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I am cuirious if anyone uses a skiing helmet for winter biking? Would this be safe? Are skiing helmets designed to protect you from the same kind of acidents that you would have on a bike?

I am just curious because a ski helmet would:

  • Help to keep your ears warm
  • Would fit well with ski goggles (which fit poorly with my bike helmet)
  • Not have air vents in it which make you cold in the winter
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I run a Giro helmet (more forehead room for goggles), a beany (takes care of those air vents), and a scarf (to keep my beard from being too packed with snow), and don't have a problem. –  Jack M. Sep 15 '10 at 17:48
    
Discussing about this kind of probs addressed in meta: meta.bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/250/… –  user652 Feb 20 '11 at 2:31
    
How about a motorcycle helmet? An open-faced one wouldn't impair your ability to look around (the closed-faced ones seriously restrict your view so I wouldn't even consider them). Would be warm, except for the exposed skin on the face. Would it be too warm? They're a little heavier than you'd be used to, but not terrible to wear for hours on end. –  Brian Knoblauch Feb 22 '11 at 14:20
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General discussion for/against wearing a bicycle helmet, not dup, but related: bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/1678/…. –  user652 Feb 22 '11 at 18:53

11 Answers 11

up vote 19 down vote accepted

I wear a Bern Brentwood with a winter liner in cold weather. It's a certified bike helmet, but designed more like a ski helmet. The winter liner does a great job of keeping my ears warm without wearing any other protection, but doesn't block traffic noise. It is vented, but not well enough that it makes my head cold. It also has a clip in the back for ski goggles if you're using them. With the summer liner it works well for fall and spring, too.

Bern Brentwood

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+1 like this much more than non-certified "bicycle helmets". –  user652 Feb 27 '11 at 0:07
    
That looks great. I didn't know such items exist. I'll have to procure one. Excellent answer. –  user973810 Nov 29 '11 at 14:44
    
I've used the bern watts helmet for winter commuting and found that it works better to use the summer liner instead of the winter liner and pair it with a balaclava to keep my ears warm and my face protected. I use the clip which attaches to the back of the helmet to hold the ski google strap. I usually only use the ski goggles when it's below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. –  Benzo Jun 11 '12 at 20:50

POC also makes a helmet that is both snow and bike

Receptor Backcountry MIPS

In the rain I use a bern with hard bill to help keep the water off my face

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While a bike helmet may be better suited for crashing on a very hard surface (tarmac, concrete), skiing helmets are presumably well suited to handling an impact against the vertical things skiers hit (trees, lift poles). In that respect, a ski helmet might not be as good as a bike helmet but it ought to provide an acceptable level of protection.

One question that it brings up in my mind is how stringent the industry testing is for bicycle helmets compared to ski helmets. Helmets for biking have a lot of well-respected standards that they must comply to, from government groups like the Consumer Product Safety Commission in the US, to independent labs like Snell. Ski helmets haven't been around for nearly as long in wide usage, so I'd be wary of their technical efficacy. If you are going to use a ski helmet on a bike, be sure it at least has some independent certification.

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In countries where a helment is required by law, the law might require a certified bike helment e.g. "An approved bicycle helmet is one that has been tested for use by cyclists by one of the following testing agencies...". –  ChrisW Feb 19 '11 at 16:15
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-1 maybe dangerous! See my answer. @Drew Stephens: are you sure that you will not break your neck in typical front-head collision with ski-helmet? Please, note that bicycle helmets are designed to break so that the collision energy goes to the breaking of it and not your neck (that is the reason why you need to renew it time-to-time). I have no idea how ski-helmet works but what I have seen them, they are designed to sustain many hits and are of harder material. If the material is anywhere near mil helmets, what you are suggestion here is like a smiling suicide. Skeptical about safety issue. –  user652 Feb 20 '11 at 0:26
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The standards for most helmets just consist of a drop test. A heavy weight is dropped onto the helmet from a range of distances, there are different standards for different shaped penetrators. The only extra feature of a bike helmet is that the cover is intended to smoothly slide over the pavement and not snag - putting a load on your neck - but this isn't tested for it's just a design feature. –  mgb Feb 20 '11 at 2:15
    
@mgb: actually, the helmet is strapped to a weighted headform and gets dropped onto the anvils (penetrators), not the weights dropped onto the helmet. There's generally some tests that the straps keep the helmet on the headform, too. –  freiheit Feb 20 '11 at 2:40
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@hhh I think they break because they're ventilated, not because their breaking makes them safer. Protection against concussion is supposed to come, not from their breaking, but from compressing/deforming the foam. –  ChrisW Feb 20 '11 at 2:44

First off wearing a ski helmet is a lot better than wearing a wooly hat and scarf.

I've collected a fair amount of helmets over the years, from cheap £5 to snowboard and paintball helmets and used them while riding my bike.

