Need a new helmet?

…Then you may be interested in the J.D. Power survey that shows Arai and Icon are tops for consumer satisfaction.

For a 13th consecutive year, Arai ranks highest in customer satisfaction, and ties with Icon with a score of 852 on a 1,000-point scale. Arai performs well across all 11 attributes, particularly in fit and comfort and face shield effectiveness of keeping wind out. Icon performs particularly well in color/graphic design. Shoei follows in the rankings with a score of 831 and performs well in ease of replacing the face shield.

Oh, and if you really want to join the “in” crowd, buy your new helmet online.

Helmets, helmets, helmets!

The 2011 helmets are on display in all their glory at the annual Powersports Dealer Expo, and Motorcycle-USA has coverage (Get it? coverage?) of new & notable lids for this year.

Included are new modular helmets from Bell and Vega for the graying Sport-Touring gentleman to wear with his hi-vis Aerostich, Arai’s new Vector-2 line for the leather-clad racer wannabes, Icon helmets with outlandish graphics for the squids, Fulmer carbon-fiber useless half helmets for the pirates (assuming they even wear helmets), and AGV MX helmets for the dirty, off-road rabble.

Any segment of the motorcycling community I didn’t offend with that last paragraph?

No?

Good.

Another Helmet Myth Debunked

Ah, science! It’s so good at telling us that things we “know” are true…aren’t. In this case, it’s the idea that the extra weight of a helmet on one’s head increases the chance of a spine injury, as the extra weight snaps your whiplashing vertebrae like toothpicks.  The people who don’t like to wear helmets have all sorts of stupid pseudo-scientific reasons for why not wearing a helmet is “safer”.

A Johns Hopkins study of crash data from more than 40,000 motorcycle accidents showed that wearing a helmet was associated with a 22% reduction in cervical injuries. There was also–as if it wasn’t blindingly obvious–a 65% reduction in traumatic brain injuries at a 37% decrease in death.

Look, I, personally, don’t care if you wear a helmet or not. I certainly wouldn’t force you to wear one. But if you don’t wear one, and end up with a crack on the head that turns you into a broccoli floret, I don’t see why I have to pick up the tab for it, either.

21st Century Protection

Compared to the way the world was when I was a kid, when helmets were optional, and leather vests & blue jeans constituted protective gear, we really do have a wide option of riding garments, protectors, armor, and helmets.  The thing is, aside from the invention of some tough new fabrics like Cordura and Kevlar, protective gear remains mired in the mid-20th century.  Helmets are still essentially a fiberglass shell with a styrofoam backing, while crash protection is some padding–even if the padding is gel–behind a hard plastic cover.

But in the past several months, that’s really started to change, and some new products are about to appear that constitute a real step forward in applying 21st century materials science to protective gear.

Del Rosario Helmet
Del Rosario Helmet

This helmet, designed by Del Rosario, is a completely new breakthrough that incorporates a radically new approach in helmet design.

The first layer of protection are gel inserts intended to to eliminate vibrations and other small forces that current helmet technology utterly ignores. While these kinds of forces are unlikely to cause injury, they do cause fatigue and discomfort.

The second layer of protection is a multi-layered laminate liner. Capable of flexing, crushing and delaminating, this liner can deal with a wider range of forces than a traditional styrofoam liner, which can only crush. Through the controlled destruction of this layer, a lower level of force reaches the helmet’s main level of impact absorption.

A carbon frame of arched members composes the Del Rosario helmet’s main safety mechanism. Through the magical power of science, theses arches can be precisely tailored to flex or break in a predictable manner, coping with both high and low energy loads.

Also notice the non-traditional, extremely aerodynamic lines.

Knox Kinesis Armor
Knox Kinesis Armor

Knox Labs has created the Kinesis line of armor, which incorporates a floating shell instead of the fixed shell in current armor offerings.

Kinesis is a revolutionary technology that mimics one of the most successful and natural safety systems which occurs in the human head. When the head is subjected to an oblique impact, the brain can slide along a membrane on the inner surface of the skull, which reduces the forces transmitted to the brain.

Similarly, Knox has created the Kinesis protector which has a ‘floating’ shell. When this is subjected to an oblique impact the shell moves relative to the core protector, creating an alternate load path for the energy. This significantly reduces the force transmitted to the body part in question.

