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    What about helmets?
    Can someone explain what the different Safety codes mean for bicycle helmets and which ones meet the requirement for Cycle Oregon? I have seen helmets saying they are ANSI, DOT, and CSPC(?). Which ones are current?

Dave Esche

Let me preface by stating I am blatantly plagiarizing from the April 1999 Portland Wheelmen Touring Club newsletter. Jim O'Horo wrote an article regarding helmet standards and generally advised readers that helmet manufacturers say that even if there is no crash, helmets should be replaced every 3-5 years.

ANSI: American National Standards Institute - similar to ASTM but focuses more on finished products standards. Not part of the US government.

CPSC: Consumer Product Safety Commission - an agency of the US government charged with establishing minimum safety standards for consumer products offered for sale in the US.

His article did not mention DOT.

Jim's article is lengthy but, to summarize, he said: Even if your helmet has no signs of deterioration, it may still be wise to replace it with a CPSC compliant model. Though recently manufactured helmets with either Snell (Snell Memorial Foundation - a private, non profit foundation which establishes standards and test methods for and certifies all types of sports helmets) or ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials - and independent organization which establishes standard test methods, material specifications, and in this case, finished product specs. Not part of US government) certification are probably close enough to CPSC compliance to be worn for the remainder of the service life. The only certifications that really count are those on the little label(s) glued inside the helmet. If you don't see ASTM or Snell on one or more of the labels, you should be asking yourself..."is it time for a helmet shopping expedition?"

I'm afraid I do not know the relationship of this information to CO requirements. Regardless, I should think we would all want a helmet meeting the highest standard. Too many stories about saved brains/lives with credit given to the "bucket."

Ann Morrow

My information on the standards comes from my motorcycle racing and auto racing officiating days.

Snell was founded as a memorial to race driver Peter Snell. Its standards used to be higher than those required by the government and used to be the standard for racing sanctioning bodies. I assume that would still be the case, but am not certain as I haven't been involved in those venues since switching to self powered wheel sports five years ago.

I believe the manufacturer has to pay to have their products tested which is why most of the lower end helmets don't have this certification.

I'm a creature of habit and always look for the Snell sticker when helmet shopping. I survived a motorcycle malady back in 1972 that had me in a semi coma for five days due to a head injury. I'm certain that if I had used a lesser quality helmet I wouldn't be here today.

That 80 thru 100 dollar plus price tag for a helmet is a small price to pay compared to possible alternatives.

CO and most cycling clubs only require the helmets pass the minimum federal standards. But it is *your only* head sooo...

Don "a staunch supporter of the bucket head" Bolton

As a long distance motorcycle rider, this is a favorite topic among this group. Snell is by far the more difficult certification to be obtained. This is because they actually DROP stuff on the helmet and expect it to survive such impacts. But DOT certification is recognized everywhere and should be considered a sign of a well made helmet. BTW, it is strongly recommended that you replace your helmet every five years. This is due to the materials out gassing and loosing their protective characteristics. If you have dropped your helmet or had any other sort of impact, you should also replace. Just think of a styrofoam cup and how easily it dents. This is similar to the material of which your helmet is made. ANY impact will deform the material and guarantee that future impacts are not evenly distributed. Also be attentive as to where you leave your helmet and how it is handled. I assume you are not hanging your helmet in such a way to deform the inside surface.

Greg Thomas

Browse the site. There are some interesting statistics about cyclists in the news section. I find the testing procedures fascinating. There are also references to other resources (not all web based).

Don "there’s a lot of information to digest on the subject" Bolton

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Seems pretty bad if true but. If dropped straight down on your head from a height of only several feet without a helmet you'd be toast. (this gem I got from an article about helmets I read years ago).

It could very well be a direct impact on a fixed test weight of > 15 MPH could be fatal. Fortunately most head impacts are of the glancing kind and a lot of the energy is absorbed in linear motion AKA road rash.

I've always feared that the venting ports would be places of intrusion for potentially fatal debris upon impact however, I'd like to see how they are testing that aspect.

One thing to be sure of is that your helmet is fitted proper so in an impact it is and will remain in the proper place so it can do its job of absorbing the impacts.

Don "gotta get out on the Snell page and read up" Bolton

My husband has worked in an ICU for about 17 years. Every spring they get several small children in who were learning to ride their new bikes (usually Christmas presents) without helmets and just tipped over from a standstill. We're not talking anything more serious than a scrape to the rest of their bodies; it's just the head injury that has landed them in ICU. (of course he does see cyclists with other traumatic injuries, but I'm just addressing the brain here) Whacking the noggin from a standstill is enough to give serious head injury to a child (or anybody else). The acceleration of that heavy head is enough to cause head injury. In all those years, he's never seen a bicyclist wearing a helmet get a head injury. That's proof enough for me. Similarly, after Washington passed it's motorcycle helmet law, he saw a dramatic drop in the number of head-injured motorcyclists. Maybe we should be lobbying for mandatory bicycle helmet laws for all cyclists.

Debi Toews

Actually this message is for anyone interested in helmet replacement. I sent an email off to Giro following is their response.

