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How do you know your helmet's worth it?

Discussion in 'Riding Gear and Bike Accessories/Parts' started by senex, Dec 4, 2011.

  1. It's getting time to replace the brain bin, and as I'm getting on I can't afford to lose any more synapses. How can I know if I'm getting what I'm paying for? The testing methods don't seem to have got much more sophisticated than when they were introduced about half a century ago- basically whacking helmets with sharp and blunt weights. What I want to know is: is there data out there that can grade helmets on their capacity to reduce the acceleration to the brain in real life crashes? If an $800 helmet really is better than a $300 one, I'd shell out the cash...maybe reluctantly, but I would. In an age of Mythbusters & affordable accelerometers, I can't believe we cannot get better info. Any ideas, anyone?

  2. Well, let me throw this in for what it's worth...

    Over the nearly 7 years I've been on Netrider we've had dozens of reports of 'off's, and some serious accidents, including two people who've broken their backs and been rendered paralysed but across the whole range of people wearing all sorts of helmets, I can't remember one person sustaining head injuries........
  3. but in saying that hornet, how many members have copped severe helmet hits??
    it's all well and good to have your helmet unscathed, but if it's never tested.....
  4. I thought I spelled that out; in all those accidents some people DID and any of them COULD have belted their heads onto the deck, but across a range of helmets no-one got injured.

    What I'm trying to say is that all helmets sold here have to meet a standard, and any helmet meeting that standard should protect you. Undoubtedly the more expensive a helmet is the better its finish and features, but I'm not aware of any study which shows that more expensive helmets give superior protection in exactly the same circumstances.

    That said, if you can afford to spend a grand on a helmet, and if that make you feel more secure and protected, by all means do it :)
  5. For mine once you get over the better range. ie AGV, Shoie, Nolan so forth. You know the old good five hundred dollar one. You are paying for weight loss and pretty looks.
    The foam you get in that range is good and lasts as long as any other.
    Yeah the Uber ones may be stronger and much lighter, but how much can a brain take? It still gets pretty swooshed around on impact.
    Last couple of good head hits I had were so different. I lost the lost the front across the bumps and a certain ugly turn 1 in Queensland. Totally my fault. But yeah, strait down on the melon.
    It gave the Shoei a fairly good gouge. I still remember it was a soft hit. Well for one doing over a buck eighty entering the corner. Shoulder bloody hurt but I never really felt the head. The gouge was pretty good.
    And Jan this year a had a close experience with a BMW. An old Nolan on. Probably too old. But yes at a third of the speed to QR I was out cold and for a few minutes.
    Whatever you buy make sure it fits. And replace it when it starts to get loose.
  6. I've heard this site is quite good for this sort of thing


    Has colour-coded thingamy's about impact force and whatnot
  7. They probably wouldn't remember it either....

  8. No, but you do tend to notice the blank bits :D.
  9. I believe more expensive helmets are using materials that are a) lighter and b) distribute the force of impact better.

    For most accidents it may not make a difference. That's why you probably don't hear much about serious head injuries. But it can still save your life in that crucial moment!
  10. err no..
    i've met plenty of people who've sustained serious head injuries and permanent brain damage, though they were wearing helmets. incl top of the range helmets.
    now they wear special helmets with a little flap because for like the first 12 months they cannot allow the skull to completely heal, must have a hole to release pressure.

    notice on the side of the roads we have raised concrete kerbs. those things smack your head real hard.
    helmets probably saved their lives. but thinking any helmet will remove all risk of head injury is just ridiculous.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. Thanks for the input. The sharps site was good, and confirmed my suspicions- that there's often bugger all correlation between price and performance. It seems a lot of folk are fairly laid back about what they're getting for their money and the discomfort of wearing a helmet. Basically it's an insurance policy, but I reckon a lot of people spend more time shopping for a new TV than a head protector. But what's the point of having a shiny new remote if your freshly acquired brain injury means you can't figure it out? It may only be slight, but if you are concussed, let alone knocked out, you have suffered a brain injury. If we aren't seriously concerned about protecting the stuff between our ears- and demanding better consumer info- maybe we do deserve the contempt of some of those getting around in tin tops.
  12. I do take a fairly laid back view of my lids. AS1698 is now quite up to date and sophisticated (as Takamii will attest) compared to the standards that were around a few years ago. My own experience was with the BS that was in force 15-16 years ago and that was still pretty crude.

    As a result of AS1698, the general evolution of standards throughout the OECD, and the tendency of consumer products to improve incrementally over time, pretty much any helmet you can now legally buy in Australia, including Aldi specials, providing it fits properly, will provide you with as good and probably better protection than the very best that was available back when I bought my very first one in 1987. That was a Lazer LZ3, which didn't fit that well and was a long way from being the best available but still managed to protect me in a crash, as did my subsequent Kiwi K20 which was a lovely fit but still only cost me 30 quid.

    So yes, I'm happy to trust the Standard and the manufacturer to provide me with a level of protection that exceeds that of, say, an ice-cream tub full of foam rubber.

    However, I do spend a minimum of 2 hours a day inside my lid, so I like to have one that's a pleasant place to be. Comfort is largely taken care of if the fit is right, but nice lining material, ventilation with half a chance of working and a visor mechanism that works as designed for more than a week or two are good to have and play more of a role in my choice.

    Don't get too hung up about one single safety aspect of riding. Would that staying alive on two wheels were as simple as that :D.