But, that’s just the outer shell.  There’s new goodness on the way from d3O labs for the gel backing, as well, in somewthing called “shear thickening gel.

d3o Armor
d3o Armor

Shear Thickening gel is soft and pliable as can be, right up to the point it is subjected to a sharp impact, at which point, the bonds between the molecules harden, instantly stiffening the material to distribute the impact. FirstGear is already implementing a line of motorcycle clothing that incorporates 3dO armor.

It’s nice to see such progress on all fronts after 50 years of stagnation in protection design.

Rear-view helmet

Reevu Helmet
Reevu Helmet

A British company is set to bring a brand new helmet concept to market.  Called the Reevu MSX1, this new helmet allows the driver to see the road behind him through a small mirror inserted into the visor.

The mirror reflects the image of whatever is to the rear of the helmet, and to see it, the rider merely has to glance up slightly to see the mirror.  The helmet liner is sculpted to fit the rider’s line of sight to the mirror.

Sadly, there is no word as to whether this helmet will be marketed in the US, or only in Britain.  At £249–approx $400–it isn’t an especially cheap helmet, but it is available directly from Reevu, and their web site has more info.

If you’re interested in what you see as a rider when wearing the helmet, Reevu has obliged us with a demonstration as well.  Click the image below to see a larger view.

Reevu MSX1 Riders View
Reevu MSX1 Riders View

At first glance, it seems like a massively useful idea, and one that really does offer some safety advantages.  It’s a neat idea, and I’d like to see that helmet over here in the US.

Helmet Reviews: Scorpion EXO-900 Transformer & Shark Evoline Modular (Updated)

Scorpion EXO-900 Transformer Helmet
Scorpion EXO-900 Transformer Helmet

I’ve used a Scorpion EXO-1000 full-face helmet as my daily hat for two years now.  It’s a fairly heavy helmet, but I’ve liked it a lot, as it has a lot of premium features, like the adjustable air bladder to custom fit it, the fuller chin and jaw coverage it provides, and the overall comfort of it.

But, it’s getting a bit old and banged up from daily use, so I decided to buy another.  Since I sometimes wear glasses on the weekend, I always have to use my old modular HJC Sy-Max when I ride.  I don’t like the Sy-Max as much.  It’s not a bad helmet, it’s just not at good as the Scorpion. So, I decided that to replace both of those helmets, I’d get the modular Scorpion Helmet, the EXO-900.

At first blush, it seemed perfect.  The fit was snug, but comfortable, and it has all the premium features of the EXO-1000.  In the shop, it felt great when I tried it on before purchasing it.  You also have the option fo removing the face shield and replacing it with a visor. I also loved the color, Hi-Vis yellow.

It seemed perfect.

What I didn’t notice, until I actually used it during my daily commute to work, was that the ear section on both sides has no padding around the top and rear of the ear. So, the cartilage of your ear sits directly against the hard foam of the helmet impact shell.  After about 30 minutes, turning or moving your head becomes painful, as your ears get constantly crushed against the helmet shell.

After three days of this, it got to be unbearable.

So, sadly, I had to return the helmet today.  It was almost exactly what I wanted, but was just too uncomfortable to wear.

Shark Evoline Modular Helmet
Shark Evoline Modular Helmet

Since I’d worn it for a few days, Cycle Gear wouldn’t give me a refund, of course, but they did offer me an exchange for any helmet in the store.  Ultimately, I chose the Shark Evoline Modular Helmet.

The Shark Helmet is significantly more expensive than the EXO-900, coming in at $425 retail.  But, it is a top of the line helmet.  And as you can see from the image, it does one thing that most modular helmets do not: The face mask doesn’t just tip up, it slides all the way back to the rear of the helmet for a more aerodynamic shape.

The inside is far more comfortably padded than the scorpion, however, and it seems to be a better quality helmet all around.  Which, considering the price difference, it should be.

I haven’t had a lot of experience with it yet, since I’ve only had it for 9 hours at this point.  But, so far it’s very comfortable. And it’s also very quiet.  Unlike a regular modular helmet, it doesn’t have a seam on both sides where the face-shield joins the helmet. The wind doesn’t whistle through that seam, so it’s as quiet as a full face.

