Q&A with ABUS: Helmet Safety and Care
I’ve been a physician assistant going on 8 years, working almost all that time in either urgent care or emergency medicine. I’m Advanced Trauma Life Support certified, meaning I know how to respond to trauma in a methodical way. This blog is not medical advice, but sharing my background is important to the topic of wearing helmets. That’s because I see the other side. I see the acute head injuries walk (or not walk in some cases) into our department seeking medical care and treatment. I’ve seen open skull fractures, debilitating concussions and everything in between.
One of my team’s sponsors this year is ABUS, which many know as a security company who specializes in bike locks and other security devices. However, they make amazing helmets that I have been able to use this past year. While I was on a group ride a couple weeks back I got a few questions about helmets that I admittedly didn’t know how to answer. So I went to the experts at ABUS to help answer a few and to educate myself and share that knowledge with you as well. Afterall, a helmet can save your life so you want to make sure you know how to take care of it!
Enjoy the Q&A I was able to have with Greg over at ABUS and a special thank you to him for taking the time to answer these questions. The two biggest takeaways for me were to replace your helmet EVERY time you have a crash that involves impact to your head. The damage to the inner shell, which is most important for protecting you, may not be visible. PLEASE discourage and educate anyone who asks if it is cracked before replacing it. That is the safest option. Additionally, I was reminded that the most important thing about helmets is that you actually have to wear one - and yes this even means on ice cream townie rides and fartin’ around expo’s. Wear the helmet and keep it buckled up!
What is the proper way to clean the helmet?
Any cleansers I should avoid on the helmet? We recommend a general dish soap. Do not use any cleaners/solvents to remove grease from the outside of the helmet. This can potentially harm the outside shell and eps, leading to damage of the helmet.
Does storing your helmet directly in the sun impact the longevity of the helmet?
Helmets are designed to be used in all conditions, and that can mean long hours in the direct sunlight while riding. That said, it is best to not store a helmet in direct sunlight or high heat. The main issue will be with the shell of the helmet becoming brittle or deformed, and less of an issue with inner EPS.
I’ve heard helmets with MIPS are the safest, is that true and does my helmet need that?
ABUS does offer many of our helmets in a MIPS variant. In the USA, helmets are required to be CPSC certified, which is a pass/fail test. MIPS is not taken into consideration in that testing process. In specific types of crashes, MIPS can offer an additional layer of protection when it comes to avoiding concussions. The MIPS liner is designed to move at the initial crash impact, reducing the rotational forces that can lead to brain injuries.
Are you supposed to wear a different helmet when you are mountain biking?
I hear that you want a helmet with more protection on the back of the helmet, but I never see any pro riders racing with that type of helmet. Mountain bike helmets do provide more protection down the back of the head and often include an adjustable visor, but these helmets are more focused on the enduro riders and general trail riding on technical terrain. The visor improves vision when riding through varying light conditions found in the woods, and the added coverage down the neck provides protection in the event of a fall. These features do come with a weight penalty and less ventilation, so XC racers predominantly wear road style helmets when competing.
Do I need an aero helmet?
There is certainly an advantage to aero helmets for racing, especially gravel, road racing and triathlons. An aero helmet can save seconds in a 40k TT, and when you expand that out to something like Unbound it could add up to minutes. In hot conditions a ventilated helmet can prove beneficial to keeping a rider from overheating and improving comfort. Our aero helmet, the GameChanger, does a great job of balancing ventilation with air flow, thanks to the Forced Air Cooling Technology. That is fancy terminology for channels that are built into the EPS foam. Air is pulled in through the front vents and over the rider’s head and out the rear vents. The GameChanger has also scored well in independent helmet wind tunnel testing.
How often are you supposed to replace a helmet?
The rule of thumb is every five to seven years, but there are a lot of variables in that number. The EPS will remain safe for longer than seven years, but with all types of equipment there is the daily use and abuse that leads to that suggested timeframe. Helmets get dropped, left in a hot car, smacked by tree branches, etc. All of those things can lead to cracks in the EPS, making the helmet less effective in the event of a crash.
Are you supposed to replace a helmet after a crash when you hit your head?
Even if the helmet doesn't appear cracked? YES!! Helmets are one and done when it comes to a crash where a rider hits their head. Helmets are designed to absorb the impact of a crash, which also means the foam compresses or cracks and would not offer the same protection in the event of another crash.
Finally, the #1 thing a rider should know about helmet safety is, always wear one. It is not always when you are riding a technical section of singletrack or diving into a corner at 30mph that you crash. It can be rolling up to registration for an event or going to get a post-ride ice cream. No matter how skilled a rider might be, crashes happen, so always wear one.
Paige’s Helmet Choices this season:
My main choice for helmet this year was the Gamechanger Road helmet. This is an aero helmet that admittedly was much more vented than I anticipated. I have worn this for the majority of my races this year. When the speed is lower, such as a MTB race or if it’s really hot out (usually races over 80-85 degrees for me) then I switch to a more vented helmet, the Aventor.