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									      > SPECIAL REPORT                                           WORDS: Dexter Ford PHOTOGRAPHY: Jim Brown


        Searching for the truth behind
     helmet design, helmet standards and
           actual head protection
                     How good is your helmet? Will it actually
                     protect your brain in your next crash?
                 These seem like easy questions, ones you
              probably think you can answer by reciting the
              lofty standards your helmet meets and the
              lofty price you might have paid for it.
                 But the real answers, as you are about to
              see, are anything but easy.
                          There’s a fundamental debate rag-
                            ing in the motorcycle helmet
                                 In a fiberglass-reinforced,
                               expanded-polystyrene nut-
                               shell, it’s a debate about how
                              strong and how stiff a helmet
                              should be to provide the best
                              possible protection.


   Why the debate? Because if a
helmet is too stiff it can be less
                                         inflammation make it swell. When
                                         your brain swells inside the skull,
                                                                               same stuff used in beer coolers
                                                                               and foam coffee cups. Outer
                                                                                                                     keters—pay a lot of attention to
                                                                                                                     the outer shell and its material.             WHEN THE
able to prevent brain injury in the      there’s no place for that extra       shells come in two basic flavors: a   But the part of the helmet that       HELMET HITS THE
kinds of crashes you’re most likely
to have. And if it’s too soft, it
                                         volume to go. So it presses harder
                                         against the inside of the skull and
                                                                               resin/fiber composite, such as
                                                                               fiberglass, carbon fiber and
                                                                                                                     absorbs most of the energy in a
                                                                                                                     crash is actually the inner liner.
                                                                                                                                                                  ROAD OR A
might not protect you in a violent,      tries to squeeze through any          Kevlar, or a molded thermoplastic        When the helmet hits the road               CURB, THE
high-energy crash. What’s just           opening, bulging out of your eye      such as ABS or polycarbonate,         or a curb, the outer shell stops                  OUTER
right? Well, that’s why it’s called a
debate. If you knew what your
                                         sockets and oozing down the
                                         base of the skull. As it squeezes,
                                                                               the same basic stuff used in face
                                                                               shields and F-16 canopies.
                                                                                                                     instantly. Inside, your head keeps
                                                                                                                     going until it collides with the            SHELL STOPS
head was going to hit and how            more damage is done to some              The shell is there for a number    liner. When this happens, the           INSTANTLY. BUT
hard, you could choose the per-
fect helmet for that crash. But
                                         very vital regions.
                                            None of this is good.
                                                                               of reasons. First, it’s supposed to
                                                                               protect against pointy things try-
                                                                                                                     liner’s job is to bring the head to
                                                                                                                     a gentle stop—if you want your
                                                                                                                                                                  YOUR HEAD
crashes are accidents. So you               To prevent all that ugly stuff     ing to penetrate the EPS—             brain to keep working like it does         KEEPS GOING
have to guess.                           from happening, we wear hel-          though that almost never hap-         now, that is.                                 INSIDE THE
   To understand how a helmet
protects—or doesn’t protect—
                                         mets. Modern, full-face helmets,
                                         if we have enough brains to pro-
                                                                               pens in a real accident. Second,
                                                                               the shell protects against abra-
                                                                                                                        The great thing about EPS is
                                                                                                                     that as it crushes, it absorbs lots       HELMET UNTIL
your brain, it helps to appreciate       tect, that is.                        sion, which is a good thing when      of energy at a predictable rate. It   IT COLLIDES WITH
just how fragile that organ actu-
ally is. The consistency of the
                                            A motorcycle helmet has two
                                         major parts: the outer shell and
                                                                               you’re sliding into the chicane at
                                                                               Daytona. Third, it gives Troy Lee
                                                                                                                     doesn’t store energy and rebound
                                                                                                                     like a spring, which would be a
                                                                                                                                                               THE LINER. IT’S
human brain is like warm Jello.          the energy-absorbing inner liner.     a nice, smooth surface to paint       bad thing because your head             THE LINER’S JOB
It’s so gooey that when patholo-         The inner lining is made of           dragons on.                           would bounce back up, shaking             TO BRING THE
gists remove a brain from a
cadaver, they have to use a kind
                                         expanded polystyrene or EPS, the         Riders—and helmet mar-             your brain not just once, but
                                                                                                                                                                   HEAD TO A
of cheesecloth hammock to hold                                                                                                                                  GENTLE STOP.
it together as it comes out of
the skull.
   Your brain basically floats
inside your skull, within a bath of
cervical-spinal fluid and a protec-
tive cocoon called the dura. But
when your skull stops suddenly—
as it does when it hits something
hard—the brain keeps going, as
Sir Isaac Newton predicted. Then
it has its own collision with the
inside of the skull. If that collision
is too severe, the brain can sus-
tain any number of injuries, from
shearing of the brain tissue to
bleeding in the brain, or between
the brain and the dura, or
between the dura and the skull.
And after your brain is injured,
even more damage can occur.                                                                                                                                        Helmet standards
When the brain is bashed or                                                                                                                                        call for dropping
injured internally, bleeding and                                                                                                                                   helmets onto a
                                                                                                                                                                   anvil. But roads
                                                                                                                                                                   aren’t made of
                                                                                                                                                                   stainless steel. So
                                                                                                                                                                   we created our
                                                                                                                                                                   own asphalt anvil
                                                                                                                                                                   after stealing a
                                                                                                                                                                   section of
                                                                                                                                                                   Sheldon Street.
                                                                                                                                                                   An even scarier
                                                                                                                                                                   test (lower left)
                                                                                                                                                                   involved dropping
                                                                                                                                                                   lids on an upright
                                                                                                                                                                   steel edge.

66   WWW.MOTORCYCLISTONLINE.COM              June 2005

                                                             > If your brain is injured, swelling
twice. EPS actually absorbs the                              and inflammation often occur.
kinetic energy of your moving                                Because there’s no extra room in
head, creating a very small amount                                your skull, your brain tries to
of heat as the foam collapses.                                       squeeze down through
   The helmet’s shell also absorbs                                      the hole in the base of
energy as it flexes in the case of                                        the skull. This injures
a polycarbonate helmet, or flex-                                              the vital brain
es, crushes and delaminates in                                                  stem even fur-
the case of a fiberglass com-                                                    ther, often
posite helmet.                                                                     destroying the
   To minimize the G-forces on                                                      parts that
your soft, gushy brain as it                                                        control
stops, you want to slow your                                                         breathing
head down over as great a                                                            and other
distance as possible. So the                                                         basic body
perfect helmet would be                                                              functions.
huge, with 6 inches or more of
soft, fluffy EPS cradling your
precious head like a mint
on a pillow.
   Problem is, nobody
wants a 2-foot-
wide helmet,
though it might
come in handy if
you were audition-
ing for a Jack in the
Box commercial. So                                                       > If you’re hit very vio-
helmet designers have                                                  lently on the jaw, as in a
pared down the thick-                                                 head-on impact, the
ness of the foam, using                                              force can be transmitted
denser, stiffer EPS to                                               to the base of the skull,
make up the difference.                                              which can fracture and
This increases the G-                                                 sever your spine. It’s a
loading on your brain in a                                            common cause of death
crash, of course. And the                                               in helmeted riders—and
fine points of how many Gs                                               a very good reason to
a helmet transmits to the                                                 wear a full-face helmet
head, for how long, and in                                                 and insist on thick
what kind of a crash, are the                                               EPS padding—not
variables that make the helmet-                                               resilient foam—in
standard debate so gosh darn fun.                                               your chin bar.
                                     > When your
Standardized Standards               brain collides
To make buying a helmet in the       with the inside of
U.S as confusing as possible,        your skull, bony
there are at least four standards    protrusions around
a street motorcycle helmet can       your eyes, sinuses
meet. The price of entry is the      and other areas can
DOT standard, called FMVSS           cause severe damage
218, that every street helmet        to the brain itself.
sold here is legally required to     And if your head is
pass. There is the European          twisted rapidly, the
standard, called ECE 22-05,          brain can lag behind,
accepted by more than 50 coun-       causing tearing and
tries. There’s the BSI 6658 Type     serious internal
A standard from Britain. And last-   brain injury.
ly the Snell M2000/M2005
standard, a voluntary, private
standard used primarily in the
U.S. So every helmet for street
use here must meet the DOT

68   WWW.MOTORCYCLISTONLINE.COM       June 2005                                                      June 2005   MOTORCYCLIST   69

