Is a full-face DH helmet for certain e-bike riding activities overkill or a good idea?

bombadero

Active Member
I recently had a small spill on a slippery dirt trail in a park here in San Francisco - bike went sideways, I smacked my head on some concrete at the entrance to the trail where it interfaces with the street off the curb. It's a Casco Roadster, a decent European helmet that meets EN-1078, although not ASTM or CE. However, none of that is relevant since my head impacted just above my left eyebrow on exposed skin, so the helmet did nothing. The full impact was on that one spot. I feel fine and got up and walked it off with some very light road rash and a sore spot on my eyebrow. However, it's gotten me thinking if that helmet is enough for my riding activities. My spouse and I have an R&M Homage and an HPV Scorpion recumbent trike that we swap back and forth. Certainly the road helmet is fine on the trike so I'm not worried about that. On the R&M, I often have to descend 30% or greater grades. On one particularly long street, called Portola, there is a stretch where I have hit 45 mph. And we often ride on mtb trails, some of which are quite rocky, such as at Mt. Diablo where long portions of trail are composed entirely of excavated rock. I'm not a crazy downhill mtb rider doing drops and jumps and that sort of thing, but some of these rocky trails are quite steep and I can get going pretty fast.

After the experience of smacking my head unexpectedly while traveling relatively slowly with no traffic or pedestrians around and the helmet doing nothing because of the angle at which I impacted, I'm starting to think about a full-face DH mtb helmet. Right now I'm looking at the 100% Status and Fox Pro Frame, because they both satisfy all four of CE, ASTM, CSPC and AN/NZS. The Bell Full-9 also looks like a great helmet but doesn't satisfy AN/NZS.

Am I being paranoid? It seems like there is a real risk of spinal or head injuries if an accident occurred in some of these situations. My spouse rides more tamely than I do, but maybe I should consider a full-face helmet for them as well.
 
You're not being paranoid, although you have mentioned spinal injuries which opens up a whole new can of worms - does a rigid / heavy full face increase your risk of spinal injuries ? ( I think the jury is out on this one ) But don't automatically reject the convertibles because they haven't passed a chin piece deformity test ......

Try a few on and have a good think about comfort, ventilation, peripheral vision and hearing. My (14yo) daughter rides in a leatt dbx 3 enduro, it's a fantastic compromise on all of the above except it doesn't fit my head shape. I have a soft spot for leatt because they started out when a trauma docs son had a spinal injury, and they are not afraid to put new technology ahead of marketing trends.

I ended up going for a bell super 3 r , mostly because it fit me.

Both of these lids also seem to offer better protection in open faced mode compared with our traditional junk. They seem more secure ( yet still have rotational trauma technology) , and both protect our temples . Ventilation feels reasonable ( slightly hotter than a traditional lid, but I only remove the chin piece for long uphills when temps get over 30 c ). The leatt has the best peripheral vision and ventilation, plus it's slimmer so theoretically may have less leverage in a neck injury scenario.

Btw, if you come off at 45 mph in normal cycling gear - good luck.
 
I recently had a small spill on a slippery dirt trail in a park here in San Francisco - bike went sideways, I smacked my head on some concrete at the entrance to the trail where it interfaces with the street off the curb. It's a Casco Roadster, a decent European helmet that meets EN-1078, although not ASTM or CE. However, none of that is relevant since my head impacted just above my left eyebrow on exposed skin, so the helmet did nothing. The full impact was on that one spot. I feel fine and got up and walked it off with some very light road rash and a sore spot on my eyebrow. However, it's gotten me thinking if that helmet is enough for my riding activities. My spouse and I have an R&M Homage and an HPV Scorpion recumbent trike that we swap back and forth. Certainly the road helmet is fine on the trike so I'm not worried about that. On the R&M, I often have to descend 30% or greater grades. On one particularly long street, called Portola, there is a stretch where I have hit 45 mph. And we often ride on mtb trails, some of which are quite rocky, such as at Mt. Diablo where long portions of trail are composed entirely of excavated rock. I'm not a crazy downhill mtb rider doing drops and jumps and that sort of thing, but some of these rocky trails are quite steep and I can get going pretty fast.

After the experience of smacking my head unexpectedly while traveling relatively slowly with no traffic or pedestrians around and the helmet doing nothing because of the angle at which I impacted, I'm starting to think about a full-face DH mtb helmet. Right now I'm looking at the 100% Status and Fox Pro Frame, because they both satisfy all four of CE, ASTM, CSPC and AN/NZS. The Bell Full-9 also looks like a great helmet but doesn't satisfy AN/NZS.

