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Buying bike helmets

 
 
Reply Wed 7 May, 2008 08:59 pm
Hi!

I need a new bike helmet and I want a good one. Good is not a price but maximum safety, ventilation, fit, and somewhere in between a "look." I spent at least an hour trying on helmets today. My questions:

1. Except for the obvious (one's for mountain biking; one's for commuting), what's the structural and functional difference between mountain bike helmets and regular city and road biking helmets? I liked the Giro Hex and now I find it's a mountain bike helmet when I'm a commuter. Confused So what's the diff? Maybe I shouldn't get it if I don't mountain bike.

2. Why are the straps so chintzy on bike helmets? Little ribbon things. My ribbons started losing their chintzy plastic hardware, which started me on the new helmet search. Is there a brand with good strap things?

3. Now they tell me my 10-year-old helmet's foam has surely lost its moxie. I think my helmet's foam is perfectly good. How would one know? Also, what about the new types of foam? Any recommendations on that?

4. Any general helmet advice? I want to do a 150 mile bike tour (2 days) in August this year. Ventillation is key. Any favorite sturdy helmets with good ventillation that you suggest? Consumer Reports recommends the Bell Citi, Slant, and Impulse. But the Giro Hex looks cool on me with its little pink lines and pink straps. Cool

Thanks!
-Sal
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 14,324 • Replies: 27
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Chumly
 
  1  
Reply Wed 7 May, 2008 09:06 pm
With motorcycle helmets, they age (and not gracefully either) and it's recommended they be replaced every 5 years, even if they have never taken a hit, as they lose their energy absorbing abilities.

Bicycle helmets have a number of similarities to motorcycle helmets in their construction; I have not replaced my 5 year old bicycle helmet.
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Tai Chi
 
  1  
Reply Wed 7 May, 2008 09:10 pm
No specific advice but I see some of them have LED lights built in on the back for night riding. Seems like a good idea.
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dagmaraka
 
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Reply Wed 7 May, 2008 10:15 pm
i find that it makes little difference whether it's for mtb or for the road. or even whether it's "male" or "female" helmet (what nonsense!).
you know ventilation is key, just go with whatever is comfortable. can't be loose, but not snug either (you'd get headaches). I have a Giro and like it ok, though the straps are ungluing after months of use.

all that said, i have to say helmet is my enemy. never liked to wear them... so i guess i might be looking down on them. perhaps others do think there are differences, i just hate them things. but you gotta wear them. if you find one you can hardly feel on your head, let me know.
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Wed 7 May, 2008 10:24 pm
Essentially, the mountain bike helmet is set up with a sun visor. I know of no other difference. In the roadie full tuck position, there is a neck strain for most of us when we try to look ahead. Sun visor on a road bike helmet would limit the view ahead even more. By the way, commuting is way more like mountain biking than road biking.

I'm okay with my straps. I usually use a Gire (model forgotten). The Schwinn is fine in that respect too. Just looks like I'm wearing a mushroom.

I've heard about a useful life of a bike helmet too. No way to know.

For max ventilation, probably the Giro Pneumo or Giro Atmos. You just ain't gonna believe the prices. They are both roadie gear. Bell Citi and Bell Metro have good reputations. Not able to comment on the others.

That 150 mile tour sounds like road biking. As I say, commuting is more mountain biking, and the difference is in the riders position. If you're seat is higher that your handlebar, call it a road bike. If you don't want to invest in two helmets (and you're talking fairly expensive brands) get mountain bike style and remove the visor for the road trip.

General advice? Well, I wear one, but on the streets, I consider it about 85% style. On the mups, make that about 97% style and good example for the children. Also, Bell is supposed to fit best if you have a round head. If it's oval, go with Giro.
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dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Wed 7 May, 2008 10:28 pm
and visors.... hate'em too. my good friend is a bike mechanic and she's always pushed giros on me. price doesn't matter. you can get quality helmet for 60 bucks. there is absolutely no need to go into hundreds.
also check out nashbar online, they always have good sales.
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dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Wed 7 May, 2008 10:39 pm
http://www.nashbar.com/nashbar_photos/250/GI-AM7-CBS-ANGLE.jpg

Atmos looks real good. light and thin, lots of vents.