standard, and might or might not
meet one of the others.
                                                                        each one absorbs a particular hit.
                                                                        And it’s important to understand                                            THE KILLER—                                                                 gy impact. The next hit, on the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                same spot, is set at 110 joules, or
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       happen: One, you don’t fully uti-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       lize the energy-absorbing materi-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        [on actual accidents] that we
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        have now [when they devised
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               that took 250, 230 Gs [in their
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               accidents]. And they’ve got a dif-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 majority of accidents?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    “The whole business of testing
   Just by looking at the published                                     that as in lap times, golf scores                                          THE HARDEST                                                                  about an 8-foot drop. To pass,                                         al that’s available. And two, you                                the standard]. And although                                            fuse injury they’re not gonna get                                 helmets is based on the assump-
requirements for each standard,
you would guess a DOT-only hel-
                                                                        and marriages, a lower number is
                                                                        always better when we’re talking
                                                                                                                                                 SNELL TEST FOR                                                                 the helmet is not allowed to trans-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                mit more than 300 Gs to the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       generate higher G loading on the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       head than you need to.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        that data has been around a
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        long time, they have chosen, at
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               rid of. The helmet has a good
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               whack on it, but so what? If
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 tion that there is a threshold of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 injury,” says Ed Becker, executive
met would be designed to be the                                         about your head receiving                                                A MOTORCYCLE                                                                   headform in either hit.                                                   “What’s happened to Snell over                                this point, not to take it into                                        they’d had a softer helmet they’d                                 director of the Snell Foundation.
softest, with an ECE helmet very                                        extreme G forces.                                                             HELMET TO                                                                    Tough tests such as this have                                       the years is that in order to make                               consideration.”                                                        have been better off.”
close, then a BSI helmet, and then
a Snell helmet.                                                         On The Highway To Snell
                                                                                                                                                      MEET—IS A                                                                 driven helmet development over
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                the years. But do they have any
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       what’s perceived as a better hel-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       met, they kept raising the impact                                A World Of Hurt
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  How does the Snell
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Foundation respond to
   Because there are few human                                          On the stiff, tough-guy side of                                              TWO-STRIKE                                                                 practical application on the street,                                   energy. What they should have                                    Dr. Hurt sees the Snell standard                                       the criticism of head-
volunteers for high-impact helmet
testing—and because they would
                                                                        this debate is the voluntary Snell
                                                                        M2000/M2005 standard, which
                                                                                                                                                    TEST ONTO A                                                                 where a hit as hard as the hardest
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                single Snell impact may only hap-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       been doing, in my view, is lower-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       ing the allowable G force.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        in pretty much the same light.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           “What should the [G] limit on
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               injury scientists from
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               all over the world that
be a little confused after a hard                                       dictates each helmet be able to                                          HEMISPHERICAL                                                                  pen in 1 percent of actual acci-                                          “In my opinion, Snell should                                  helmets be? Just as helmet                                             the Snell standards
day of 200-G impacts—it’s done                                          withstand some tough, very high-                                               CHUNK OF                                                                 dents? And where an impact as                                          keep a 10-foot drop [in its test-                                designs should be rounder,                                             create helmets too
on a test rig.
   The helmets are dropped, using
                                                                        energy impacts.
                                                                           The Snell Memorial Foundation                                               STAINLESS                                                                severe as the two-drop hemi test
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                happens just short of never?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       ing]. But tell the manufacturers,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       ’OK, 300 Gs is not going to cut it
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        smoother and safer, they should
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        also be softer, softer, softer.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               stiff for optimum pro-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               tection in the great
gravity to accelerate the helmet                                        is a private, not-for-profit orga-                                          STEEL ABOUT                                                                    Dr. Jim Newman, an actual                                           anymore. Next year you’re
to a given speed before it smash-
es onto a test anvil bolted to the
                                                                        nization dedicated to “research,
                                                                        education, testing and develop-
                                                                                                                                                 THE SIZE OF AN                                                                 rocket scientist and highly
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                respected head-impact expert—
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       going to have to get down to
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       250. And the next year, 200.
floor. By varying the drop height                                       ment of helmet safety standards.”                                           ORANGE. THE                                                                 he was once a Snell Foundation                                         And the year after that, 185.’”                                                                                                                                                                           “And that impact shocks below
and the weight of the magnesium                                            If you think moving quickly over                                      FIRST HIT—150                                                                  director—puts it this way: “If                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   that threshold are going to be
headform inside the helmet, the
energy level of the test can be
                                                                        the surface of the planet is fun
                                                                        and you enjoy using your brain,                                           JOULES—IS AN                                                                  you want to create a realistic
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                helmet standard, you don’t go
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       The Brand Leading
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       The Brand
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    “We’re going with 300 Gs
easily varied and precisely                                             you should be grateful to the                                                 EXTREMELY                                                                 bashing helmets onto hemi-                                             “The Snell sticker,” continued                                                                                                                                                                            because we started with 400 Gs
repeated. As the helmet/head-
form falls it is guided by either a
                                                                        Snell Memorial Foundation. The
                                                                        SMF has helped create standards
                                                                                                                                                   HIGH-ENERGY                                                                  spherical steel balls. And you
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                certainly don’t do it twice.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Newman, “has become a mar-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       keting gimmick. By spending
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 back in the early days. And based
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 on [George Snively’s, the founder
steel track or a pair of steel                                          that have raised the bar in head                                          IMPACT ALL BY                                                                    “Over the last 30 years,” con-                                      60 cents [paid to the Snell                                                                                                                                                                               of the SMF] testing, and informa-
cables. That guiding system adds
friction to slow the fall slightly, so
                                                                        protection in nearly every pursuit
                                                                        in which humans hit their heads:
                                                                                                                                                          ITSELF.                                                               tinues Newman, “we’ve come to
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                the realization that people falling
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       foundation], a manufacturer
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       puts that sticker in his helmet
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 tion he’d gotten from the British
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Standards Institute, 400 Gs
the test technician corrects for                                        bicycles, horse riding, harness                                                                                                                         off motorcycles hardly ever, ever                                      and he can increase the price                                                                                                                                                                             seemed reasonable back then. He
this by raising the initial drop                                        racing, karting, mopeds, skate-                                          Hurt Report fame, “a little bit                                                hit their head in the same place                                       by $30 or $40. Or even $60                                                                                                                                                                                revised it downward over the
height accordingly.                                                     boards, rollerblades, recreational                                       excessive.”                                                                    twice. So we have helmets that                                         or $100.                                                                                                                                                                                                  years, largely because helmet
   The headform has an                                                  skiing, ski racing, ATV riding,                                            The killer—the hardest Snell                                                 are designed to withstand two                                             “Because there’s this allure,                                                                                                                                                                          standards were for healthy young
accelerometer inside that precisely                                     snowboarding, car racing and, of                                         test for a motorcycle helmet to                                                hits at the same site. But in                                          this charisma, this image associ-                                Because people are wearing                                             We used a state-of-the-art                                        men that were driving race cars.
records the force the headform                                          course, motorcycling.                                                    meet—is a two-strike test onto a                                               doing so, we have severely,                                            ated with a Snell sticker that                                   these so-called high-performance                                       helmet-testing rig at Collision                                   But after motorcycling had taken
receives, showing how many Gs                                              But as helmet technology has                                          hemispherical chunk of stainless                                               severely compromised their ability                                     says, ‘Hey, this is a better hel-                                helmets and are getting diffused                                       and Injury Dynamics. An                                           up those same helmets, he figured
the headform took as it stopped                                         improved and accident research                                           steel about the size of an orange.                                             to take one hit and absorb energy                                      met, and therefore must be                                       [brain] injuries … well, they’re                                       accelerometer inside the head-                                    that not everybody involved in
and for how long.                                                       has accumulated, many head-                                              The first hit is at an energy of                                               properly.                                                              worth a whole lot more money.’                                   screwed up for life. Taking 300                                        form transmits its findings to a                                  motorcycling was going to be a
   If you test a bunch of helmets                                       injury experts feel the Snell                                            150 joules, which translates to                                                   “The consequence is, when you                                       And in spite of the very best                                    Gs is not a safe thing.                                                computer, which calculates the                                    young man. So he concluded from
under the same conditions, you                                          M2000 and M2005 standards                                                dropping a 5-kilo weight about                                                 have one hit at one site in an                                         intentions of everybody at Snell,                                   “We’ve got people that we’ve                                        acceleration in Gs over the                                       work that he had done that the
can get a good idea of how well                                         are, to quote Dr. Harry Hurt of                                          10 feet—an extremely high-ener-                                                accident situation, two things                                         they did not have the field data                                 replicated helmet [impacts] on                                         8–10-millisecond impact.                                          threshold of injury was above 400

                          Fewer Gs = Less chance of brain injury                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 204 Gs                                 211 Gs
                               Red = Average overall Gs
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   201 Gs
                                                                                                                                                                                 182 GS                                                                                                                                                                    181 Gs                            183 Gs                               187 Gs                       188 Gs
                                                                                                        174 Gs                          169 Gs                                                                                                              171 GS                        173 Gs                        174 Gs
                                                                   157 Gs                                                                                                                                          161 Gs
                               152 Gs
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 SUOMY: SPEC 1R (ECE) (F)
                                                                                                                                                      SUOMY: SPEC 1R (BSI) (F)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          SCORPION: EXO-400 (P)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                SCORPION: EXO-700 (F)
                                                                                 PEP BOYS: RAIDER (P)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     ICON: MAINFRAME (P)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            ARAI: TRACKER GT (F)
                                                                                                                                                                                              SCHUBERTH: S-1 (F)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ICON: ALLIANCE (F)
                                                FULMER: AFD4 (P)

                                                                                                                     AGV: TI-TECH (F)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       VEMAR: VSR (F)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         SHARK: RSX (F)
              Z1R: ZRP-1 (P)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                HJC: AC-11 (F)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               AGV: X-R2 (F)
                               LF: 148 Gs                          LF: 152 Gs                           LF: 163 Gs                      LF: 156 Gs                               LF: 192 Gs                        LF: 151 Gs                               LF: 156 Gs                    LF: 166 Gs                    LF: 171 Gs                         LF: 168 Gs                        LF: 179 Gs                           LF: 185 Gs                   LF: 192 Gs                          LF: 193 Gs                    LF: 195 Gs                             LF: 207 Gs
                               RF: 176 Gs                          RF: 173 Gs                           RF: 199 Gs                      RF: 199 Gs                               RF: 215 Gs                        RF: 180 Gs                               RF: 200 Gs                    RF: 187 Gs                    RF: 198 Gs                         RF: 217 Gs                        RF: 200 Gs                           RF: 212 Gs                   RF: 226 Gs                          RF: 243 Gs                    RF: 230 Gs                             RF: 236 Gs
                               LR: 153 Gs                          LR: 175 Gs                           LR: 185 Gs                      LR: 195 Gs                               LR: 197 Gs                        LR: 176 Gs                               LR: 190 Gs                    LR: 201 Gs                    LR: 166 Gs                         LR: 189 Gs                        LR: 179 Gs                           LR: 193 Gs                   LR: 166 Gs                          LR: 203 Gs                    LR: 231 Gs                             LR: 226 Gs
                               RR: 130 Gs                          RR: 130 Gs                           RR: 152 Gs                      RR: 129 Gs                               RR: 126 Gs                        RR: 137 Gs                               RR: 140 Gs                    RR: 141 Gs                    RR: 162 Gs                         RR: 152 Gs                        RR: 175 Gs                           RR: 158 Gs                   RR: 167 Gs                          RR: 166 Gs                    RR: 163 Gs                             RR: 176 Gs
                               DOT-ONLY HELMETS                                                                                         BSI/DOT HELMETS                                                            ECE 22-05/DOT HELMETS                                                                                                                   SNELL 2000/DOT HELMETS

