Helmet Safety, Price, and Drops

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by 2y4life, Jun 19, 2017.

  1. 2y4life

    2y4life Adventurer

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    So I was on a different forum and the discussion of helmet price and drops damaging helmets came up and I made this post and will share it here. Hopefully it will be of some use

    Cheap and expensive helmets that are sold are really built to meet the same standards and there aren't any actual industry tests that will check the differences between different helmets. The only thing you get with a more expensive helmet are almost always down to four points:

    1. Lighter weight/material (carbon fiber)
    2. Quieter
    3. More ventilation
    4. Name brand


    I have the famous independent study done about 12 years ago where the cheapest helmet was actually the safest helmet based on G forces transferred to the head. It was the Z1R helmet which ran for under $100. That helmet out-tested AVGs, Sharks, Schuberth S-1, Arai and Icons. In fact, the Arai Tracker GT had the 3rd worst rating in terms of felt G force out of 16 helmets total.

    And yes, the harder the helmet, the more energy is transferred to your head and that was the issue of that groundbreaking aforementioned study and was the cause for the changes to the SNELL 2010 standards. Talk to a physics scientist and they will confirm that you have to have this perfect medium and there is a thing such as too stiff/hard and too soft and SNELL still forces helmets to be on the harder side.

    Here's part of that article:

    "The stiffest helmets in the Big Drop test, the Arai Tracker GTs, hit our hypothetical head with an average of 243 peak Gs. The softest helmets, the Z1R ZRP-1s, bonked the noggin with an average of 176 peak Gs. This is a classic comparison of a stiff, fiberglass, Snell-rated helmet, the Arai, against a softer, polycarbonate-shell, DOT-only helmet, the Z1R. OK. So let's agree that we want to subject our heads to the minimum possible G force. Should we pick an impressive, expensive fiberglass/Kevlar/unobtanium-fiber helmet–or one of those less-expensive plastic-shelled helmets?

    Conventional helmet-biz wisdom says fiberglass construction is somehow better at absorbing energy than plastic–something about the energy of the crash being used up in delaminating the shell. And that a stiffer shell lets a designer use softer foam inside–which might absorb energy better.

    Our results showed the exact opposite–that plastic-shelled helmets actually performed better than fiberglass. In our big 3-meter hit–the high-energy kind of bash one might expect would show the supposed weaknesses of a plastic shell–the plastic helmets transferred an average of 20 fewer Gs compared with their fiberglass brothers, which were presumably designed by the same engineers to meet the same standards, and built in the same factories by the same people."


    The only part of your post that is incorrect is about the DOT testing. The positive that SNELL has over DOT is the fact that to be SNELL certified, helmets are actually tested by the SNELL foundation which is a third party while DOT-certified helmets allow each individual helmet manufacturer to do their own in house testing in their R&D factories and then the manufacturer then slaps the DOT sticker on their own helmet. They are subject to random testing but it may happen but once every few years and only on select models. For example, HJC could make 5 different helmets this year and only two models may get tested.

    About how long a motorcycle helmet is good for? Again, as most have already discussed, it depends on climate and how long it has been used. For example, many helmets that are sold on the market, unless you get the newest model, can be as much as 3-4 years old. Manufacturers used to state that helmets are only good for 5 years once you start wearing it assuming the new helmet has been held in an environment that has constant temperature, pressure, and humidity. Realistically, they are likely safe for upwards of 10 years but I'm one to err on the side of caution so any helmet after 5 years, it's out the door.

    Also, this whole "once you drop a helmet about waist high or higher it's no longer good" is absolute garbage. Independent studies (I used to have these somewhere) proved that dropping helmet alone without anything in it causes no structural damage and once again, any physicist can attest to this being true as well. Now if you throw a helmet down with force or throw it against a wall, that's a different story. Of course helmet manufactuers don't make money if you don't replace helmets so since about 2010, there's been this unfounded paradigm shift, led by manufacturers, that once a helmet is dropped, it's structure integrity MAY BE COMPROMISED AND IT'S BEST TO BE REPLACED bullshit. Don't buy into it. Dropping it a few times from waist high to 6ft is not going to cause any structure damage as the energy from the drop is minimal and it gets dispersed onto itself, thus causing a self reaction which basically means the helmet is not damaged.
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  2. dietDrThunder

    dietDrThunder Why so serious, son?

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    There is a newer, much more effective SNELL standard now, which renders much of that old M/C test info obsolete. The SNELL standard is now a lot closer to the ECE standard.

    On a side note, manufacturing technology is massively better than it was 10 years ago, and as a result, there are some _very_ nice helmets available at a fraction of the cost of the more expensive brands. Keep an open mind when you shop, and ignore brand while paying close attention to fit, as well as finish quality, and you may be greatly surprised.
    #2
  3. ctfz1

    ctfz1 been there

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    I remember seeing notice a new (and expensive) helmet offers isolation (by elasticimer?) between shell and liner to reduce brain acceleration.
    Only new and exciting tech I've seen lately.
    Yes helmets are better than ever. I like quality helmets, but any approved helmet, especially full face, are reasonably effective protection.
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  4. 2y4life

    2y4life Adventurer

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    The overall comfort quality of helmets have improved vastly but one cannot say helmets today are safer than helmets from 10 to even 15 years ago. That's because not many of the standards have changed.

