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From the archives updated – are helmets too good?

I’ve lifted this one from the archives as it’s still highly relevant… and because I’ll be wearing a new flip front this year, a Shoei Multitec, having retired the Airoh as it was getting too ‘baggy’ inside.

I’ve not worn the Shoei much yet (I’ve not been on the bike much in the last couple of months, as we’ve not really had biking weather since the end of November – as an aside temperatures here in Kent hit double figures for the first time since December 7!) but I have to say it’s not an instant love affair, and I’m wondering if I’ve made the right choice.

Sure it’s well finished in terms of mechanics, the metal latching mechanism for the chinpiece shuts with a reassuring thunk (“sounds just like a Golf”), and it came with a spare tinted visor and an anti-fog insert. But… the paint is very soft indeed and I’ve already managed to put a big scratch on the rear of the shell – I think it’s going to look very tatty, very quickly.

And it’s noisy! Possibly noisy enough to affect the radio transmission enough to make it unusable.

Anyway, I’ll write more on the helmet as I wear it this spring, but now back to the original editorial on the old site. That dates from 2005, and was set off by an article at:

which appears to have been updated since I last read it, incidentally.

There was a lively discussion on Visordown that followed – unfortunately the link I had stored has vanished due to the forum reorganisation, but a search should find it. Here’s the original editorial:

I’ll leave you to read the article and make up your own minds, but two things stood out for me:

“Current designs are too stiff and too resilient, and energy is absorbed efficiently only at values of HIC [Head Injury Criteria: a measure of G force over time] well above those which are survivable.”


“Some people in the [Hurt] study, those involved in truly awful, bone-crushing, aorta-popping crashes, did sustain potentially fatal head injuries even though they were wearing helmets. The problem was that they also had, on average, three other injuries that would have killed them if the head injury hadn’t.”

In other words, a crash violent enough to overwhelm any decent helmet will usually destroy the rest of the body as well.

Newman put this into perspective. “In most cases, bottoming [compressing a helmet’s EPS completely] is not going to occur except in really violent accidents. And in these kind of cases, one might legitimately wonder whether there is anything you could do.”

I’ve been saying for some time that buying top of the range helmets in the belief you are getting “more” protection is illusory.

One of the points made on the Visordown thread in defence of modern helmets was that they are lighter.

Being an inveterate horder, I went and weighed some that I just happened to have lying around. This is what I found back in 2005

  1. My [then] current flip front weighs 1695g – it’s a plastic “Airoh” something or other…

  2. A “Nitro 600” weighs 1590g (that’s a fibreglass full face 2003 model)

  3. An “Arai Rapide 2” (mid 90s FF fibreglass) weighs 1595g

  4. An “Arai Giga 1” (late 80s FF fibreglass) weighs 1575g

  5. A “Boeri Sport” (mid 80s FF fibreglass) weighs 1470g

  6. A “Kiwi K2” (FF plastic from early 80s) is 1520g

  7. A “Life” (fFF rom the late 70s – lovely metalflake rainbow finish fibreglass) weighs 1400g (!!!)

  8. And straight from the history books a ’50’s leather covered “Corker” with peak weighs in at just 590g

There maybe some absolute error with the manufacturers’ own figures, but as they were weighed on the same machine they are directly comparable. Notice the trend? I probably haven’t had that “Life” out of the cupboard for over 20 years and I couldn’t believe how light it was.

[The new Multitec weighs in at 1690g, incidentally! My first helmet was a Shoei S20 back in 1975, but unfortunately that one I HAD got rid of and can’t find a weight for it on the net.]

There’s no argument that the later helmets are more comfortable and better put together, but the chances are they’ve been made tougher and thicker to beat tougher testing procedure and in particular the penetration test, hence the increasing weight.

But by the time your head notices the difference in performance of the helmet in an accident, the rest of you isn’t interested any more.

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