                          IMPACT KEY:
                          LF: Left Front, 7-foot drop, Flat Pavement RF: Right Front, 10-foot drop, Flat Pavement LR: Left Rear, 7-foot drop, Flat Pavement RR: Right Rear, 7-foot drop, Edge Anvil
                          SHELL KEY: (P): Polycarbonate (F): Fiberglass

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            June 2005         MOTORCYCLIST                           71
                                                                   Gs. But certainly below 600 Gs.           A patient’s AIS score is deter-    ing the DOT helmet standard,          the past may make that head more       have. Square each of those
                                                THE LIKELIHOOD        “The basis for the 300 G [limit     mined separately for each differ-     with its relatively low G-force       susceptible to injury.                 scores—that is, multiply them by
                                                OF DYING FROM      in the Snell M2000 standard] is        ent section of the body. So you       allowance.                               Is an impact over the theoreti-     themselves. Add the three results
                                                 A HEAD INJURY     that the foundation is conserva-
                                                                   tive. [The directors] have not seen
                                                                                                          could have an AIS 4 injury to your
                                                                                                          leg, an AIS 3 to your chest and
                                                                                                                                                   According to both these
                                                                                                                                                curves, exposing a human head to
                                                                                                                                                                                      cal 200 G/2 millisecond threshold
                                                                                                                                                                                      going to kill you? Probably not. Is
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             and compare them with the ISS
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Scale of Doom below.
                                                        GOES UP    an indication that a [head injury]     an AIS 5 injury to your head. And     a force over 200 Gs for more than 2   it going to hurt you? Depends on          A score of 75 means you’re
                                              DRAMATICALLY IF      threshold is below 300 Gs. If and
                                                                   when they do, they’ll certainly
                                                                                                          you’d be one hurtin’ puppy.
                                                                                                             Newman is quoted in the COST
                                                                                                                                                milliseconds is what medical
                                                                                                                                                experts refer to as “bad. Heads are
                                                                                                                                                                                      you, and how much over that
                                                                                                                                                                                      threshold your particular hit hap-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             dead. Sorry. Very few people with
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             an ISS of 70 see tomorrow either.
                                                      YOU HAVE     take it into account.”                 study on the impact levels likely     different, of course. Young,          pens to be. But head injuries             If you’re between 15 and 44
                                                OTHER INJURIES.       So nobody is being hurt by the      to cause certain levels of injury.    strong people can take more Gs        short of death are no joke. Five       years old, an ISS score of 40
                                               IT ALSO GOES UP     added stiffness of a Snell helmet,
                                                                   we asked.
                                                                                                          Back in the ’80s he stated that, as
                                                                                                          a rough guideline, a peak linear
                                                                                                                                                than old, weak people. Some prize-
                                                                                                                                                fighters can take huge hits again
                                                                                                                                                                                      million Americans suffer from dis-
                                                                                                                                                                                      abilities from what’s called
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             means you have a 50-50 chance
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             of making it. If you’re between
                                              WITH AGE. WHICH         “That’s certainly our hope          impact—the kind we’re measuring       and again and not seem to suffer      Traumatic Brain Injury—getting         45 and 64 years old, ISS 29 is
                                                 MEANS THAT A      here,” answered Becker. “At this
                                                                   point I’ve got no reason to think
                                                                                                          here—of 200 to 250 Gs generally
                                                                                                          corresponds to a head injury of
                                                                                                                                                any ill effects other than a ten-
                                                                                                                                                dency to sell hamburger cookers
                                                                                                                                                                                      hit too hard on the head. That’s
                                                                                                                                                                                      disabilities, meaning they ain’t the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             the 50-50 mark. And above 65
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             years old, the 50-50 level is an
                                                NICE, EASY AIS 3   anything else.”                        AIS 4, or severe; that a 250 G to     on late-night TV. And the impacts     same as they used to be.               ISS of 20.
                                                   HEAD INJURY                                            300 G impact corresponds to AIS       a particular head has undergone in       There’s another important fac-         For a 45- to 64-year old guy
                                                    CAN BE THE     European Style
                                                                   The Snell Foundation may have
                                                                                                          5, or critical; and that anything
                                                                                                          over 300 Gs corresponds to AIS 6.
                                                                                                                                                                                      tor that comes into play when
                                                                                                                                                                                      discussing how hard a hit you
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             such as myself, an ISS over 29
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             means I’ll probably die.
                                              BLOW THAT KILLS      no reason to think anything else.      That is, unsurvivable.                                                      should allow your brain to take:          If I get two “serious,” AIS 3
                                                    YOU IF YOU     But every scientist we spoke to,
                                                                   as well as the government stan-
                                                                                                             Newman isn’t the only scientist
                                                                                                          who thinks getting hit with much
                                                                                                                                                                                      the other injuries you’ll probably
                                                                                                                                                                                      get in a serious crash, and how
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             injuries—the aforementioned AIS
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             3 head hit and AIS 3 chest
                                                    HAVE SOME      dards agencies of the United           more than 200 Gs is a bad idea. In                                          the effects of your injuries add up.   thump—and a “severe” AIS 4 leg
                                                  OTHER MAJOR      States and the 50 countries that       fact, researchers have pretty much                                             The likelihood of dying from a      injury, my ISS score is … let’s see,
                                                       DAMAGE.     accept the ECE 22.05 standard,
                                                                   see things quite differently.
                                                                                                          agreed on that for 50 years.
                                                                                                             The Wayne State Tolerance
                                                                                                                                                                                      head injury goes up dramatically
                                                                                                                                                                                      if you have other major injuries as
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             3 times 3 is 9. Twice that is 18. 4
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             times 4 is 16. 18 and 16 is 34.
                                                                      The European Union recently         Curve is the result of a pretty                                             well. It also goes up with age.        Ooops. Gotta go.
                                                                   released an extensive helmet           gruesome series of experiments                                              Which means that a nice, easy             Drop my AIS 3 head injury to
                                                                   study called COST 327, which           back in the ’50s and ’60s in                                                AIS 3 head injury, which might be      an AIS 2 and my ISS score is 29.
                                                                   involved close study of 253            which dogs’ brains were blasted                                             perfectly survivable on its own,       Now I’ve got a 50-50 shot.
                                                                   recent motorcycle accidents in         with bursts of compressed air,                                              can be the injury that kills you if       Obviously, this means it’s very
                                                                   Germany, Finland and the U.K.          monkeys were bashed on the                                                  you already have other major           important to keep the level of
                                                                   This is how they summarized the        skull, and the heads of dead peo-                                           injuries. Which, as it happens, you    head injury as low as possible.
                                                                   state of the helmet art after ana-     ple were dropped to see just how      Helmet designers have                 are very likely to have in a serious   Because even if the head injury
                                                                   lyzing the accidents and the dam-      hard they could be hit before big-    devised a number of differ-
                                                                   age done to the helmets and the        time injury set in. This study’s      ent liner designs to meet
                                                                   people: “Current designs are too       results were backed up by the         the different standards. The
                                                                   stiff and too resilient, and energy    JARI Human Head Impact                Vemar VSR (top) uses
                                                                   is absorbed efficiently only at val-   Tolerance Curve, published in ’80     stiffer EPS than most, but
                                                                   ues of HIC [Head Injury Criteria: a    by a Japanese group who did fur-      has channels molded in to
                                                                   measure of G force over time]          ther unspeakable things to mon-       soften the assembly (to ECE
                                                                   well above those which are sur-        keys, among other medically nec-      specs) and enhance cooling.
                                                                   vivable.”                              essary atrocities.                    The Schuberth S1 (right)
                                                                      As we said, it’s a lively debate.      The two tolerance curves agree     uses five separate foam
                                                                                                          on how many Gs you can apply to       parts glued together to
                                                                   How hurt is hurt?                      a human head for how long             meet the ECE standard. And
                                                                   Doctors and head-injury                before a concussion or other          the Z1R ZRP-1(below left)
                                                                   researchers use a simplified rat-      more serious brain injury occurs.     uses a soft, one-piece liner
                                                                   ing of injuries, called the            And the Wayne State Tolerance         to soak up joule after joule
                                                                   Abbreviated Injury Scale, or AIS,      Curve was instrumental in creat-      of nasty impact energy.
                                                                   to describe how severely a
The helmets are mounted
                                                                   patient is hurt when they come
on a 5-kilo (11 pound)
                                                                   into a trauma facility. AIS 1                                                                                      motorcycle crash.                      itself is survivable on its own,
magnesium headform
                                                                   means you’ve been barely injured.                                                                                     The COST study was limited to       sustaining a more severe injury—
and then dropped from
                                                                   AIS 6 means you’re dead, or sure                                                                                   people who had hit their helmets       even between relatively low injury
a controlled height onto
                                                                   to be dead very soon.                                                                                              on the pavement in their acci-         levels—may not just mean a
a variety of test anvils
                                                                      Here’s the entire AIS scale:                                                                                    dents. Of these, 67 percent sus-       longer hospital stay, it may be
to simulate crash
                                                                                                                                                                                      tained some kind of head injury.       the ticket that transfers you from
impacts on various sur-
                                                                     AIS 1 = Minor                                                                                                    Even more—73 percent—sus-              your warm, cushy bed in the
faces and shapes. In the
                                                                     AIS 2 = Moderate                                                                                                 tained leg injuries, and 57 per-       trauma unit to that cold, sliding
real world, your helmet
                                                                     AIS 3 = Serious                                                                                                  cent had thorax injuries.              slab downstairs.
actually hits flat pave-
                                                                     AIS 4 = Severe                                                                                                      You can even calculate your
ment more than 85 per-
                                                                     AIS 5 = Critical                                                                                                 odds using the Injury Severity         Department Of Testing
cent of the time.
                                                                     AIS 6 = Unsurvivable                                                                                             Score, or ISS. Take the AIS scores     In the other corner of the U.S.
                                                                                                                                                                                      for the worst three injuries you       helmet cage-fighting octagon is