    The DOT standards have not changed and SNELL M2010 to the current SNELL standard, M2015 is basically the same thing. The only thing SNELL has really changed and it's minor, is the enforcement testing on older M2010 certified helmets. All the maximum acceleration allowed G forces are still the same so to say motorcycle helmets are better today than in 2010 or even 2005 isn't really accurate.

    ECE standards are by far the most rigorous and their standards were first spelled out in 2002 and became official in 2005 under ECE 22.05 which means the current ECE standard has been in effect since 2005. Motorcycle helmet manufacturers only build their helmets up to the specified standard because there isn't a "price" for building a helmet to a superior standard. Since DOT and ECE standards have not changed in 20 years, how can anyone state, matter of factly, that helmets today are safer than they were 20 years ago, let alone 15 years ago. Unless there is a certification/rule change in safety, motorcycle helmets have not been manufactured to a higher standard because there is no higher standard. As all motorcycle helmets will state "Helmet X meets or exceeds blank standards". If the standard that has been proven to be the most effective and best standard, which is the ECE standard, has not changed in 12 years, how can we say helmets are significantly safer?

    And the funny thing is, the SNELL M2015 standard is far close to the ECE standard than the old M2005 standard which SNELL touted in 2005 as the superior standard but the ECE standard hasn't changed, officially, in 12 years which just proves SNELL has always been behind the ball because their scientists and engineers were always concerned about how much impact the helmet could take before it cracked instead of being concerned about how much energy is transferred to the head.

    ECE standards are, by far, a better test because for a helmet to be ECE certified, a minimum of 50 helmets of each particular model, must be tested independently and all 50 must pass the test. At SNELL, they test a single helmet and for the DOT, they rarely every test it. And as I stated above, the ECE standards have not changed since 2005 and the actual testing procedures were spelled out in whole back in 2002. So really, the ECE 22.05 standard turns 15 years old today without a single change.

    Yes, there are far more motorcycle helmets available today and the comfort of helmets are far superior to those 10-15 years ago but they aren't any safer.

    With that said, another key point is the whole dropping a helmet makes it a bad helmet. That is a lie perpetuated by motorcycle manufacturers and it's been going around so long that people are actually parroting it when it isn't true.
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  5. 16VGTIDave

    16VGTIDave Reaver made me do it...

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    Keep in mind that safety standards specify the minimum or maximum allowed in a certain standardized test. It is quite possible to exceed the standards, even for low cost equipment. Materials have improved, data collection has improved, designs have improved, 3rd party testing and market competition has forced innovation. When a $200 helmet can meet or exceed all world standards, and offer premium features like washable wicking liners and optically clear visors with fog resistant coatings, we are the winners.
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  6. Tall Man

    Tall Man Priest, Temple of Syrinx

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    Quite possibly. It might depend on one's liability exposure.

    Last summer, I witnessed a customer get kicked out of a Cycle Gear store after clumsily handling and dropping a Shoei full face helmet from chest high. His first words, uttered a nano-second after the helmet's first bounce, were, "I'm not paying for that." Seeing the hood rat for what he was, the store manager told him that he now couldn't sell that helmet, and to leave the store now.

    Afterwards, I purchased a few inexpensive extras, mentioning to the manager that I did so in recognizance of his handling the episode in the correct manner. He thanked me for doing so.
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  7. 2y4life

    2y4life Adventurer

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    That guy's an idiot. If you fumble and drop a helmet, apologize for doing so and usually if it's not scuffed and it usually isn't if it's in the store, nothing will happen. Utter those words and of course the owner wants you out.

    Here's an exceptional video about helmets featuring Jay Leno and the former Director of Marketing of Arai and really well known for helping with so many racer services at AMA Pro Road Races, Bruce Porter :
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  8. islandtosh

    islandtosh Adventurer

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    I'm close enough that I took my RF-1200 in to Shoei for them to test after I had an off at about 25 mph. They said the helmet was not compromised. It might have helped the helmet that my leg hit the ground 1st, then my shoulder
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  9. emmed1

    emmed1 n00b

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    CTFZ1, I believe you are talking about the 6D Helmets.
    I'm and ER doc and when I was younger I road and mountain biked and hated on the cycling helmets because it was stiff styrofoam, and I believed they did little to reduce G forces being transmitted to the brain in an accident. It was my pet peeve. As a matter of fact, another ER doc was cycling with me, hit the ground on pavement at about 20 mph and was in the ICU for 3 days with a pretty severe TBI.
    I always tell people that when you have those college contests to see who can drop an egg from the highest distance, no one ever just puts their egg in a stiff styrofoam container, you want to cushion the blow.
    6D Helmets have what I think is the best technology for reducing Traumatic Brain Injury to date, their elastic dampers between the shell and liner. Bell also has made huge advances with their MIPS technology to decrease rotational forces as well as progressive layering with different densities of styrofoam that will crumple and cushion as they give in their Flex Line.

