CPSC Test Standards
There are four CPSC tests that apply to bicycle helmets.
1. Peripheral Vision Test
2. Positional Stability Test
3. Retention Strength Test
4. Impact Attenuation Test
The impact attenuation test is carried out using an apparatus similar to that pictured, dropping a helmet mounted on a weighted headform from a predetermined height upon flat, hemispherical and curbstone anvils to simulate different impact scenarios, testing the entire surface of the helmet above a specified impact line. The typical drop height is 1.2 - 2 m to achieve an impact velocity of 4.8 - 6.2 m/sec depending on the anvil. A helmet fails if any sample under any condition shows a peak acceleration of the headform of more than 300 g.
For more information and a plain-language explanation of the CPSC bicycle helmet requirements see
The market for helmets today runs the gamut in price, style and features and can be roughly divided for the purpose of this article into road race inspired models, skate-style helmets and commuter models along with helmets that blur the lines between. Mountain, BMX, downhill racing, triathlon, track and every other cycling discipline has their own specific needs in helmets but the scope here is limited to the types most commonly seen in town. In general, no matter the category, with increased price you get lighter weight, more ventilation, easier fit adjustments and an overall more “finished” looking helmet through more expensive materials and production techniques.
Taking a good look at your riding and your budget is a good place to start. Don’t be intimidated by some of the high prices, while the expensive helmets are really nice, $60 or $70 can buy you a lot of helmet these days. A hardshell helmet with a mix of skate and commuter styling may be perfect for trips throughout town, but not the wisest choice for your next all-day ride. The opposite may be said for racier helmets that quickly get beat up in daily com-