Am I being paranoid? It seems like there is a real risk of spinal or head injuries if an accident occurred in some of these situations. My spouse rides more tamely than I do, but maybe I should consider a full-face helmet for them as well.
Agreed you are not Paranoid since everything is trying to kill cyclists at all times. I hit my chin and knee hard on the ice in winter. I would wear a full compliment of body armour and DH helmet if it didn't get so hot. There is no excuse the other 9 months of the year. Maybe the fact that nobody else is wearing the gear in traffic has stopped me from hitting the "buyitnow" button so far, but If you buy, it you might wear it, and it might save your life or at least some major dental bills. What about the airbag neck thing that Court wore in one R+ M video? Has anybody got one of those?
 
@PDoz thanks for the feedback, saw your input on an earlier post about helmets. I didn't see any posts directly asking this question, so I went ahead and started a new thread.

Yeah, there's a side street off Portola called Corbett that is much tamer and a bike route, so I take that whenever I can now. I'm not as worried about it on the trike, but an accident at that speed would be very painful and/or fatal. I had an aggressive unassisted rider on a mtb pass me on Portola the other day to prove his manliness and he must have bombed it at 50, because I got up to 40 on that run and he left me in the dust. Suicidal. That said, me at 40-45 on the R&M isn't much better. The bike is so stable at speeds like that due to weight, full suspension, hydraulic brakes and its Super Moto-X tires, it's easy to forget how fast you're going. The other issue on that street is the aggressive motorists. It feels safer - whether it actually is or not - to keep up, because they tend to drive faster there, as it is a four-lane, two-way thoroughfare and a main traffic artery with few crosswalks and a literal wall between opposing directions, as they are on different grades.

But in San Francisco, even narrow two-lane neighborhood streets can have a crazy slope. So even being more conscientious, I think a better helmet is in order for certain rides. It will look a little ridiculous in city traffic and I will get jeers and comments, but you know... sticks and stones. I'd rather look ridiculous than die. Since our e-bikes are more and more becoming car replacements for us, as well as recreational vehicles, and following my spill, it seems time to up the ante on safety.

As far as spinal injuries - it's my understanding MIPS is supposed to mitigate those by allowing a small amount of rotation, but other people say the rotation increases chances of a spinal injury. That said, an Australian study found new legislation reduced injuries and deaths by 46%, and the AS/NZS standards are supposed to be the toughest in the world. It also seems pretty counterintuitive to me that no head protection in an accident would be better than head protection. I think at certain speeds, or in certain situations, it's not going to matter, just as a motorcyclist wearing full protective gear can still die doing something stupid, or being impacted by a stupid driver. But that isn't a reason, I think, not to take precautions for situations where the equipment can protect you - just as, while there is no perfect bike security solution, that's no reason not to buy a good lock.

Thanks for providing a confirmation point.
 
@steve mercier I was thinking after my spill how much worse it could have been. I smacked my head on the concrete 'apron' or ramp from a road onto a dirt trail - if my mouth had been open, the angle a little different and the spill a foot further back, I could have curbed my teeth on the edge there and shattered them. A full face helmet would have prevented me from hitting my head at all, as the chin guard would have taken the impact instead, or possibly the visor. Also, I know it's not a motorcycle helmet, but at the slower speeds of urban traffic, I feel like it might help in a car accident if someone cuts me off at the front wheel for instance, or I manage to get doored. If nothing else, I won't be rubbing my face against asphalt. I've had a couple of close calls with drivers who I called out at a stoplight for cutting it so close to my front wheel and they always play it off and pretend they didn't see me - even though they had to pass me to cut me off.
 
By the way, here's an example of a street I descend quite often on my way to the UPS store.
 

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And here are a few more cropped screenshots from Maps of Portola, Clipper and examples of trails in Mt. Diablo and Marin Headlands (neither of which are as gnarly as it can get), in that order.
 

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Curious- do your bike’s handling characteristics change much at those speeds? I have a Raleigh Lore, which is probably in the middle range as far as bikes go. It has a mountain bike frame, your super moto tires, Magura disc brakes, and special German handlebars designed for speed pedelecs.
But I’ve noticed that above 25mph, the bike’s handling changes. It seems to “lighten” and get “twitchy” or even slightly “squirrelly”. It just doesn’t feel safe to me.
 
