The Common Safety Mistake Road Riders Make
As you travel down a steep decline at speeds of 60+km, its reassuring to know your equipment is regulated by safety standards. We don’t want to consider the consequence of accidents from the bike, but we know it happens. So additional protective measures are a good investment in the event things turn rubber up. Servicing your road bike will help ensure your bike is up to scratch, but what about the safety of your apparel? As a client once told me, "As I was sailing through the air I thought, its good to know I can trust my helmet." So ... Can you trust your helmet?
KASK Helmets protective wear pared with sunglass partners KOO
Good road riding skills are achieved through experience and confidence. But we can also protect ourselves by using decent equipment with technical benefits. Helmets have come a long way from the original piece of foam held to your head with a nylon strap. Today we read about leather and magnetic chin straps, ratchet secures and ventilation advantages. There's a lot of emphasis on various methods helmets protect your skull while eliminating the reverberations that cause serious injury to the brain. Yes, we can all be rather vain and choose the best looking helmet. But we can also learn about how science and technology form an alliance to best protect our cognitive health.
Whether it's MIPS used by POC or GIRO, Smart Straps by Suomy, or MIT Technology by KASK, (eg. on Protone or Valegro models) there are plenty of excellent options to read about. But I'm not here to tout one over the other. Because while you can buy the best, safest, most efficient helmet most of us don't follow the number one rule applied by manufacturers that ensures the ongoing safety of your head. More of this in a moment. Suffice to say that buying your safe out-the-box helmet is one thing. Looking after the helmet and ensuring you can depend on it when needed most is another.
"Most of us don't follow the number one rule applied by manufacturers that ensures the ongoing safety of your head."
Today the technology and materials used in high end road helmets regards safety very seriously. Often that priority is to ensure the reduction of trauma in a one time event of impact. Of course, the design regarding appearance, weight, aero advantage, colour and comfort also play importance. After all its a competitive world and the product must sell. But there always need to be compromises and one thing we can all agree is that, regardless of the product, it is rare a brand will prioritise product longevity.
Longevity isn't a concern if the helmet ultimately does what the rider depends on - keeps their head safe in an accident. But it does play importance when a majority of riders use helmets beyond a recommended lifespan or, worse still, treat their helmets in ways that are deemed potentially unsafe.
As a standard, manufacturers suggest the average lifespan of a helmet should be no greater than 2 to 3 years. This includes POC, KASK, Bell and GIRO.
Lets put that aside for one moment.
I recall years ago a customer bought a helmet in with a broken strap. I contacted a distributor who was unable to replace the item and that was fair enough because the damage showed evidence the helmet had been extensively hung by the strap. Admittedly there were photos on his instagram account to verified this. But at the time, I didn't know the typical way to place a helmet on a bike at a cafe could void a warranty.
It seems how we store and where we store also affects the safety of our helmets. Sun damage, changes in temperatures, hanging systems and even cases of dropping your helmet can undo all those safety features you based your purchase upon.
Paul Caswell, the senior brand manager for Giro and Bell helmets distributor says,
"Due to tiny impact after tiny impact over time, the EPS will gradually lose its volume making it less able to deal with the energy in the unfortunate event of an impact."
Yet, ask most cyclists and they’ll likely say the age of their helmet is beyond 2 years. I asked the question, “How many years you've been wearing your helmet" on a local cycling forum. Responses returned, 59% stated they wore a helmet that was over 3 years old.
Remember the time your helmet rolled off the coffee table. Remember when it hit the pavement when you tried resting it on the bars like a pro? Every. Single. Time. you drop your helmet on a hard surface the internal structure can be fractured. Like carbon, unless you’ve x-rayed the frame it can be a silent but serious problem when you really need structural integrity.
So tell me, equipped with this knowledge, would you buy your used helmet should someone offer to sell it to you? Would you sell it to someone with a guarantee for its safety? Based on our research its unlikely.
So, what makes a good helmet under Australian standards, and when should you invest in one?
It's a funny topic. You’d think that Australia’s stringent standards and mandatory helmet laws mean helmets in Australia are the safest. But go to department style store and you’ll find what I’d consider a flimsy version of a 9$ helmet that's perfectly acceptable under Australian law. Now, I would never wear a piece of foam believing it’ll protect me if I end in the gutter. Perplexing is that helmets worn by the Pro’s and made to withstand brutal crashes, are by no means provided the Australian sticker for safety approval. The point? Don’t assume Australian laws ensures equality amongst when it comes to protecting your head. Definitely ensure the helmet has the Australian safety sticker, but still do the research for your favoured features.
Compare a 9$ helmet against a Giro helmet of a design more popular with road riders
Luckily for us the big brands like KASK and POC, Giro and MET have gained authority to sell their helmets under Australian law. That means we benefit from a range of styles. You can be safe and look good at the same time.
So, when do you replace a helmet? Buying a helmet can be expensive, and the fact it protects your greatest asset means its worth investing. The best time to buy a new helmet is before you break, knock or drop the last one. Yes, it sounds like a sales pitch but believe us, if you ride frequently and you've owned your current helmet over 3 years, the likelihood your helmet is already compromised is high. If you've a storage place where the temperature is regular and out of the sun, where you can place the helmet on a soft surface (not with the straps), then its likely your helmets will extend to the manufacturers recommended replacement times and even beyond. This is especially true if you also care for it on the road. As we increasingly look at ways to consciously conserve and preserve our environment and reduce our waste, surely looking after our helmet is the optimal outcome.
Consider that many riders spend over 200$ on a jersey, and you’ve likely several of those in your collection. Put it this way, it sure makes the argument for a new lid more plausible when your being questioned on your recent cycling expenditures.
Chainsmith Recommendations :
What do we like in a helmet? Definitely safety features that are represented by the riders that drag it through brutal conditions. We also like certain features, like the fully replaceable KASK internal paddings.
Alongside the fact KASK has comfortable leather straps, the height at the forehead is also adjustable. You can hold your cycling glasses (KOO for example), in the air vents and the style sits close to the head as opposed to looking like a mushroom. On a personal note, I like the fact KASK helmets allows a ponytail to be worn through the rear bracket.