BMX and mountain bike helmets go through a rigorous testing process to develop and be approved for certain safety standards and certifications. Not all BMX and mountain bike helmets go through this process and it doesn't necessarily mean that a particular BMX or mountain bike helmet will not protect as well as one that is certified. BMX and mountain bike helmets use the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials), Snell and the CPSC (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) safety standard certifications and are not required but are there to show evidence of the safety offered in a particular BMX or mountain bike helmet. These safety standards certification organizations' reputation are very well defined as the preeminant voice in protective gear quality.
BMX and mountain bike Helmet Safety Standards and Certification Procedures
ASTM Certification Safety Standards
For BMX and mountain bike there are ASTM F1447, F2032, and F1952 safety certifications. All three certifications verify the quality and safety offered in a variety of helmets, ranging from half-cap skate style helmets and traditional bicycle helmets to fullface racing helmets designed for BMX and mountain bike downhill, dirt jumping and racing.
The specifications for the ASTM F1447 covers helmets manufactured for recreational bicycle use, BMX and mountain bike helmets that are constructed with light weight material have multiple vents. ASTM tests helmets that are hot, cold, wet and ambient and are impacted using flat and hemispherical anvils that are centered on or above the prescribed test line in the horizontal position. The curbstone anvil is used ones on each set of the four conditioned environmental samples. The ambient helmet is subject to the positional stability, roll off, test, the hot, cold and wet helmets are subjected to the dynamic strength retention test.
BMX and mountain bike helmets are tested under specific environmental conditions for impact attenuation, the limiting of head acceleration; strength and stability of the retention system (the helmet liner) and its attachment to the helmet. These tests provide a reliable and repeatable evaluation of the various protective head gear. These procedures assure the reduction of serious injury and death resulting from impacts to the head.
The specifications for the ASTM F2032 covers helmets manufactured specifically for BMX and mountain biking. Studies have shown that there are greater risk of injuries to the head and face as compared to recreational bicycle riding. This specification requires impact protection over a larger area of the head than required for the F1447 and the CPSC standard. This specification also provides performance criteria for helmets equipped with chin bars. These helmets undergo similar evaluations as the F1447 BMX helmets but with stricter stipulations.
The specifications for the ASTM F1952 covers helmets manufactured for downhill BMX and mountain bike riding. Studies show that there is greater risk to the head and face as compared to recreational bicycle riding. This specification requires greater impact protection and provides performance criteria for chin bars on full-face helmets, but is not exclusively for full-face helmets. Retention system tests are performed first on these helmets, followed by impact testing. The helmet is impacted on or above the test line with the curbstone anvil in any horizontal orientation. There is also a chin bar impact test. The methods of testing are similar to that of the F1446 evaluation but with stricter requirements.
CPSC Certification Safety Standards
BMX and mountain bike helmets tested under the guidelines of the CPSC go through rigorous testing that include a variety of environmental conditions; hot and cold weather, water immersion and ambient. The evaluation includes testing on the helmets peripheral vision, positional stability and retention system strength. They use a variety of anvils for the impact test which include flat, hemispherical and curbstone shapes. The impacts are tested on the horizontal plain at or above a centered reference plane on the helmet.
The peripheral vision test requires that a helmet allow for at least 105 degrees of vision on either side of the center of the riders face.
Testing the retention strength involves fastening the helmet to a machine which stretches the chin strap and then drops an eight pound weight two feet above the helmet. This tests the helmets ability to be stable, not from side to side, the strength of the chin strap and what it is attached to inside the helmet, and the outer shell and inner protective core of the helmet.
Testing the helmets impact attenuation, the results of the force of hitting an object such as pavement or a curb. The test is essentially attaching the helmet to a machine which is on a track and tests the helmet at different angles in a predetermined speed to convey a specific velocity which represents a force of 20ft/sec., a very high rate of acceleration.
Snell Certification Safety Standards
The Snell certification safety standards for BMX and mountain bike helmets requires, most simply, that testing and evaluation be done pertaining to the helmets retention system and peripheral vision. Peripheral visual clearance of at least 110 degrees from the center of the riders face. The retention system must not include non essential features which may degrade the helmets performance. The retention system evaluation also includes impact testing on helmet samples that include environmental conditions such as ambient, hot, cold and wet. The impact tests include a positional stability or roll-off test; a weight is dropped on the helmet,which is suspended and balanced to make sure the helmet dies not move and to test the structural integrity of the outer shell and inner protective liner. The helmet is then put through a dynamic retention system test which mimics the force of an impact on pavement or a curb, sliding the helmet on a machine towards an anvil of flat or curbstone shape.
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