72   WWW.MOTORCYCLISTONLINE.COM   June 2005                                                                                                                                                                                   June 2005    MOTORCYCLIST        73

the DOT standard. It mandates a        DOT, ECE BSI, SMF—Let’s                after all the braking and skidding,   home. Because no matter where
testing regimen of moderate-           Call The Whole Thing Off               below 25 mph. This was first          you go, you always leave your
energy impacts, which happen in        In a typical large motorcycle deal-    revealed in the Hurt Report but       own neighborhood and come
90 percent or more of actual           ership you’re likely to find hel-      has been recently backed up by        back to it. And making it through
accidents, according to the Hurt       mets that conform to all these         two other studies, a similar one in   traffic-filled intersections—the
Report and other, more recent          standards.                             Thailand and especially the COST      ones near your home—is the
studies.                                  Most U.S.-market full-face hel-     327 study done in the European        most dangerous thing you do on
   Where the Snell standard limits     mets made in Asia—Arai, HJC,           Union, where people have fast         a street motorcycle.
peak linear acceleration to 300 G,     Icon, KBC, ScorpionExo, Shoei,         bikes and like to ride very quickly      The next-biggest group of typ-
the DOT effectively limits peak Gs     and most Fulmer models—are             on some roads with no speed           ical accidents happens at night,
to 250. Softer impacts, lower G        Snell M2000 or M2005 certified.        limits at all.                        often on a weekend, at higher
tolerance. In short, a kinder, gen-    (The Snell standard did not               Actual crash speeds are slow,      speeds. They are much more like-
tler standard.                         change substantially from              but the damage isn’t. These are       ly to involve alcohol, and often
   The DOT standard has                M2000 to M2005.) Most hel-             serious, often fatal crashes. Most    take place when a rider goes off
acquired something of a low-rent       mets from European compa-              of these crashes hap-                 the road alone. These two groups
reputation for a number of rea-        nies—Vemar, Shark, Schuberth,          pen very                                        of accidents account for
sons. First, it comes from the         etc.—conform to the ECE 22-05          close to                                                  almost 75 per-
Gubmint, and the Gubmint, as we        standard.                                                                                             cent of all
know, can’t do anything right.            Suomy helmets sold under its
   The DOT standard, like laws         own name conform to either the
against, say, murder, also relies on   ECE or the BSI standard, but
the honor system; that is, there’s     Suomy private-labels some hel-
only a penalty involved if you         mets to brands such as Ducati
break it and sell a non-complying      that are built and certified to
helmet and get caught.                 Snell. Some AGV models sold here
Manufacturers are required to do       are made to Snell standards,
their own testing and then certify     some to BSI. And a few Asian-
that their helmets meet the stan-      made helmets are DOT-only.
dards. But it also gives helmet        Among major manufactur-
designers quite a bit of freedom to    ers, Z1R (a subbrand of
design a helmet the way they think     Parts Unlimited) and
it ought to be for optimum overall     Fulmer Helmets sell
protection. The question is, how       DOT-only lids at the
well are those designers doing         lower end of their
their job with all that freedom?       pricing scales. You
                                       can also get ’em at
                                       Pep Boys under the
                                       Raider brand name.

            THE DOT                    Hurts So Good
         STANDARD,                     To talk about helmet design and
                                       performance with any measure
     LIKE THE LAWS                     of authority, we should first
      AGAINST, SAY,                    look at the kinds of accidents
                                       that actually occur. The Hurt
            MURDER,                    Report, issued in ’81, was the
     RELIES ON THE                     first, last and only serious study
              HONOR                    on real motorcycle accidents in
                                       the U.S. The study was done by
     SYSTEM; THAT                      some very smart, very reputable
          IS, THERE’S                  scientists and researchers at the
                                       University of Southern California.
              ONLY A                   The Hurt researchers came to
         PENALTY IF                    some surprising and illuminating
        YOU BREAK                      conclusions—conclusions that
                                       have not been seriously chal-
        THE LAW BY                     lenged since.
           SELLING A                      First, about half of all serious
                NON-                   motorcycle accidents happen            All the Snell/DOT helmets we examined use a dual-density foam
        COMPLYING                      when a car pulls in front of a bike    liner. The upper cap of foam on this Scorpion liner is softer to
       HELMET AND                      in traffic. These accidents typical-
                                       ly happen at very low speeds,
                                                                              compensate for the extra stiffness of the spherical upper shell
                                                                              area. Some manufacturers, including Arai and HJC, use a one-
       GET CAUGHT.                     with a typical impact velocity,        piece liner with two different densities molded together.

74   WWW.MOTORCYCLISTONLINE.COM            June 2005

serious crashes. So the accident      met—will have to absorb in a           those involved in truly awful,     on average, three other injuries
we are most afraid of, and the        crash. That is, according to the       bone-crushing, aorta-popping       that would have killed them if the
one we tend to buy our helmets        Hurt Report and the similar            crashes, did sustain potentially   head injury hadn’t.
for—crashing at high speeds, out      Thailand study, going faster when      fatal head injuries even though        In other words, a crash violent
sport riding—is relatively rare.      you fall off does not typically        they were wearing helmets. The     enough to overwhelm any decent
   Even though many motorcycles       result in your helmet taking a         problem was that they also had,    helmet will usually destroy the
were capable of running the           harder hit.                                                               rest of the body as well.
quarter-mile in 11 seconds (or           How can this be? Because the                                               Newman put this into per-
less) and topping 140 mph back        vast majority of head impacts                                               spective. “In most cases, bot-
in ’81, not one of the 900-odd        occur when the rider falls off his                                              toming [compressing a hel-
accidents investigated in the Hurt    bike and simply hits his head on                                                  met’s EPS completely] is
study involved a speed over 100       the flat road surface. The biggest                                                   not going to occur
mph. The “one in a thousand”          impact in a given crash will typi-                                                    except in really violent
speed seen in the Hurt Report         cally happen on that first contact,                                                   accidents. And in these
was 86 mph, meaning only one of       and the energy is proportional to                                                     kind of cases, one
the accidents seen in the 900-        the height from which the rider                                                      might legitimately won-
crash study occurred at or above      falls—not his forward speed at                                                      der whether there is any-
that speed. And the COST 327          the time. A big highside may give                                                 thing you could do.”
study, done recently in the land      a rider some extra altitude, but                                                  How many people were
of the autobahn, contained very       rarely higher than 8 feet. A high-                                             saved because their helmet
few crashes over 120 kph, or 75       speed crash may involve a lot of                                              was designed to a “higher” or
mph. The big lesson here is this:     sliding along the ground, but this                                           “higher energy” standard than
It’s a mistake to assume that         is not particularly challenging to a                                        the DOT standard? As far as
going really fast causes a signifi-   helmeted head because all mod-                                            the Hurt researchers could
cant number of accidents just         ern full-face helmets do an excel-                                        ascertain, none.
because a motorcycle can go           lent job of protecting you from                                               But the Hurt Report was done
really fast.                          abrasion.                                                                 nearly 25 years ago. There have
   Another eye-opener: In spite of       In fact, the vast majority of                                          been a couple of significant
what one might assume, the            crashed helmets examined in the
speed at which an accident starts     Hurt Report showed that they
does not necessarily correlate to     had absorbed about the same
the impact the head—or hel-           impact you’d receive if you simply
                                      tipped over while standing, like a
   DR. NEWMAN                         bowling pin, and hit your head on
                                      the pavement. Ninety-plus per-
     PUT IT THIS                      cent of the head impacts sur-                                                           Fiberglass helmets
WAY: “IN MOST                         veyed, in fact, were equal to or
                                      less than the force involved in a
                                                                                                                              such as the
                                                                                                                              Schuberth S1 (top)
          CASES,                      7-foot drop. And 99 percent of                                                          and the Arai
    BOTTOMING                         the impacts were at or below the                                                        Tracker (center)
 [COMPRESSING                         energy of a 10-foot drop.                                                               showed substan-
                                                                                                                              tial damage to
A HELMET’S EPS                        To Snell? Or Not To Snell?                                                              their shells after
COMPLETELY] IS                        In analyzing the accident-involved
                                      helmets, the Hurt researchers
                                                                                                                              the edge impact.
                                                                                                                              The polycarbon-
 NOT GOING TO                         also addressed whether helmets                                                          ate-shell helmets,
 OCCUR EXCEPT                         certified to different standards                                                        such as the
      IN REALLY                       actually performed differently in
                                      real crashes; that is, did a Snell-
                                                                                                                              Scorpion EXO-
                                                                                                                              400, were largely
        VIOLENT                       certified helmet work better at                                                         unmarked. Neither
     ACCIDENTS.                       protecting a person in the real
                                      world than a plain old DOT-certi-
                                                                                                                              result is essentially
                                                                                                                              better: Either shell
  AND IN THESE                        fied or equivalent helmet? The                                                          material can be
KIND OF CASES,                        answer was no. In real street                                                           used to make
     ONE MIGHT                        conditions, the DOT or equivalent
                                      helmets worked just as well as
                                                                                                                              excellent helmets.
  LEGITIMATELY                        the Snell-certified helmets.                                                            helmets generally
       WONDER                            In the case of fatal accidents,
                                      there was one more important
                                                                                                                              transmit fewer Gs
                                                                                                                              to the head in our
      WHETHER                         discovery in the Hurt Report:                                                           testing than fiber-
 THERE IS ANY-                        There were essentially no deaths                                                        glass-shell lids,
     THING YOU                        to helmeted riders from head
                                      injuries alone.
                                                                                                                              even when certi-
                                                                                                                              fied to the same
    COULD DO.”                           Some people in the study,                                                            standards.

