The Dome Launches HelmetFacts.com

Sep 12, 2017
by Pinkbike Staff  
Bicycle helmets seem like fairly simple products - after all, they're just plastic and foam, right? - but trying to research safety standards, or figuring out exactly what the difference is between EPP and EPS foam can be a complicated endeavor. That's what HelmetFacts.com is trying to address. The full press release is below, but the gist of it is that staff at The Dome (Bell's and Giro's testing facility) have put together an informational website where consumers can learn more about helmet construction, testing, and standards. – Mike Kazimer

Press Release

The Dome

The Dome – the in-house test lab serving Bell and Giro – is launching HelmetFacts.com. The website serves as an educational resource for consumers and helmet brands alike and includes videos as well as a library of detailed information regarding materials, standards and testing protocols for helmets and head protection.

“We saw unmet needs for more information related to head protection,” said Thom Parks, Senior Director of Product Safety at Bell Sports. “Now, more than ever, we’re seeing a lot of confusion and misinformation in the marketplace. The Dome and its engineering staff have taken a leadership role in this arena for more than six decades, so we thought it appropriate to invest the time and energy into educating consumers.”


The Dome

The Dome’s has designed HelmetFacts.com to be an unbiased resource. The reason is simple – head protection is serious business and we all benefit from learning. A trip to HelmetFacts.com can reveal the differences between materials like expanded polypropylene and expanded polystyrene, and addresses common questions like “When should a helmet be replaced?” The website also sheds light on the dozens of current helmets standards across the globe and includes videos showcasing helmet testing for power sports, cycling and snow sports.

The Dome


ABOUT THE DOME: Based in Scotts Valley, California, the Dome’s resources include more than 50 test fixtures as well as 3D printers, injection molding and thermal molding equipment, an in-house wind tunnel, CNC machines and other equipment required to design, develop, and evaluate new ideas in head protection.

The test lab and its engineering staff began in 1954 to support Bell Helmets. In the following decades these resources have served many helmet categories (including tactical, military, hockey, football, baseball and equestrian) and supported many brands, including Bell, Easton, Giro, MIPS and Riddell. The facility was officially named the Dome in 2011. Today, the Dome is focused on testing and R&D in powersports, cycling and snow sports and serves as the in-house test lab for Bell and Giro.


86 Comments

  • + 25
 It should be interesting seeing what they post and how marketing biased it is, and how much urban legend is upheld or dispelled, compared to helmets.org. It sounded great until I read that it's owned by a manufacturer. Time will tell.
  • + 22
 if they show any signs of marketing bias their credibility would be gone instantly.
  • + 5
 @adrennan: it takes time, months or a couple of years to establish the credibility of the site.
Until then, they will keep it impartial to certain extends.

After the site will gain credibility, and ideally become a reference point, THEN, they will start indirect promotion of their products i.e. this material (used on giro and bell helmets) is better than others.... etc. etc.

Ultimatley this is to legitimize MIPS as I know the helmets are not selling and other brands stopped the interest licensing the "technology". Just be patient and you will see.
  • + 8
 Yeah it kinda reeks of "hey, we have your best interests at heart and of course we'll be posting standardized comparisons between other manufacturer's helme... errrr... wait, no, we won't be doing that at all actually."

More information is always good, but only when it's non-biased. So this just seems like more marketing.
  • + 17
 @RedRedRe: The goal with HelmetFacts.com is to give riders as much info as we can so that they can make educated decisions. We were skeptics of MIPS when we were first approached by the company, but we took the time to test the concept -- even building our own test fixtures instead of relying on MIPS for data -- ultimately we learned that MIPS' claims were valid. We are believers in this system, but to be clear we have no ownership stake in MIPS. If a technology emerges that improves on MIPS, that can be incorporated into a lightweight, comfortable helmet, we will be morally obligated to use it.
  • + 3
 @Dome-Test-Lab:

How is MIPS different than a lightweight helmet liner?
Do you agree that hotspots are a major issue for some companies, and there is a lack of consumer education regarding proper fit/hotspots?
  • + 8
 For better or worse it's always going to be someone involved in the industry who starts a website like this, because very rarely does some completely uninvolved, impartial outsider have the necessary information to actually create and publish a credible knowledge base. I don't quite share the "these guys are trying to subliminally sell me their stuff" sentiment, but even if you do see this as nothing but a marketing attempt, maybe read it as "these are the reasons why we at Bell/Giro build helmets the way we do" which is still a good read in my opinion.

