Helmets: Where to spend your money

What you should — and shouldn't — pay for when buying a brain protector

Helmets Tech
Cutaway showing Koroyd in a Smith Overtake. Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery

Cutaway showing Koroyd in a Smith Overtake (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy of Art’s Cyclery

A new technology seen in Smith helmets greatly reduces the amount of EPS needed. Koroyd, an assemblage of thermally welded co-polymer extruded tubes, creates a structure with efficient and consistent energy absorption properties, and can effectively replace much of the EPS foam used in helmet construction. Koroyd cores crush in a controlled manner on impact, similar to an accordion.

Another recent helmet technology is MIPS, short for Multi-directional Impact Protection System. MIPS attempts to replicate the cerebral fluid in your head by allowing rotation of the head on impact. This can reduce the severity of crashes created by rotational impacts. The video below fully explains how it works and the benefits of MIPS.

The problem, I believe, with these newer technologies revolves around the methods of testing. The CPSC standard outlines testing standards, but is setup as a pass/fail system. This encourages manufactures to build the lightest, best-looking helmets that just barely pass. There seems to be a lack of independent study to confirm or provide additional data to helmet safety.

Some would argue that helmet testing creates unrealistic scenarios and CPSC standards should be modified. While I’m not against this, I believe that first every helmet should be assigned a ranked safety number similar to a crash test rating on cars. This way, manufactures would be encouraged to create safer helmets, knowing that consumers would be willing to spend more money on increased protection. What if car crash standards were pass/fail? In this scenario, a 2015 Mercedes might receive the same safety rating as a Ford Pinto.

About the author: Arts Cyclery

This article was originally published on the Art's Cyclery Blog. Art's Cyclery is dedicated to offering free expert advice, how-to videos, and in-depth product reviews on ArtsCyclery.com to help riders make an educated decision when selecting cycling gear.

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  • Kevin says:

    I just picked up a Smith Overtake MIPS helmet. It is light and feels good on my head. Used it on a few rides in 80/90 degree weather and it kept my head cool without letting sun light hit my head and heat-up and burn my scalp.

  • Don Cafferty says:

    This article does not answer the question of where to spend your money.

  • froze says:

    I read this article with much interest, even clicked on the Kali Protectives site to read more, in the end of my reading I had a question that came to my pea brain. Crush zone sounds good, it works in cars really well, problem is with a helmet you only have 1 inch of crush area at the most vs at least 48 inches in a car. Knowing that there is only 1 inch of crushable area in a helmet how much is that area really going to effect slowing down the effects of an head impact at say 14 mph (average speed of the average rider) to zero in 1/4th of a second? I think it’s nil vs other types of helmet construction; a point could have been made if the crush zone was say 12 inches thick inside the helmet but that would make the helmet to bulky. Unless I can see independent crash results proving that the Kali Protectives crushable zones work better than a standard helmet I’ll have a difficult time believing it, in the meantime I’ll call it hype like a lot of stuff sold on the cycling market.

    So where to spend your money? I say the sweet spot in a helmet to get quality materials is $90 to $100, find it on sale for $45 to $55 and you got a great helmet as long as it passes the federal CPSC rules.

  • Marco Monteiro says:

    I felt from my bike at 63 Km/h and hit my head straight into the asphalt with my body weight on top of it. Everything was black for a moment and when I recovered I saw the damage on the helmet and couldn’t believe I was still alive. It was a 25 usd helmet from a ordinary approved company. I have a very hard time believing that a 300 usd helmet will do any better than that in similar situation. Definitely an overpriced piece of Styrofoam in most cases.

  • john riggs says:

    I can’t believe manufacturers are STILL only using EPS foam with all the material breakthroughs lately. This is OUR HEADS we’re talking about. It dosen’t take much to protect your cranium in a fall which is why I use a 20$ helmet from Wally World. They ALL have to meet the same ASTM ratings no matter the brand/size/price point. But I’m bewildered why more companies aren’t using a variation of densities that would decelerate better and dissipate energy better than the same stuff found in a cheap, disposable cooler.

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