Hopefully, I’ll like this helmet much better than the EXO-900.

UPDATE (8/9/10):

After a couple of days with the Shark Evoline helmet, I’ve decided I quite like it.  It’s super comfortable, and not too heavy.  I really like just flipping the face guard completely out of the way.  The flip-down, smoked,  inner sun visor cuts bright sunlight acceptably. And it’s fairly quiet.

It does have one feature that I can’t decide if I like or not, and that’s the venting/airflow. I couldn’t tell, really, if the top vent was open or not. It didn’t get too hot, as I kept it open most of the time, so I’ll assume it’s working.  It’s the vent in the face guard that’s a bit different than what I’m used to, though.

In all my other helmets, the face guard vent redirects the air up and toward the clear face shield. The airflow over the face shield helps keep it from fogging. In the Evoline helmet, the vent blows straight back towards your lower face. So, this morning, when it was 62°F and foggy, I noticed that the bottom of the face shield started to fog a little bit, and that was with the vent open.  If it had been closed, It probably would have fogged a lot more. Raising the face shield to the first notch solved the problem. I’m not sure I’d want to do that if the temps were in the 40s, though.

So, I think I’ve found the one drawback to the helmet, which is that airflow management could do a better job of keeping your breath from fogging the inside of the face shield.  It wasn’t a problem at all in the 80°F ride this afternoon.  In fact, I kept the face shield completely closed. And the breeze coming through the vent was very pleasant. I think the fogging issue might be a problem in cooler weather though.  I guess I’ll know for sure in a couple of months.

Other than that, which is a relatively minor issue compared to the overall goodness of the helmet, I like the Evoline helmet a lot.

Snell Updates Helmet Standards

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When you buy a motorcycle helmet, you usually look for the big DOT sticker on the back, since most states with helmet laws require the helmet to be certified by the US Department of Transportation.  But of you’re really serious about trying to keep your noggin in one piece, you look for the sticker from Snell, or as its formal name is, the Snell Memorial Safety Foundation.

But, for a while now, there’s been a conflict between Snell and the DOT–and the international ECE 22-05–safety standards.  Both DOT and ECE use a variety of different dummy head sizes and weights for different helmets in promulgating their approval.  Snell on the other hand, uses the same 11-pound dummy head weight, irrespective of the size, and they’ve repeatedly said that there’s no indication that different head sizes have significantly different weights.  So, they’ve said graduated head weight standards don’t provide adequate protection to an 11-pound head.

Now, this is kind of an important argument.  You see, if you have an 8-pound head, and your helmet is designed to cushion an 11-pound head, then the helmet may be too rigid to properly protect your head.  Sure, it’s great for the melon-heads, but the pinheads might get their skull scrambled, because the lower weight of your pinhead is too small to make the cushioning give enough.  The reverse is also true.  If you’re a melon-head, then a pinhead’s helmet will be too soft to protect you, and the helmet will come apart like an old shoe, and you’ll bump your skull on the pavement.

Either way, the end result is a Bad Thing if the helmet size and your head’s weight don’t match.

Well, now, after years of argument against the DOT and ECE standard, Snell is saying, “Never mind.”  In the brand new M2010 standard, Snell has looked at actual studies of the head weights of actual dead people, and decided that DOT was right after all.  Different sized heads do have significant weight differences.

So, as of the M2010 standard, Snell has adopted pretty much the same head profiles as ECE.  In addition, Snell has also lowered the number of gravities the helmet is allowed to transmit to your skull from 300 g’s to 275 g’s.  Both moves offer greater head protection, although, unfortunately, that also means that if you’re a pinhead with a Snell M2005 sticker, you’re helmet fails the M2010 standard.  You might as well just whack your skull with a hammer right now for all the good that helmet will do you.

So, important helmet buying tip:  The new M2010-standard helmets will be hitting store shelves on October 1st, 2009. But, manufacturers can make M2005-standard helmets for another couple of years, and sell them for…ever.  So, you have to be sure that you look for the Snell M2010 sticker on the helmet if that’s what you really want.

On the bright side, this now means that a Snell-certified helmet will also meet DOT and ECE standards right across the board, no matter what size of melon you’re sporting.

Unless, of course, you’re buying a modular helmet, which, as far as I know, don’t exist in Snell-certified form.