@Dome-Test-Lab good on you guys for getting into the comments and interacting with the public.
  • - 1
 @RedRedRe: how are two blocks with sand paper between them different than two blocks with grease between them?
  • + 9
 From Helmetfacts.com

In the interest of full disclosure, those of us on the Dome payroll are currently employed by the same company that owns several helmet brands including Bell, Bollé, Cébé, Giro, Raskulls and Krash. Rather than showcase marketing terms and glossy campaigns, however, the Dome’s intention is to be an unbiased resource for consumers and other helmet brands alike. The reason is simple – head protection is serious business and we all benefit from learning.
  • + 3
 @Dome-Test-Lab: What consumers need, urgently, is new certification standards. With new standards comes new independent testing. I wish all the money and time that went to this website instead went towards making that a reality. The industry is failing us, and a pretty website doesn't change that.
  • + 4
 @Myfianceemademedoit: I would like to read an unbiased report on 6D helmets and technology.
  • + 3
 It's not unbiased when you're getting paid to test other helmets. Consumer Reports have ratings and scores for each company. Maybe they should be doing this tests
  • + 4
 @Phillyenduro: why don't you help that happen? Start an write in campaign to your representatives in congress to get off their asses and push the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to update the standards?

The industry has nothing to do with it, the government does.
  • + 1
 I would really like to see a listnof helmets under each certification
  • + 1
 @Socket: yeah, as long as there's some unique and accurate information it's na good thing
  • + 1
 @TheOriginalTwoTone: If we were all mincraft/roblox characters with blockheads that had to pick between hair made of grease or sandpaper I guess you'd have a point to make? Smile
  • + 0
 100 Euros says a Poc or Kali helmet will never test out well in this facility!
  • + 1
 If you're not taking everything with a grain of salt these days... Yea they have the potential to milk the data to their benefit but the marketing stunt is already done: "Wow the folks at Giro are good enough to do product testing for the whole industry?" If they turn up every test with Giro and Bell at the top people are going to call bullshit pretty quickly and that's a hell of a lot of equipment just to make everything up so my guess is they're actually doing some science in there.
  • + 0
 @the-gringo: Kali makes amazing lids. Owner is one of the smartest dudes I've ever had the pleasure of talking to. Dude is passionate about head safety. Guarantee you that Kali does just fine in most/all tests.
  • + 1
 @onemanarmy: I'm sure Kali makes excellent helmets. And their crash replacement program is admirable indeed. But "just fine" isn't good enough.

Cars are tested with a uniform set of crash test standards. So the consumer can choose which one is "just fine" for themselves.

Helmet companies can and absolutely should be working towards setting up a system where consumers can choose the same way.

If you don't pay attention to safety rankings when you buy a car that's fine, it's your choice. But at least that information is there for all to see.

Marketing and hype is not enough to go on when it comes to your brain. And we're all the worse for it because we don't have all the information.
  • + 1
 @MasterSlater:

I think you took that literally. My point is... Kali will pass. Their helmets are safe as hell. Telling you right now that there are other brands that I know for a fact don't do as well in testing.

Helmets are required to pass certain tests to get certain certs. Standardized. Just like cars.

Beyond that... cars are required to pass or they can not be sold in this country. Helmets are required to pass certain tests or they can not be sold.

And I drive pretty much exclusively Subarus... sooo... some of the safest vehicles on the road.


At least Bell/Giro tests in-house and is trying to get information out to the public. No one else is doing it like that.


Kali... kali makes killer stuff and they'll talk head safety with you until your head explodes.
  • + 1
 @onemanarmy:

I think you're probably right regarding Kali and their helmets. I guess my point is when you go to look at a car, you can see how many "stars" it gets in certain accident scenarios.

