Head Armor?

After many years of protecting me while bicycling and now unicycling, I think it’s time for a new helmet. Before I drop any money on it, I wanted to know what I should get/what everyone else has. Mainly I was wondering if a bicycle style or a skater style is better. I don’t go terribly fast or far, so I don’t think aerodynamics is all that important. But, I do live in Hawaii, so heat is definitely a factor. I mainly do urban trials and freestyle riding.

Also, my current bike helmet has several dents in the foam and cracks in the outer plastic shell. Would a skater helmet be any stronger in that respect?

My final question is, does shape matter? I know my bike helmet protruded out quite far in the back and the front. I think this made it get hit unnecessarily when falling back, thus greatly reducing the lifespan of the helmet.

Thanks for your input.


It’s not about aerodynamics.

The more expensive the helmet (generally) the bigger vents it has. The bigger the vents, the cooler you will be.

The coolest helmet I have had so far, and I love, and would recommend, is the Gyro E2.

They haven’t changed much within the last couple of years, so I bet there are old ones out there for cheap.

Skater style helmets look they offer more protection against multiple crashes, but they are hot

I’ll always have an XC bike helmet for my riding

good ole louis garneau has lots o’ vents but are kinda pricey

A helmet with in shell molding will hold up better than a helmet with a shell that is glued on. With in shell molding the foam is formed inside the shell of the helmet and bonds better with the shell. The shell acutally becomes part of the helmet rather than just a fancy plastic cover over the foam. Helmets with in shell molding start at about $50 or $60 (USD).

If the shell of your helmet is cracking or flaking off then it most likely was not made with in shell molding.

I would avoid a helmet with an strong aero shape. You don’t need that on a unicycle and the pointy bit in the back will get in the way - especially when you fall backwards onto the back of the helmet. When falling backwards on a really aero helmet the pointy bit in the back could actually end up twising your neck in ways that you don’t want your neck twisted in a crash.

I have two helmets that I use. A Schwinn MTB helmet that I got on sale when Schwinn stuff was being sold at really low prices. It has in shell molding. My other helmet is a Giro Semi which is a skate style helmet with in shell molding.

Here is a link to the Giro Semi

Skate style helmets don’t have as much ventilation as MTB helmets. This could be a problem for Hawaii. The Giro Semi actually has more ventilation than other skate style hemets. The Giro Semi is also very light for a skate style helmet because it is made like a bike helmet rather than a true hard core skate helmet that is designed to take multiple impacts.

If you can, get both a MTB style helmet and a Giro Semi. Use the helmet that is most comfortable and appropriate for the riding that you’re going to be doing. I generally use my MTB helmet for muni and Cokering and the Semi for trials and freestyle.

The newer helmets in the last few years have gone hole crazy.

If you read the literature put out by the bicycle helments safety institute at http://www.bhsi.org/
They don’t like all those vents. when you put all those holes in the helmet, you reduce the structure of the helmet. That means that upon impact, the force is distributed less over the helmet because it has so many holes. The fewer holes,the more the impact is distributed.

They recommended, as I recall, helmets with less then 18 holes or something like that. They worried about helmets with 28 plus holes in it. Check the site for exact details, I could be off by a few.

For muni,you have to have ventalation, but keep to a medium number of holes like 18. I wish they made a bike helmet that had that many holes in it, but went farther down the back of your head, to protect it if you fall back.

I was just browsing the Giro web page and saw the Xen helmet.
Looks like it covers the back of the head nicely. It’s got vents. It’s got a visor. Ohhhh nice. Too bad about the price (msrp $159.99). I’ll have to watch for it to go on sale at the end of the season.

It looks like Giro is making some helmets with better coverage for the back of the head. They have the Semi and now the Xen. That’s good stuff for unicycling. Way to go Giro, let’s see more like that next year.

Re: Head Armor?

For regular riding on flat ground, a bike helmet should be fine. For practicing tricks, Trials, or riding on very rough terrain, the skate helmet will offer better protection.

On a Coker, you might just barely start to get the benefit of an aerodynamic helmet. On smaller wheels, the impact of different helmet shapes is probably not measureable. Remember, the riding position on a unicycle is very anti-aerodynamic, so the helmet won’t make much difference.

Yes. Regular bike helmets are fairly fragile, and tend to get most of their damage when you’re not wearing them, from being dropped or other impacts during storage or packing. These minor dents and impacts can take away from the protection ability of the foam shell, and many sources recommend replacing your helmet every few years regardless of any riding mishaps.

Also note that bike helmets (more than skate helmets) are designed for only one major impact. After that, they have “used up” their structural integrity and usually need to be replaced before they can protect you again.

As John Childs said, along with a bunch of other great advice, it only matters in that the back part could potentially get in your way. The aerodynamic qualities of bike helmets are totally lost on unicycles, and it’s more a style thing than anything else.