Curious- do your bike’s handling characteristics change much at those speeds? I have a Raleigh Lore, which is probably in the middle range as far as bikes go. It has a mountain bike frame, your super moto tires, Magura disc brakes, and special German handlebars designed for speed pedelecs.
But I’ve noticed that above 25mph, the bike’s handling changes. It seems to “lighten” and get “twitchy” or even slightly “squirrelly”. It just doesn’t feel safe to me.
My R+M Charger is a longer, heavier bike that tracks perfectly and is rock solid and stable downhills . I also have a Chinese bike that I have to use a double death-grip descending. I don't even think it is possible to align the front and rear wheels on that bike's frame . I do believe they should stock all R+M bikes with the larger 203 Ice tech rotors / pads or better and charge accordingly since Ebikes are heavy. This is why we end up spending more to get more.
 
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My R+M Charger is a longer, heavier bike that tracks perfectly and is rock solid and stable downhills . I also have a Chinese bike that I have to use a double a death-grip descending. I don't even think it is possible to align the front and rear wheels on that bike's frame . I do believe they should stock all R+M bikes with the larger 203 Ice tech rotors / pads or better and charge accordingly since Ebikes are heavy. This is why we end up spending more to get more.
I am also a big chicken. It’s possible my bike would be fine. Then again, I’m in my 60’s. My bones won’t heal like they used to.
 
I've gone over the handlebars 6 times and hit my chin every time. The last time I broke the chin. Having your teeth wired shut 8 weeks including thanksgiving, christmas, and new year's is no fun. I'd tried to buy a ventilated bike helmet previous to that accident, but was frustrated by not knowing the secret name. "Downhill mountain bike racing helmet". Search engines kept showing me hot motorcycle helmets suitable for 80 mph impact. Chin guard got me various sports helmets, not for bicycling. My Fox Rampage from competitivecycle.com is 2 years old now and is suitably ventilated. I do no racing, but was going about 25 mph (unpowered) into a viaduct when the front wheel slipped sideways on some gravel. Might happen again.
I recommend that, or a similar model.
 
@Toomanycats no, not appreciably as far as I recall. Handling is still very smooth and it corners great - the R&M that is. If anything, it gets a little harder to steer.

The same is true on the trike, although on that we have Marathon GT 365's, which are very grippy, and of course it's a trike, so no balance is required. You still have to be careful on the trike though, because if you take a corner too tight and fast, the inside tire can come up and you can flip. Leaning into the turns and therefore putting your weight over that tire fixes that issue, however, and similar to the R&M, far from getting twitchy, the steering gets if anything a little more leaden. Both get more sensitive to bumps, however, which if severe will cause a brief moment of twitchiness before it recovers. My road bike, on the other hand, feels pretty dangerous at speeds over 25 when going downhill.

So it I don't know if it's the weight (probably similar to your bike), the beefy frame, the suspension or what, since your bike sounds similarly configured to the R&M. Your Maguras are actually a step up from our Shimano disc brakes, although we have SwissStop rotors and pads if that makes any difference to braking. The fork is a Fox Float 34, with a Fox Float DPS Elite on the back. Maybe I'm just not paying attention, but I'm pretty attentive and if things feel squirrelly I usually put on the brakes.

Edit: I forgot to mention that the trike's Go SwissDrive computer complains with a warning when you go over about 35, and will eventually shut off! It's a bit nannying, but it usually convinces me to slow down. I think the Bosch might have a warning too, but it won't shut the assist off.
 
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@steve mercier I've been thinking of increasing the 180's on the R&M - Trickstuff actually makes a 223! I'm going to upgrade to hydros on the trike, on which, unfortunately, I can only go up to 180 owing to limitations of the geometry of a bracket that connects the steering to the king post for each wheel. Then again, the front wheels on the trike are only 20".
 
Interesting point about dental injury. My wife did a face plant bush walking in her early 20's - carrying her multi day back pack. It took 12 months and $20 k before she could smile again. The dentist cried when he first saw her front teeth mangled above the gum line.
 
Btw, this is a picture of my daughter in her leatt - notice how open the helmet is ? Great peripheral vision.
 

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I am also a big chicken. It’s possible my bike would be fine. Then again, I’m in my 60’s. My bones won’t heal like they used to.
@steve mercier I've been thinking of increasing the 180's on the R&M - Trickstuff actually makes a 223! I'm going to upgrade to hydros on the trike, on which, unfortunately, I can only go up to 180 owing to limitations of the geometry of a bracket that connects the steering to the king post for each wheel. Then again, the front wheels on the trike are only 20".
Very interesting! I didnt know they made 223 rotors. In that case you might have to upgrade the front fork as well?
 
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