Crash Helmets Save Lives!
If you are driving or riding on a 2-wheeled motorcycle on a road you must wear a crash helmet. You don’t have to wear one if you’re a passenger in a sidecar, a Sikh wearing a turban or pushing a motorcycle which is fortunate, because it’s pretty hot work if you’ve broken down!
The helmet is made up of a hard outer shell and an energy-absorbing inner, think of it as a bikers answer to a car’s crumple zone. The outer shell is usually a resin/fibre composite such as fibreglass or carbon fibre, or a moulded thermoplastic such as ABS or polycarbonate. The hard shell protects you not only from abrasions as you slide down the road doing a handstand but also stops nasty things penetrating your head.
It’s the job of the inner expanded polystyrene or EPS layer to absorb any energy, not only that emanating from the outer shell but also from the opposite direction as your head crashes against it. Hopefully, it will cushion your head sufficiently to bring it to a gentle stop so that your brain doesn’t smack hard against your skull giving you something much worse than a nasty headache.
Choosing a helmet
Now for the practical stuff, there is a baffling array of helmets to choose from but no matter what style it is and whether it costs £50 or £500; your helmet must fit you. If you want to measure your head make sure the tape is just above the ears but there is definitely no substitute for trying your proposed purchase on. It should fit snugly, touching all parts of your head without creating any pressure points (ears and forehead are likely culprits). When you’ve fastened the chin strap, the helmet should not move in any direction. Ask someone to push the helmet up from behind to roll it forwards and off your head, if it actually comes off, just think what would happen in an accident. If there is any movement at all, it’s the wrong size, try another one. There is a trend for helmets to be offered in bright or fluorescent colours and if you’re serious about being conspicuous and easily seen by other road users, these must be considered.
For some there is nothing more enjoyable than riding wearing an open face helmet and feeling the breeze on your face, but if you don’t want your eyes permanently watering or your soft skin machine-gunned by every insect known to man, a full face helmet is the thing for you. Not only will they shield you from the elements and winged wildlife, they offer greater protection in an accident. The only downsides of the full face option are that they are heavier than open face helmets and offer less peripheral vision. Some riders prefer the flip-front style of opening which simplifies putting on and taking off but these may suffer from additional wind noise.
Visors and goggles:
For those with open face helmets who discard their visors and have a yearning to imitate a latter-day Biggles, goggles are a must have. For the sensible ones with full face lids, tinted visors are available for daytime use and some more expensive helmets have an internal flip-down dark visor for use on the rare occasions when the sun shines. My personal preference is for the ‘double-glazed, anti-fogging pinlock visor that eliminates internal condensation on cold mornings or in the wet.
NEVER use solvents or petrol on any part of your helmet. If your helmet receives any serious impact you should always buy a new one. Damage isn’t always visible to the naked eye and for this reason you should never buy a second-hand helmet. Never leave them perched in a precarious position: leaning against handlebars or balanced on petrol tanks are all too common sights. I stupidly stored my helmet upside down in a gym locker and on my sweaty return, without thinking, I opened the door and, that’s right, splat, a four foot drop onto a tiled floor – a very expensive mistake.
The important thing about visors is that they must be kept clean, rather than removing dried-on insects with a Brillo pad, lay a piece of wet kitchen roll over the visor for a minute or so to loosen the little beasts then just wipe them off. If your visor is obviously worn and everything is a blur or you’re seeing stars when cars come towards you at night; it’s definitely time to fit a new one.
British standards and legal stuff:
Currently (Sept 2010) helmets must comply with British Standard BS 6658:1985 (it will have a British Standard 'Kitemark'), and/or UNECE Regulation 22.05 (it will be marked with a UN 'E' mark). If you’re wearing anything below these standards not only is it illegal but it could be invalidating your insurance policy. If you’re into track days or competitions you’ll find that only helmets with the ACU Gold label are permitted. Whatever visor or goggles you choose, they must be to BS4110 or ECE22.05. Daylight tinted or smoked visors must not be more than 50% tinted although if you enjoy riding in the dark you can legally wear sunglasses with them. Currently, mirrored visors are illegal.
Look after your helmet and it will look after you, keep it clean, keep it safe and keep it in its bag. Finally, if you want to see the vigorous testing methods they had back in 1955 just CLICK HERE.
For those of you who would like to find out more about being a safer motorcyclist, call us at the Coventry and Warwick Advanced Motorcyclists - we have seriously good fun!
Nick Lilley, CWAM Member
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