Your Life – Worth the Weight?
Written By Paul Craig, Rudy Co-Founder and President
Also find this in the pages of Bicycle Dealer Magazine
In the world of high-end performance cycling products, weight figures prominently in many marketing pitches. Product engineers strive to shave fractions of ounces from every imaginable surface, promising a lighter, faster ride. Yet when we’re talking helmets – the lone barrier between a cyclist’s head and the pavement or a rock in the event of a crash – is the industry perhaps pushing the issue too far? When does weight saving teeter on the brink of uncertain safety or worse, irresponsibility? Paul Craig, President and Co-Founder of Rudy Project North America, believes the bike industry should lead the charge in heightened attention to safety and more thorough regulations through the creation of a stricter testing protocol.
Sure, there are established safety standards which all helmets must pass. In the United States, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates helmet law. All helmets sold on U.S. soil must pass a certain testing standard. However, just by glancing at a variety of helmets on any bike store shelf, it’s easy to question whether or not all helmets pass by the same margin. Entry level and children’s helmets generally contain a large volume of foam, the main makeup of a helmet’s shell. As helmets move up in price point, they shed more and more of the foam material. At the high-end of the spectrum, the priciest helmets boast minimal foam, in some cases augmented by a variety of plastic cage-like structures, designed to reinforce the foam in the event of an accident.
These are the lightest of the light helmets, soldiering along the front lines of the weight war. Granted, these helmets pass the same test as their sturdier counterparts. But is it reasonable to question whether they truly provide the exact same level of protection? You don’t need to be a structural engineer to guess that the answer is no. In reality, some helmets may barely earn their certification, while others pass with flying colors. Perhaps a new measurement system should be established within the testing protocol, awarding graded – and published – levels of pass or fail. Wouldn’t it be nice to know whether the uber-light helmet you’re eyeing blew away the testing standard or simply passed by a scant margin? And what parent wouldn’t purchase the most protective helmet possible for their child?
The bike industry might well take a lesson from its share-the-road partner, the auto industry. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) serve to regulate automobile safety in the United States. Both organizations perform front and side impact tests, the results of which figure prominently in automobile manufacturers’ consumer marketing campaigns. The IIHS utilizes a “Good” to “Poor” ranking system, while the NHTSA awards safety points based on a five star scale, correlating to chance of injury in a crash (the more stars, the less chance of injury). Adopting a similar system for impact testing of cycling helmets seems a sensible and responsible option. Not only would an expanded testing and reporting system correlate more appropriately with the actual merchandise in the marketplace, it would allow consumers to make fully informed decisions when choosing how to outfit and protect their heads and those of their children.
“I call on the industry to vigorously adopt a more informative test platform to provide the most education possible,” proclaimed Rudy Project’s Craig. “I fear it’s a fool’s folly to play the weight game to the extremes that we see on store shelves today. Sure, we care about making our helmets lightweight, within reason, to enhance comfort and appeal. However, weight will never be the single most important factor in the engineering of our products. Safety always comes first, with comfort, aerodynamics, air venting, design aesthetics and weight all playing supporting roles, in that order. Ideally, consumers should follow suit with their buying decisions. After all, what is the purpose of a helmet if not for saving one’s life?”
Rudy Project achieves their helmet objectives through a variety of manufacturing and design techniques. Many of their helmets integrate structural reinforcements within the foam shell to increase protection in the event of a crash. Reflective materials and bright helmet colors, like the now famous FLUO color line, further enhance the safety aspect. Comfort is also a key component of design, as a helmet’s comfort ensures its regular use. Rudy Project helmets emphasize comfort through adjustable straps and one-touch dial retention systems, custom padding and deterrent bug nets. The helmet head forms are optimally shaped to fit a majority of the population, and strategic ventilation is employed for on-the-go cooling. Finally, aerodynamic designs enhance a rider’s efficiency, while sharp graphics and bright colors ensure that Rudy Project helmets turn heads in an ideal blending of safety, speed and style.
This is not to suggest that the newest lightweight helmets don’t provide a certified level of protection. Certainly, any helmet is better than none when cycling on potentially dangerous roads and trails. However, if the weight game continues at its current pace, we may soon see cyclists wearing helmets which weigh in well below 200g – or less than half a pound. It’s hard to imagine how something so light and minimalist – no matter how well-engineered – could effectively absorb the force of impact to one’s skull in a high speed crash vs. a helmet with more cushioning. As Craig drilled home the point, “Is your life worth a few ounces?”
For more information on Rudy Project, their line of sport-specific helmets or to find your nearest dealer, please go to www.e-rudy.com.
About Rudy Project
Rudy Project designs and manufactures hi-tech sunglasses, goggles and helmets by applying the most advanced science, materials engineering and computer technology. Designed and produced in Italy, Rudy Project has been distributed throughout the United States and Canada since 1998. We are known for providing the absolute best RX solutions for athletes and outdoor enthusiasts around the world. In addition to our unparalleled customer service standards, we pride ourselves on always being on the cutting edge of technological innovations for all of our products. Rudy Project uses two superior lens technologies: RP Optics™ and ImpactX™. Because our lenses are so durable, we offer the Replacement Lens Guarantee (RLG) – if a customer ever scratches our Rudy Project lenses, for whatever reason, they can replace the lenses for a nominal shipping & handling fee of $19.95. The leader in eyewear and helmets for cycling, triathlon, skiing, golf and tennis, Rudy Project has been a proud sponsor of many organizations including USATriathlon, U.S. Ski Team and U.S. Ski Patrol. Rudy Project has received countless prestigious awards including WIRED magazine’s “Gadget Lab Top Pick” (Horus frame), Outside magazine’s “Gear of the Year” award (2008 Zyon/ImpactX Photo Polarized and 2003 Maskeryna frames) and Men’s Journal’s “Breakthrough Award” and “Timeless Design Award” (Ketyum frame/Syton Supercomp TT Helmet). Rudy Project eyewear ranges from $125 – $355 (Helmets from $100-$300) and is available at premier cycling and sporting goods stores and eye care professionals throughout the U.S. and abroad. With men’s and women’s collections and a vast range of options, from high performance sport styles to fashionable frames for everyday wear, Rudy Project has something for everyone.
For more information, visit www.e-rudy.com.