During the autumn-winter months I tend to wear a bandanna under my cycle helmets. Come winter it's on with the snowboarding hi-viz gear. I live in Scotland where temps can hit -25 degrees easily.

The bottom line is stay safe. If you feel you get enough protection from the helmet go for it. Add up the pros and cons; it's your neck on the line, literally.

Here's a tip. If you walked into a winter sports shop the guy behind the counter would sell you a snowboarding helmet for cycling but a bike shop would say its not safe and guide you towards their brands.

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If you're thinking about wearing a ski helmet for biking, for what it's worth the Snell RS-98 recreational skiing and B-95 biking helmet standards are nearly identical, word for word, including things like visibility requirements and anatomical coverage. There are some small differences in the drop test. The energy of the flat anvil drop test in the B-95 standard is 110J vs. 100J for the RS-98 ski standard. The hemispherical anvil drop test is 80 J for RS-98 and 72 for B-95. Bike helmets are tested against the point of a right angle "kerbstone" anvil, but ski helmets are tested against an "edge anvil" 6.3mm wide -- basically a decapitating machine -- and at higher forces than the kerbstone test too. Both bike and ski helmets have to be tested after being chilled and soaked, but bike helmets have to be tested after being cooked at 50 C (122 F).

The reasonable conclusion is that a Snell certified ski helmet is probably a suitable choice for winter biking, but should not be used after exposure to extreme heat. Yes, a certified ski helmet might pass the 100J flat anvil test but not the 110 J test, but it probably does.

As for ASTM 2040, who can say? It's not available for free inspection. But it appears that the requirements for recreational ski helmets and bike helmets are pretty close.

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Are skiing helmets designed to protect you from the same kind of acidents that you would have on a bike?

Here is an article, for what it's worth, about the kind[s] of accidents that skiing helmets are designed to protect you from: The Science Behind Helmets.

On another (but related) subject, according to the web sites referenced in this answer there is even, apparently, some controversy over whether bicycle helmets will protect you from the kind of accidents that you would have on a bike.

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+1 although I think it is always very good idea to protect your head with helmet, this answer is very eye-opening, thanks. Clearly, the topic needs much more peer-review as I earlier thought. –  user652 Feb 20 '11 at 16:06
    
I am awarding bounty on this answer because it shows that the security may be more like a placebo. It leaves a lot to be investigated for the future. I hope skiing-helmets won't make you over-optimistic. The question still unsolved. –  user652 Feb 21 '11 at 18:50
    
Yes, there's definitely some controversy over whether bicycle helmets work well. I'm one of the people that finds the current design to be lacking (but certainly better than nothing!). I'll save the accidents I've seen/read up on, false assumptions in the current helmets, & bad design rant for another time though. :-) –  Brian Knoblauch Feb 22 '11 at 14:32
    
General discussion for/against wearing a bicycle helmet may contain related investigation: bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/1678/…. –  user652 Feb 22 '11 at 18:55

Really a comment to "I want proper data" but it was too long.

There is no data that a ski helmet is safe for biking simply because there is no data that a bike helmet is safe for biking!

What you do have is an assumption that if a bike helmet contains a certain thickness of an impact absorbing material and a ski helmet contains an equal or greater thickness than it will have the same impact absorbing effect.

Similarly if bike helmets are required to survive a certain drop test impact and ski helmets are tested to an equal or greater impact then they are presumed to be equally safe.

There are extra features that may make a bike helmet more or less safe - it may be more vunerable to splitting along vents yet may have a smoother surface to reduce snag risk - some of these may be included in the testing, some may not.

And finally remember that the 'testing' isn't anything like as scientific as you might think. As described above it's normally just a anvil impact test.
Alternatively the standards may just specify a certain thickness of a material. Whenever you see a size quoted in a safety standard you have to be slightly suspicious of the science which discovered something had to be exactly 25.4mm thick to be safe!

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Two really harsh winters with my Pro-Tec B2 Snow + transparent Peltor Virtua glasses , and I couldn't be more comfortable :-)

I just clicked on the "submit your order" button, and hopefully am receiving a POC Receptor Bug in the next few days. The security of that helmet i supposed to be very good, and I finally found one on sale (599:- SEK incl. p&p).

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@TOTTE: sorry but many links are broken. –  user652 Feb 19 '11 at 15:52
    
-1 before we can find proper data about the safety of wearing ski helmet while riding a bike, I am down-voting every answer that suggests ski-helmets. They can be dangerous. Please, read my answer. –  user652 Feb 20 '11 at 0:56
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@hhh I think that data will be very hard to come by. Personally, I'm all for evidence based decisions, but a little common sense once in a while doesn't hurt either... –  T0TTE Feb 22 '11 at 21:24
    
@TOTTE: the problem is that you take unknown risks: not just health risk (due to various issues such as material, hearing and design) but also financial risk. If even the Consumer Product Safety Commission does not qualify skiing helmet as a "verified bicycle" helmet, you are on your own if something happens. I call it stupidity to use non-verified helmet particularly with better choices such as the helmet suggested by Marc Charbonneau. For the start, ask your insurance company whether they accept the liability risk if you are wearing non-verified bicycle helmet. –  user652 Feb 27 '11 at 0:12

As mentioned in this answer to another question, I commute all winter in central Vermont with a Giro 9 ski helmet and goggles. The winter weather here has lots of sleet and snow with temperatures mostly in the 5*F-20*F range with sub-zero temps at times.

alt text

This Giro helmet [and apparently many recent ski helmets] conform to the ASTM 2040 safety standard. This helmet has very similar construction to my Giro bike helmet (primarily dense foam with a thin plastic shell).

