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The Low Down on Wearing a Helmet

Posted by Jennifer Ashton on
The Low Down on Wearing a Helmet

You must have been living under a rock not to have heard about that little known racing driver, Michael Schumacher, having a skiing accident a few years ago that has resulted in him being removed from the public eye. What state Michael is in, it’s doubtful we’ll ever know. What we do know is he was skiing ‘off piste’, but in an area flanked by two gentle blue runs no more than 50 metres wide. It is then reported, he went over a small jump and caught the tip of his skis on a poorly covered collection of rocks, rolling over the tip of his skis and hitting his head. Even without knowing his exact state, if he wasn’t wearing a helmet he certainly wouldn’t be with us anymore. 

So do I need a helmet? And where do I start? Good questions!

Travel Insurance and Helmets.

If you decide not to use a helmet, double check the insurance policy you are using actually covers you. 

There are several travel companies that will simply not cover you without a helmet - no matter the injury. Break your leg, requiring a ‘blood wagon’ off the mountain and you won’t be covered (or even worse, a helicopter off). Some will hide this information in their fine print, others, make it perfectly obvious that this is the case. 

As of January 2020, Essential Travel on their Winter Sports Coverage page, simply says this:

“Helmets are compulsory.

As we are always concerned with your safety, it is now compulsory that you wear a helmet whilst participating in any winter sports activity to be covered on our policies. We truly believe it could save your life!”

Can I Rent a Helmet?

Sure! But for the sake of saving yourself a few pounds you have no idea what it is that you might be getting, whether it’s still fit for purpose and whether it fits your head properly. A helmet is designed in its lifetime to have one ‘impact’. Foam inside the helmet condenses on impact and once this happens, while wearing this helmet might be better than nothing, the foam no longer has absorbing qualities and won’t cushion your head like it’s designed to. So, that rented helmet, the last person who borrowed it, may have dropped it off a table while at apres ski dancing, unfortunately that helmet has had a significant impact and you are none the wiser. Not long after purchasing a new helmet a few years ago, I headed off to one of the indoor snow domes to test some new season product, unfortunately for me, that new helmet rolled out of the back of the car and onto the concrete below, again, rendering it no longer fit for purpose. And besides, who wants to put their head into a sweaty old helmet anyway?

An old colleague of mine had an impact with another while skiing. The accident wasn’t enough to stop him skiing even for the afternoon, there were no injuries to either party. And his helmet looked fine. Being on a work trip at the time though, with a helmet brand present, we took apart the helmet to see what state it was in following the impact. As you can see, it looked fine on the outside, nothing to show there were any problems. But pulling off the outer layer of plastic showed the foam in a very different state!!

Safety Standards. 

Ski & Snowboard helmets are branded to standard EN 1077:2007. Means little like that. But what it means is the helmet you choose has been tested against shock absorption, penetration resistance, testing the retention system (click or clasp under your chin), field of vision as well as general product tests.

Ski helmets are then divided into two categories - Class A and B.  

Class A covers the ears, the helmet is not allowed any removable parts over the ears (detachable ear pads). These are typically rac

Class B, does not cover the ears (those ear pads that you can pull on and off as the weather warms up or put headphones into). Class B helmets have a smaller coverage area. 

Lifespan of a Helmet

Barring accidents, EU safety standards suggest the lifespan of a helmet to be 5 years. Like anything, the foam inside the helmet degrades over time. So if you've had your helmet (ski, cycle or motorbike) for a few years now, it might be worth thinking about an upgrade.

Helmet features that may affect pricing.

MIPS:

MIPS allows the head to move inside the helmet, reducing the harmful rotational forces otherwise transferred to the brain.

In a recent independent study, conducted by Virginia Tech University on bike helmet safety, it found of 86 helmets tested, the top 4 safest helmets all contained MIPS and 17 of the top 20 carried the feature. Each helmet went through a total of 12 controlled tests which replicated impacts and rotational forces a cyclist may encounter whilst riding. 

You can check out more about MIPS Protection on their website

Helmet Construction:

A helmet with ‘ABS’ construction, uses a durable, stiff plastic to create a tough outer shell. The shell is stronger, having a higher capacity for shock absorption, but it makes the helmet heavier.  

‘In-mould’ construction means that the foam layer is fused with the shell, it creates a thin polycarbonate shell. This cuts down on weight, allows venting to be added with ease, allows the helmet to profile your head a little better (sit lower over the top of your head, so you don’t look so much like a cone head!), but will increase the price. 

A ‘Hybrid Shell’ means there is a combination of ABS and In-mould construction used. Generally the brand will use the ABS construction on the upper part of the helmet for toughness and protection in likely impact zones, and in-mould on the lower parts of the helmet to help keep weight and size down. 

Other Features:

There are several other features that will change the price of helmets - whether it comes with air venting or not. The amount of padding/type of padding on the inside of the helmet and around the ears. Whether the helmet comes with a visor attached (and what sort of visor it is). What type of chin strap is used. Whether or not the helmet has the extra capability to adjust fit - some sort of system that will sit at the base of your neck to allow you to tighten or loosen the fit. 

Anything else to know?

The one last thing to think about with helmets, is to try the helmet on in person and be sure of what you are choosing whenever you can. Being Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), most retailers won’t let you return your purchase because you’ve changed your mind. The online saving grace to this is distance selling laws that allow you 14 days to return a product bought online. Never buy a helmet in store as a gift for someone else either, unless they are there to try it on!  

Here at Hike and Ride, we’re working with some of the best names in the business to supply you with the correct fitting helmet, all within your budget. SHOP HELMETS, get in touch via email info@hikeandride.co.uk or for a chat on 07719315301 for more help and information. 

At the end of the day, you've got one life to make the most of whatever comes your way. For us, it really is a no brainer (pun not intended) to invest in a decent, well fitting helmet!


References:

Protect Your Brain, You Only Have One, MIPS Protection, accessed 15th December 2019,

<https://mipsprotection.com>

Standards for Ski Helmets, Strata Technology, accessed 15th December 2019,

<https://www.satra.com/spotlight/article.php?id=429>

Ski Helmet Technologies, Bolle, accessed 28th December 2019,

<https://www.bolle.com/gb/ski-helmet-technologies>

Joe Robinson, Independent Helmet Study Finds Safest Helmet on the Market, 2019, accessed 12th December 2019,

<https://www.cyclist.co.uk/news/7480/independent-helmet-study-finds-safest-helmet-on-the-market?fbclid=IwAR13V_3gFCFjViXIxmMPEIG8TCKAMdwdv7crZzxYAmJN_gzoQT6pAxbfTlI>




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