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Helmets play a vital role in ensuring safety during cycling and skating. Using the right helmet for a sport offers maximum safety and reduces the possibility of catastrophic injuries including skull fracture and traumatic brain injury. Unfortunately, a lot of people downplay how important it is to wear the proper helmet. They erroneously believe that any type of helmet will suffice, however, this belief might be dangerous to their safety.

Bicyclist performing tric and wearing a multisport helmet

Understanding the important differences between a bike helmet and a skateboard helmet including design, shape, ventilation, and safety certification is vital for your safety. Before purchasing a new helmet, discover the main differences between the various helmets – from design and shape to ventilation and safety certification.

Common Misconceptions about Bike Helmets and Skateboard Helmets

It’s a common misconception that helmets worn by cyclists and skaters are interchangeable. This oversimplified perspective fails to acknowledge the extensive engineering and design involved in creating sport-specific helmets.

Imagine a skater accelerating down a ramp, performing gravity-defying stunts, and a cyclist skillfully maneuvering through busy city streets. These contrasting scenes highlight the unique challenges and risks each activity presents. The essential needs of a skater stand distinctly apart from those of a cyclist.

Electric scooter user wearing a skate helmet

This is where the significance of sport-specific helmets becomes strikingly evident. Even within a sport, there can be significant differences in both the needs of the user and helmet construction to meet those requirements. Each helmet is carefully designed to be a masterpiece that caters to the specific needs and vulnerabilities of its wearer.

How are Skate-style Helmets Different from Bike Helmets?

In terms of the two, there are several notable distinctions. These divergences encompass aspects such as design and construction, shape, and cranial coverage, and even extend to the safety technology employed and the distinct certification processes each undergoes.

Now, let’s examine the details and explore how these differences play a crucial role in shaping the effectiveness of each protective gear.

Design and Construction Differences Between Bike and Skateboard Helmets

Bike helmets often feature a combination of materials such as polycarbonate for the outer shell and EPS foam (Expanded Polystyrene) on the inside of the helmet for impact absorption. These helmets are engineered to endure and protect against a single impact, due to their unique foam design that compresses upon impact. Meanwhile, the polycarbonate outer shell is designed to protect against injuries when moving at high speed making it ideal for road cyclists and mountain biking.

Bicycle commuter wearing a bike helmet appropriate for road cycling

On the other hand, skate helmets employ a hard-shell construction to endure multiple impacts. A quality skate helmet has a thicker outer shell made from ABS plastic. This shell can take a beating and protect your head during accidents. Equally important is the interior padding often composed of EPP (Expanded Polypropylene) materials, a softer foam than EPS that offers remarkable flexibility while cushioning against impacts. These features result in a high-quality, multi-impact helmet suitable for skateboarding, in-line skating, and roller skating.   

Another sharp distinction between these two helmet types lies in their vents design. Bike helmets are crafted to offer superior ventilation, letting air circulate freely. In contrast, skate helmet vents tend to be smaller. As a result, the ventilation offered by skate helmets is more limited in comparison.

Differences in Shape and Coverage Between Bike and Skate Helmets

Skate helmets take protection a step further by covering the top of the head and extending all the way to the back. This extra coverage is specifically made for skateboarding considering the potential for skaters to tumble backward while attempting tricks.

Man on a uniboard wearing a skate helmet

Bike helmets are designed differently as they generally offer less coverage towards the lower back of the head. They focus more on protecting the top and sides of the head – areas more susceptible to potential falls.

However, the helmet you choose should be suited to the riding you engage in. Road bike helmets and mountain bike helmets provide different levels of head coverage. A mountain bike helmet will provide coverage to the lower part of the back of the head as well.

And while this is more than likely adequate protection for most bike rides, on rough terrain and downhill riding you will likely want to protect your face, chin, jaw, teeth, and the back of your head. Full-face helmets provide maximum protection and are best suited for extreme riding conditions.

Bicycle and Skate Helmet Safety Technologies, Standards, and Certifications

One of the significant divides in helmet safety technology lies in the different systems adopted for impact mitigation. For bicycle helmets, cutting-edge technologies like MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) and WaveCel (a proprietary innovation by Bontrager/Trek) are setting new standards.

MIPS employs a low-friction layer to reduce rotational forces during an impact, while WaveCel uses a collapsible cellular structure to absorb both rotational and linear impact forces.

Young girl wearing s skate helmet and other appropriate protective equipment

Although not as prevalent as seen in bicycle helmets, some skate helmets are also designed with MIPS technology. However, they tend to use stronger materials and foam with a focus on durability and robustness to handle the repetitive impacts that can occur in skateboarding.

To ensure your safety, select a helmet that adheres to industry standards. These standards are put in place by reputable certifying organizations recognized globally for their commitment to promoting safety.

Skateboarder wearing a skate helmet while performing tricks

Two common certifications for bike helmets come from CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) and ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials). The CPSC certification is a mark that shows a bike helmet has met safety standards set by the United States government. Helmets undergo tests to make sure they can protect against serious head injuries from significant impact.