76   WWW.MOTORCYCLISTONLINE.COM           June 2005

accident studies done since.                         IF YOU TALK TO                                                                   study estimated that bet-
Both of which, by our reading,
tend to back up the Hurt                             THE REPRESEN-                                                                      ter, more energy-
                                                                                                                                         absorbent helmets
Report’s findings.                                        TATIVES OF                                                                     could reduce motorcycle
   The COST 327 study investi-
gated 253 motorcycle accidents
                                                       MANY OF THE                                                                       fatalities up to 20 per-
                                                                                                                                         cent. If that estimate is
in Finland, Germany and the                               TOP SNELL-                                                                     legitimate and was
United Kingdom, from ’95–’98.                              APPROVED                                                                      applied in the U.S., it
Of these, the investigators
selected 20 well-documented                            HELMET COM-                                                                      would mean saving
                                                                                                                                       about 700 American rid-
crashes and replicated the                           PANIES, THEY’LL                                                                 ers’ lives a year.
impact from those crashes by
doing drop tests on identical hel-
                                                     IMPLY HELMETS                                                                    There’s no good reason
                                                                                                                                 to think things are different
mets in the lab until they got the                      CERTIFIED TO                                                        here in the States than in
same helmet damage. This                             LOWER-ENERGY                                                           Germany, Britain and Finland, all
allowed them to find out how
hard the helmet in the accident                        STANDARDS—                                                           modern, well-developed, super-
                                                                                                                            bike-rich countries. Heads are
had been hit, and to correlate                          THAT WOULD                                                          heads, asphalt is asphalt, and
the impact with the injuries actu-
ally suffered by the rider or pas-
                                                      BE ANY OTHER                    pass the softer ECE standard
                                                                                      required there.
                                                                                                                            falling bodies operate under the
                                                                                                                            same laws of physics there as
senger.                                                 STANDARD IN                      In other words, the latest rele-   they do here in America.
   The COST 327 results showed                         THE WORLD—                     vant study, which used state-of-         If you ask most head-impact
that some very serious and
potentially fatal head injuries can                       ARE SUSPI-                  the-art methods and covered
                                                                                      accidents in countries where
                                                                                                                            scientists or the representatives
                                                                                                                            of the European helmet manufac-
occur at impact levels that stiffer                  CIOUS OBJECTS,                   there are plenty of 10-second,        turers how they like the Snell
current helmet standards—such
as Snell M2000 and M2005—
                                                        LIKE SMOKED                   160-mph superbikes running
                                                                                      around, concluded that current
                                                                                                                            M2000/M2005 standard, they
                                                                                                                            will generally tell you it’s unrealis-
allow helmets to exceed.                                CLAMS FROM                    standards—even the relatively         tic, based more on supposition
   And remember, these guys are                        THE 99 CENTS                   soft ECE standards—are allowing       than on science, and forces man-
investigating crashes in Europe,
where Snell-rated helmets are a                          ONLY STORE.                  riders’ heads to be routinely sub-
                                                                                      jected to forces that can severely
                                                                                                                            ufacturers to make helmets that
                                                                                                                            are stiffer than they should be.
rarity because they can’t generally                                                   injure or kill them. The COST            If you ask the representatives
                                                                                                                            of many of the top Snell-
                                                                                                                            approved helmet companies,
                                                                                                                            they’ll say the Snell standard is a
                                                                                                                            wonderful thing, and they’ll imply

                          STANDARD     SNELL       DOT                  BSI 6658-85   ECE               COST 327
                                       M2000/M2005 FMVSS 218            TYPE A        EN 22-05          (PROPOSED ECE)      helmets certified to lower-energy
                                                                                                                            standards—that would be any
                          FLAT ANVIL   Two drops       Two drops        Two drops     One drop          One drop            other standard in the world—are
                                       (all sizes)     Small: 63 J      (all sizes)   Small: 115.3 J    Medium: 180 J       suspicious objects, like smoked
                                       1st: 150 J      Medium: 90 J     1st: 141 J    Medium: 132.2 J   One drop            clams from the 99 Cents Only
                                       2nd: 110 J      Large: 109.8 J   2nd: 70 J     Large: 157.5 J    Medium: 100 J       store. And not as good at pro-
                                                                                                                            tecting you in an extremely high-
                          HEMI ANVIL   Two drops       Two drops        Two drops
                                                                                                                            energy mega-crash as a Snell-
                                       (all sizes)     Small: 47.3 J    (all sizes)
                                                                                                                            approved helmet is.
                                       1st: 150 J      Medium: 67.6 J   1st: 123 J
                                                                                                                               What the Snell advocates won’t
                                       2nd: 110 J      Large: 82.5 J    2nd: 63 J
                                                                                                                            tell you is that when these same
                          CURB ANVIL                                                  One drop          One drop            makers sell their helmets in
                                                                                      Small: 115.3 J    Medium: 180 J       Europe, Japan and the U.K., they
                                                                                      Medium: 132.2 J   One Drop            are not the same helmets they
                                                                                      Large: 157.5 J    Medium: 100 J       sell here, and they’re not Snell
                                                                                                                            rated. They are built softer, tai-
                          EDGE ANVIL   One drop                                                                             lored to conform to exactly the
                                       (all sizes)                                                                          same ECE or BSI standards as the
                                       150 J                                                                                European makers.
                                                                                                                               If you get these two groups of
                          ALLOWED      300 Gs          250 Gs           300 Gs        275 Gs            180 Gs for          folks in a room together and ask
                          PEAK Gs                      (dictated by                                     100 J drops         these questions, we’d suggest
                                                       dwell-time                                                           wearing a helmet yourself.
                                                       limits)                                          275 Gs for
                                                                                                        180 J drops         Can Less Be More?
                                                                                                                            In the last 10 to 15 years a num-
                                                                                                                            ber of Asian-made helmet brands
                                                                                                                            such as HJC, Icon, KBC and

78                   WWW.MOTORCYCLISTONLINE.COM       June 2005

Scorpion have entered the market         Village People concert.                  In the end, we wound up with       send mislabeled, ringer helmets.
to challenge the once-reigning              In six months of researching        16 models, 32 helmets in all. A         We needed somebody to help
Japanese leaders, Shoei and Arai.        this article, I spoke to many helmet   look at the accompanying chart       us design the tests and do the
   These new brands offer hel-           company representatives. Some in       (pages 70–71) will give you a        actual testing. So we hired David
mets that look and feel pretty           civil tones. Some not so much.         rundown of the helmet brands         Thom. Remember the Hurt
much like the Arais and Shoeis we        One, in particular, summed up the      that elected to participate and      Report? Thom was one of the USC
were used to wearing and seeing          Snell-or-not quandary best. It was     the models they sent. A number       researchers who went out to
on all the magazine covers, but at       Phil Davy, brand manager for the       of manufacturers chose not to        investigate all those motorcycle
substantially lower prices.              very popular Icon helmets and rid-     participate: Bell, KBC, OGK, Shoei   accidents and then helped pull it all
Problem is, a lower price, espe-         ing gear. “When you build a helmet     and Simpson were contacted           together. Thom worked at USC
cially in a potentially life-saving      for this market, meeting the Snell     repeatedly, but chose not to         with Professor Harry Hurt for
piece of safety equipment, can do        standard is your first, second,        send helmets. We also tested a       many years, investigating all the
as much harm as good to a                third, fourth and fifth concern. You   couple of full-face Raider hel-      various ways motorcyclists and
brand. There’s always the percep-        can then start designing a helmet      mets purchased from Pep Boys         other folk hurt themselves, and
tion lingering in a buyer’s mind         that’s safe,” he said.                 for $69.95 a pop.                    striving mightily to find better
that a product can’t be as good             It is important to note that          Unlike other standards testing,    ways to protect them.
or protect as well if it doesn’t         every one of Davy’s Icon helmets       where the test parameters are           Thom subsequently formed his
cost as much.                            is Snell certified. He’s no fool.      published years ahead of time, we    own company, Collision and
   So what can a lower-priced                                                   did not reveal the actual tests we   Injury Dynamics. He has his own
maker do to enhance its brand            The Rules Rule                         were going to perform before we      state-of-the-art helmet impact
reputation? Get Snell certified.         OK. We promised an actual hel-         did the testing. So there was,       lab where he does impartial,
Whether they think a Snell helmet        met impact test, and it’s time to      essentially, no chance for them to   objective certification testing for
is actually better at head protec-       give it to you.                                                             many helmet companies. The
tion or not—and there’s no short-           We asked the major helmet                                                  DOT standard, for instance,
age of debate on that subject—           brands sold in the U.S. to each                                                       relies on companies
they’re essentially over a barrel. If    pick one model of their helmets.                                                             certifying their
they don’t get Snell certified, they     We asked for two functionally                                                                     own helmets,
give the perception their products       identical helmets in the same                                                                     continued on
are not as good as the others on         size, medium or 71⁄4. Why two?                                                                        page 140
the shelf. And their helmets will sell   To give us a look at the con-
like Girls Gone Wild videos at a         sistency of the manufacturer’s
                                         production techniques. Why
                                         all one size? To make sure
  WE SUBJECTED                           any differences we saw were
                                         due to design and production
    THE SOFTEST                          differences, not random dif-
 HELMETS—THE                             ferences due to sizing. And we
                                         wanted to use the same-size
  Z1R ZRP-1S—                            headform in all our testing,
      TO EXTRA,                          again for consistency.
     “LET’S-KILL-                           We were also interested in
                                         learning as much as we could
   THEM-IF-WE-                           about different helmet construc-
 CAN” IMPACTS.                           tions, and about how helmets
                                         built to different standards vary.
    WE RAN THE                           So if a manufacturer made both
  RIG UP TO THE                          fiberglass-shell and plastic-shell
   MAX AND LET                           helmets, we asked for a pair of
                                         each. And if a manufacturer
      FLY. THESE                         made helmets to two different
     INDIVIDUAL                          standards, we asked for both
                                         as well.
 IMPACTS WERE                               Icon and Scorpion sent
           TRULY                         both fiberglass and poly-
 MONSTROUS—                              carbonate helmets, all
                                         Snell/DOT-rated. AGV
   WAY BEYOND                            sent a pair of
  THOSE CALLED                           Snell/DOT-rated
                                         X-R2s and a pair
     FOR IN ANY                          of BSI/DOT-rated
     STANDARD,                           TiTechs. And Suomy
   SNELL M2005                           sent the same model, its
                                         Spec 1R, in both BSI-rated and
      INCLUDED.                          ECE-rated versions.