Depending on usage, a helmet should be replaced after 3-5 years of use. If the helmet is used on a daily basis, we would recommend replacement after about 3 years of use.

Jeff "I'm getting a new helmet!" Hall

If anyone out there has a large head and is having trouble finding a comfortable helmet Bell makes a super extra large helmet. I believe they call it the "kinghead" size. We special ordered one through Bike Gallery.

Rox Heath

Having just replaced my helmet this year [1999] - let me share the info I amassed.

The bike mags & shops consistently indicated a 4 - 5 year life for helmets. The things that happen are small bumps, etc. (of course none of us ever throw our helmet in the truck with all the junk!) that tend to compress the styrofoam - making it less effective in a crash. The sweat, salts and oils from your head/hair also penetrate the foam, reducing it's impact capacity. I saw all of these as a bit of a stretch to really convince me to shell out the $100. What really tipped the scales for me was the improvements in helmet design. The new ones have a vastly improved suspension system --keeping/locking the helmet in the right place - critically important if your head finds a hard stationary object ;-} And finally the vents and cooling properties have gone from marginal at best to exceptional, I used to constantly wish for sweat-wiper blades on my sunglasses, new helmet = minor problem - even climbing out of Hell's Canyon [CO 12]. Although even with the super vents I still broke a sweat on day 2, unlike our ABA associates -- perhaps the humidity had risen too much by the time I struggled up to the top ;-}

Dan McKenzie

Some ideas I've heard about prolonging helmet life (other than avoiding traumatic impact): Don't store it in your car! If you must leave it there, at least cover it up. Auto glass blocks a lot of UV, but heat is no friend of helmet materials, either. Don't clean it with anything but soap and water. Avoid applying stickers & the like to the exposed foam... the warnings indicate that the whole helmet is off limits, and I generally heed those, but some might feel better with extra Scotchlite on the hardshell, and I can sympathize with that. More than anything, avoid storing it in direct sunlight... unless you're in Oregon, it gets enough of that when it's in use.

Thoughts for folks new to cycling: Please don't go to K-Mart or Target or Freddy's for your helmet! We're talking about protecting your BRAIN. You might get extremely lucky at one of the aforementioned retailers and stumble over a knowledgeable salesperson, but I wouldn't bet on it. Go to a real bike shop and ask for help with your choice. They should show you how to wear it properly and help you with the fit. I'll be going on helmet #7 next time, and I still ask for help.

I wish I had a buck for every rider I've seen with their helmet on backwards or with it sitting like a yarmulke so as not to muss the hairdo. A titanium frame would probably be within reach by now!

Scott Saulsbury

Helmets visors - We really like the visors on the front. You will be riding in the EARLY morning and having a visor so you can tilt down your head to block the sun in your eyes really helps. It makes rain easier to tolerate. I also don't need to put any sun block on my forehead with my visor and then it doesn't run into my eyes. Good air flow-through is nice for cooling, but you don't have to be extreme about it.

Rox Heath

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If you have any doubts about fit, ASK, but do it at a bike store... most of the people at department stores will know less than you do no matter how new you are to the sport. Recent designs have several "secret" little adjustments that units made a few years ago don't. Once you've got your selection made, don't be bashful about asking a service person to help you fine-tune the fit before you leave the store. It could save you considerable frustration at home when you're ready to take your first ride with it.

If you're worried about getting an old but unused helmet, check inside. Many will have a manufactured-date sticker. You'll probably find that most are only a few months out of the factory.

Remember, buy for fit first. Worry about the brand later, if at all. Just make sure what you end up with is ANSI/Snell approved (at least). I've never seen a helmet in a reputable shop that wasn't.

Oh, yeah... if there's still anyone out there wearing a "foam only" helmet (no plastic shell of any kind), please junk it and buy a new one with a microshell! There's a reason you don't see those on store shelves anymore.

Scott "my Giro Riviera died to save my brain" Saulsbury

I'll add a bit to your admonition: Buy the best helmet you can afford and WEAR IT!

Mark "some things just don't bounce very well" Ramsby

May I add my 2 (Canadian) cents to this string? First it is important that you realize that 2 Canadian cents is worth 1.5 US cents. So, you can invoice me for the difference, but the collection costs will out weigh the benefit of having extracated the additional half cent from me. In fact you’re lucky to get any cents from me because if I didn't wear a helmet all the time (all the time includes down the drive way and into the cul de sac) I'd be centless (sic). My brain would be mush... I mean mushier. My riding style (or lack thereof) finds me sitting dazed on the ground all too often. I've whacked my head on rocks, trees and asphalt more times than I can remember. Riding to work three weeks ago my front wheel slid out from beneath me. I didn't have a chance to remove my hands from the bars. Full impact on the side of my helmet (dented) as well as hip and ribs. Most of you may recall the story I posted last year where I split my helmet into three pieces after flying through the air with the greatest of ease.

Please please, please wear a brain bucket. I think I'll go for the Gyro Pneumo this year. Judging from the pictures of this beautiful piece of equipment, it doesn't have vents... it has gills!

Steve "look at all the stars" Heim

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  Page Last Updated: Jan. 20, 2003  
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