Skate Helmets vs. Bike Helmets – What’s the Difference

​Biking and skating can lead to falls. To keep it safe, the head needs protection, but ​​are skateboard helmets and bike helmets the same?

The skate helmets vs. bike helmets decision should start with safety, but after that crucial choice the possibilities are still vast. Helmet functionality matters too. 

It’s not simply because you would look silly that you don’t want to ride your town bike to the local coffee shop wearing your equestrian helmet. Of course, some differences come down to sport-specific style and features.

If you want to understand the differences between skate helmets and bike helmets, this article breaks it down for you.

​Features

​​​Bike Helmets

​​​Skate Helmets

​Safety Standard

  • ​​Federal CPSC certification
  • ​ASTM certification
  • ​Safest Models:  Federal CPSC certification

​​Head Coverage

  • ​Road: top part of head
  • ​Mountain & BMX: top and back of head
  • ​Downhill Mountain & Aggressive BMX: full face
  • ​Top and back of head

​​Visor

  • ​Mountain Bike
Cell

​​Vents

  • ​Road: many vents, except in most aerodynamic models
  • ​Mountain: moderate to many vents
  • ​BMX: limited number of vents
  • ​Limited number of vents

​Safety Standards:

Safety Standards

​Different sports have different helmet safety standards. Some standards are government mandated, particularly for bicycle helmets, and some are just consensus rules that manufacturers ideally follow.

Stickers on the inside of helmets indicate conformity to safety standards. Below are some basic guidelines.

Bike Helmets:

  • ​In the U. S. the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) sets the standards for bike helmets.
  • ​Bike helmets are made to sustain a single major impact. For example, a fall on pavement at speed or a collision with a vehicle. Such an impact compresses the foam in the helmet.
  • ​Once a bike helmet has sustained a significant impact, it must be disposed of, as the impact alters the helmet.
  • Single-hit helmets can support mild hits; they don’t need to be thrown away just because you dinged a branch.

Skate Helmets:

  • ​Some skate helmets, on the other hand, only meet the ASTM F1492 standard, meaning they contain softer foam.
  • ​This type of helmet is not appropriate for high impact hits but is made for multiple low impacts—the type that often happens while skateboarding.
  • ​This different standard suggests you should not use a single-certified—for example, only ASTM—skate helmet when on a bike.
  • The thicker outer shell on skate helmets is similarly constructed to withstand multiple impacts.
Skate Helmets vs. Bike Helmets

​Skate Helmets with Better Protection

​Don’t many skating activities—such as in-line skating, rolling-skating, riding a kick scooter, electric skateboarding, longboarding, and skateboarding—also put the user at risk of one high impact?

The answer is yes. As a result, most skate helmets today are dual-certified and conform to the CPSC standard.

  • ​Common sense says to choose the greater protection, even if it means having to replace the helmet more often.
  • ​Look for CPSC certification sticker or online specification for skate helmets.

​Head Coverage:

​The main visible differences among helmets are the vents, visors, and head coverage. Differences in coverage come from the types of falls and collisions associated with each activity.

Downhill mountain bike helmets and aggressive BMX helmets have full face coverage. Essentially, serious jumping or serious speed on a bike requires a serious helmet.

full face bmx helmet

​Full face bmx helmet

Although those who are safety conscious may jump to the conclusion that this greater protection is desirable for multiple uses.

Full face helmets aren’t recommended for general use because they are heavier, less comfortable, and hotter than other helmet types.

Road bike helmets do not cover the lower part of the back of the head. Road riders typically don’t fall off the back of the bike, which can lead to the back of the head hitting the ground.

road bike helmet with back of the head

Helmet without back head

Many mountain bike specific helmets do have lower head coverage in the back due to mountain bikers diverse types of falls and impacts.

Skate helmets, similarly, will have coverage on the lower part of the back of the head because skaters do fall backwards.

skate helmet with back of head

Skate helmet with back of head

​To Visor or Not to Visor?

mountain bike helmet with visor

Mountain bike helmet with visor

​Mountain bike helmets have visors, whereas road bike helmets do not. The main reason for this difference is that road cyclists usually wear sunglasses to shield their eyes. 

Mountain bikers, given that they are often riding in shade, tend to wear clear or low light lenses and, therefore, appreciate the sun shade when they need it. 

Additionally, road cyclists ride with their heads lower, sometimes in the drops. This more aerodynamic position means visors can get in the way of seeing.

Most skate helmets do not have visors, though some manufacturers, such as Bern, build a small, irremovable visor into their helmets.

​Vents Are Cool, Right?

road bike helmet with vent

Road bike helmet with vent

​Vents cool the head. Among various types of bike and skate helmets, road bike helmets have the most vents because users of the helmets heat up more.

Think of the commuter riding eight miles to work or the road rider out for a 30-mile loop. Even though these helmets have more holes in them, meaning less material, they tend to be more expensive.

Although this doesn’t seem to make sense, it’s due to the greater difficulty in constructing a safe, lightweight helmet with less material.

Pricier road bike helmets usually pay more attention to aerodynamics as well, and the more aerodynamic varieties have fewer vents, as the vents create wind drag.

The classic skate helmet design has a round, smooth shape with only a few vents. Generally speaking, less aggressive BMX bike helmets tend to stick to the style of skate helmets for vents and otherwise.

​Style:

style skate helmets

​Some mountain bikers, commuters, and casual road cyclists prefer skate style helmets for the looks. 

However, few skateboarders or skaters actively seek out bike style helmets for the looks. Arguably, skate helmets tend to be “cooler” and look more youthful.

Style-wise the skate inspired design is a better all-around choice as you won’t look out of place on a bike, skateboard, in-line skating, or even snowboarding (some manufacturers sell winter liners you can add to a summer helmet).

Therefore, people looking for versatility should not look to Tour de France riders for styling.

​New Technology:

​One new development for helmets is MIPS, which stands for multi-directional impact protection system. MIPS helmets are designed to reduce rotational forces in certain types of impacts. 

MIPS adds to the cost of a helmet, but if it’s safer it’s probably worth it. Although they are widespread today, more research needs to be done before MIPS becomes a standard.

​Final Thoughts:

​This morning I saw two riders together, clearly not construction workers, both wearing bright orange cycling vests for safety—but without head protection!

That was a real head-scratcher. The unpleasant truth is that if you ride or skate you will likely do more than just scratch your head if you’re unprepared. You will crash. Some of those crashes may involve the head.

​Therefore, it is best to protect the body’s greatest commodity, the brain. At the same time, helmets are a way to show your personal style.

The above skate helmets vs. bike helmets survey shows that there is substantial crossover among helmet types with functionality, style, and safety.

While style is obviously an individual choice, if you do show up to a new activity wearing a helmet because it’s the only one you have—in other words, not a style or safety choice—you’ll likely look like the newb you are.

About the Author Keith Anderson

I’m Keith – founder of Keithandersoncycles.com, more than 50 years old and from Colorado, USA. I’m also a grand-dad of 3 kids and a great husband (I think so, lol). Web engineer is my main job but I play mountain bike at weekend.

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