July 24, 2009 at 6:00 am #3189Slice947Participant
When your head hits the pavement, do all full face helmets protect your head the same? Or do higher priced helmets get you more than features and comfort, and actually do more to save your grey matter?July 24, 2009 at 6:40 am #20900zeppelinfromledParticipant
Price doesn’t play into safety all that much. Since all helmets have to be DOT certified, that provides a minimum protection. More money will certainly get you more features, usually including being more aerodynamic and having less wind noise. But if the only thing in question is what happens in the case of impact with something hard, there won’t be significant differences. Just make sure it fits you properly and you take care of it. A drop down the stairs, or even a shorter drop, can ruin a helmet’s safety by compressing the expanded polystyrene layer.
There’s a whole separate debate over whether or not you should get a Snell approved helmet. I wrote up a post on that topic that goes into some detail, and I might post it later as a separate thread. But in short, Snell offers better protection in the case of two impacts in the same area of the helmet. But a Snell approved helmet will transfer a higher percent of the force in the case of a single impact.July 24, 2009 at 7:44 am #20902eternal05Participant
Above a certain level, money makes no difference to safety (and some would, rightly or wrongly, argue that sometimes it hinders). What you get are improvements in the following:
1) Comfort: If you’ve ever put on, say, an Arai (assuming your head fits), it’s like having your head in a pillow. It’s great.
2) Aerodynamics: How easily does your head cut through the air at speed? This often affects comfort and neck/shoulder fatigue on longer trips (30 mins+).
3) Noise: Sometimes this is a result of better aerodynamics, but for the most part, the top-tier helmets are much quieter than cheapos.
4) Ventilation: This is especially true of race-caliber helmets, but usually the higher-end helmets move more air through the helmet to cool you off (though most of them have vents that can be closed for cold-weather riding). On hot days, full-face helmets can get VERY hot and stuffy, so ventilation is great.
5) Fogging: Some higher-level helmets are better at resisting visor fog-up, but it’s really hit or miss as to which do their job. Also, a pin-lock visor can just about get rid of fogging issues regardless of helmet.
6) Gadgets and gizmos: Features like one-button drop-down sun visors, modularity (conversion from FF to 3/4 face), bluetooth, etc. will drive up price.
Aside from the fact that these features may affect your comfort and visibility, which in turn might affect your safety, none of these will protect you more when your head actually does hit something.July 24, 2009 at 4:25 pm #20908
There is some argument over which testing methodology is better, SNELL or the European ECE tests. Look back for a thread with SNELL in the title (To SNELL or not?) and you will find a lot of useful information and you will be able to make your own mind up on what is important to you.
There is a new SNELL standard and you can read their sales pitch here.
For my money, all helmets do not provide the same level of protection and I wish there was more than a simple pass/fail report. I like the SHARP scheme in the UK in that they give a star rating between 1 and 5.
But in short more money is going to get you more comfort/aesthetics/brand name.July 24, 2009 at 8:37 pm #20912ixion00xParticipant
The only contrary report I’ve heard about Snell is that the EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam is more rigid to pass the multiple impact test. The jury was still out on whether or not this actually imparted more shock to the skull than a standard DOT-only certified helmet, as far as I remember.
I went with the mid-range Arai. It was a pretty penny, but I will say that the Snell certification might’ve helped out. I took two impacts on the head was completely fine. I mean, I’m crazy, but that’s another story .
Get what fits, what’s most comfortable and try to get it in a bright solid color. Solid white or neon orange is the best. Makes you easier to see.July 29, 2009 at 8:15 pm #21046rkgsxrParticipant
Higher priced helmets are often perceived as being about brand names or race graphics or better features. The reality of it is that while higher priced helmets offer those benefits they are also usually lighter and more aerodynamic and fit better than cheaper helmets. Lighter overall weight results in a rider having less neck fatigue over the length of a ride. Theoretically this makes him a safer rider because he’s less tired. He would also, theoretically ride longer and more often, thus improving his riding skills.
Aerodynamics play a role not only in ventilating the helmet and keeping the rider’s head cooler and more comfortable, but improved aerodynamics also make the helmet cut through the wind more effectively, further creating less fatigue through buffeting the head or lift from air coming up under the helmet at speed. For years Shoei helmet riders at Daytona would claim the aerodynamic qualities of their helmets provided them almost 2mph on the back straight, all other things being equal, this mainly due to a lack of lift and through more effective aerodynamics. So developing a helmet thoroughly in a wind tunnel (vs. just “testing” it after it’s made,) makes for a better, more safe helmet. Although is development takes time and money
Helmet fit is more complicated than most think because most dealers are not well trained to fit a helmet properly and most buyers don’t wear a helmet long enough in a store before buying it to determine proper fit. This results in many people buying a helmet that is too loose (or too big) to be really effective in a crash. Fit has to be optimized through both the relationship of the shell to the EPS liner to the comfort liner. Another common issue are people who know they are a “large” in one model and assume they will be a large in any model. Which can sometimes not be the case because of the number of shell sizes. The shell being the hard outer layer of the helmet.
More expensive helmets usually cover their full size range (XXS to XXL or larger) with more shell sizes (sometimes as many as 3-5 shell sizes to cover the size range) where cheaper helmets cover a size range with only two size shells, making up the range with EPS liners and alot more foam. This results in more movement of the helmet on the head at speed than necessary because there is more soft padding than usual in some helmets. The increased number of shells in a helmet model adds greatly to the price you have to charge for the helmet.
Yes, you get what you pay for. In expensive helmets you are paying most for fit and comfort and ventilation through aerodynamics and lighter weight. Which have an indirect, yet still important bearing on safety- the comfort and fatigue level of the rider wearing it.July 29, 2009 at 9:20 pm #21049
I would argue the aerodynamics of a helmet depends greatly on the bike and the position of the rider. Most of us don’t ride with our chin on the tank seeking that last extra 2mph. A helmet shaped to work well in that position is not necessarily the best for sitting straight up behind a windshield. I have a Scorpion EXO-400 which is on the cheaper and heavier side but I also have a tall windshield. I only get minimal buffeting on my helmet and after a full day riding I have never experienced neck pain. Sort butt and cramped legs yes; sore neck, no.
Helmet fit is the most important thing to look for, more important than price or anything else. Good luck finding a well trained salesperson helping you determine the best fit. I think the onus is on you to try on as many as you can to find what works for you. The simple maxim of the tighter the better works well. I think I lucked out on the EXO-400 as the fit is so snug I have been unable to find a pair of sunglasses I can get on, yet I do not feel any pressure points after hours of riding.
I think you make a good point about shell sizes but do you know where you can find out information about these? Even if a manufacturer was only to make one size, if that just happened to be the best size for your head then that could be better than the more expensive brand. Are there any articles that talk about how big an issue this is? Any recommendations from SNELL etc? It’s just something that is not much talked about.July 30, 2009 at 2:47 pm #21080
I’m wondering how the specs of the F1 helmets compare to what we can buy. For those of you who do not follow F1, the Brazilian driver Felipe Massa was hit on the head by a metal spring at 160mph last Saturday. Now his injuries were/are very serious. He has had several operations, was in a medically induced comma for a couple of days and there are concerns over his left eye. But still, he was hit on the head by a metal spring, probably weighing several pounds, at 160mph. It even hit the area where the visor connects to the helmet so the visor had to absorb some of the impact. This all seems far and above the 15′ drop our lids are designed to protect us from. I’ll have to do some googling to see if I can find the specs for those helmets. They definitely fit the bill of more money = more safety but I think they cost around $15,000 each so it will be a while before I get one
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.