Big differences between bicycle helmets, and the price is not a decisive factor
International consumer tests of helmets, corresponding to the car crash tests performed by Euro NCAP, are needed to increase the safety level of bicycle helmets. Folksam’s latest bicycle helmet test shows a big difference in safety between different helmets, even though each one them fulfils the test standards and can be sold on the European market.
– We have conducted our tests since 2012 and we were the first to publish consumer tests of bicycle helmets that also mirrors what happens in a bicycle accident. Even though the development is progressing, many helmets fulfilling the test standards do not protect well enough in the event of a bicycle accident, says Helena Stigson, road safety researcher at Folksam and responsible for the tests.
According to the regulation for bicycle helmets that exists today allowing helmets to be sold on the European market, bicycle helmets are only tested for a translational impact, which reflects the helmet’s energy absorption capacity, but not how the brain is affected in the event of a bicycle accident. Unlike the test standards, Folksam’s tests are more comprehensive and more realistic because they also reflect the risk of sustaining a concussion by including oblique impacts, which in principle always is the case in a bicycle accident. In oblique impacts the head is subjected to rotational forces, which the brain is very sensitive to, and, therefore, injuries such as concussion or more severe brain injury may occur causing long-term consequences for the injured. Computer simulations were subsequently carried out to evaluate how well helmets reduce the risk for concussion in oblique impacts.
The method used for oblique impacts in Folksam’s test is also the one that is under discussion at the European level. Changing the safety standard (EN 1078) is a long process and cannot be expected to change within the next few years. Therefore, Folksam has now conducted the tests with support from the association Road Safety Trust in the UK to also increase the impact internationally with the aim to guide consumers to buy the safest bicycle helmets and to influence helmet design and the safety standard of helmets.
– Consumer tests like Folksam’s test are therefore important for driving the development of bicycle helmets. We are hoping that international consumer tests of helmets can be initiated, similar to Euro NCAP tests of vehicles. In this way, the safety standard of helmets can increase more rapidly, says Helena Stigson.
In total, 27 different helmets were included in this year’s test series. The price of helmets varies from 140 SEK to 3200 SEK and the results clearly show that the price is not always decisive for how well a helmet protects. Of the usual conventional helmets, Biltema’s bicycle helmet with MIPS had the best result. It was also one of the cheapest helmets tested.
Best of all, the airbag head protection Hövding 3.0 came out. It received by far the best test result both with regard to shock absorption and oblique impact performance. Compared to the worst helmet, there is more than seven times less risk of sustaining a concussion in case of a head impact if Hövding is used.
– In general, Folksam’s tests show that there is a large variation of the results between the helmets in the various tests and that there is thus potential to make them safer. All the seven conventional helmets that received our label “Recommended” have some form of protection for rotational loadings. But the fact that a helmet is fitted with rotational protection is no guarantee that it is a safe helmet. One of the helmets that comes out worst in the test has rotational protection, says Helena Stigson.
More information about the test
The entire test can be found at: www.folksam.se/cykelhjalmstest-vuxen
Pictures of all tested helmets are available here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/folksam/albums/72157714173460046
Facts about bicycle injuries in Sweden
- Every year over a thousand cyclists visit an emergency care centre in Sweden for treatment of head injuries.
- In total, 70 percent of all head injuries occur in single accidents, that is, when they overturn without anyone else being involved.
- Less than a fifth of all head injuries occur in a car collision, but these usually result in the most serious consequences.
- Statistics from accidents show in black and white that the bicycle helmet is of great importance. Two out of three head injuries in the event of a bicycle accident could have been avoided if the cyclist wore a helmet. In case of severe head injuries, the protective effect is even higher. In nearly half of all fatal accidents, the cyclist had survived if a helmet had been used.
- Accident statistics show that the most common injuries to the head are the impact on the top or the back of the head.
- 8 percent of all concussions lead to long-term consequences with a permanent medical impairment, which shows the importance of preventing also minor head injuries.
|Helmet||Rotationel protection||Price (SEK)||Score||Better/worse than average|
|Hövding 3.0||None||3000||4 Recommended||76%|
|Biltema Cykelhjälm MIPS||MIPS||500||4 Recommended||37%|
|Tec Quadriga MIPS||MIPS||1600||4 Recommended||23%|
|Scott Vivo Plus MIPS||MIPS||1600||4 Recommended||22%|
|Bell Super Air R MIPS||MIPS||3000||4 Recommended||19%|
|Bontrager Specter Wavecel||WaveCel||1700||4 Recommended||18%|
|Occano MIPS Helmet||MIPS||700||4 Recommended||18%|
|Specialized S-Works Prevail II ANGI MIPS||MIPS||3200||4 Recommended||18%|
|Bell Trace MIPS||MIPS||800||3||20%*|
|Lazer Blade MIPS||MIPS||1300||3||15%|
|Bontrager Solstice MIPS||MIPS||750||3||15%|
|Sweet Protection Outrider MIPS||MIPS||1500||2||3%|
|Poc Axion SPIN||Spin||1600||2||3%|
|Giro Quarter MIPS||MIPS||700||2||-1%|
|Specialized Ambush Angi MIPS||MIPS||2200||2||-4%|
|Closa Design Fuga||None||1100||2||-6%|
|Giro Agilis MIPS||MIPS||1000||2||-8%|
|Rockrider MTB ST 500||None||350||2||-12%|
|Giro Caden MIPS||MIPS||1000||2||-13%|
|Abus Hyban 2||None||600||2||-13%|
|Poc Tectal SPIN||Spin||2300||2||-13%|
|Van Rysel Road R 900||None||550||2||-14%|
|Smith Convoy MIPS||MIPS||750||1||-17%|
|Halford Helmets Commuter Helmet||None||400||1||-33%|
|Bell Crest Universal||None||500||1||-36%|
For further information:
Helena Stigson, researcher Folksam, phone +46 708-31 62 04
Folksam Press Office, +46 8-772 66 60