Before the adoption of the CPSC standard, the ASTM certification was highly regarded and used for bicycle helmet production. While the standard is still technically in effect, it is unfortunate that it is not widely used with modern helmets. Nonetheless, ASTM remains dedicated to enhancing the utmost safety and protection for cyclists.

Groups of friends wearing skate helmets

Skate helmets adhere to different standards such as ASTM F1492. Helmets with ASTM F1492 certification have met standards for impact protection during activities like skateboarding and rollerblading.

It should be noted, that dual-certified helmets do exist as do multi-sport helmets. If you opt for the latter, look for a helmet with a Snell N-94 rating which is tested for cycling, in-line skating, and skateboarding. Dual-certified bike skateboard helmets and multi-sport helmets like the S1 Lifer Helmet will have both the ASTM F1492 certification (multi-impact) and the CPSC certification (high impact). If a helmet claims to be suitable for more than one activity it should have these safety certifications to back up the assertion.

Testing Procedures and Requirements

Complying with the CPSC standard is mandatory for all helmet manufacturers targeting the US market. While the United States government sets stringent standards that all helmets must adhere to, the ASTM certification standard is self-certifying. This means the process for testing and validation lies in the hands of manufacturers or trusted third-party testing facilities.

Mountain biker in a full-face bike helmet

The tests replicate the diverse challenges that helmet users may face. Impact tests, a component of the evaluation, simulate the forces of a fall or collision. It subjects a helmet to controlled impacts while placed on a metal head form, which is then dropped onto different steel test anvils. To meet the rigorous ASTM standards, a bike helmet must successfully endure a 2-meter drop on an anvil.

Finally, some helmets may be certified by the Safety Equipment Institute (SEI), an independent organization that tests and certifies various equipment, including bike and skate helmets. SEI’s certification process provides an additional layer of verification for helmet safety and can be a reliable indicator for consumers when selecting a helmet.

Are There Functional Differences Between a Bike Helmet and a Skateboarding Helmet?

Yes! Indeed, there are variations in functionality between bike helmets and skate helmets, owing to the specific requirements and potential hazards inherent to each sport.

Differences in Impact Scenarios between Bike and Skate Helmets

Even though both sports carry varying degrees of risk, the distinct characteristics of bike accidents and skateboard falls necessitate unique approaches to helmet design and risk mitigation.

Skateboarder getting air wearing a skate helmet vs a bike helmet

In the event of a bike accident, such as a collision with a vehicle or a sudden halt, the impact forces transmitted to the head often involve rotational elements. The inclusion of technologies like MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) and WaveCel in bike helmets is a direct response to this. These technologies dissipate rotational forces, redirecting them away from the brain, and reducing the risk of brain injury.

The nature of skateboarding, characterized by tricks, maneuvers, and swift movements, often leads to falls that involve unpredictable angles. Although rotational forces are still considered, the emphasis is on providing robust protection against multiple impacts that skaters might encounter as they fall repeatedly.

Mobility and Aerodynamics Differences Between the Sports

The dissimilarities between mobility and aerodynamics in these sports are expertly captured in the designs of each helmet type.

Bike helmets embody a sleek, aerodynamic design with smooth lines and strategically placed vents that minimize fierce winds so cyclists can efficiently cut through the air. Skate helmets, having fewer vents, are less aerodynamic; their focus on safeguarding and maneuverability aligns harmoniously with the unique demands of the sport.

Young female skateboarder wearing a skate-specific helmet

Style vs. Safety

Skate helmets often earn accolades for being more stylish, however putting style before safety can have major negative effects on head protection.

As athletes gear up for daring escapades – whether for cycling, skateboarding, or any exhilarating pursuit – the priority should be safeguarding their well-being. While helmets can make a fashion statement, their primary and essential function is to offer reliable protection during high-risk endeavors. So, choosing a helmet based on its safety features should always be the top priority.

Who Should Use Which Helmet?

Wearing a helmet is essential when cycling or skating, regardless of age or degree of experience, for kids, teens, or adults. Both bikers and skaters must place a high priority on safety by wearing helmets made expressly for their respective sports.

For cyclists and mountain bikers, bike helmets are the ideal choice. Conversely, skate helmets are specifically crafted for skateboarders, roller skaters, and in-line skaters, considering the lower speeds involved and the prevalence of repeated impacts while performing various tricks and stunts.

Bike commuter wearing a bicycle helmets vs a skateboard helmet

If you participate in multiple sports, it is understandable that you might be tempted to use a single helmet for all activities. If you decide to take this path, remember to check the safety certifications. Do not assume that because a helmet is listed as multi-sport or dual-certified, it is. Specifically, look for the ASTM F1492 certification (multi-impact) and the CPSC certification (high impact) or the Snell N-94 rating on any multisport helmet.

Finally, wearing a suitable helmet isn’t just a formality– it’s about using a helmet that can handle all the unexpected twists, turns, and falls that happen in the activity you’re doing. So, be sure to look for a helmet that meets safety standards, fits well, and provides proper protection for the activity you are engaging in.

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