Do you know what the SHARP Helmet Safety Scheme is? Well known in the UK, it is not as well known in North America. SHARP is a testing and rating system for motorcycle helmets. It’s completely different from Snell and ECE in that the tested helmets are rated with 1 to 5 stars depending on the helmet’s performance. Testing fairness is bolstered by SHARP buying its test helmets with their own funds. They do not accept money from helmet manufacturers. Such is not the case with the Snell standard.
Under Snell and ECE certification systems, helmet choice is difficult with manufacturers claiming that they have premium protection over the competition. But what does premium protection mean and how can you tell if one helmet is “better” than the other if they have an ECE and/or SNELL rating?
You may think that having a Snell or ECE sticker on your helmet marked it as a quality helmet. Having a DOT or BSI sticker was OK, but not a sign of cutting-edge protection. Over the last couple of years, a debate has broken out as to whether these ratings are based on real-world situations. Some claimed that the Snell certification did not represent real-world scenarios and resulted in a helmet that was too “hard” that would transfer more energy to the rider than a “softer” DOT/BSI helmet.
A major magazine published an article that questioned the ratings systems and postulated that indeed the generally cheaper and softer helmets DOT helmets were a better alternative to the harder more expensive Snell helmets. From there a major firestorm erupted. If the ratings system didn’t tell the truth, what can we rely on when choosing a helmet?
Arguably the SHARP system is gaining wide acceptance throughout Europe and perhaps soon in North America. SHARP evaluations take testing one step further than the other major certifications. Using a 5 star rating system, instead of just earning a “certification”, SHARP ratings compare helmet performance against the SHARP standard and assign the helmet from one to five stars. Because of this, you can compare the tested results not only against the standard, but against other helmets.
So with all these choices, certifications and claims, what do you use to help you make a decision as to what certification you should trust when choosing a helmet? Want to know how your Arai RX-7 GP rates against an AGV GP Tech? You can compare them right on the SHARP website and get the star rating for each.
There is one fly in the ointment for ADV riders. SHARP is presently only testing full face and full face modular helmets. That means no ratings for your ADV or open face helmets. But at least you now have another source to assist you in making your helmet choices.
I don’t know a lot about the exact science of helmet testing, but I do like having the ability to compare helmets against each other. Now you are able to see how each helmet tested stacks up against another helmet.
What do you think?