DENVER - Two years ago this week, Austin Meier
was at a Touring Pro Division event in Pueblo, Colo., when he found
himself underneath a bull.
When hooves landed on the back of his head, he could have been
killed. But he was wearing a helmet.
"Without a helmet on, it would have been bad," said Meier.
Instead, the next day he competed at a Built Ford Tough Series
event in Sacramento, Calif.
Meier has worn a protective helmet his entire career. This weekend
in Anaheim, Calif., he's hoping to debut his new InVinci-BULL
helmet from Rank Bull Equipment.
"You can't get much tougher than carbon fiber right now," said
Meier, who first saw the helmet at a July meeting with his agent.
"They're slick shells without any places on them for hooves to get
caught - for them to catch and smash on you if you did get a foot
in the head, or rip your helmet apart too. They completely
surpassed all the tests that are out there."
Kody Lostroh agreed.
He added, "It's just exceptional strength and durability. The
tests they've done on it are blowing these other helmets out of the
water, so it's a no-brainer."
Meier and Lostroh are among the first to make the switch.
Australian Ben Jones is going to don the latest
helmet, while Ryan Dirteater and Jordan
Hupp are considering it as well. Skeeter
Kingsolver will wear it upon his return to
Lostroh and Jared Farley are already wearing it,
while others await the finished product.
Onlookers will notice three distinct styles.
According to Meier, the shell is basically the same for all three.
However, one has a facemask that originated with the Cowboy Armor
helmet, another has a full mask similar to a hockey goalie's
helmet, and in another model, the shell continues around the jaw
line - much like a motocross helmet - with a partial shield that
slides up and down.
Kody Lostroh used the shell of the new helmet last weekend in
At the moment, Lostroh is currently using a mask from his old
helmet while the manufacturers are developing a mask specially
fitted for the prototype shell he is using.
Meier and Lostroh both said the helmets are noticeably lighter
than any others they've worn.
"The weight of helmets never bothered me," said Meier, who grew up
wearing helmets in football and as a catcher in baseball, "but when
you can get a lighter, stronger, more protective helmet, it makes a
difference, and with these helmets, you can tuck your chin that
much better, too."
Lostroh said the InVinci-BULL helmets are comfortable and light,
but, more importantly, the tests prove the helmet is "heads and
shoulders beyond anything we've got available right now."
'I think eventually you'll see everybody
wearing a helmet.'
The PBR continues to be at the forefront of safety and
The safety vest now mandated for all riders was developed by PBR
co-founder Cody Lambert, and the trend toward wearing helmets can
be traced to the PBR as well.
Five years ago, the number of riders who wore a helmet could have
been counted on one hand. Today that trend has reversed. It changed
when Ross Coleman and Chris Shivers made the transition from
wearing a traditional cowboy hat to a protective helmet.
Both had received severe injuries when their unprotected heads
were slammed into the metal fencing while still in the bucking
"The percentage has completely flip-flopped from what it was to
what it is now," said Meier. "I think eventually you'll see
everybody wearing a helmet."
"I'm really excited about it," Lostroh said, "and there are not a
whole lot of them out there."
Meier not only predicted that all professional riders will wear a
helmet within a few years, but also suggested that as the 2012
season progresses, more of the riders already wearing helmets will
likely switch to Rank Bull Equipment.