happen…because bad things can happen anywhere and at any time.

    Truth is – obesity from inactivity kills far more Americans than bicycle accidents do…and the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association says that over 62 million Americans ride a bike at least 9x per year.

    Perhaps all X-boxes should be mounted on moving treadmills. Just think of the safety equipment you could mandate for that!

  • Noman
    Feb 22, 2010 at 11:17 am

    "helmets are not as important for safe cycling as paying attention." You can't help but pay attention. Yeah, riding around with eyes closed is idiotic. But, after being pummeled by a baseball bat while riding and smashing several helmets in falls (both myself and others I know), we don't ride without. You can do as you'd like.

    "helmets can not protect you in any but dead stop falls like at a stop sign in cleats. There is also a risk of rotational injury to the spinal column due to the helmet dragging on the pavement." Specious twaddle. You've never done an endo. You've never seen any fatal accidents. I have.

    "Wherever a manditory helmet law has been enacted cycling numbers decline." So, you prioritize getting people to ride over them doing it safely? Neither is as important as keeping motorists from murdering innocents, which pales compared to spending trillions annually on criminal warfare worldwide.

    "Millions of people ride millions of miles every day all over the world without a piece of foam strapped to their heads and don’t die." A billion people ride bicycles. It is the most popular form of transportation except walking. About 5,000 Americans die walking every year. Only about 700 bicyclists die. 41,000 motorists died last year in US, more than all bicyclists in 150 years. The worst part of motoring is the cancer and heart disease it directly causes, about 2 million/year. This carnage continues unabated. Nobody cares.

    "have never hit my head once." Lucky you. I know dozens of people who have. It is very common, although hands and knees usually hit first. A blow to the back of head may blind or kill you.

    "No protection in a collision with a motor vehicle." Almost all fatalities on bikes are in collisions with motor vehicles including all those 95% who die not wearing a helmet. Presumably, if they joined the rest who did, they might still be alive. Also, because riders sit higher than drivers, they might be hit in back of head by mirrors. And gutter runners are at risk of running into signs positioned for motorists.

    "brain hits the inside of the skull, … keep you from a scalp wound or a bump on the noggin." Not true. Helmet foam is an effective crumple zone. They work.

    " bikeforums.net" Please consult something forensic, i. e., The Only Good Bicyclist", http://www.transalt.org/files/newsroom/magazine/0
    which shows, albeit a small sample, that motorists and poor urban planning are to blame in nearly 100% of incidents. Bicyclist opinions, as demonstrated by this website, are ignored and useless. Why bother?

    "peception of cycling as being a dangerous activity"… It's the safest form of travel statistically, 3 sigma. No, what society needs to do is further restrict abusive motoring, which puts everyone – motorists and pedicyclists alike – at risk, and futile, wasteful spending, nearly a trillion/year, on motorways that has bankrupted country. Instead judges routinely let multiple DUI offenders off with warnings, or SUV criminals who actually kill cyclists off without even a hearing. According to existing policies, MOTORS RULE: everyone who gets in their way are dog meat.

    On the other hand, the fewer the drivers, the worse the remainder drive. Studies overseas show that getting rid of traffic controls actually improves the way motorists react in the presence of pedicyclists. When in doubt, they slow down. At issue is mainly congested areas, although 4 out of 5 traffic accidents do occur on rural roads. Again speed and substance abuse account for 75% or more of accidents. Bicyclist inattention is such a small percentage as to be negligible.

  • Bill Lewis
    Feb 22, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    I am so sorry to have come upon such bunch of poor cyclist that you fall so often.You poor dears should be wearing a lid in the shower.

    As for your female friend if I read this right she was too far to the right and most likely in the gutter and got squeezed (right hooked) this wouldn't have happened if she was farther in the lane and was paying more attention. By your discription of her injuries, she hit her mouth and just how did that helmet do? In fact over thirty percent of hospital records of cyclist head trauma happen below where a helmet covers. Unless you wear a full face motorcycle helmet, but you sound like a spandex wearing weight weenie falling down with your 23 mm tires getting stuck in storm grates.

    I tend to hold my position in traffic and take the lane. I am not prone to put myself where I can be right hooked.

    The only times I've gone over the bars were in accidents with a car first time I was hit from behind and landed in grass on the side of Rt.114 in Middletown when I was 14. I went over the bars when a woman ran a red light, I slid over the hood I bumped my knee and elbow both times never hit my head. I guess I know better than to grab a handfull of front brake.

    The studies done after Australia enacted a manditory helmet law saw ridership decline thirty to forty percent while there was not a corespondant decline in head injuries. There is also research from Vancouver Canada show similar result from their MHL. I think that getting people to ride with caution and following the rules of the road are better than making a big deal about an infinitly small chance ofdeath by head trauma when it's the vehicle that crushes your body.