SUV's score high in a lot of tests because they are heavy, but they score low in Rollover accidents. Subarus (excellent cars btw) score high all around BUT the Impreza scores higher in rollovers than the Crosstrek does. You could argue well, duh, of course it does because the crosstrek has a higher center of gravity. But without those ratings readily available, consumers cannot be relied upon to suss this out for themselves. Thus, with this industry wide standard of comparison, consumers can judge what is best for them.

See what I'm getting at?

No such thing currently exists for helmets at the moment. And I think that's a serious shortfall on the part of helmet makers.
  • + 1
 @MasterSlater:

I agree. There are standardized tests for every rating. But it's pass fail.

It would be great to see more information available and more standard testing. Etc. But that all takes time. Without companies like bell pushing it it's not going to happen. Most consumers don't know any better and definitely don't know how to ask for it or what they're looking at when they get the info.

Remember... cars have been around for over 100 years. Testing and safety standards have been steadily increasing for a long long time. You didn't even need a seatbelt in a truck until the 70's. Child seats. Seat belt laws. Mandatory rear cameras. Air Bags. Etc. All that stuff has been growing.

So comparing bike helmets to that, they're in their infancy and it's going to take time.

Props to Bell/Giro for being at the forefront and for pushing it.
  • + 1
 @onemanarmy: you're totally correct!

It's perhaps a little too much to expect helmet companies to do something like this voluntarily, and would almost certainly only happen if there were some kind of legislation involved.

More info is always better, and Bell is definitely contributing to that. But I personally would love to know if a Smith Forefront MIPS performs better than a Bell Super MIPS, if at all, and in what way.
  • + 14
 From a science background I glaze over when the words "non-biased" or "objective" are used. Rather, and modern science is moving more in this direction, accept the reality we are all biased. What questions you ask and how you answer them will always have some filter. So, rather than telling us it is unbiased, despite very obviously having multiple overlapping interests (the most obvious and socially dubious being clear financial links), be transparent with relationships and clearly describe your intentions and methods. Do that, submit some peer reviewed findings outside the industry, and I would trust that far more than any ridiculous claim of lack of bias.

That said, the idea behind this is awesome. There is so much BS being sold in the world under the guise of science. It is so hard to find good info on safety products that aren't all out of pocket from those benefiting financially and laced with trademarked technology.
  • + 1
 Seems to me that they are being transparent. They aren't hiding who pays them. Regarding 'modern' science, I think that bias and political motivation have ruined it in some aspects. The scientific method is rarely used or has even been thrown out by so called scientists when money or political motivation are involved. Saying x number of scientists agree is not the same as proper methodologies and peer review to confirm results. A shame, really.
  • + 4
 @Poulsbojohnny: your claim that the scientific method is rarely used could use some supporting evidence. Calling scientists so-called scientists without hard evidence and data that you're willing to risk your reputation on, as they risk theirs, is disingenuous. Scientists generally are a factitious bunch and struggle to reach consensus. The whole idea that they would plausibly move end bloc due to money or political motivation is not only a Herculean Triumph of coordination it's totally improbable.
  • + 5
 @duncanish4: People are often happy to say science is a sham as a sort of confirmation bias of their prior beliefs. This is often coupled with a statement that it's due to monetary or political motivation. When they do this they don't realize that, as a whole, scientists tend to be a group of intelligent individuals who give up far more lucrative and influential career paths to pursue a passion for truth. My guess is this situation is no different.
  • + 1
 @duncanish4: I read a great paper on this a few years ago...can't find it at the moment but here's another that address a similar theme: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1182327

It's not so much that the scientific method is "rarely used" in the sense that most scientist are like "screw that crap, Imma do it like this..." but rather the constraints of the study, the field of study, the results, and the pressures of academia can all encourage said researcher to deviate from strict application of the scientific method. Sometimes this deviation is concealed by careful wording in the manuscript, sometimes not. This doesn't mean that "science" is a sham and that nothing can be learned from "scientific research." It means we need to be informed and skeptical consumers and evaluate a published article only within the context of all published research on the subject.
  • + 2
 @sspiff: In my experience, scientists are very capable of putting way too much faith in their methods and results, and generally overstate the implications. Never underestimate the capacity of even the most intelligent individuals to completely deceive themselves, especially as it concerns themselves (and trust me, their work concerns themselves more than anything, which is why they were willing to give up more lucrative and influential careers over it). Understand this and you are ready to appreciate the incredible achievements of scientific inquiry.
  • + 7
 The best site for unbiased helmet info would be www.helmets.org ...

