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U.K. or U.S. market helmets - which offer best protection?

neebneeb Posts: 4,448
edited September 2013 in Road buying advice
Most people probably aren't aware that the same brand and model of helmet sold in the U.K. and in the U.S. is often a different product. The big manufacturers actually make different helmets to conform to the U.S. CPSC standard and the European EN1078 standard. They look identical, but the U.S. versions are usually slightly heavier and made to absorb slightly greater impact forces, at the possible expense of not being as good at absorbing smaller impact forces.

I read about this somewhere (Cyclist magazine I think) and was able to confirm it myself as I had two Bell Gage helmets in Medium, one bought from a U.K. retailer and another from the U.S. The U.K. one weighs 221g and the size label on the inside actually says "221g" too. My U.S. Gage in the same size weighed 240g and the size label inside said "244g". The fact that the labels state the weights shows that this isn't just individual variation.

Anyway, I crashed in the U.S. one recently and cracked it, so it did its job. I'm looking at replacing it and am tempted to go for a U.S. one again, but it would be good to know if there is any data about the relative safety benefits of the Euro and U.S. standards.

On the face of it, you would think that the stricter U.S. standard would be better, but I also read an article in the U.S. Bicycling magazine suggesting that the CPSC standard might actually mean that U.S. helmets are "over engineered", and that because they are designed not to crack until greater force is applied, don't offer as good protection against concussion, which is the most likely head injury you are going to have in a cycling accident. That said, I only had very mild concussion when I cracked my U.S. Bell Gage (mild headache for 2 days and no other symptoms), so based on that it's tempting to get a U.S. model again to provide more protection against bigger impacts.

It's just about as easy for me to buy online from the U.K. or from the U.S. on ebay and the net price is not very different, given that the U.S. prices are cheaper but then VAT is added on import.

Posts

  • I cracked my Kask K50 at about 25 mph. Deformed, written off.

    Absolutely no headache. UK version.

    Draw your own conclusion ;)
    My blog: http://www.roubaixcycling.cc (kit reviews and other musings)
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  • neebneeb Posts: 4,448
    I cracked my Kask K50 at about 25 mph. Deformed, written off.

    Absolutely no headache. UK version.

    Draw your own conclusion ;)
    Hmm. My crash was at 28mph though... :)
  • Seriously though. Too many variables. Buy the one that looks coolest :D
    My blog: http://www.roubaixcycling.cc (kit reviews and other musings)
    https://twitter.com/roubaixcc
    Facebook? No. Just say no.
  • NavrigNavrig Posts: 1,352
    A difference of 20g in an adult helmet is nothing and will offer nothing in significant in protection. You are better to chose by fit and comfort. An ill fitting helmet will be worse than a properly fitted one.
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    I've never heard of this - its possibly just revisions of the same helmet rather than US v EU helmets ?
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,448
    Navrig wrote:
    A difference of 20g in an adult helmet is nothing and will offer nothing in significant in protection. You are better to chose by fit and comfort. An ill fitting helmet will be worse than a properly fitted one.
    Hmm, not sure if the weight difference is necessarily proportional to the protection offered, it may be just be a different type of foam with different properties that happens to be heavier. Obviously you would expect a denser foam to be heavier and also to be harder, but the relationship may not be linear.

    I guess the point I am getting at here is that it is the particular standards in the E.U. and in the U.S. that determine how the helmets are made and respond to impact, and it's not immediately obvious (to me at least) which standard is better. The U.S. standard requires that the helmet absorbs more force, but this may not necessarily be a good thing - if the helmet can absorb higher forces, it will be less good at absorbing lower forces, because it needs to deform in order to work and will effectively act like a solid object until the force is high enough to cause it to crack/crush.

    So there may be an ideal, just-right-Goldilocks "squishiness" for a bicycle helmet, and one or other of the standards may be better. Too hard and the helmet needs a lot of force to crush, too soft and it crushes before it has absorbed enough force.
  • neeb wrote:
    I cracked my Kask K50 at about 25 mph. Deformed, written off.

    Absolutely no headache. UK version.