80   WWW.MOTORCYCLISTONLINE.COM               June 2005
continued from page 80

and Thom is one of the people
they contract with to do the
                                         Three of the four impacts we
                                      planned for each helmet would
                                                                            they investigated.
                                                                               We also did one high-energy                    REAL   the helmet test rig than to play
                                                                                                                                     nice with the helmets. If a single
                                                                                                                                                                            impact testing were exactly as
                                                                                                                                                                            expected—but still surprising
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   helmet designers themselves.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      All the helmets we tested per-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        they all handled the low-energy
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        impacts, even the scary-looking
actual testing. In other words, he    be on that flat asphalt surface—      drop with an energy of 150                MOTORCYCLE     helmet bottoms out and squishes        as hell.                               formed exactly as the standards      edge impact, without strain.
knows what he’s doing.
  We had no interest in checking
                                      simply because that’s what real
                                      motorcyclists land on when they
                                                                            joules, the same energy—about a
                                                                            10-foot drop—as the hardest hit             ACCIDENTS    its EPS liner flat, the total impact
                                                                                                                                     goes right into the headform and
                                                                                                                                                                               The helmets ranged from the
                                                                                                                                                                            softest regimen, the DOT stan-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   they were designed to meet pre-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   dicted. And they seemed to
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           In fact, in most cases the peak
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Gs in the edge impact were lower
to see whether our helmets con-       fall, more than 75 percent of the     specified in the Snell standards,           DON’T END    test rig—as it would to your           dard, to the Snell standard, the       exceed those standards—that is,      than the flat-anvil peak Gs for
form to any specific standard.
Because a helmet’s job is protect-
                                      time. The Hurt Report estab-
                                      lished this, and in the recent
                                                                            on the right front of each helmet.
                                                                            That’s 66 percent more violent          WITH A HELMET    head. And just like your head, the
                                                                                                                                     test rig is gonna break. We
                                                                                                                                                                            stiffest. But would the real-
                                                                                                                                                                            world, production-spec helmets
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   the DOT-only helmets were bet-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   ter at high-energy impacts than
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        the same helmet at the same
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        impact energy. Why is this?
ing your head, not passing a          Thailand helmet study 87.4 per-       than the drop specified by the               HITTING A   weren’t sure all the helmets           actually show that progression         they had to be just to pass the      Because the edge impact flexes
standard. We came up with our
own battery of tests designed to
                                      cent of the helmet hits were
                                      from the road surface or the
                                                                            DOT standard for a medium-
                                                                            sized helmet, and represents the            MACHINED     would survive the 150-joule edge
                                                                                                                                     drop, so we pulled back to the
                                                                                                                                                                            from soft to stiff? In other words,
                                                                                                                                                                            can you predict how stiff a hel-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   DOT standard, and the Snell hel-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   mets were better at absorbing
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        and/or delaminates the helmet
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        shell sooner in the impact, letting
duplicate, as best we could, the      shoulder. Helmets do hit curbs a      99th-percentile impact seen in               STAINLESS   100-joule level. Fracturing the rig    met will be simply by looking at       low-energy impacts than they         the EPS inside—the real energy
impacts that really happen on a
statistically significant basis.
                                      small percentage of the time, but
                                      usually after sliding along on the
                                                                            the Hurt Report. Which means 1
                                                                            percent or fewer impacts seen on         STEEL ANVIL—    would put us out of commission
                                                                                                                                     for days, and we didn’t have the
                                                                                                                                                                            the standard label?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   had to be to pass DOT or Snell.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      So choosing a helmet, at least
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        absorber in the system—start
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        doing its work sooner.
  Real motorcycle accidents           road first, which means that in       the street exceeded this energy           THEY END UP    time—or money—to risk that.               In fact, our results show that      in terms of safety, is not a ques-      In the high-energy impact, the
don’t end with a helmet hitting a
machined stainless-steel anvil—
                                      most cases they are actually hit-
                                      ting a flat surface—the vertical
                                                                            level. So we weren’t exactly tak-
                                                                            ing it easy.                            WITH A HELMET       In the end we were too conser-
                                                                                                                                     vative. When we inspected the
                                                                                                                                                                            modern helmets are all made with
                                                                                                                                                                            an amazing degree of precision,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   tion of choosing high or low qual-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   ity, it’s one of choosing what
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3-meter, 150-joule drop—the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        kind of hit a Snell helmet is, pre-
they end up with a helmet bash-       plane of the curb.                       To see what happens when             BASHING DOWN     helmets after the full course of       with their shell construction, liner   degree of stiffness you prefer,      sumably, designed to with-
ing down on good old lumpy,
gravel-studded asphalt. So the
                                         For the energy of each drop,
                                      we selected a range of hits typi-
                                                                            you’re unlucky enough to rear-
                                                                            end a truck’s lift gate, slide into a        ON GOOD     testing, the 100-joule edge hit
                                                                                                                                     hadn’t come close to bottoming
                                                                                                                                                                            density and liner thickness all
                                                                                                                                                                            controlled very well in the pro-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   finding a helmet in that range by
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   choosing a particular standard,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        stand—the differences became
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        more apparent.
industrious Thom grabbed a            cal of both the DOT and Snell         storm drain or be flung into the           OLD LUMPY,    any of the helmets—even the            duction process. In other words,       and then worrying about fine            The stiffest helmets in the Big
square-foot piece of Sheldon
Street in El Segundo, California,
                                      testing regimens. We hit the left
                                      front and the left rear of the hel-
                                                                            Eiffel Tower, we also did an edge
                                                                            hit onto a scary-looking piece of              GRAVEL-   supposedly wimpy DOT-only
                                                                                                                                     ones. We are confident we could
                                                                                                                                                                            almost everybody designing seri-
                                                                                                                                                                            ous helmets seems to know
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   points like fit, comfort, ventila-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   tion, graphics, racer endorse-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Drop test, the Arai Tracker GTs,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        hit our hypothetical head with an
the street out in front of his lab,   mets with an energy of 100            upright steel bar. We debated                 STUDDED    have done the edge test at the         exactly how to get what they           ments or computer-generated          average of 243 peak Gs. The
when the paving crew tore it up
for resurfacing. Set in concrete,
                                      joules, which translates to a drop
                                      of about 2 meters, or 6.6 feet.
                                                                            whether to do this hit at a 2-
                                                                            meter, 100-joule energy level or              ASPHALT.   99th-percentile 150 joules—the
                                                                                                                                     Snell edge-anvil test—and seen
                                                                                                                                                                            want—the only variable is decid-
                                                                                                                                                                            ing what they want. And for the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   spokesmodels.                        softest helmets, the Z1R ZRP-1s,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        bonked the noggin with an aver-
that would be our “anvil,” as         According to the Hurt Report,         a more violent 3-meter, 150-                             results commensurate with those        most part, the standards make          How Hard Is Hard?                    age of 176 peak Gs. This is a
they say in the biz, for flat-        this drop represents the 90th-        joule impact level. We opted for                         we saw from the other impacts.         that decision for them, not flash-     Not one helmet came close to bot-    classic comparison of a stiff,
surface impacts.                      percentile energy of the crashes      the smaller hit, more to protect                            The results of all our laborious    es of genius on the parts of the       toming in any of our tests. And      fiberglass, Snell-rated helmet, the

