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Are Regular Helmets Safe Enough for E-Bikes? One Californian Company Doesn't Think So


 

Author: Bruno Long

Source: Bike Mag

Date: April 18, 2024

 Accidents happen. Whether you knock a glass off the table while cleaning up or stub your toe on the side of the bed as you take your first step of the day, thousands of people around the world experience these incidents every day. Yet the consequences of these minor accidents pale in comparison to having a consequential accident on your bike.

As the number of e-bikes being imported since 2020 has steadily grown and is projected to continue its meteoric rise for the next decade, the number of electric bike riders with head trauma has also increased 49-fold, according to a recent study. These are worrying numbers, especially since the survey also found that only 44% of those injured were wearing helmets, with overall helmet use down 6% yearly since 2017.

The biggest problem with the lack of helmet use is that, while people have always shied away from wearing helmets for reasons such as comfort and aesthetics, the electric bikes that people are riding nowadays travel at a much faster rate of speed and weight much more than acoustic bikes, increasing the amount of moving weight and inertia when involved in an accident.

One San Francisco-based startup decided that as the bicycle industry expanded and evolved into the electric bike market, riders' number one safety accessory, their helmet, needed to evolve as well. From that thought process, Xnito was born.

What's the difference?

Most people think that all helmets are created equal. Put one on your head, and it will protect you if you fall or get hit. But it isn't as simple as that. Most helmets in the US must meet a specific standard, which isn't that difficult since the antiquated CPSC government standard was introduced in 1970 and wasn't mandated for every helmet until 1994. We are talking about 30 years since any real improvements to the standards, which aren't particularly difficult to meet.

Now, with electric bikes weighing more and travelling at higher speeds, founder and CEO of Xnito, Benjamin Dai, decided he wanted his helmets to meet a higher standard of safety than the CPSC regulation, so he integrated the Dutch NTA 8776 Certification, which isn't even standard in the USA as of this writing. This safety standard protects riders at speeds up to 28 mph (Class 3 electric bikes) while also providing a larger surface area of average around the rider's head, which includes the temple and back of the head areas.

One of the other main issues with cycling and accidents in general is visibility. Many new riders don't have lights or flashers installed on their bikes, which is especially dangerous at dusk or at night. The Xnito Old School comes equipped not only with rear flashing lights (3 different modes) but also with an LED light installed in the front of the helmet as well. The more visibility the better and I was excited to see how the lights performed in real life. 

Xnito Old School

After contacting Xnito to test out one of their helmets, I didn't wait long for it to arrive. They quickly shipped it out, and it came in simple yet protective packaging. I ordered the Valkyrie color scheme, although the orange 'Dutch' colorway was a close second. Xniot has nine colors and designs to choose from.

While the helmet's battery was already partially charged upon arrival, I wanted to charge it up to full power before my first ride. The helmet comes with a charging cable, and the port is easily found at the back of the helmet, right beside the power button.

Once charged, I decided to try out the helmet at night right off the bat. It is meant for this, so I wanted to get right to it. The power button is simple: just one quick push to turn it on and another quick push to switch between the three modes for the real lights. There are two different flashing sequences and a solid one, while the front LED stays the same the entire time.

The flashing red lights on the back of the helmet are bright, and the flashing sequences are hard to miss. Any vehicle driver would have to be blind or distracted not to see these things, which is, ironically, how many accidents happen between vehicles and e-bikes. 

The front LED headlight is bright but not enough to replace a headlight on your bike, which should be infinitely brighter to lead the way and illuminate the path in front of you. Think of the LED on the Old School as a secondary light or an added safety net to warn other cars or riders of your presence.

One thing I hadn't thought of but that came in particularly handy with the front LED light was unlocking your bike or getting into your storage unit. The headlight was bright enough to illuminate the numbers for your lock combination or to help you get your key into a lock in a dark circumstance. You no longer need to pull out your phone and use the headlight.

Aesthetics

Surprisingly, the added safety features of increased surface area around the temple and back of the head improve the look of the Old School. The helmet contours the head nicely and gives the helmet a more updated look. The color scheme and design are subtle yet stylish. 

The Old School has some great venting and provides enough airflow to keep my head cool when it's hot out but not too cold when the sun goes down. Some helmets with loads of venting require riders to wear something underneath the helmet to keep them warm on cooler days. I haven't felt that way yet with the Xnito.

My favorite little add-on was on the stylish side of this helmet. Xnito adds a small brim that can be attached to the helmet, giving the Old School an optical illusion that you are wearing a hat underneath the helmet. As someone who wears a hat almost daily, I have wanted to wear it underneath my helmet, but it rarely fits appropriately. This way, I get the best of both worlds, and I can even wear the helmet when going into the store quickly for errands and still get that hat-wearing look.

Overall Impression – 10/10

I must say, there isn't anything negative to say about this helmet. It fits nicely (make sure to follow the fitting instructions), has a great aesthetic, and is focussed on impact safety and the rider's visibility.

This is not just another helmet; this is your first line of defence if you happen to have a fall or get in an accident. Safety should be taken seriously, and spending money on your brain should not be difficult. While the Xnito Old School may seem pricier than other helmets ($181 USD), the quality, safety standards, and included features are more than worth the money. 

If you had the hindsight or opportunity to look back after an accident, knowing that spending money and wearing a helmet would prevent a brain injury, you would, of course, spend the money. So, instead, have the foresight to protect yourself and your family by outfitting yourselves with some high-quality hamlets. Hopefully, you never need to test them, but you'll be glad someone else already has.

Author: Bruno Long



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