Welcome! We are a helmet advocacy program founded in 1989. We are a small, active, non-profit consumer-funded program providing bicycle helmet information. We are a 501(c)3 non-profit, so your contributions to us are tax-deductible. We try to explain the technology of helmets to consumers, and promote better helmets by working on improved standards. In a typical year our site serves 2 million pages to more than 700,000 distinct users. Our volunteers serve on the ASTM helmet standards committee and are active in commenting on actions of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. We are members of the National Bicycle Safety Network. We provide a Toolkit of materials for helmet programs and a periodic email helmet newsletter, both free. We are all volunteers, funded entirely by consumer donations. We maintain our independence by never accepting funds from the industry. As much as we believe in helmets we still consider them a secondary safety measure and urge that primary measures such as safer roads and education programs for riders and drivers not be neglected. We were founded in 1989, and put up our web site in 1995.
  • + 1
 BINGO! If Bell/Giro wanted to be un-biased they should have worked with an organization like yours. Hosted/funded the video footage, providing whatever additional information they were comfortable with releasing, etc.
  • + 1
 @stiingya: @vggg We would have been open to working with bhsi.org/helmets.org, as we sincerely appreciate their incredible website. But their stance is to be completely independent from any brand related content. We speak to Randy Swart who runs bhsi.org a couple times a month, he’s a great guy with the same goals we have, to reduce the risk of head injury in cycling. Our goal isn’t to replace bhsi.org/helmets.org, but make helmetfacts.com more educational by explaining head protection issues in layman’s terms in an open and inviting atmosphere.
  • + 4
 @thedome please provide inter-comparison data between similar models (Half-shell, Detachable FF, FF) to allow consumers to make a choice. Data...Data...Data...and unbiased assessment of the impacts and the implications for brain damage. Someone will step up...will it be you? We have cash in hand....
  • + 13
 We hear you loud and clear, and we understand the need for data. We are working on presenting data in a meaningful way (with explanations) to empower riders to make the right choice for their own needs.
  • + 2
 @Dome-Test-Lab: Great - the exact technology, proprietary info on materials, composites, methods etc is not needed. Just the data and findings as it relates to the current research findings on impacts and brain / damage.
  • + 1
 @nicolai12: For the time being and for your information we impact 200 helmets of each model during development to understand how that shape works to the various worldwide standards and to our own internal standards. We can’t get enough information from testing even ten helmets to compare one model to another. We currently aren’t allowed to share our test data because it is proprietary (keep in mind that would be hundreds of docs for each model). We completely understand the desire to know which helmet is “best”, but even test data can be misleading. Each accident is different, and in some accidents the “better” helmet may not work as well as one which had slightly lower marks.

We are determined to present riders with more visibility to allow them to make informed decisions, but hopefully that helps explain where we stand today.
  • + 2
 I just saw your videos and is all far from unbiased. Every single single helmet saw in the videos is Bell/Giro. The video about the rotational impact test talks only about how interesting MIPS is, and so on.

And:
You inform about standars, testig methods (YOUR testing methods) and materials and some other stuff that some people might find interesting and some other already know.

BUT the only one thing we want and that could give you credit is still missing, as always; DATA!!

Everything you do has the same purpose, acquire data. Just share the data if you're so educational and unbiased, FFS.
All we want to know is how much force is transmitted to the test dummie's brain in the different scenarios, that's it.

Every climbing rope shows the impact force transmitted in a worst case scenario fall, is not very difficult to share numbers or understand them!
  • + 2
 People, testing of products is quite often done by, or funded by, the same companies/industries whose products are being tested. THIS IS NORMAL!

Why? Because science costs money and disinterested parties won't fund it out of the goodness of their hearts. Other than, say, your government, and they'd only do it then when it interests them or a large part of their constituency, such as the need to test medicines and food.
  • + 2
 Giro/Bell posting testing data would be an important step. The brands that have been leading concussion-reducing innovation for the past several years already do it. I haven't looked at this website carefully yet, but at a glance I don't see any testing data. I hope it's there or added soon.