    Draw your own conclusion ;)
    Hmm. My crash was at 28mph though... :)

    I crashed at 30mph and my head didn't hit the ground.. so do we even need to wear helmets?
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,448
    cougie wrote:
    I've never heard of this - its possibly just revisions of the same helmet rather than US v EU helmets ?
    Yes, I hadn't either until recently, the manufacturers don't talk about it. But there was an article in Cyclist a few months ago where they basically said that this is the case. I guess not all manufacturers have different versions for the European and U.S. markets (some may produce helmets that simultaneously satisfy both standards), but many do.
  • rolf_frolf_f Posts: 16,015
    I recall that the Giro Prolite was quite a lot heavier in the US (not really that light at all). My guess is that they do have slightly tougher standards but I suspect that in the real world other variables are far more significant (eg even if you do get real world data of fatalities in the US vs fatalities in Europe for helmet wearers, the differences between the nature of the roads, vehicles etc in the different countries will make for a bigger effect than the helmets).
    Faster than a tent.......
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,448
    Haven't managed to find the Cyclist article that mentioned different U.S./Euro versions, but here is the Bicycling article about the U.S. standards and concussion:

    http://www.bicycling.com/training-nutri ... protection

    Makes me wonder if the reason for the lighter (less dense?) Euro versions is to make them better at preventing concussions, which maybe they can do under the Euro regs but not the tougher U.S. ones.
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,448
    Found that Cyclist article - it's in the March 2013 issue, titled "Head Bangers" - makes for interesting reading!
    However, just because most helmets are similar, doesn't mean they are the same. Indeed, the safety aspects of a helmet can change, not just from model to model but within the same model, depending on which country you buy the helmet in.

    It's all down to the different safety standards required by different regions around the world. Perreault [Jesse Perreault, helmet engineer at Bontrager] says, "We attempt to incorporate all of the safety standards into all of our helmets. We aim to make the helmets as similar as possible, so that we're selling the same thing everywhere, but in order to meet the different safety standards we have to make slight changes. If you buy a helmet such as the [Bontrager] Oracle in the United States or Europe or Australia, they are a different helmet."

    Hromada at Limar says, "From the outer shape all the helmets are exactly the same, but sometimes the technical background is different because standards such as CPSC [the safety standard for the United States] require different impact requirements, therefore we have to do some technical solutions. It can affect the weight."
    The rest of the article seems to imply that the EU standards are just a bit rubbish compared to the U.S. ones, and that the reason for the different versions in Europe is to save weight and/or manufacturing costs by taking advantage of this. So this goes against my speculations above about the the EU ones maybe being better at preventing concussion - it seems more likely that you are just getting a better (if perhaps slightly heavier) helmet by buying from the U.S.
  • arran77arran77 Posts: 9,260
    neeb wrote:
    I cracked my Kask K50 at about 25 mph. Deformed, written off.

    Absolutely no headache. UK version.

    Draw your own conclusion ;)
    Hmm. My crash was at 28mph though... :)

    I crashed at 30mph and my head didn't hit the ground.. so do we even need to wear helmets?

    I agree, when I was a kid and learnt to ride we never had helmets, why bother now :wink:
    "Arran, you are like the Tony Benn of smut. You have never diluted your depravity and always stand by your beliefs. You have my respect sir and your wife my pity" :lol:

    seanoconn
  • Not being funny mate, but everytime someone mentions the EU helmets you big up the US helmets. Sounds to me like you've already made your mind up so why bother asking?

    Just buy the US helmet if thats what you had before and be done with it. You shouldnt be crashing that often to worry about it surely?

    :roll:
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,448
    Not being funny mate, but everytime someone mentions the EU helmets you big up the US helmets. Sounds to me like you've already made your mind up so why bother asking?

    Just buy the US helmet if thats what you had before and be done with it. You shouldnt be crashing that often to worry about it surely?

    :roll:
    If you bother to read the preceding you'll see that I definitely haven't made my mind up at all, quite the opposite. In fact I started out thinking that the EU helmets might have the edge and it was only after digging up that Cyclist article again that I started veering the other way. But the problem is that there isn't enough information freely available to know.

    I'm kind of hoping that an industry insider will chip in anonymously and give us some more information.

    At the end of the day, if I can buy two physically different versions of the same helmet certified to different standards, I'd rather like to know which one is going to be most likely to protect my head better.
    You shouldnt be crashing that often to worry about it surely?
    Err.. right... I'll let you work out the logic problems with that one.. :wink:
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