I and my son are just starting to explore skateboarding. He’s only 6 years old and got his first (awesome) mountain bike and a proper helmet. Since he’s just starting out, maybe I can spare some cash and it crossed my mind to use the one he wears when mountain biking. I generally like biking helmets more than skateboarding helmets because they’re more comfortable. The air ventilation is way better, you hardly feel them and why should I buy a new helmet if I already have a really good biking helmet. So I decided to look into this and got some conflicting information, can I use it or not?
You can wear a bike helmet for skateboarding, but not any helmet. A helmet should cover the back of the head when you’re riding a skateboard. Bike helmets often provide back head cover but less so than skateboard helmets. The helmet needs to be CPSC-compliant.
Be sure to look for the CPSC bicycle helmet standard sticker inside. Consider buying a dual certified helmet, ASTI approved and CPSC certified. There are only a couple of helmets that meet these standards.
It’s generally recommended to use a skateboard helmet for skateboarding. There are a few important differences between bike and skate helmets. If you do want to use a bike helmet, make sure the helmet covers a part of the back of the head, as skateboard helmets do.
Example of a helmet suitable for a bike and a skateboard
What’s the difference between a skateboard helmet and a bike helmet?
The shape and purpose are different. A skateboard helmet also covers the back of the head where regular bicycle helmets often provide less coverage. Some skateboard helmets can withstand multiple impacts where bike helmets or designed for just a single impact with extreme force.
Main differences between a skateboard helmet and a bike helmet:
- Skateboard helmets also cover the back of the head.
- Bike helmets offer better ventilation.
- Some skateboard helmets are multi-impact (recoverable foam) where bike helmets are single impact.
- Skateboard helmets have a thicker shell. Bike helmets shells are made of thin plastic.
- Bike helmets are designed to withstand extreme force (like being hit by a car).
- Depending on the helmet, skateboard helmets are not designed to combat extreme force. There are exceptions though.
Bike helmets are made to survive one big impact, but a soft bump doesn’t mean you have to throw it away. Make sure you inspect the helmet after a fall. Like I mentioned before, if there’s a crack or something wrong with your foam, ditch it.
Difference in shells
The outside of a skateboard helmet consists of a hard shell which in some cases can sustain multiple impacts. The shell is usually a bit thicker than bike helmets, allowing for more impacts. Bike helmets have a thin plastic shell.
The difference in helmet shape and design
You probably noticed skateboarding helmets are designed differently than bike helmets. Skate helmets cover the back of your head and are round and smooth in shape. When it comes to skateboarding there are many ways to go down. One of the ways to fall is on the back of the head, this is why a skate helmet covers more than just the top of the head.
Bikers hardly ever fall on their backs, though kids tend to do this more often. There are kid helmets that also cover the back of the head. My son has one which is suitable for skateboarding.
Different types of foam
Probably the most important difference is the type of foam used. Basically, foam inside helmets is used for energy management. There are many types of foams, some foams are designed to withstand one extremely hard impact, some for a few harder impacts and others to withstand multiple softer impacts.
The most popular helmets have Expanded PolyPropylene (EPP) and Expanded Polystyrene (EPS). EPP is a rubbery or squishy material designed to sustain multiple impacts which are often found in skateboard helmets. Because of the rubbery material, EPP restores itself, unlike EPS. Only EPS is generally used for bike helmets as EPS is designed for one impact.
Now there are many other foams and technologies used but this is the gist of it. I’ll save the details for another time when I take a deep dive in skateboard helmets.
So the most logical choice would be to use a foam that sustains multiple impacts (EPS) right? Well, there’s some debate about that.
The problem with multiple impact skateboard helmets
A multiple impact helmet sounds great in theory but there’s a catch. While it’s easy to spot damage on the helmets exterior shell. It’s hard to see if the protective foam actually restored. It’s also impossible to predict if the helmet can sustain another hard impact if you already had a few soft blows. While some manufacturers have gone above and beyond to develop new technologies that support multiple impacts, it’s always a guessing game.
You can’t see micro-fractures with the naked eye and how hard is the next impact going to be? Would you risk it, I wouldn’t but it’s better than wearing no helmet I guess.
Single Impact Skateboard Helmets
To be on the safe side, single impact skateboard helmets are the best choice. Skateboard safety standards require a skateboard helmet to protect a skateboarder from just one sever impact.
What happens is that the foam on the inside crushes on impact. Single impact helmets have a harder foam that doesn’t restore after a severe impact. Softer impacts don’t require you to replace a helmet though. If you’re skating vert or mini ramp and you have a minor collision, don’t worry about it. If you see stars and feel a bit dizzy, thank your helmet and get another one. Check if you foam is crushed and inspect the shell for cracks.
A skateboard helmet can save your life
I often hear skateboarders say helmets are uncomfortable and it looks silly. I personally don’t think it looks weird, and you see skaters wear them more often than before. I’d rather look silly and keep my brain unscrambled. Memory loss or other damage will change your life, and not in a good way.
I have responsibilities which are often overlooked when you’re younger. I need to be able to get to work, act smart and be productive. That’s why I wear full protective gear nowadays. I didn’t always wear protection when I was younger. Mainly knee pads and a helmet for vert-skating.
Sure it takes some time to get used to a helmet but after a while, you don’t really care anymore. If someones making fun of you, well ignore it. Probably the same guy that says sun cream is for losers and cries himself to sleep after a full day of being exposed to UV-radiation. Just think of the moment you go down and hit your head. One of my skate buddies once hit his head hard, his eyes were rolling and he passed out for a couple of seconds. His head hit our custom made wooden vert and he took his skateboard and told me and me friends he just wanted to go home. He was okay but didn’t wear his helmet. So that probably doesn’t really impress you or it’s hard to imagine what an impact means.
Check out this guy, it only takes a split second from being you to a vegetable, or worse. He literally thanks his helmet, the impact is well… judge for yourself.
Not sure about using a bicycle helmet for skateboarding anymore?
Consider buying a helmet that has the ASTM f1492 skateboard helmet standard. This doesn’t mean skateboard helmets which don’t have the standard are bad, not at all. They just haven’t gone through the ASTM f1492 safety standards and certifications that are required.
Some brands have proven themselves to manufacture excellent skateboard helmets. Bad helmets don’t exist or else it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.
One could say, the best helmet is the one you’re wearing but you can never be too careful. I found the perfect helmet for kids and adults, this helmet is certified for both bicycles and skateboarding. It’s one of the safest helmets you can buy and isn’t uncomfortable. Here’s a more detailed review of this helmet.
Take good care of your skateboard helmet!
Just a reminder and often overlooked. I used to throw my helmet around frustrated with my performance. It never crossed my mind taking good care of your helmet is essential. Throwing your helmet around will shorten its lifetime. And if you have a nasty fall, I guess the rule of thumb here is that when you made a fall and you’re glad you were wearing one, it’s time to replace your helmet.