But "unbiased resource?" How stupid do you think we are? You are a corporation that sells helmets, not a charity. For example, if you believed that a competitor's patented technology were more effective than yours, would you think twice before saying so? Duh. That's bias.
  • + 8
 If you visit HelmetFacts.com you'll see an overview of standards, materials and testing methods. We've made great efforts to be as objective as possible presenting this info. These are subjects that don't encourage bias... It's merely a matter of explaining how standards differ, explaining the properties of materials and lifting the veil on test methods and equipment.

Of course we're not surprised by your comments above, we knew from the beginning that we'd see this sort of response. But would you prefer that we didn't publish any of this information? We've seen so much confusion and misinformation (regarding current standards, for example) that we decided to stop waiting and create that resource ourselves.

Regardless of the helmets you choose to buy, if you want to learn the difference between CPSC and ASTM 1952 standards, or want to learn the differences between Expanded Polystyrene and Expanded Polypropylene there really hasn't been a great resource about those subjects. Our goal is educate riders, parents and even other brands.
  • + 4
 @Dome-Test-Lab: I'd prefer if you had a giro employee smashing the giro helmets. Just saying...


LOL...


Seriously though. I can't believe people are complaining about having access to MORE information and testing.
  • + 1
 It's great to see a site that educates consumer on the different materials used in helmets. The site is not complete however. How about unbiased impact testing for several brands? See which helmet performs better in CPSC, EN, Dot, etc.

It's about time a 3 party does this to truly see which helmet is safer.
  • + 1
 We completely understand the desire to know which helmet is “best”, but even test data can be misleading. Each accident is different, and in some accidents the “better” helmet may not work as well as one which had slightly lower marks. The standards have all been developed to address the needs of specific users. It's a complicated subject that we intend to speak to, here on Pinkbike, in the near future. For the time being, it's important to choose the right equipment for your intended use. There's some common sense involved, for example don't choose a lightweight road helmet for a day of laps at the Whistler Bike Park. Basically when you see ASTM 1952 on the back of a full face, know that ASTM certifies that helmet for downhill and freeride. When you DOT, know that it's been certified for powersports.

If you want to read more on the subject of standards and "toughest" and "safest" we have an explanation here: www.helmetfacts.com/standards/toughest-vs-safest
  • + 1
 @Dome-Test-Lab: New helmet tech in the bike industry is like genders, there is a new one created every day ????
  • + 1
 Well whatever they'e doing they're doing a good job. I recently SMASHED my head extremely hard in the bike park and while I got my bel rung it could've (should've) been a lot worse....overjumped a decent size table, bar snapped on impact and the first thing that hit the hardback face of the next jump was the back of my head.
Thanks Bell Full 9 Carbon!
  • + 1
 I've only worn cheap bell, then giro, then recently bell again along with giro. So no doubt in my eyes they make good products. But I'm gonna give a thumbs down to how this idea played out... even if it has the best intentions.

Just the name, "helmetfacts" is a red flag at worst or just a poor choice at best. "fact" according to who? Any entity that is self regulating the "facts" about an industry where they are providing information to consumers is too much of a conflict of interest.

This should have been worked out with a third party in some way and would be much better if other helmet companies where involved with the effort. Otherwise it just "feels" like a marketing ploy. Even if all the information given is on the up and up. (but how could we ever know it was???)

So start with a gut feeling based on the name of the website and what they are doing that it doesn't seem like a good idea, and then THEIR VIDEO.....

Come on, that was nothing but an advertorial. Not for a specific product, but for their company, their history, their emotional ties. That was like the "feel good" video presentation you give to employee's for a business anniversary or something.

If I'm supposed to believe this information is even remotely un-biased information being presented for only it's educational value to the consumer than it needs to be presented in a more scientific way. Granted, I only watched the opening vid, maybe everything else gets back to a more "data" driven theme with lots of cool helmet smashes to keep viewers interest?