    That said, I'm in favour of being able to make an informed choice and so I see sites like Sharps and Crash as being a step in the right direction, if not a complete solution.
  13. AS1698 approved is the last thing i look for in a helmet.

    even if you click on that aussie testing link, the criteria to meet AS1698 is one star, or poor performance in their tests

    theres certainly no reason why an AS1698 sticker should sell a helmet to you. any POS helmet can meet that standard.

    if you want a top of the line lid, just go to the top marques like shoei or arai or schuberth or whatever and buy their top of the line model. simple.
    they're in the business of making helmets and their 'brands' alone are worth more than they'd turn over in a year. they can't afford to to have sub standard lids on the market that don't perform well when tested. the damage to the brand would be too great. any smear would lose multi-millions to their market competitors.
    they don't make helmets to meet the various international standards. they make helmets to make a better helmet than their market competitors.

    if i had the coin, i'd by an Arai myself. because i've seen photos of arais that have taken serious hits, hitting telephone poles at $1.80c and stuff like that. ****ing amazing lids.
  14. As has been said, AS standards aren't worth a lot, and ASAIK not actually all that hard to get.

    My 2c on the topic, get the best helmet you can afford from a good brand. Most importantly make sure it is real comfy, a helmet that is uncomfortable really adds to fatigue, which of course makes you more likely to need a nice safe helmet.
  15. A helmet that meets AS1698 is, pretty much by definition, not a POS by global or historical standards. It may be inferior to a different helmet that exceeds AS1698 but will still offer a level of protection that is infinitely better than nothing and is highly likely to be better than the Shoeis and Arais of 20 years ago.

    AS1698 does not, in itself, sell a helmet to me but, like it or not, it is a legal requirement in Australia and offers a reasonable level of assurance that the helmet won't actually kill you. I make no judgement as to those who choose to purchase helmets from overseas. I doubt if any helmet sold anywhere in the world from any of the big name manufacturers could be classified as dangerous. I just can't be arsed to spend my time looking over my shoulder for something I'm not that stressed about.

    So independent testing by Sharp and Crash indicating that paying top dollar doesn't necessarily get you top protection is invalid?

    Which is why pretty much any "branded" helmet (and that includes any manufacturer wih a global presence these days, not just the big two) is going to offer a level of protection that could be considered good enough so as to not be worth worrying about.

    Crap. Smack your head on a pole at $1.80c and you are very messily dead, regardless of what you happen to be wearing. The rider may well have been doing $1.80 when they crashed and they may well have struck their head a glancing blow on a pole at some stage during the crash, but that doesn't equate to a contact speed of $1.80. Smack your head squarely on anything solid at greater than about 50 km/h closing speed and your chances of survival are precisely zero with any lid that it is theoretically possible to make and practical to wear. In reality, the best that can be achieved is quite a bit less than that.

    The sort of impact that most helmets can offer full protection against ("full protection" meaning allowing you to walk away without a permanent brain injury) is roughly equivalent to an unimpeded fall from a standing position onto concrete. The very best helmets might offer the ability to fall from standing on a table onto concrete and remain uninjured.

    Arai may make good lids but they're neither magical nor exempt from the laws of physics. Come off a bike at any speed greater than urban pootling and your chances of survival have a shitload more to do with luck and lack of solid obstacles than whatever gear you happen to be wearing.

    I suspect that Takamii would give you an argument on the ease of achieving AS certification.
    • Like Like x 4
  16. I think it works out to about 29 kmh tops for a solid blow.

    Fit, lightness, comfort and durability (including resistance to UV degradation - less an issue in some markets compared to Australia) are what counts for me, and it's especially worth some extra for an equally protective (in tests) but lighter helmet.
  17. That sounds about right. It's all down to (1) the maximum deceleration your brain can withstand and (2) the maximum amount of controlled deformation that can be built into a helmet. The first is time dependent (that is, you can survive high g for a short time and lower g for a longer time) but, roughly speaking, if your head sees any deceleration greater than about 300g the results are likely to be fatal or nearly so. The second is ultimately limited by the thickness of the padding available. About the best you're going to get without making the helmet ludicrously cumbersome is maybe 40-50mm and you can't actually use all that because no padding which will give controlled deformation will squash to zero thickness so your head needs to do all it's deceleration in, say, 70% of that distance. When you're mucking about at these levels, the difference between the very worst legally allowable and the very best technically achievable, whilst real, is a lot smaller than you might think because there simply isn't much physical scope for the difference to exist in.

    I fully agree that lightness is good and, in general, more expensive lids do tend to be lighter. Mind you, back in the day, a lot of the cheaper polycarb helmets were pretty light compared to the more expensive GRP jobs (this being before any but a handful of top of the range helmets incorporated Kevlar and I don't think anyone was in series production with carbon fibre) but I don't know if that's still the case.
  18. Back in '96 I was wearing an AXO kevlar/carbon fibre helmet when a Nissan pathfinder made a sudden right turn across my path. I remember I was doing about 80km/h before everything went into slow motion and I started braking and pulling in the clutch and saying, shit, I'm gonna crash.

    I flew head first into the front passenger window and when I was lying on the road and I looked up seemingly immediately after the impact, I apparently asked the police and ambo's how they got there so fast to which they informed me that I was knocked out for around 10 minutes.

    Back then, that AXO I was wearing was a top end helmet and although the impact did render me unconscious I didn't sustain any serious head injuries.
    Currently I wear an Arai Corsair V because I like the fit and I trust the name.