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Arai, against a softer, polycar-
bonate-shell, DOT-only helmet,
                                       mets transferred an average of
                                       20 fewer Gs compared with their
                                                                              a high-priced—that is, fiber-
                                                                              glass—Snell-certified helmet. So
                                                                                                                   unharmed: The slight road rash
                                                                                                                   at the impact sites caused by our       IN OUR BIG 3-    through our tests with protection
                                                                                                                                                                            to spare. But doubt lingered, in
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   comparable to the others. But it
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   showed, in no uncertain terms,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         the test, the $69.95 Pep Boys
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Raiders, also did well in all the
the Z1R.                               fiberglass brothers, which were        at the high end of impact energy,    stubborn insistence on hitting           METER HIT—      spite of everything we had seen:       just how tough—and how pro-           standard impacts. But we can’t
   OK. So let’s agree that we want
to subject our heads to the mini-
                                       presumably designed by the same
                                       engineers to meet the same stan-
                                                                              we have the Snell Foundation
                                                                              vouching for their performance.
                                                                                                                   actual pavement looked no
                                                                                                                   worse than we’d expect if the            THE KIND OF     How would they do in a monster,
                                                                                                                                                                            wicked-big impact?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   tective—an inexpensive helmet
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   can be.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         recommend them because their
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         chin bars have soft, resilient
mum possible G force. Should we        dards, and built in the same fac-      And our testing, without the         helmet had fallen off the seat at           BASH ONE        So we decided to kill them. We         The peak Gs for the monster        foam, not the EPS you need to
pick an impressive, expensive
                                       tories by the same people.
                                          Why is this? We’re guessing—
                                                                              extreme two-hit hemi test, says
                                                                              they’re actually superior.
                                                                                                                   a rest stop.
                                                                                                                      When we pulled the ZRP-1s            MIGHT EXPECT     ran the Z1Rs up the test rig one
                                                                                                                                                                            last time. Not just to the 10-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   hits were 208 for the curb
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   impact and 209 for the flat-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         absorb a severe head-on impact.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Our advice is to spring for the
fiber helmet—or one of those           but it’s a really good guess: The                                           apart, the EPS had cracked and          WOULD SHOW       foot, 150-joule Snell test height,     pavement impact. Just a few Gs        extra $10 and treat yourself to a
less-expensive plastic-shelled
                                       EPS liner inside the shell is better
                                       at absorbing energy than the
                                                                              Score One For Faceless
                                                                              Government Bureaucrats
                                                                                                                   compressed at the impact sites,
                                                                                                                   just as it’s supposed to do, and           THE WEAK-     but all the way to the top of the
                                                                                                                                                                            rig: 3.9 meters, or 13 feet. This
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   more, that is, than many of the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Snell-rated helmets transmitted in
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Z1R ZRP-1.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Another helmet that taught
   Conventional helmet-biz wis-        shell. The polycarbonate shells        The DOT helmets we had were all      just as it did in every other hel-       NESSES OF A     hit would be at 8.5 meters per         their seven-foot hits on the flat     us a thing or two was the
dom says fiberglass construction
is somehow better at absorbing
                                       flex rather than crush and delami-
                                       nate, and this flexing, far from
                                                                              plastic-shelled, and none cost
                                                                              more than $100. How did they
                                                                                                                   met. But it had come nowhere
                                                                                                                   near bottoming; there was still an             PLASTIC   second, an energy of 185 joules.
                                                                                                                                                                            That’s higher and harder than
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   anvil. And even after these mega
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   hits, the EPS liners were still
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Schuberth S-1. The Schuberth
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         is certified to the ECE 22-05
energy than plastic—something          being a problem, actually lets the     do? They kicked butt. In what        inch or more of impact-absorbing          SHELL—THE      any existing helmet standard           nowhere near used up.                 standard, which dictates impact
about the energy of the crash
being used up in delaminating the
                                       EPS do more of its job of energy
                                       absorption while transferring less
                                                                              must be considered a head-
                                                                              impact Cinderella story, the DOT-
                                                                                                                   foam left. And the plastic shell
                                                                                                                   seemed completely unharmed,              PLASTIC HEL-    impact. And, not coincidentally,
                                                                                                                                                                            the same height and energy
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The ZRP-1s are also well fin-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   ished, quiet and very comfort-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         energies marginally higher than
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         the DOT standard. Like the Z1R
shell. And that a stiffer shell lets   energy to the head.                    only helmets from Z1R delivered      from the inside as well as the         METS ACTUALLY     called out in the COST 327 pro-        able, though maybe a little short     ZRP-1 and the Fulmer AFD4, it
a designer use softer foam
inside—which might absorb
                                          Remember, these polycarbon-
                                       ate helmets from both Icon and
                                                                              less average G force to the head-
                                                                              form through all the impacts than
                                                                                                                   outside, even where it had taken
                                                                                                                   the terrifying edge hit and the big     TRANSFERRED      posed standard, the one that
                                                                                                                                                                            may replace the current ECE 22-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   on venting. They’re also light:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Our ZRP-1s weighed only about
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         has relatively large outer
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         dimensions, leaving room in the
energy better.                         Scorpion are also Snell M2000          any others in the test.              three-meter bash.                        AN AVERAGE      05 specification.                      an ounce more than the lightest       shell for thicker, and presum-
   Our results showed the exact
opposite—that plastic-shelled
                                       rated. So they are tested to
                                       some very extreme energy levels.
                                                                                 And they still excelled in the
                                                                              big-hit, 150-joule impact—a
                                                                                                                      This illustrates just how hard it
                                                                                                                   is to tell from the outside              OF 20 FEWER        We did one hit on the pave-
                                                                                                                                                                            ment and one on the curb anvil—
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   helmets in the test, the Arai
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Tracker GTs.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         ably softer, EPS. And like the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         DOT-only lids, it soaked up
helmets actually performed better      And Ed Becker, executive director      blast 66 percent harder than any     whether a helmet has taken a            GS COMPARED      the same hits called out in the           What’s the cost for all this       energy like a sailor soaks up
than fiberglass. In our big 3-
meter hit—the high-energy kind
                                       of the Snell Foundation, is on
                                       record as saying that a low-
                                                                              actual DOT test for a medium-
                                                                              sized helmet.
                                                                                                                   severe hit. And why you should
                                                                                                                   never, ever buy a used helmet.            WITH THEIR     COST proposal. We did them on
                                                                                                                                                                            the back of the helmets, in the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   excellent impact absorption, com-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   fort, light weight and highly
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Schlitz. If you can’t bring your-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         self to wear a $79.95 helmet
of bash one might expect would         priced—that is, plastic-shelled—          The Z1R ZRP-1s continuously                                                  FIBERGLASS    center, because that was the only      durable finish? In a solid color, a   just to get excellent energy
show the supposed weaknesses
of a plastic shell—the plastic hel-
                                       Snell-certified helmet is just as
                                       good at protecting your head as
                                                                              amazed us. After all the testing,
                                                                              its outer shell looked essentially
                                                                                                                   The Hardest Hits
                                                                                                                   So the softest DOT helmets came            BROTHERS.     place we hadn’t hit them before.
                                                                                                                                                                               So this last test is not directly
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   ZRP-1 retails for $79.95.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The least-expensive helmets in
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         management, you’ll feel very
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         comfortable with the Schuberth,

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continued from page 143

                                                                                                                                                                             words, helmet makers should tai-       and water weigh more than less
which sells for $640 to $700.
   The other helmets we pulled
                                     showing generally lower G-trans-
                                     mission than we saw in typical
                                                                              recently? No car bumpers or steel
                                                                              oranges anywhere.
                                                                                                                          “BUT I’M A   tion, and the FIM doesn’t really
                                                                                                                                       do American. And because the          lor the stiffness of their helmets     bone and water?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            are highly comparable.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Back in ’91, both DOT and
apart used either a one-piece or     Snell-rated helmets.                        Racers don’t typically hit truck        RACER,” WE    DOT standard doesn’t require          to suit the head sizes of the
                                                                                                                                                                             wearers to protect everybody’s
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       And it’s not just us. One study
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    by Mr. Thom concluded that head
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Snell/DOT helmets routinely
a two-piece EPS liner. The S-1,
on the other hand, uses a com-       The Human Race
                                                                              parts, storm drains, sign posts,
                                                                              tree shredders or the Watts
                                                                                                                          HEAR YOU     any outside testing—just the
                                                                                                                                       manufacturers’ word that their        brain equally.                         weight does increase with head
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            exceeded 250 Gs in the 7-foot
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            drop, and often spiked past 300
plex, five-piece liner, with sepa-   “But I’m a racer,” we hear you           Towers. They fall off, sometimes      RATIONALIZING.     helmets pass.                            What does this mean to you? If
                                                                                                                                                                             you have a relatively heavy head,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    circumference. He found there is
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    good evidence that smaller heads
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Gs in the 10-foot drop. Ouch.
rate front, rear and overear pads
glued to a central foam hat.
                                     rationalizing. “I go really fast. I go
                                     so fast, in fact, that I need a very
                                                                              tumble, and almost always hit
                                                                              the racetrack. Or maybe an air
                                                                                                                       “I GO REALLY    Yes, Size Does Matter                 the difference in stiffness            weigh less and that smaller hel-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              In our new results, no helmet
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            exceeded 250 Gs in the 10-foot
Leave it to the Germans to use       special, high-energy helmet to           fence, a sand trap or hay bale. In      FAST. I GO SO    There’s one more issue with the       between a Snell helmet and a
                                                                                                                                                                             DOT or ECE helmet will be rela-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    mets should thus be softer.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       As Thom says regarding the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            drop, and the vast majority of the
five parts to do what the Z1R
does with one.
                                     protect my wonderful manliness
                                     and fastness.”
                                                                              other words, the racetrack is the
                                                                              best-controlled, best-engineered,
                                                                                                                     FAST, IN FACT,    Snell and BSI standards we should
                                                                                                                                       mention, even if we didn’t specifi-   tively small. If you are a man,        Snell Foundation’s position on this:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            7-foot drops stayed well below
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            200 Gs. So falling at a 10-foot
   A few of the European hel-           Not so, Rossi breath.                 softest, flattest environment          THAT I NEED A     cally address it in our testing.      woman or child with a lighter
                                                                                                                                                                             head, on the other hand, the dif-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    “They are not in touch with reality.”   energy level today—a 99th-per-
mets—the Vemars, the Sharks
and the Suomys—use a different
                                        If you’re going to land on flat
                                     pavement when you crash—and
                                                                              you’re going to find. Racers are
                                                                              even more likely to hit flat pave-
                                                                                                                     VERY SPECIAL,        Snell and BSI dictate that every
                                                                                                                                       helmet be impact-tested with the      ference in stiffness between a         All Helmets Are Great.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            centile crash—is like falling at a
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            7-foot energy level was back in
kind of EPS liner than we’re used    you almost always do—you can             ment than street riders—and             HIGH-ENERGY      same-weight headform inside, no       Snell helmet and a DOT or ECE
                                                                                                                                                                             helmet will be relatively huge.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    We Investigate                          ’91. That means more and more
to seeing in Asian-built helmets.
Instead of a solid foam liner of a
                                     afford to wear a softer ECE or
                                     DOT helmet, because softer hel-
                                                                              street riders hit flat pavement
                                                                              around 90 percent of the time.
                                                                                                                         HELMET TO     matter the size of the helmet.
                                                                                                                                       That is, an XS helmet is required        So if you are concerned after
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The good news in all this is that
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    helmets—all helmets—are getting
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            people are being protected better
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            and better.
specific density, these Euro-lids    mets do a very good job of                  The AMA accepts DOT, ECE              PROTECT MY      to withstand exactly the same         reading all this that a Snell helmet
                                                                                                                                                                             might be too stiff for you, Mr. XXL,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    better. The last time we did an           It also means that in well over
use stiffer, more rigid foam with
deep channels in it to soften up
                                     absorbing big impacts—even
                                     really, really big impacts—on flat
                                                                              22-05, BSI 6658 Type A or Snell
                                                                              M2000-rated helmets. That’s for
                                                                                                                       WONDERFUL       total impact energy as an XXL.
                                                                                                                                          The DOT and ECE standards          you should be even more con-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    impact test on helmets was back
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    in ’91, in the November issue if
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            90 percent of the impacts we did,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            the rider would probably have
the assembly and vent air            surfaces. Remember, the hard             going 200 mph on a superbike at            MANLINESS     vary the energy of the impacts        cerned about putting your XS wife
                                                                                                                                                                             or child into a Snell or BSI helmet.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    you’re rummaging through that           come out with no more than an
through the shell. The effect is
that of a highly vented bicycle
                                     part about getting a helmet past
                                     the Snell standard involves sur-
                                                                              Daytona. The FIM, which sanc-
                                                                              tions MotoGP races all over the
                                                                                                                                AND    by varying the weight of the
                                                                                                                                       headform, under the reasonable           The Snell Foundation’s position
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    pile in the garage next to your
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1929 Scott Flying Squirrel.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            AIS 3—or serious—brain injury.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Helmets are getting better, and
helmet stuffed into the requisite    viving that mythical steel orange        world, accepts any of the above            FASTNESS.”    rationale that a very small head      on this is that they have no proof
                                                                                                                                                                             big heads weigh more than small
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       We did some of the same              some of the least-expensive hel-
hard outer shell. The ECE-rated
Vemars and Sharks and the ECE
                                     very hard twice in the same spot
                                     on the helmet, simulating a mon-
                                                                              standards but DOT. Why not
                                                                              DOT if DOT helmets are compa-
                                                                                                                     NOT SO, ROSSI     weighs less than a very big one.
                                                                                                                                       In the eyes of the governments        heads. Hmmm. Isn’t a head basi-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    impacts this time, a 7-foot flat
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    drop and a 10-foot flat drop, as
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            mets provide truly amazing pro-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            tection. But just how good can
and BSI-rated Suomys performed       ster hit—or two—on, say, a car           rable to ECE helmets? Because                 BREATH.    of both the U.S. and the              cally a shell of thin bone filled
                                                                                                                                                                             with water? Doesn’t more bone
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    we (and Thom) did in ’91. So the        helmets get? Stay tuned—we’ll
well on the impact torture rack,     bumper. Been to Laguna Seca              the DOT is an American institu-                          European community, in other                                                 results, at least on those tests,       explore that topic very soon. MC