Anyway, sometimes things seem like great idea's and then the customer just drops a load on it. Been there. Sorry!!! Smile
  • + 1
 Another alternate view of MIPS
www.bhsi.org/mips.htm

"The helmet community has been discussing slip planes for years, and has been cautiously examining the MIPS data to evaluate the advantages if any. Everyone agrees that mitigating rotational force is important for injury protection, particularly for anti-concussion effects. But there are questions about how much a slip plane actually helps.

Helmets are not coupled closely to the head, and will slip anyway. The scalp (nature's MIPS) ensures that, and skin does not stick to EPS much, given sweat, hair, hair products and sunscreen. (The Koroyd "straws" pioneered by Smith Optics helmets might be a different story, given their known ability to abrade skin in a crash.) So the tendency for the helmet to slide on the user's head and to slide on pavement or other impact surfaces is substantial. "
  • + 2
 While this seems good, I would prefer something similar to IIHS, where it's independant and products tested are bought not provided. Send emails to IIHS to get them to start using their vast resources to test helmets.
  • + 4
 Because they use the word "Facts" in their site, I trust them to provide me with the truth about helmets.
  • + 2
 Fact. Crashing without a helmet sucks. Another Fact, morning wood. It's always there.
  • + 2
 @Boardlife69: and then, one day, it's gone...
  • + 2
 @fracasnoxteam: I'm 45 - how long have I got left?
  • + 2
 @iamamodel: Mere days.
  • + 1
 @PinkyScar: genuine LOL.
  • + 1
 This is a good step for the general public so they can understand how a helmet is designed and works. Thank you Girl/Bell

When will we get a unbiased data set for each helmet so we the public can compare how well a helmet performs in different impacts???

This should be available on a unbiased website, in a format we can all understand and filter in certain ways. I.e. filter by full face, then by best by frontal impact. Then we can see which helmet we want based on something other than looks and a magazine or websites view on how well it's ventilated.

It's the most important purchase a biker can make and the least understood by the public. With what we know about head impacts in our sport and others along with high profile deaths this shouldn't be accepted.

Can we go one better and have a open database Bell, Giro, POC, Troy Lee, Kali etc. ?
  • + 2
 We wanted to start with a foundation of resources that explain materials, helmet standards and testing protocol. We understand the need to empower riders with data to make the right choice for their own needs. That's our goal and we hope to bring that to you soon.
  • + 2
 "Unbiased" only if they don't let their pre-existing (and I assume profitable) relationship with Bell and Giro influence the info they publish. Slick website though.
  • - 1
 So you're telling me that the board of bell decided to make an investment in a facility that could show data from in order to improve top line revenue and justify its massive r&d budget against its marketing budgets.

Or they did it because profits were too high? Oh wait they just want to give back to the world?

Pleeeeeeeeaaaaasseeee

Next!
  • + 3
 Not sure how to interpret that... Are you asking if the investment in testing and R&D has improved revenue? Testing, R&D and driving innovations in head protection have been hallmarks of this test lab and it's associated personnel since 1954.
  • + 1
 @Dome-Test-Lab: Are you guys strapping helmets to a sybian for impact testing? I really hope the answer is yes.
  • + 2
 mintysauce, would you prefer to buy a helmet from a company that has done no research whatsoever?
  • + 1
 @Dome-Test-Lab: of course product development allows for better products. No one is arguing that. But marketing one companies r&d as an unbiased and balanced point of view on an industry is laughable. A freshman in marketing school could come up with a better spin than that. Keep it real and be honest with your biases and funding sources. That all we all want.
  • + 1
 @kd7000: of course not. But I would like one independent industry authority that could push manufacturers to reach far higher standards and hold them accountable. Just look at policies on car driving assistance technologies for instance.
  • + 1
 I say just get a test dummy with a helmet. Throw it off of a cliff and if it's head doesn't fall off, the helmet is 100% certified for safety.
  • + 2
 I could have sworn that was me in the first photo.
  • + 3
 ya down wit' EPP?!
  • + 1
 Zero discussion of concussions and the problems with today's helmet standards! How about driving some innovation?
  • + 1
 watch the video "The B-RAD: Testing for Rotational Energy"
  • + 1
 Looking for a helmet that protects me from people who text and drive, or mistake the gas pedal for the brake. Please advise.
  • + 1
 I travel everywhere in a Zorb ball.
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