Bicycle Helmet Safety: Is your helmet protecting you?

By | December 2, 2013

I admit that I do not put a lot of thought into my helmet.  I have several friends who were saved by their Styrofoam lids.  However, since they are comfortable, lightweight and well vented I rarely think about it other than remembering to stick it on my head.

Some enterprising Swedes had a different perspective.  They always thought that the helmet was awkward and uncomfortable.  Not to mention what it does to your perfect bouffant.  They developed the invisible helmet.  Check it out!  There are motorcycle jackets based upon the same idea.  It is a cool idea, bit I am still a bit skeptical.  I also wonder how comfortable wearing what is basically a scarf will be on a hot day.  Price is another concern.  I look forward to seeing these and other questions answered.

Since we are thinking about helmets, I should think about mine.  I currently ride with a Bell Sweep that is about 4 years old and getting a bit rough around the edges.  The June 2013 edition of ‘Bicycling’ magazine had a great article about helmets.  Unfortunately, I could not find a link to the article online.  It is a shame since, it is one of their best efforts.  I did find a related article. In short, the June article stated that current bicycle helmet design is great at preventing catastrophic injury, but suck at preventing concussions.  This was shocking to me.  I had always assumed that my helmet protected me from any head injury.  There is surprisingly little knowledge on concussions, the forces that create them and how to prevent them.  Only a few are really dedicating any effort to concussion prevention.  There is, however one exception.  This is the so-called MIPS technology.

While there is much study to be done, the concesus is that the shear forces generated by rotational inertia are a primary cause of concussions.  The MIPS system has been designed to reduce rotational inertia, hence preventing (not eliminating) concussions.  Here is a handy dandy link to their site:  Currently Scott, POC and Lazer are the only bicycle helmet manufacturers offering helmets with MIPS technology, but more manufacturers are getting on board with MIPS.  My next helmet will have MIPS and I will happily review it when I get it 🙂

  • Scott Helmets with MIPS Technology

Clearly I am no expert, and cannot offer all the answers regarding helmets.  However, what this post is attempting to do is give you a bit of information to do your own research and draw your own conclusions.  My little pea brain is my most vital piece of equipment.  I want to do everything I can to protect it from any injury.

Update:  I just discovered a new option.  It is the Smith Optics Firefront helmet.  This mountain bike helmet claims to be safer than standard helmets.  It utilizes a honeycomb plastic material in addition to the standard polystyrene and carbon fiber.  The result is a well vented helmet with greater contact with the head.  The helmet also has an integrated camera/light mount, sunglasses holder and a removable visor.  Does the Smith Optics Forefont do a better job preventing concussions?  I am not sure, but it is good to see that helmet manufacturers are beginning to push better bicycle helmet safety.  

Check out The Smith Optics Helmet


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