Is your safety helmet protecting you? Recently, while having my bicycle serviced, the technician commented on this very subject. While I rarely ride horses now, I continue to use my horseback riding helmet during bike rides. Having purchased a new helmet not long before I retired from owning horses, I saw little reason to purchase yet another helmet when I pursued mountain bike and road cycling. Needless to say, I make a rather awkward fashion statement, but was this wise?
By all means, do your own homework, but here are a few thoughts on the subject. Safety helmets for horseback riding and cycling range in costs from roughly $40.00 to $200.00. The more expensive choices do not necessarily provide added protection. Most helmets are constructed from expanded polystyrene foam (ESP), which is resistant to both temperature changes and weather conditions. The 2 most common construction types are either single unit or 2-piece units. Single unit construction is more resistant to separation upon impact. 2-piece units “can” separate in a crash. In addition, the adhesive qualities in a 2-piece unit may over a period of time, deteriorate.
Besides construction type, also consider venting, fit, whether or not the helmet meets or exceeds specific safety standards, and whether or not the helmet is sport specific. A certain amount of venting is desirable, to allow airflow and increase comfort, but too much venting can decrease contact surface with your head, reducing protection. Fit is important both to increase comfort, and to ensure that a helmet remains secure upon impact. An equestrian helmet is designed to cover more of your head, thus more evenly distributing protection, while a bicycling helmet is designed to protect the front and back of your head more so.
Look for helmets that meet or exceed these safety standards. Since 1999, helmets must meet Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) federal standards. In addition, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) writes safety standards for a wide variety of products and conditions. Once the standards are in place, the Safety Equipment Institute (SEI) ensures that manufactures abide by these standards. The ASTM and CPSC certifications are comparable. Helmets that meet Snell B-95 or N-94 certifications exceed both CPSC and ASTM certifications.
Choose colors that make you more visible. And be sure both the straps and fasteners can withstand the force of an impact. My research indicated that you may want to replace your helmet every 3 to 5 years; additional resources suggested 5 or more years. And lastly, always replace a helmet that has sustained an impact from an accident. It will no longer provide protection.
See you soon outdoors in the Divide!