$99 on nashbar.
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InfraBlue
 
  1  
Reply Wed 7 May, 2008 11:30 pm
I also use a Giro Atmos. With the introduction of their new top of the line model, the Ionos, the Atmos--which was previously their top of the line--was dropped in price by 15 bucks or so. These are professional level helmets that are used by pro bike racers.

There are other brands that are used by the pros also like Bell's Sweep, Lazer's Genesis, etc. Ventilation is the key, and these helmets tend to have the most ventilation ports of any bike helmets.

As with Chumly stated about motorcycle helmets, the same applies for bike helmets. The recommended replacement time is about five years because the foam tends to degrade especially in sunlight, and in a bike helmet there is a lot of foam exposed to the sun because of the ventilation ports.

The nylon straps on a good bike helmet are pretty strong, and so are the clips. My helmet is going on four years and the straps and clips are in good condition. I wash it with dishwashing detergent every so often because the combination of sweat and sunscreen really make for slimy straps after a while.
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SallyMander
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 May, 2008 08:28 pm
Wow! Thanks everybody!

At the local bike shop yesterday I felt overwhelmed by the variety of styles and prices. They had only Bell and Giro which are apparently made by the same company. That sweeping one was about $130, as I recall, so will check out nashbar.

One concern: it seemed to me that my helmet of choice moved several inches when I pushed from behind. Maybe that's the round head versus flat head factor--so I'm glad to learn of it. Maybe motion when pushed from behind doesn't matter--how would one get their helmet pushed from behind?

As for commuting versus road biking, I mostly commute, about 13 miles round trip, in town, daily--as long as it's not raining or winter. The helmet I liked had a removable visor, so it's good to know the visors present a problem or nuisance in road biking.

Can you believe it took me about 2 years (in my 40s then) to get into shape (strength to climb slopes and hills and endurance) but now I can't wait to get on the bike to head for work? I can go up most (non San Francisco-steep) hills with little effort.

Again, thanks for the great input. If anyone has comments about safety factors of the dial-tightening versus slider-tightening at the back of the headpiece, I'd be interested in hearing about that, too.

Me, I wouldn't want to ride without a helmet. My friend witnessed someone on a bike (no helmet) get hit by a bus. Her skull split open when she hit the pavement. Once my bike went down when I was moving from street to sidewalk (sidewalk biking is legal here). I had strap things for my feet and my head whopped a split-rail fence--like I was a baseball bat--torquing as the bike fell. I was glad for my helmet then (and I got rid of those straps). (Comments on clips?--I'm afraid to bind my feet to the bike now, but would also be glad for your input about those clip things. At the moment I figure I lose some power by not using them--but so-what, if I get up the hill and add 5 minutes to my commute?)

Thanks again!

-Sal
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Chumly
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 May, 2008 08:41 pm
By comparison, motorcycle helmets are vastly safer than bicycle helmets and can cost less!

I'd go as far as saying bicycle helmets are pretty much of a joke in light of the view that bicycles are at least as dangerous as motorcycles (if not more so) plus the fact that bicycle helmet construction standards (if they meet any standards at all) are pretty minimal standards.

Just go for the cheapest popular brand name that fits well, spending any more than the minimum to meet these requirements is just wasted money.
dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 May, 2008 08:46 pm
Sally, there should be a bit of movement when the straps are not closed. Otherwise the helmet would give you headaches, i guarantee it.

dunno, chumly. there was a female biker whose HEAD was run over by a milk truck. she was wearing a bike helmet. she ended up without a hair bent on her head. i also have friends that go mountain biking, they do crazy stuff. one fell down a rocky cliff, head first, also unharmed.
the worst accident i've ever seen in my life by far was of a dude whose bike (steel frame) collapsed when he went downhill and he crashed, sans helmet. what a mess, all on his head and face. dunno, motorcycle helmets are probably safer, but i feel pretty good about bike helmets, too.
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Chumly
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 May, 2008 08:59 pm
They may be better than a kick in the head with a frozen mukluk, and I would indeed wear one, but that's not to say the standards (if they much exist much at all in the real world) are very robust.