    My goal is to show that we can use a bike just like everyone else in the non-english speaking world does. Without the hysteria and elitism of helmet nazis. The more of us there are, the more drivers are used to bikes. Drivers actually give non helmeted riders more space when passing, look it up captain WIKI.

  • Noman
    Feb 27, 2010 at 8:15 am

    I ride in travel lane, where everyone belongs. Guess you just like sound of your own voice, because you'd know that if you actually read anything. Did say hands, knees before head in a fall. Not talking JUST ABOUT FALLS, but all hazards.

  • Dennis
    Mar 1, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Ahhh… helmets.

    If you look into the standardized testing for bicycle helmet you might find that the standard protection is from a 5 foot fall. That amounts to me falling over when I pull up to a stop sign. If you feel better wearing a helmet then do it.

    There are 3 kinds of lies:

    1. Standard lies

    2. Bald faced lies

    3. Statistics

    Citing things like "95% who die are not wearing helmets", says very little to what caused the death. The 4 Driver vs Cyclist collisions that I've been involved in in Providence have not killed me. Two caused significant injury (shoulder and wrist) but when I'm in a contest with a 2 ton hunk of metal I don't have faith that a helmet will save my life. Preparation has.

    And I do see helmeted cyclists. about 50% that I see downtown are not wearing the helmet correctly, increasing their risk of injury. Many of these helmeted riders are riding against traffic. I ride at night and see very few bicyclists with lights. So when people cite helmet safety in a conversation of cycling safety, along with the statistics, I'm disappointed.

    Education might go a lot further toward saving lives than handing someone a helmet. Education for the Cyclist and Driver.

  • Mar 1, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Un-lit cyclists at night…

    There is a bit of a Darwinian effect in cycling, isn't there.

    And, yes, both cyclists and drivers need to be educated. More on that in a bit…

  • Bill Lewis
    Mar 1, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Reading about helmets and safety on Bikeforums.net has taught me a great deal. I do not nor will I wear a helmet outside of a skate park. I do own one for this purpose only, maybe down hill on a wooded trail.

    I try not to use statistics when I make my points and I don't have to use WIKI or Google as I have been reading this stuff for three years now.

    If you get a sense of security from a helmet then wear it but don't inflate the real protection given by one.

    Do the research and you will see for yourselves. The most important thing is numbers. We must prove bike riding is an easy and inexpensive way to get around, and not this dangerous sport that requires hundreds of dollars in special gear.

  • Noman
    Mar 2, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    – Sending kids under 16 out without a helmet is illegal. It's also child abuse.

    – If you have loved ones who rely on you're staying alive, it is imprudent to leave for a ride without one.

    – If you actually read accident reports, sure, collarbone breaks are a prevalent serious injury, one that helmets do nothing to avoid… or do they? You more apt to tuck and roll correctly if your noggin is protected.

    – Those 95% fatalities are almost all brain and spinal cord injuries among people who didn't wear helmets.

    – Bike forums are full of idiotic, uninformed opinions.

    – I've been hit by motor vehicles 4 times; each time they pushed me off-line, which, luckily, didn't result in a fall, but that's what usually happens. It isn't the collision so much as the fall. Fallen a half dozen times, mostly from poor road conditions, but a couple times from other cyclists. common to see scores of cyclists in eschelon go down after one in front loses control.

    – Hockey players used to play without helmets; football had flimsy leather ones… they outlawed it after many serious injuries. You know what cops call motorcyclists who don't wear helmets? Organ donors.

    – As I said, you do what you like; we'll be kind and not say, "I told him so", at your funeral.

  • Bill Lewis
    Mar 2, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Sounds like Alan Barta to me.

    First of all your 95% of all fatalities weren't wearing helmets doesn't say that they all died from head trauma. I would say that they great majority died from massive internal and skeletal damage. It's very rare to to have just your head smashed and nothing else.

    Humans naturally protect their heads in falls, or did all those millions of horse riders that get thrown or fall off their mounts really have tri-cornered helmets on?

    Peloton crashes rarely cause head strike injuries at least the ones I've seen and what does that have to do with riding in Rhode Island?

    The site bikeforuns.net is a very large site with many sections of interest, to me it sounds like you don't know what yoou talking about because you haven't been there. There are many knowlegable people there in every area of bicycle culture not just advocacy. There are people who are the national names in the press and writers, industry folks from companies big and small. It is not all a bunch of loons like you.

  • Noman
    Mar 3, 2010 at 5:32 am

    No, the accident reports, if you read them, DO SAY head and neck trauma.

    If caring about users of streets makes me a loon, I'm in rare company. Besmirching someone's reputation to obscure truth is called the straw man fallacy. So what does that make Bill Lewis: an underhanded industry plant who can be accused of libel? That's an easy reputation to uphold, but it might cost you in the long run.