Helmets are not created equal. Bike and ski helmets are not interchangeable. Specific features come into play for scenario, speed, safety and comfort. Other issues include standards for codes and regulations. The differences between bike and ski helmets are obvious, if you take a good look at them.
Speaking of Statistics
Estimates by the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering Institute state that ski helmets can prevent 80 percent of head injuries. The United States National Institute of Health concludes that bike helmets provide an 88 percent reduction in the risk of head injury for cyclists. The evidence for wearing a helmet when biking or skiing is undeniable.
Codes and Standards
The Consumer Product Safety Council relies on standards for helmet safety. The primary safety code for ski helmets, ASTM F2040, is very similar to ASTM F1447-12, which is the standard for recreational bike helmets. The major difference in code is additions for low-temperature performance on ski helmets. The use of ASTM certified bike helmets is mandated by law when cycling. Code enforcement for certified ski helmets is spotty, and may or may not be in place in a given area. Helmets that meet ASTM standards contain a label, typically located on the inside of the helmet.
Hot and Cold
Bicycle helmets are designed to keep you cool. Ski helmets are designed to keep you warm. Ski helmets have specific features such as temperature-sensitive materials, ear coverage and moisture liners. Some ski helmets have removable plugs to allow airflow if you get too warm. Bike helmets have only thin foam pads, are more aerodynamic and have large air vents to keep you cool. The airflow and minimal design of a bike helmet allows sound to pass through, enabling you to hear traffic. Ski helmets, with the extra padding and ear coverings, restrict sound from entering the helmet.
Cycling helmets provide protection for one hard impact. Ski helmets are also designed to take hard impacts, but have a tougher shell, with better protection against penetration by sharp objects. Ski helmets offer full-face protection, and a degree of neck protection with a shell that extends partially down the back of your neck. Cycling helmets -- with the exception of downhill helmets -- do not typically cover your face or the back of the neck, and are designed mostly to protect your brain. When you crash with a bike helmet it's recommended that it be discarded. Ski helmets can take more hits without the need of replacement, although the jury is out on this one. Some manufacturers recommend that it be replaced after a crash. A bike helmet is lighter than a ski helmet. Bike helmets start at about $20. Ski helmets are typically more than $100.
Goggles and Radios
Ski helmets can be matched with goggles. Some have extra provisions for straps that wrap around the body of the helmet. Bike helmets do not adapt to goggles in the same manner, with eye protection typically coming from standard eye protection, such as sunglasses. Ski helmets may have provisions for radios or other communication devices. Bike helmets are minimalistic, with no support for these devices.
- Untited States Consumer Product Safety Commision: Which Helmet for Which Activity?
- Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute: Helmets For Many Activities
- REI: Ski and Snowboard Helmets: How to Choose
- American Society for Testing and Materials: ASTM International: A Resource for Snow Skiing Safety
- American Society for Testing and Materials: Standard Specification for Helmets Used in Recreational Bicycling or Roller Skating
- American Society for Testing and Materials: New Performance Standard for Helmets Worn on the Slopes
- Photo Credit altrendo images/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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