If you are just starting with climbing, it’s understandable if you don’t want to get the ideal gears from the get-go. After all, why would you want to spend a lot of money on something that you might not like very much in the long run.
It’s one of the reasons why you notice a lot of people using not-so-ideal-gears in a climbing hall, which leads to the topic at hand – helmets.
Climbing helmets are very important as they can mean the difference between life and death. A good helmet can help you avoid serious head injury, whether it’s from falling rocks or debris; or a fall.
Since you often see many people in the climbing hall using unideal gears, you may start to ask – can I use a bike helmet as a climbing helmet and vice versa? Well, in this article, you are going to discover the answer to that question and other related crucial information.
Can I Use a Bike Helmet Instead of Rock Climbing Helmet?
The short answer is a “no.” Having said that, using a bike helmet is a lot better than nothing. The thing with bike helmets is that most are specifically designed for one-time protection only. On the other hand, climbing helmets are particularly engineered to protect the head from a rockfall.
Also, it’s meant to stay intact even after taking a drop or blow. Basically, it’s meant to protect your head from falling debris, and it still allows for protection for more potential falling debris until your climbing session is over.
Keep in mind that the explanation above is oversimplified. If you want to know more, keep reading as this article will further expound on the difference between a bike helmet and a climbing helmet.
Bicycle Helmet and Rock Climbing Helmet: The Difference
The critical thing to remember is that both bicycle and climbing helmets are specifically designed to protect your head from two different impact forces. This also means that outside of its intended purpose, the protection they offer becomes sub-optimal.
For bicycle helmets, it’s uniquely engineered in a way that it collapses during an impact. It’s similar to how cars are designed when facing a collision. As the structure collapses, it diverts energy and protects the user.
Since bike helmets are designed to collapse, this translates that it’s next to useless after the impact. You can’t also say that it’s a design flaw because most bike accidents only happen as a single event.
After the event, there’s no immediate need for head protection, and this assumes you have plenty of time to get a new bicycle helmet.
On the other hand, there’s the climbing helmet, and it’s specifically designed to withstand several impact forces.
Unlike bicycle helmets, climbing helmets are not designed to collapse in the event of a collision. This is a crucial design difference as you can’t simply stop climbing once the helmet experiences a strong impact force.
If you are in the middle of your route and your helmet got hit with a big stone, you will have to go down, which means you still need protection until your feet are on the ground level. For this reason, climbing helmets need to withstand several impacts.
Another thing to keep in mind is that most rappelling and climbing helmets are geared towards protecting your head from falling rocks and other debris and not so much in terms of protecting your head from a fall.
Ultimately, if you wear a bicycle helmet during your climb and it gets hit by a sizeable stone and causes it to crumple, then the helmet won’t offer the best protection if you get hit by another stone or debris.
In the US and UK, safety standards are set in place, making it easier to make a smart purchasing decision. It isn’t easy to compare bicycle and climbing helmets side-by-side as they are designed for different purposes.
Having said that, below may be the best types of helmets if your purpose is for climbing or cycling.
- For EU: EN1078 – before the test, these types of helmets are aged through UV radiation and temperature exposure. The test includes being dropped onto a square and massive object and onto a flat surface. The drop height for both tests is 1.5m. The impact should not exceed 250 g.
- For the US: CPSC – before these types of helmets are tested, they must go through an artificial aging process. This usually includes being exposed to hot and cold temperatures and then immersed in water. After all that, the helmet is placed on a 5kg dummy head. Then, it is dropped twice from a height of 1.2m onto a round metal body and then dropped once to a square metal body. It is also dropped from a height of 2m onto a flat surface. In all of these tests, the impact strength should not exceed 300 g.
- For the EU: EN 12492, a 5kg object is dropped directly onto the helmet for the test. The test is then repeated to target all sides. The test also includes a pointed striker weighing 3kg being dropped from a height of one meter onto the helmet. This tests the helmet’s resistance from pointed rocks. To pass the tests, the transmitted force may not exceed 10 kilonewtons.
- For the US: UIAA106 – the test for this type of helmet is closely similar to the EU version. The only difference is that the US has stricter standards, which means that the transmitted force must not exceed 8 kilonewtons.
Final Thoughts on Rock Climbing Helmet vs Bike Helmet
To get back to the original question, can you use bicycle helmets and climbing helmets interchangeably? The answer depends on the level of protection you need. If you want optimal protection, then the answer is no. The reason for this is because of the way these two helmets are designed.
The bicycle helmets are designed to crumple or collapse on impact. Thus, it can only sustain one significant blow. On the other hand, climbing helmets are designed to withstand several impacts.
While using bicycle helmets for climbing and climbing helmets for a bicycle ride is not optimal, having them on is still better than no protection at all.
Ultimately, it’s best to have a climbing helmet if you want to go climbing. But, if you have no climbing helmet you can use, then you might as well have a bicycle helmet on your head than nothing. The same can be said if for cycling.
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