Skateboard helmet vs bike helmet – how are they different?

Today I’ll be comparing cycling and skate helmets. At a glance, they both look the same and seem like they protect the head in similar ways – this is pretty much true. However, they do have subtle differences. And these differences are what make them more appropriate for either activity. It’s not easy to make this distinction at first glance.

With that in mind, my article below will be highlighting the differences. After you read it, you’ll know exactly how they compare and which is right for you.

Are bike and skate helmets the same?

I’ll start off by highlighting the obvious difference and similarities between the helmets.

I’ll then talk about the safety standards both the cycle and skate helmets adhere to. This is where we’ll probably find the biggest differences. Both helmets are sort of used differently and riders will interact with them differently when falling. So ultimately, it makes sense for both sets of helmets to have different requirements for safety.

Something to remember is that these safety ratings are there to prevent traumatic brain injury. You can still get a concussion when using helmets with these certifications. 

How are the helmets similar and how do they provide protection?

Both helmets use a thin ABS shell. They also use EPS foam (expanded polystyrene) to provide impact protection. This foam expands on impact to absorb a majority of the impact force transferring a minimal amount of force to the head (typically less than 300G). 

This is how most helmets provide protection to the head. However, others use different systems, or use systems in combination with the foam to provide protection. A good example of this is the MIPS helmet. 

The MIPS helmet has a “slip-plane” system that provides protection against rotational forces better than the average helmet. The helmet “slips” in the direction of the force, as opposed to making your whole head turn. A regular helmet would force your head to twist which could end up in a serious injury.

A good example of a MIPS helmet is the Triple 8 Gotham here on Amazon.com.

MIPS helmets are a step in the right direction for safety. However, most certified helmets will do a good enough job of protection. But if you’re looking for the best, MIPS is the way to go.

What are the main differences?

The main difference between the helmets is their design. Bike helmets are shaped more like a web whilst skate helmets have a more “domed” type of shape. Bike helmets tend to have better ventilation whilst skate helmets are more open but cover more of the head. Skate helmets also sit lower and cover the fore and back of your head more.

However, you will find a lot of bike helmets that are shaped like skate helmets. This is especially true when you look at brands like Bern. Their helmets are very similar to the skateboard ones but are designed primarily for cycling. Check out the Bern here on Amazon.com for a good example.

However, you will never find a skate helmet that looks like the webbed bike helmet. Skaters don’t need as much ventilation and the design simply looks out of place.

Finally, the biggest difference is the safety standards each helmet adheres to. 

Bike helmet safety standards

Bikes have a few safety standards that they adhere to. These standards are region-specific as they are enforced and tested by the relevant local authorities.

  • CPSC – This is a standard enforced and rated by the US consumer protection safety commission. All bicycle helmets sold in the US must comply with it. It roughly states that a helmet must reduce the impact forces from a 6ft fall (about 1000G) to below (300G).
  • CE/EN1078- This is the European safety standard. It is a lot less thorough than the US safety standards. Helmets that are thinner and lighter often pass this regulation easily. If these helmets were to be taken through the CPSC regulation, they would fail. 

Helmets that have these certifications come with a sticker on the inside showing which certifications they have. If a helmet doesn’t have these stickers, do not buy it. 

Finally, bike helmets are rated for single impacts. Once you hit your head in them it’s time to dispose of them and buy a new one. Once the EPS foam is hit, it expands and loses its ability to absorb impacts. EPS foam can recompress, but there is too little of it in bike helmets where it would be able to absorb another impact.

The Zacro is a good example of a bike helmet. It has a lot of ventilation holes and has a shape that is aerodynamic. The ventilation holes provide excellent breathability and the shape ensures great airflow around the helmet. Check it out here on Amazon.com for a better look.

Skateboarding Helmet safety standards

Skateboarding typically has one main certification.

  • ASTM F1492 – Enforced by the American society for testing and materials, this certification ensures that a helmet can withstand multiple-impacts. It’s been designed this way to accommodate for an accident where your head may bounce off the ground twice when you fall. It ensures that a helmet can reduce a 1000G impact force to below 300G.
  • There is no EU certification and the CE/EN 1078 is deemed good enough. I don’t think it is. If you can always go for an ASTM certified helmet for skating. Fortunately, they are sold around the world and are easily available.

The foam tends to be thicker in skate helmets. This is to allow for the helmet to take multiple impacts. The foam can contract after expansion. However, this only applies to ASTM F1492 helmets where there is enough foam so impact forces can be distributed well.

Finally, the best skate helmets cover the back of the head well. Cyclists aren’t likely to fall backward, so their helmets don’t have much back coverage. However, falling backward is very common in skateboarding. Our helmets, therefore, have a bit more coverage in that area.

The S1 Lifer Helmet is a great example of an ASTM compliant helmet. It can take multiple small impacts and still protect against large impacts from greater heights. S1 even documented their testing to show how their helmet performs. 

Finally, the S1 is dual-certified. Meaning it is compliant with both the CPSC and ASTM F1492 regulations. Check out the S1 Lifer here on Amazon.com.

Can you use a bike helmet for skating?

Yes, you can. A certified bike helmet will provide decent protection and protect your head from impacts. However, it isn’t a good idea to do so. If we exclude the fact that bike helmets aren’t skate certified, here are the other reasons they won’t be good to use:

  • Not multi-impact – Bike helmets won’t protect you from a multi-impact fall. If you fall in a skate park, the concrete is likely to bounce your head. Bike helmets won’t be able to provide good protection. 
  • No protection for the back and front of the head – Bike helmets don’t sit very low on the head. They won’t protect you if you fall awkwardly – which is quite common in skating, especially for beginners. 
  • They don’t look good – people will make fun of you for wearing a “spikey” bike helmet at the park. You’ll feel very out of place and not very welcome.

If you have a child that likes skating and wants to learn, look into kids skate helmets. Don’t get them a helmet simply because it is a “helmet”. Make sure you get them the right thing.

Can you use a skate helmet on a bicycle?

Yes. Skate helmets would work very well for cycling. Because the ASTM requirement is so stringent it is very easy for skate helmets to then pass the CE and CPSC helmet certifications. If safety is your top priority and you’re looking for superior protection, then a skate helmet is the way to go. However, it might not be the best idea:

  • Breathability might be an issue – skate helmets have decent ventilation but are nowhere near as good at it as bike helmets. Your head might feel quite hot and uncomfortable after some riding.
  • Skate helmets feel heavier – if you’re cycling for hours on end, your neck might start to get very tired. Skate helmets have more EPS foam and are heavier than bike helmets. This might put some extra strain on your neck.

Skate helmets might be a good idea for BMX. BMX and trick biking often occur in the same environment as skateboarding. With riders tackling features like rails, ramps, vert, and even stairs. The superior protection of the skate helmet would be very desirable.

Finally, if you’re cycling to commute and have a less than 20min ride, the skate helmet might be just as good. They also look a bit more stylish than regular bike helmets.

Which one should you get?

When it comes to certifications, skate and bike helmets are quite similar with one helmet even having multiple ratings. If you want to get the right helmet, you should simply go for the helmet built specifically for what you want to do. In short, get the skate helmet for skating and the cycling helmet for cycling.

The one helmet you shouldn’t get is the one that doesn’t have any safety certifications. Such a helmet won’t provide any protection. In fact, you’re better off not wearing any helmet at all, than one without certifications.

William Thaddeus Baker
 

My name is William and I’m boardsports enthusiast. I’ve been skateboarding streets since I was about 9. Also I’ve experimented with longboarding & downhill. As to this site my goal is to help beginner riders to find the right equipment. Everything that I write here is my own opinion…