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In Australia there was recently a change to to bicycle helmet standards as outlined in AS/NZS 2063:2008.

Basically, helmets complying to the 1996 version of the standard will soon become illegal to sell in Australia.

I want to buy a helmet with the 1996 standard because it's cheaper now (due to stock clearance), but I don't know if it will be any less safe? Not that I put too much trust in these standards anyway ...

I'm very skeptical as to whether the new standard will be safer in use, because virtually no useful information is given to the public as to what the changes actually are. Furthermore, these are laws being passed by bureaucrats who seemingly have very little idea of the actual science behind these standards! To make matters even worse, they do not differentiate between helmets for different cycling uses e.g. mountain bike vs. road, and throw seemingly arbitrary numbers around.

Should I be concerned buying a helmet of an older standard or do you think this just silly bureaucracy in play?

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4 Answers

Summary: a helmet that meets the new standard is going to protect your head better than one that just barely meets the old standard.

Summary of differences from the preface of the new regulations:

  • Something about "projection requirements" from the horse-riding helmet regulations added in. This is probably about stuff sticking off the outside of the helmet (such as a visor/peak).
  • Update to what headform is used for testing to match an international standard
  • Reduction of maximum allowed force to headform in test from 300g to 250g. For comparison, 300g is the US requirement for adults, but 250g is the requirement in the US for children. I think it's a similar impact test.
  • Update to test of retention system (straps)
  • A new test for "peak deflection" added in, which I believe is another test of the retention system (straps), but measured differently.

Also, from the stuff I saw, a helmet meeting the old standard will still be perfectly legal to own or wear, will still be allowed in organized races for a while, etc.

I think the 300g to 250g change is the big one. The g forces imparted to your head in a collision directly translate to how much damage your brain is going to take. They're taking a weight shaped like a human head, strapping it into the helmet and dropping it onto various "anvils" and measuring the impact. This is a laboratory test of what would happen to your head during a collision wearing that helmet.

Note that the tests are simply pass or fail. It's entirely possible that there's helmets certified to the old standard that would pass the new standard (or parts of the new standard) but those models weren't tested to it.

Personally, I'd be likely to pick up one of the old standard clearance helmets and not worry about it. Maybe get something a little nicer than I'd normally choose to afford. If I was planning some riskier riding I'd probably choose something certified to the new standard. However, I'm opposed to adult mandatory helmet laws, so my personal opinion should be taken with a grain of salt. My personal opinion is that it's 90% silly bureaucracy and 10% actually making your head safer.

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After reading through the ACCC's web page on the new standard, the 12 of December change only applies to retailers. The VicRoads website only mentions that you have to have a helmet that reaches AS/NZS 2063, not the year of the standard.

Personally, I am due for a new helmet, my current one being well over 2 years old, and I will be looking for one that meets the improved standard, since this indicates that the protection it offers in all situations is as good if not better. The materials and techniques in a more recent helmet will be improved compared to one designed two years ago.

I think my head is worth more than the money I would save from a cheaper, inferior helmet.

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Well, since the most valuable thing about you is your brain... take that in to consideration. Also, on a side note -once you've crashed and made impact on the helmet - you should discard and buy a new one.

Personally, I would not be scared to buy a cheap one on clearance - there are many riders who will wait til they wear out, damage, or just get tired of their current helmet before buying a new one. But I won't say this is the best decision.

One BIG thing I would make sure of is that using the old helmet doesn't effect your insurance coverage. For example, in America, military personnel must wear proper safety gear or they may lose long-term benefits. That's why you can always spot a military person on a motorcycle or bicycle. They have helmets, gloves, reflective vests, etc.

I know my insurance long-term benefits has language in coverage (or lack of) about "dangerous" activities and not taking proper precautions.

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In Australia it is illegal to ride without a helmet - will that law also be updated? It might not concern you on a daily basis, but if you were in an accident while wearing an older model, what would the law then have to say about your liability?

It's not the same at all - but this story does prove that when defendants don't see a choice, then their (public-funded) lawyers will really scrape the barrel.

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