144   WWW.MOTORCYCLISTONLINE.COM          June 2005                                                                                                                                                                                                         June 2005    MOTORCYCLIST     145
Reply to Snell Rev 2 (Toned down as per Mitch)

Dexter Ford

The Snell Memorial Foundation is not pleased with our helmet-testing story,
“Blowing The Lid Off”, in the June ’05 issue. If you want to review the
story itself, it’s on our website,

They have posted a response on their website ( We encourage
you to read it.

Frankly, we expected more from a foundation that many of us, for many
years, have trusted with our money, our lives, our health and the welfare of
our families.

Our intention in doing the tests and writing the original story was not to
attack the Snell Foundation, the Snell M2000/2005 Standard, or any helmet
brand. And a fair reading of the story would show that we didn’t. We simply
devised our own tests, designed to represent the vast majority of actual
crashes we and our readers actually have, based on the best scientific
information we could get. We tested the helmets, fairly and objectively, and
let the chips fall where they fell. And the overwhelmingly positive response
we got from you, our readers, showed that you appreciated the effort.

The scientists we quoted, Dr. Jim Newman, Professor Harry Hurt and Dave
Thom, were sometimes frank in their criticism of the Snell Foundation.
Where were the scientists who are in favor of the Snell Standard? Why
didn’t we quote them? The answer is really simple. In all our research, in the
U.S., England and Europe, over most of a year, we couldn’t find one.

On The Edge

If the Snell Foundation wanted to criticize our methodology and our story,
we would have hoped that they would have portrayed the story accurately.
This quote from their response showcases their selective reading: “They
(Motorcyclist) based their comparison on flat impact performance…”

They ignored the 32 individual tests we made, not on a flat surface, but on
an edge anvil, a nasty-looking piece of upright stainless steel bar Snell uses
in its own standards testing. We calculated these edge-anvil tests into the
average peak g graphs, just like the flat-pavement tests. We wrote about
these edge-anvil tests repeatedly in the story. They are clearly delineated in
the key to the comparison graph. There’s a picture of one of these edge-anvil
tests on the second spread—complete with a caption. Snell purposely
ignored the edge-anvil tests—and then attacked our testing because it was all
done on flat surfaces. Which it wasn’t.

Major Impact

Snell also reasserts their scientifically unsupportable position that taking
violent impacts to the head is “non-injurious”, so long as you take less than
their 300g limit. Well, the list of scientific papers, accident studies and
eminent head-injury scientists the world over who disagree with Snell on
this is overwhelming.

Dr. Jim Newman, a highly respected head-injury scientist and a former
Director of the Snell Memorial Foundation, has stated that a 200g impact to
the head can be fatal, that a 200-250g impact corresponds to an AIS 4, or
severe, head injury, that 250g-300gs relate to an AIS 5, or critical head
injury, and that a blow over 300g corresponds to AIS 6. AIS 6 means dead.

Military Standards

Even our military disagrees with Snell on this. The U.S. Army Aeromedical
Research Laboratory (USAARL) has created a g-tolerance standard for
helicopter crewpersons’ helmets. For a two-meter drop height, the same drop
height we used in 3/4 of our testing, the Army allows no more than 150 gs to
the earcup areas of the head, which they have determined are especially
vulnerable, and no more than 175 gs on other areas. Should we
motorcyclists—who are often older, not as fit, and not quite so willing to die
or sustain head injuries as eager young soldiers—accept g tolerance levels of
300g for the same hits?

Round Table Discussion

In their response, Snell picks a paragraph from the European COST 327
Final Report—the most recent major motorcycle-accident and head-injury
study. The paragraph says that helmeted riders struck a “round object” 79%
of the time. And Snell is using it to justify their controversial two-hit
hemispherical anvil testing, the tests that make Snell-rated helmets stiffer
than any others.

The “round object” figure directly contradicts the findings of at least 6
reputable motorcycle accident studies, done all over the world over the last
30 years, that have shown that between 75% and 87% of helmet impacts
happen on the flat road surface. Which makes sense. Because a huge
majority of the time, the road is what you’re riding on when you fall. And
when you fall, you fall down. It’s that darned gravity thing.

Some scientists we’ve talked to, who are just as mystified as we are with this
particular COST 327 finding, have suggested that this data came from
examining helmets in the lab after crashes, and finding round marks on the
helmets. But when you hit a flexible, essentially round helmet on a flat
surface, you get a round mark on the helmet—which may have been
misinterpreted by the lab staff as the impact of a “round object”.

Or they may have been referring to the surface of the earth as a “round
object”. Which, in a large sense, it is. We’re just amazed that the Snell
people would know this.

If the COST 327 people really thought 79% of victims hit their helmets on
“round objects”, one would think they would have put a “round object” hemi
anvil into their proposed helmet standard. They did not. The COST people
propose to hit helmets on a flat anvil and a curb anvil—no hemi anvils at all.

Here’s what Dr. Bryan Chinn, the Editor-In-Chief of the COST 327 Final
Report, says about the hemispherical anvils Snell dictates: “From our
research, the (hemispherical anvil test) is a particularly severe test and can
result in a very stiff liner that possibly detracts from performance in other
types of impact, particularly on the flat.”

Calculating the COST

It’s probably a bad idea, in the long run, for Snell to support their position
with a couple out-of-context graphs and snippets from the 327-page COST
Final Report. Because there is no shortage of places in which the COST
study directly contradicts the Snell “300gs is OK” position.
Such as this quote: “Peak linear acceleration (to the head) should be less
than 250g.” (COST 327 Introduction, page v)

Or this one: “Current (helmet) designs are too stiff and too resilient, and
energy is absorbed efficiently only at values of HIC (Head Injury Criterion,
a measure of g force over time) well above those which are survivable.”
(COST 327 Introduction, page x).

Or figure 7.28, page 166. This graph shows how the actual observed head-
injury level of accident victims rises with the peak linear gs the victims
received in their crash. At 250g, accident victims had an 80% chance of an
AIS 3, or serious, head injury. At 300gs, the probability of an AIS 3 injury
went up to 93%. As anybody who can read a graph can see, getting hit less
hard is, well, less bad.

COST Figure 7.28 graph

Or the final proposed COST 327 helmet standard itself. This contradicts just
about everything Snell espouses. It actually requires higher-energy hits than
any single Snell-M2000/2005 impact, and dictates lower allowable peak gs
for those impacts—275g vs. Snell’s 300g. It has no Snell-type hemi-anvil
hits. It has no Snell-type double hits. It uses a two-tiered impact-test
regimen, with lower, 180-g limits for lower-energy impacts, the ones that
actually happen a huge majority of the time. And unlike Snell 2000/2005, it
graduates the headform masses according to head size, to keep people with
lighter heads—small-headed men, women and children—from taking harder
hits in a crash.

Also unlike the Snell Standard, the COST Standard includes a chin-bar test
that limits peak gs. This is important, because a blow straight to the face is a
relatively common accident—and one that often results in a fatality, from a
basilar skull fracture.

We think the COST 327 standard, which is proposed to replace the current
UN/ECE 22.05 regimen, is the smartest off-the-rack standard we’ve seen—
the best reflection of current knowledge about human tolerance and the
helmet making-and-testing state of the art.


The Snell Foundation has also been less than kind to some renowned head-
injury scientists for trying to find, and give our readers, the truth.

In one e-mail, to a member of the Norton Owners List, Snell’s Executive
Director called our article “an attack”, perpetrated by “malcontents”.

Here are a few of the people who helped with our research, or who have
expressed their agreement with our testing methods and our conclusions—
it’s pretty much a who’s who of eminent head-injury scientists around the

Dr. Bryan Chinn, Editor in Chief, UN/ECE COST 327 Final Report.

Dr. Jim Newman, former Snell Foundation director, and highly respected
head-injury scientist. Dr. Newman is an actual rocket scientist, has been
inducted into the International Health and Safety Hall of Fame, and holds
several helmet patents.

Dr. Terry Smith, of Dynamic Research Incorporated, another internationally
respected motorcycle- and automobile-accident researcher and head-
protection scientist.
Andrew Mellor, of the FIA Institute, a renowned helmet-design scientist and
originator of the FIA Super Helmet specification for Formula 1 drivers.

Dave Thom, of Collision and Injury Dynamics, an enthusiastic rider and
eminent motorcycle-accident researcher and scientist. He’s worked with us
for many years trying to prevent accidents, improve helmets and save lives.

And Professor Emeritus Harry Hurt, of the Head Protection Research
Laboratory Professor Hurt ran the HPRL head-injury lab at the University
of Southern California for many years. And the Hurt Report he helmed is
still one of the most important, most credible studies of motorcycle accidents
the world has ever seen.

Malcontents, indeed.

Dialogue. Not Diatribe.

We’d be happy to engage in any productive exchange of ideas with the Snell
Foundation, helmet companies, scientists, or anybody else who’s dedicated,
not just to maintaining the status quo in helmet standards and helmet design,
but to making helmets safer and more protective. The bottom line here is in
preventing injuries and saving lives. If anybody sincerely wants to help us in
this quest, they know where to find us.

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