Good Helmets vs Bad Eggs: Quality Matters
Hoping we or some other nutters have hounded you into buying a motorcycle helmet, you must now be busy getting cheap at the helmet aisle at Walmart. At low price a pop those babies are just selling themselves. You ARE getting a lid, right? You are POOR, right? One day your kids need to go to college, right? So why donate your money to Arai or Bell? Mostly, because you need to be alive to procreate. When WHO published results claiming helmets could reduce the chances of death in accidents by 40%, they did not figure in helmets built by Flintstones. It takes a sturdy helmet to make good on WHO’s promise. When you go helmet shopping armed with our artillery of helmet buying tips , do you consider which brand/quality standard you want to buy from?
Here’s the mechanics of helmets that ace the game of quality :
- 1. DOT or Snell or ECE:
A good helmet is definitely required to have a safety certification from DOT, Snell or internationally accepted ECE standard. These certifications set standards in different areas of helmet performance and test them against those. NHTSA that enforces the DOT(Department of Transportation) gets random sample helmets and tests them against DOT standards. A helmet may have one or multiple certifications. These are not mutually exclusive and one certification may set a different set of parameters as compared to the others.
DOT certification evaluates energy management performance, impact attenuation, penetration blocking, and the extent to which retention system succeeds. Protrusions from the surface of the helmet like vents buttons and rivets should not exceed 5mm. Peripheral vision is cardinal while riding in traffic and should exceed or match 105 degrees from the helmet midline.
ECE standard is enforced by Economic Commission for Europe and is valid in 50 countries. It is very similar to the DOT except for a few tests. It does not check penetration resistance. But ECE tests for abrasion resistance. Visor tests are also carried out in-situ which come under a different umbrella in case of DOT.
Snell standard is enforced by Snell Memorial Foundation, a non-profit, private organization. Although not mandatory by state, Snell standards are required by many major racing associations. They have harder requirements in some areas than DOT and ECE and are thus considered apt for motorsports impact management.
- 2. Inner comfort liner:
Most of the good helmets carry the choicest EPS liner interiors. In the event of an ill-fated tumble, the helmet must manage the crash energy. Energy cannot be destroyed, only transferred from one object to another in one form to another. EPS or Expanded PolyStyrene is a higher grade of packing foam. Incorrectly formed EPS liners will be uneven and may rattle on account of incorrect expansion of particles.
The inner liner has air pockets that are crushed upon impact from an accident. This crushing depends on the density of the foam. More the density, more is the potential to be crushed and hence higher is the protection from a blow. But more density can also make your head feel stuffed inside the lid. So there’s a thin line that a great helmet treads between impact management and comfortable fit of the liner.
- 3. Visors:
Champion helmet making needs the art of making flawless visor that is easy to switch. Most folks of the anti-helmet cult have major concerns about helmets blocking their visibility. Visors are supposed to be optically correct. Any distortion in the view would, most likely, amount to the cheap face shields that also shatter on the first contact with a hard surface. Tinted visor or UV protected shield must actually do their job as well as a pair of shades.
- 4. Ventilation:
Helmet should be an asset to your riding experience and not a liability. This happens when you don’t feel like the Thanksgiving turkey inside an oven. Ventilation is to helmet what location is to real estate. The airflow and wind-noise of a helmet define it. Proper ventilation will not only allow fresh air inside, it will create a negative lift in the rear interiors and expel hot air from the helmet as well. Closable vents would allow you some control over this airflow and are preferable if you are subject to unpredictable weather. Chin vents must not be a gateway for bugs and debris. In laudable helmets, this area will be protected by a chin curtain.
- 5. Easy and safe operation:
There is a limitation on the size of projections from helmet surface for a reason. If these projections get stuck on the gravel when you fall, it will create more twist. This twist can lead to internal injuries from muscles and arteries straining in your neck. However, these projections are usually used to operate vents or other faculties. The rider must be able to use them with gloved hands.
To qualify as a great helmet, your brain bucket must balance a lot of nuances. Personally wearing and checking the helmet is the best test of the lot. Whatever floats your boat might only rock other person’s canoe. Convenience and comfort are subjective that way.