Thankfully helmet technology and styling have come a long way, albeit due to some tragic accidents. Andrei Kivilev, reports suggest, would have survived severe head injuries sustained in a crash at last year’s Paris-Nice race had he worn a helmet. Kivilev is no longer with us, and as a result, the UCI made helmets mandatory at all their events beginning with the Giro d’Italia last year.
Here’s look at how some of the manufacturers approach the differences in helmet ventilation, styling, fitting.
By Lee Zohlman
A helmet can run the gamut in prices, but the more you spend doesn’t necessarily get you the best helmet. It’s more important that you ride with a helmet then spend a great deal of money. So if you can only afford a $40.00 helmet – get it. The higher priced helmets typically have a little more research behind them in relation to the cooling vents, closure systems and weight considerations.
Helmets come in many varieties, but whatever the design, they have one thing in common: they save lives. A helmeted cyclist has an 80% better chance of averting brain damage than the bear-headed cyclist.
Let’s look at a few important details of helmet technology, safety, and design. First, let’s talk safety. In essence, a helmet is an eggshell, meant to crack open on impact so your head doesn’t. If the impact comes from the side, the helmet absorbs the energy. But to get the proper protection, you need to wear the helmet down a bit on the forehead and not back toward the hairline.
Most helmets involve a polycarbonate outer shell and a styrofoam inner shell. Each company uses their own type of materials to achieve the best rest results. The inner shell is usually in-molded, which means that the inner shell is fused to the outer shell. This outer shell is meant to offer more resistance to impact and better structural integrity.
Coolin’ Yer Noodle
Next to looking cool and safety(!), Airflow is arguably the biggest factor when looking at helmets.
One of the only legal aerodynamic helmets on the market is the Prologue by Louis Garneau. This interesting cone shaped helmet also offers the proper construction to withstand impact.
The same thing that makes it aerodynamic also leads to one of its only downfalls, very little airflow. The Prologue (12.2 oz.) only has three small vents in the front in contrast to the Giro Pneumo (10 oz.), which has 19 massive vents but no aerodynamic design.
The Giro thinking is the more vents you have the more air flow hits the head allowing the head to remain cooler.
Briko also offers some high tech road helmets but their approach on airflow is a bit different. Briko sales manager David I. (yes, that’s the name he gave me) say’s that they use the Venturi Effect when designing the vents on their top two helmets. David I. say’s, “The Venturi Effect accelerates air out above the head, thus creating a cooling effect.”
This is the reasoning behind Briko’s Twinner and Solo helmets, which have three to five large ports in the front. But also offer exhaust holes in the rear of the helmet.
Helmet giant Bell also utilizes the in-mold technology as well as using many cooling vents and exhaust ports to keep the riders head cool. Bell reports that, ‘Specially designed ventilation channels on the interior of the helmet’s liner bring cool air in through the front and over the head while flushing warm air out through the rear ports.’
Because your body loses most of its heat through the head and neck, having a large number of vents is great if you are training and racing in warm weather but if it’s cool outside, you’ll often see rider taping over the vents to keep the warmth in.
Helmet manufacturers also offer their own style of strapping system. The important thing about the straps of a helmet is to make sure the straps are snug and you can fit one finger underneath the chinstrap. Rudy Project helmets use their RSR 3 retention system, which allows the straps to be tightened as one with a small dial in the back to accommodate a snug fit.
Briko’s Micro Block Retention System 2 reports that it is 30% lighter then its original retention system and will assist in centering the helmet on the rider’s head. Keep the helmet snug enough so it will stay on and not slip but not as tight as it could cause headaches.
The design of a helmet is really up to the individual’s likes and dislikes. Like cars, colors and design help sell them, so it should be easy to find one you like. Remember, when you look cool, you actually do ride faster – which is even better reason to have a good helmet!
Most helmet companies have warranties against manufacturing defects and will replace them for a small fee if you damage it or crash. It’s also a good idea to inspect your helmet for any cracks and wear and tear. If you do find a crack in the helmet then the structural integrity has been compromised and it is a good idea to replace it. Don Palermini of Bell Sports says, “It’s a good idea to replace your helmet every three years depending on the use and storage.”
Read the PEZ-Reviews:
– Briko Spark Helmet
– Giro Pneumo Helmet
– Limar 909 Helmet
See the websites for more info:
About The Author – Lee Zohlman is a USA Cycling and USA Triathlon Level 2 Coach who owns and operates BodyZen Multi Sport Coaching. You can reach him at 800-484-4016 x. 5317 or www.bodyzen.com