Also you may notice, when shopping, that helmet price is also dictated mostly by style, and less by features. All helmets must pass whatever the current standards body’s requirements are, so you’re not buying extra safety for an extra hundred bucks.

The information Teachindad mentioned about holes is interesting. Even though helmets with lots of holes pass the safety standards, they not only tend to probably be weaker, they may also be more susceptible to problems if you crash on rough ground, such as rocks or other odd objects, which could poke you through the holes and not allow the helmet’s shell to do its job.

So a skate helmet is probably a safer bet, especially for tricks and Trials. Plus I think they can take a lot more small impacts without invalidating their level of protection. But they’re going to tend to be hotter, less comfortable, and even less stylish. Except that cool one John Childs pointed out. That one looks sweet!

Re: Re: Head Armor?

The Giro skate style helmets (the Semi and the Xen) are single impact helmets. One good impact and you need to replace the helmet. Just like regular bike helmets. The Giro helmets are skate helmets in style only.

The true aggressive skate and jumper helmets are designed to take multiple impacts. But they’re not designed to take the really hard impacts like you’d get if a car hit you or if you crashed at 35 mph on your bike and your head hit a curb. A true skate/jumper helmet is something like the helmets made by TSG <http://www.tsgprotection.com/> or Protec or similar helmets. They have a hard shell and don’t have that crushable picnic cooler type foam.

Riding on the flat, and not interacting with traffic, you will seldom if ever hit your head on the floor. Hop about, ride backwards, mix it with cars and bicycles, or ride off road, and the risk is always there.

A helmet needs to be comfortable, light and stylish. All three things matter because if you don’t like wearing it, you won’t bother.

Aerodynamics matter if you ride fast. The drag is proportional to the square of your speed through the air. If I recall correctly, a bicyclist travelling at 20 mph is using 70% of her energy just overcoming wind resistance. Ride a Coker or 28 into a strong wind and you will notice aerodynamics mattering. But the helmet is only a small part of your total aerodynamic package, and aerodynamic helmets are really little more than a styling exercise.

But all those vents will create a problem: wind noise. And it matters on a long ride.

If you just knock about in a local car park or tennis court, impact absorbtion is more important than wind noise! A skate helmet will cover more parts of your head. As it has no sticky out bits front and rear, you will roll/slide more naturally and there is less risk of twisting your neck.

Another option is a kayak/canoe helmet. These are well ventilated (for obvious reasons… perhaps ‘well drained’ would be more accurate) and are usually made of a flexible polythene type of material which temporarilly deforms on impact. They are suspended on the head with an adjustable cradle, and there is normally some soft sponge padding. If you don’t interact with traffic, most of your head/object interfaces will be at lowish speed. A kayak type of helmet will take innumerable impacts without structural damage, whereas a bicycle helmet will typically take only one .

Re: Re: Head Armor?

‘Bike’ helmets are generaly designed for moderately high speed impacts, disapating energy by crushing and ‘lubercating’ the impact. Most bike helmets leave the back of your head exposed to steps, rocks, tree branches, etc. I agree with John about intended use and selection of skate helmets. As has been pointed out, it SUCKS to have a branch put a hole in your head because of a vent. If it has vents, make it the little round kind, and not the slots that guide the big slinters into your brain. I’v taken branches to the shell of my helmet, leaving a big dent; if the helmet wasn’t soft enough to dent, I would have taken all the force of that impact. Tough trade off. Gouges in my helmet like that remind me of the importance of eye protection- which I never MUni without; deep scratches on the lens testify as to why.


Drag is cumulative; the aerodynamics of the helmet will render the same benifit at a given speed regardless of other elements. I can’t sustain anything above 14 mph on flat ground on a Coker; I’d guess an aero would only have an advantage over a very poorly designed helmet at that speed. Also, most aero helmets are designed to smooth out the contour to your back- a position I only attain right before a UPD. Advancing one sholder and retreating the other offers alot more advantage than a sleek helmet, and works well -if the position doesn’t cause undue fatigue. My aero helmet point isn’t very deep, and contacts the ground at about the same height as my head on a pillow; I’v fallen over backward and landed on it twice without any neck strain. If given the choice between a projecting aero helmet that covered the back of the head and a bike helmet that doesn’t come down to your poneytail, I’d go with the former (the back of the head is my best feature). I ride with a hang gliding/paragliding helmet with full face protection when Cokering/Blueshifting: very light ridged shell with good padding. It is too warm for lower airflow riding.


Too true. They also tend to be too small for my over-inflated head. Tommy has a nice round little head that fits just perfect into his skate helmet- I hate him for it. If you know such a type that fits big heads and doesn’t look like you’re wearing a mushroom, I’d be interested in hearing about it. Ahhh… all this helmet talk- time to buy a new one.