Wearing a helmet is important, but what if you don’t have a helmet on hand immediately? Can you use a bike helmet for skateboarding?
While helmets can save you from major injuries, whether they actually manage or not depends greatly on if the helmet you’re wearing is the right one for what activity you’re engaging in or not. In this case, it would be skateboarding.
Bike helmets are fine to wear for skateboarding as long as they’re certified to CPSC 1203 as well as ASTM F1492 standards. Bike helmets often don’t provide the protection needed to cover the back of the head, which is a necessity for skateboarding safely.
There are plenty of differences between skateboarding helmets and biking helmets, besides just the certifications. Each of these differences is to cater to a specific requirement for the respective sport. If you’re heading out to skateboard you want to make sure your helmet is giving you adequate protection.
In our research on the topic, we found some things you’d want to keep in mind if you’re planning on using a biking helmet for skateboarding.
Differences Between Skateboarding and Bike Helmets
Because the purpose of each helmet is different, it is also designed differently to cater to that purpose. For example, skateboarding helmets will cover the back of the head, because the risk of slipping and causing injury is greater. Bikers usually don’t fall on their backs, and are more likely to fall to the side or forward. Some children’s helmets do cover the back of the head for extra protection, though.
Some skateboarding helmets are also designed to handle multiple small impacts, such as from flying rocks and stones. The likelihood of you coming across these while biking is much lower, so bike helmets are usually not made to withstand such things. For this reason, skateboard helmets have a harder and thicker shell to prevent it from damage in case of these smaller impacts.
However, since biking makes you much more vulnerable to single larger impacts, such as from a heavy fall or being hit by a car, those helmets are designed to withstand single impacts with a strong force. Bike helmets will usually have thinner plastic shells, but they can protect your skull from extreme impacts. That said, since the shell is thin, smaller impacts may sometimes damage the foam. In such cases, make sure you replace the helmet for your own safety.
Bike helmets are also designed to offer better ventilation. When cycling, heat builds up under the helmet, especially in summer, and makes you sweat. The heat can also get unbearable at times, and some bikers even choose not to wear a helmet to avoid this, despite the risks involved.
To promote safe biking, bike helmets have better ventilation than skating helmets. Skateboarding doesn’t usually come with this problem, so these helmets are not made to provide ventilation.
One of the biggest differences between the two helmets lies in the kind of foam used. The foam in any kind of helmet is to manage the energy – how it spreads through to minimize the force of impact, etc. For different kinds of helmets, there are different kinds of foams. Some are meant to handle one very hard impact, while others are meant for smaller but softer ones. Some others are meant for multiple hard impacts.
Most helmets will contain either Expanded Polypropylene (EPP) or Expanded Polystyrene (EPS). Expanded polypropylene is rubber and squishy and maintains multiple impacts, which is what skateboard helmets will usually contain. This kind of foam is able to restore its original shape, due to the rubbery texture, unlike EPS. EPS, on the other hand, is meant for one larger impact, which is why it is used in bike helmets.
Are Single Impact Helmets Better Than Multiple Impact?
While multiple impact helmets do sound better, they do have a major downside. While it’s easy to see any damage on the shell of the helmet, it’s not always that easy when it comes to the protective foam inside.
Since the foam is supposed to restore itself, you can’t actually tell if there has been any major damage or not, since it will look just the same. Additionally, you can’t accurately predict how much longer the helmet will last. If it has already had a few softer blows, there is no guarantee that it will be able to withstand a harder one.
To stay safe, it is better to opt for a single impact helmet. Safety standards for skateboarding actually only require that the helmet you use be suitable to protect you from one severe impact, and not necessarily multiple smaller ones.
With single impact helmets, the foam inside will get crushed on impact. The foam here is much harder, so it doesn’t restore itself, and it will also absorb most of the shock. This is why it is able to protect you against stronger forces, and you will also be able to tell if the helmet is damaged very easily. The foam inside will be visibly damaged, and will not be safe for another use.
You also don’t necessarily need to replace a helmet after one smaller impact. The main protection comes from the foam inside. If the foam and plastic shell are intact, your helmet is fine, and you don’t need to replace it.
Certifications are very important in making sure that your protection is given priority. Without holding manufacturers up to certain safety criteria, consumers may even be at risk for a major injury like a skull fracture or even brain damage.
Bike helmets made after 1999 are all required to meet the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) standard. Therefore, if you’re using a bike helmet for skateboarding, you can be sure that it’ll be certified.
On the other hand, the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) certification required for skateboarding helmets is not mandated on a federal level, and manufacturers can choose to meet it or not. However, with your concern being your own safety, you should find a helmet that is certified.
Of course, just because a helmet is certified does not mean that your safety is 100% guaranteed. It will, however, reduce the chances of giving you a more serious injury. In fact, some certified helmets may even give you smaller injuries, but this will be in the process of protecting you from much more significant ones.
Helmets designed for both skating and cycling will usually be certified as multiple impact helmets. It is always a good idea to make sure that the helmet you’re using has the certification before you use it.
For skating, the certification required is the ASTM F1492, and for biking, the required certification is the CPSC. Even if you technically only need to have one or the other, depending on the sport you’re going for, it’s best to find a helmet that has both. Especially if you’re using a biking helmet for skateboarding, make sure the helmet you use has both of these certifications to be usable.
Therefore, you can use a biking helmet for skateboarding, but it is best to get a proper skating helmet instead. The right helmet will provide adequate protection to the back of your head and from any flying objects coming from different directions.
About THE AUTHOR
Mountain biking is more than just a hobby for me - it's a way of life. I love the challenge and excitement that comes with it, and I'm always pushing myself to go faster and ride harder. Some people might think that mountain biking is dangerous, but I see it as the only way to live.Read More About Danny Lawson