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There are numerous safety standards for bicycle helmets available, but which certification is the most stringent one in terms of safety?

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In looking at the various standards, all are missing doing any real tests of how the helmet would hold up (and protect my head) during an actual crash. I consider a "crash" to be a moving event, what they test I would call a "fall". –  Ken Hiatt Apr 8 '13 at 17:01
    
@KenHiatt That's because no bike helmet will offer any real protection from a crash. You'd need a full-face motorbike helmet for that. –  Dan Hulme Apr 8 '13 at 17:38
    
@DanHulme, I disagree. Granted a helmet will not do much good in a car-vs-bike at speed, but I've had a couple of significant crashes where I am convinced the helmet helped. One of these I received a concussion, looking at the helmet I'd probably have been leaking gray matter without it. I suspect the reason for lack of this type of testing is that it would be VERY expensive. –  Ken Hiatt Apr 8 '13 at 19:18
    
I fell off my bike once and tore my trousers. I'm glad I was wearing them, or I could have shredded my knees! As you've pointed out, most helmets are only tested for an impact about equivalent to dropping from waist height (some from a little over head height). Serious injuries from that kind of head impact are very rare. Just because your helmet broke doesn't mean your head would have: like my trousers and my knee. –  Dan Hulme Apr 8 '13 at 22:50
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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

To test a bicycle helmet you attach it to dummy head and drop it from a height onto a solid object. The acceleration experienced by the head is measured, if the acceleration is too high the helmet fails. Stringency of the impact test depends on how high you drop the helmet from and the maximum acceleration you allow for a pass.

There's a comparison of the various standards here. Snell B95 uses the largest drop (2.2m) and is the most stringent on that count, although it allows acceleration of 300g. Other tests (e.g. Canada, Europe) have a lower limit on acceleration, but the drop heights for these standards are also lower.

If you can find a helmet that is Snell certified and also Canadian or European certified then go with that. If not, then just Snell certified is probably the best bet.

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From a little Googling this site has the opinion that Sneel has the toughest standards. To elaborate some more, the Snell standard specifies higher drop heights, but the really interesting thing I found out from reading is that the Snell standard is the only one that takes helmets purchased at retail and tests those. This forces manufacturers to have good quality control standards, as they might have to recall a helmet model if it is found to be non-compliant. Although the article states that they do not know of any such cases.

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Snell is touted as having the most stringent standards, but they apparently cost the most/require the most samples for testing as well so many manufacturers simply pass.

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