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Does A Bike Helmet Really Protect You?

Bike helmets reduce the risk of serious head injuries by nearly 70% – They Save Lives

Research conducted recently in Australia shows that the usage of bike helmets reduce the risk of serious head injuries by nearly 70%, 33% for face injury and 65% for fatal head injury.

Australian researchers say the study’s findings support the argument for mandatory helmet legislation.

Bike helmets prevent and mitigate head injuries – that’s a given.  However, up until recently, there has been very little information to go on when choosing a bike helmet.  Simply put, a bike helmet is not a “bike helmet” – there are considerable differences between them.  Not only that, but helmet cost is not a good predictor of helmet efficacy.  In a study by Virginia Tech, “both the $200 Bontrager Ballista MIPS and the $75 Specialized Chamonix MIPS earn 5 stars”.

New Ratings Program For Bike Helmets

The Virginia Tech study is the first of its kind, and is designed to “give cyclists an evidence-based tool for making informed decisions about how to reduce their risk of injury”.

The Virginia Tech study is the first of its kind, and is designed to “give cyclists an evidence-based tool for making informed decisions about how to reduce their risk of injury”.  While the United States has had government mandated (minimum) standards for some time, this is clearly a step in the right direction.

According to David Zuby, the Chief Research Officer at the IIHS, “as more people choose the bicycle as a mode of transportation, better helmet design is one of the tools that can be used to address the increasing number of cycling injuries”.  ​

A total of 835 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2016.  More than half of those killed were not wearing helmets.

Results of Two Research Studies

Unlike the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) tests, where a helmet is struck against an anvil at a set speed, the Virginia Tech researchers tested two sides of the helmet – the side of the helmet (which the CPSC tests) and the front rim.  For certain models, it was found that the front rim was more vulnerable than the side.

The second study was done quite differently.  They opted to use a different test rig with a more realistic dummy head hitting a slanted anvil, covered with 80-grit sandpaper to approximate the roughness of asphalt.

The intention of these tests was to try to more accurately reflect real world accident conditions, where the angle of impact is not always “direct” as in the CPSC tests.

Not only were different directions and angles tested, the tests were done on six separate parts of the helmet, the parts that are most commonly impacted during crashes.  As you can imagine, not all helmets performed the same, with some being better at direct impact crashes while others were better at side impact crashes.

Without going too much into detail, the top performing helmets were the following:

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