According to this site ASTM 2040 is almost identical to the Consumer Product Safety Council's (CPSC) standard for bicycle helmets, but with additions for mandatory low-temperature performance. Compare the ASTM description to this description of CPSC testing. Both standards require 4 drop tests from two meters height: two onto flat anvils, one onto a hemispherical anvil, and one onto an angled edge anvil. In both standards, the helmet fails if the instrumented head-form exceeds 300 g's on impact. Both standards require testing of chin-straps and roll-off.

Given that the speeds and obstacles (automobiles aside) are very similar skiing and biking, I feel very comfortable wearing the Giro 9 while biking. The construction of this helmet is almost identical to that of my Giro bike helmet (the same gray foam with a thin outer shell), but with a significantly higher foam/hole ratio. As mentioned by freiheit, Giro markets one of its helmets for both downhill skiing and downhill mountain biking.

One nice feature about this particular ski helmet is that it has quite a bit of ventilation via removable rubber plugs in the openings on top. Since we generate a lot more heat biking than downhill skiing, this extra airflow keeps the head comfortable while the eyes and face are protected by goggles.

If you are commuting or riding after dark, be sure to get goggles that aren't too dark. Often clear or colored lenses are available that let through 90% or more of the available light and will let you see the road with your headlights.

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-1 before we can find proper data about the safety of wearing ski helmet while riding a bike, I am down-voting every answer that suggests ski-helmets. They can be dangerous. Please, read my answer. –  user652 Feb 20 '11 at 0:56
    
@hhh: Read the description of the US bicycle helmet standard testing: bhsi.org/testing.htm (2meters onto flat anvil, 1.2m to round anvil, 1.2m to curb anvil. All requiring under 300G. Plus rolloff/retention tests). Compare to @AdamFranco's link. Except for temperature tests are identical. I haven't looked at a ski helmet, but I'll bet they're a similar foam on the inside to a bicycle helmet, but usually with a hard shell, much like the hard-shelled bicycle helmets I've seen from Nutcase or Bern that look similar to what BMX and Skateboarders use. –  freiheit Feb 20 '11 at 2:37
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@hhh It's normal; you have to pay for a copy of e.g. ISO standards, and for standards from other bodies like the ITU. You may be able to participate (for free) when draft standards are being defined. –  ChrisW Feb 20 '11 at 4:58
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@hhh I have updated the answer to incorporate some more details from the links provided by freiheit. As for being 100% certain of the similarity between the two testing standards, you'd have to purchase both standards and go through them line-by-line and look for any material differences. –  Adam Franco Feb 22 '11 at 13:45
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@MikeSamuel It doesn't affect my hearing at all. Wind noise is always the biggest hearing limiter at bike/ski speeds. My Giro 9's ear covers are a doughnut of padded fleece with a mesh-covered hole in the center. They do a good job of cutting the cold wind and keeping it from freezing my ears, but don't reduce my ability to hear. –  Adam Franco May 28 '12 at 17:39

What I do when it's cold, in addition to wearing a skullcap or balaclava, is use clear packing tape to cover the front vents in my helmet. This has usually been sufficient for comfort during my 60-75 min commute in Utah winters down to 15-20 F.

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Huh, packing tape is a great idea. –  sixtyfootersdude Sep 16 '10 at 11:11
    
+1 for suggesting a good substitute for ski helmets –  user652 Feb 20 '11 at 0:57

I did once wear ski goggles whilst cycling through the snow, and felt that it probably was a bit less safe, because they cut down my peripheral vison a bit.

When It's pretty cold I normally wear a balaclava underneath my helmet, which I recommend heartily. It keeps the ears and face nice and warm.

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I lived in Ottawa, Canada last winter. The average temperature is -10C but it is much colder at night. I also found that goggles kept slush out of my eyes much better than anything else. I found with glasses that the slush would hit my forehead and then fall down between my glasses and eyes. Conclusion: even if you lose some peripheral vision goggles are still the better choice. –  sixtyfootersdude Sep 23 '10 at 17:25
    
Fair enough, I was only cycling through tame English snow! –  Jonny Cundall Sep 23 '10 at 21:49
    
+1 for pointing a new safety disadvantage with ski-helmets. –  user652 Feb 20 '11 at 0:58

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