I've read tons of research on motorcycle helmets, and their safety/construction is much more stringently controlled than bicycle helmets, and that's not saying very much.

Even motorcycle helmet safety/construction standards are very lax and the cheaper ones can often perform better than the more expensive ones in terms of energy absorption versus energy transfer.

The single most critical factor is fit, something bicycle helmets are notoriously bad with, as they can roll on the head very easily, and don't cover that much of the head to start with.
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 May, 2008 09:11 pm
I just tried my helmet, Sally, and with the straps adjusted right, and fastened, I didn't find any significant movement, so I would pass on the one that slips around. It may be the round/oval head thing.

Told ya you wouldn't believe the price for the top of the line. Better cheat and do your sizing locally, and order online.

I absolutely hated toe clips (straps). I would rather ride platform pedals than toe clips. Now, those clips (which are called clipless) are great. I've a pair of Shimano SPDs X platform on one bike. By the time I got the second bike, I got SPD on both sides of the pedal. You'll probably take a few falls the first couple of days, and it is embarassing. Learn to use them on the trails before messing with traffic. Mostly, I like the feeling of stability, but they help lots on hills. Sometimes, I'll go from large chain ring on the level, down to small chain ring when approaching a hill. Without clipless pedals, my feet come flying off the pedals. That's embarassing, too.

Clipless pedals, of course, require clipless shoes. My shoes (Answer brand) were $80.00, and pedals were $50.00 and $80.00. A nice investment when you're not sure you are going to like them. You can also spend lots more, but do make sure the shoes work with the pedals. It's not a given.

I used to hear that you would unclip in an accident. I wasn't sure, so I let my bike get into an altercation with a car, and sure enough, they unclipped slicker'n snake snot. All damage was to me and the car, by the way. Not a scratch on the bike or helmet.

Don't listen to chumly this time. Motorcycles have motors. A motorcycle helmet would fill up with sweat and condensation on the faceshield in the first 20 minutes. Anyway, if your group is an organized bike club, they probably won't let you sign up for a ride without a helmet.
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Chumly
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 May, 2008 09:19 pm
Wha? I'm not saying don't wear one, nor am I saying wear a motorcycle helmet instead, but I am saying they are overrated / over-priced in their perceived efficacy, especially in light of the comparisons I have made.

And I am saying that the single most critical factor is fit, not brand or price, something bicycle helmets are notoriously bad with, as they can roll on the head very easily, and don't cover that much of the head to start with.

By "roll on the head very easily" I mean in the context of an direct sizable impact not a casual push with one's hand. If you don't believe me, get a string friend to jamb both hands under the back edge of your helmet as hard possible, it will roll.......a lot!
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 May, 2008 09:28 pm
So you did. Sorry for phrasing that the way I did. Actually, you may have noted that I consider them largly a matter of style, myself. They give some protection in the right kind of crash. Like hammering a hill, with your weight forward, and mashing the front brake. They're rated for one accident only, and are designed to split open when absorbing enough shock.

By the way, I was part of the 2007 helmet statistics. I was wearing a helmet, and I suffered no head injuries. Swell. I'm not excluded just because my head/helmet never came in contact with anything.
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dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 May, 2008 10:06 pm
Actually, chumly, the new helments usually have roll cage reinforcemet - to prevent precisely that roll over you spoke of. Older types don't have it, but it is becoming a standard feature.
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Chumly
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 May, 2008 10:27 pm
That's interesting.
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dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 May, 2008 10:33 pm
all this talk of bike helmets... i just bought me a giro atmos for meself online. my helmet is 4-5 years old, straps came unglued a few times...it is time.

i also got a travel bag for my bike, very exciting. i cleaned my beast to the last detail today, lubed it up, tightened. it's a sweet sweet ride. it's the best little bike in the world.
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Chumly
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 May, 2008 10:45 pm
I been riding a recumbent for some years now, however as an Electrician I really do not need any more exercise.
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dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 May, 2008 11:03 pm
well, it's always good to have different kind of movement than that which you do at work. biking is of course ideal, because it's, umm, biking. there's nothing better in this world except perhaps downhill skiing. and a medium-rare soft and juicy steak (hungry!).
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