Everything You Should Know About Bike Helmet Safety Testing

Whether they’re for your cycling commute or your local crit race, helmets are needed to protect you from any spill or accident when on your bike. Wearing a bike helmet is imperative for any riders who, if they do suffer from an injury while biking, want to keep safe and minimize the risk of traumatic brain injuries. The KAV Portola Bike Helmet is put through testing that should have cyclists feeling safe and secure on their rides, as well as giving their loved ones peace of mind.

Although the bike helmet that is known today wasn’t invented until circa 50 years ago, it has become commonplace for cyclists of all ages and disciplines to wear helmets. From those first helmets made in the mid-1970s to today’s high-tech helmets, rider safety is the apex of helmet design. Using the proper helmet designed for specific purposes is important for anyone looking to participate in activities and sports that require a helmet, including cycling. For instance, a snowboarding helmet needs to be worn differently due to the impact that riders face when cruising down a run versus the force that cyclists experience in injury or trauma situations from a bike ride.

What are Bike Helmet Testing Standards?

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has set bike helmet testing standards for all bicycle helmet manufacturers. In 1999, the CPSC unanimously voted to introduce the safety standards for bike helmets, much in part due to research conducted that produced results showcasing that “a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent.” For those who are performing the testing, procedures are followed for each helmet, with at least eight helmets in the condition sold to consumers up for the test.

Almost all bike helmet related studies show that helmet usage reduces the risk of head injury. Because of this, testing standards for bike helmets are required so riders can feel safe knowing the helmet they’re wearing is up to the same impact protection and quality of other helmets available to buy. If you're competing at a triathlon or other races in the USA and the majority of Europe, it’s actually a rule that the helmet you wear is certified.

Testing standards for bike helmets include checking that: 

  • The helmet does not impede the cyclist’s vision
  • The helmet does not come off during a fall or incident
  • The helmet straps are secure
  • The helmet allows for a reduction of force on impact

Currently, bike helmet testing standards include having all helmets sold in the United States meet the CPSC national standards as well as, among other standards, the Snell Foundation standard. The CPSC standard is more demanding than EN 1078 which is the standard used in Europe.

For a more technical look through the specifications for bike helmet testing standards, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has a published PDF that is available for purchase online.

Helmets for cyclists are put through rigorous impact testing, including the helmet being dropped onto an anvil below for various reasons:

  • Shape: The angle at which the helmet is dropped is changed for each fall so the helmet is impacted at a different point or angle each time. This helps to demonstrate a real world scenario of falling onto a rock or curb.
  • Height: The height of the drop is a variable in the testing as the location of impact from certain heights is monitored.
  • Temperature: The temperature of the helmet, whether it’s hot or cold, is tested due to some materials of bike helmets affecting the structure when on a cyclist’s head. For example, if the helmet is cold, some materials can harden; likewise, if a helmet is warm, the materials may lose their effect. 
  • Weight: On occasion, the helmet will be dropped on the anvil with various weights attached to it. Other parts of the helmet, such as a strap or bolt, may be affected differently when there’s weight in the equation.

What are Bike Helmet Safety Ratings?

Bike helmet safety ratings are given to helmets ranging from one star to five stars, with fewer stars as the least safe and five stars indicating the safest helmets.

Though there is a STAR safety rating system for bike helmets that is used, KAV goes above and beyond that. By using Intertek Laboratories as an independent party in testing sporting goods, those who buy KAV helmets should have confidence—no matter where they go—in knowing that our helmets are safe and regimentally tested. 

A stipulation of bike helmet safety ratings, just as the testing standards indicate, is if the helmet is able to withstand a fall from an anvil while correctly fitted on a cyclist’s head. (This animated video demonstrates the correct fit.)

What is the Safest Bike Helmet?

Asking what the safest bike helmet is gets into interesting territory as, according to the collaboration of the Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are multiple factors. 

The bike helmet safety ratings system utilized to understand what the safest bike helmet is incorporates the drop and objectively calculates the risk of concussion multiplied by the weight to produce the overall score. This score concludes the amount of concussions a cyclist might experience if matched with the specific helmet, of which the better the rating, the fewer the concussions, and the better the helmet performs.

Whether you’re a cyclist that is entrenched in the technical and scientific details of bike helmet safety ratings, or you merely want to wear a helmet that you know will reduce brain trauma or damage from impact, understanding the testing standards of bike helmets is important for all riders. And if you have purchased a KAV Portola Bike Helmet, you will be pleased to know that our standards are high and will continue to be surpassed when it comes to bike helmet safety.