    So, with some experience seeing brain injuries at work my next helmet is going to be a 6D or Bell. Unfortunately 6D does not offer any Dual Sport helmets at this time. And Bell has a DS one but only with MIPS, not the progressive layering. I even called Bell's custom helmet department to see if they could custom make it for me, but they couldn't. Anyway, we are finally getting some helmets with safety features that I've been wanting.
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  10. juicy flawless

    juicy flawless Toxic Raccoon

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    Another helmet safety speculation debate :fpalm

    [​IMG]
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  11. RCmoto

    RCmoto Long timer

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    Because the newer SNELL standard is closer to ECE it renders the old test info obsolete?
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  12. 2y4life

    2y4life Adventurer

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    My thought exactly because that "old" info was tested with the same ECE 22.05 standard that was used then AND IS STILL USED TODAY.
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  13. 2y4life

    2y4life Adventurer

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    At least read the post. It's more than just speculation and I covered the issues of whether dropping a helmet really makes a helmet useless. There's always a number of riders that think a helmet is bad if it is dropped, or that SNELL is the superior standard etc. When you have nothing to contribute, or don't care for the subject matter, you could just ignore and move on because no one is forcing you to read it or post :)
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  14. dietDrThunder

    dietDrThunder Why so serious, son?

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    Yes, it does. Helmets built to the old SNELL standard (EDIT: SNELL 2005) would have a hard time passing the newer standard. The biggest thing people took from that MC piece back then (apart from that cheap isn't the same as bad) was that the then-current SNELL standard was not an indication of a safer helmet compared to DOT or ECE standard lids. The point I was trying to make was that if you read that excellent article, then take what you learned about the SNELL standard to your local shop and use it to inform you regarding your purchase, that is not effective because the helmets in the shop are not built to pass the SNELL 2005 standard that is referred to in that MC article (which is a good thing).

    EDIT: I have to go back and read now...I couldn't remember the info that I'd read when the newer standard was published, and now what I'm reading is in line with what was posted earlier about the 2015 standard not being significantly different form teh 2010. I could have been remembering 2005 v. 2010, or not...not sure now, but I will re-read and come back.

    EDIT 2: yes, I was confusing the 2010 and the 2015 standards. The improvements in energy transfer and measurement v. head form size that I was referring to previously came with the 2010 SNELL update.

    The last thing I want is to be the source of misinformation floating around.
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  15. dietDrThunder

    dietDrThunder Why so serious, son?

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    The thing is, in the US many people assume that SNELL certified = safer, and pre-2010 standard, this was pretty much not the case. That's all I was getting at. It is true that the 2010 and the 2015 standards are essentially the same. It is accurate that g's to the head are reduced now for SNELL 2010+ helmets compared to SNELL 2005 or before helmets.
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  16. dietDrThunder

    dietDrThunder Why so serious, son?

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    ...and to be clear, I agree with all of this 100%. As I mentioned previously, all I was getting at was regarding the 2005 standard/articles about it etc., that info isn't a good tool for use when judging current helmet purchases, because the 'SNELL helmets aren't as safe' thing is based on obsolete info.

    Hopefully that's clearer. Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughtful response.
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  17. 2y4life

    2y4life Adventurer

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    Absolutely correct in all accounts and being a former WERA racer, you know this as I believe SNELL is still what is required by WERA which excludes the entire AGV since AGV has not made any SNELL certified helmets in well over a decade which is crazy from a manufacturing and monetary standpoint.
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  18. dietDrThunder

    dietDrThunder Why so serious, son?

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    This was the case when I was racing, but at some point they added an "or ECE" clause in there. I don't know the exact details, but I'm pretty sure it boils down to 'more than DOT' or somesuch.
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  19. RCmoto

    RCmoto Long timer

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    WERA Motorcycle Roadracing 2017 Rulebook
    11. Riders clothing and protective requirements:

    a) All WERA competitors must wear helmets which have a Snell ’00 thru ‘15 approval sticker, or must be BSI or EC approved and must be in good condition (as determined by Tech) and not manufactured more than 5 years prior to the date of the event.. Helmets must be taken to Technical Inspection and must display a WERA Helmet Tech decal prior to being allowed on the track. Open-faced, modular, and dirt bike helmets are not allowed.
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  20. aldend123

    aldend123 Long timer

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    You make a fair point, but the analogy isn't the best. You need the egg to weigh 3-5lb and have a thicker shell. Or use softer styrofoam to account for the difference, which is probably like packing peanuts.
    #20