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WeeAsp 06-15-2007 08:52 PM

HELMET BUYING GUIDE - How Much is Your Noggin Worth?
Since I've been a part of the FF Community, I've noticed a fair amount of questions regarding purchasing a helmet. Which one to buy, how much should I spend and so forth...

I came across this article that does a really good job of explaining how you should make your selection.

These are the experts (not me) opinions...

How much is your head worth? The answer should be simple - PRICELESS.

However, just because you spend nearly a thousand dollars on a helmet, if it doesn’t fit properly, you’ve compromised your safety. Just like tires, there’s more to tires than being ‘round and black’, there’s more to helmets than being open-faced or full-face.

Let’s start with the basics. According to the SCCA 2007 guidelines, the minimum safety requirements and certifications are spelled out clearly. ‘Crash helmets approved by the Snell Foundation with a Snell sticker 2000 or later Special Application (SA2000), or by the SFI with a rating of 31.1a for open-faced helmets and an SFI sticker 31.2a for closed faced (if purchased prior to 12/31/04) or by the FIA standard 8860-2004. All of which are noted on the sticker located inside the helmet liner.

These standards are based on the theory that the head can briefly withstand forces of 300g. In his book Motorsports Medicine, Dr. Harlen Hunter describes what happens to your skull and your brain during impacts.

‘The seriousness of head injuries depends upon head movements during impacts or decelerations, the duration of an incident and the total g Forces experienced. When the head is contacted directly, shock waves can be passed to the brain directly through the skull, which may or may not fracture. Shock waves can be passed to the brain tissue and even rebound off of the skull and pass through the brain several times. Distortion of the skull can cause fractures at locations other than the point of contact. Skull fractures may or may not be accompanied by brain injuries.”

Keep in mind that the GCR is only stating the MINIMUM safety standards and they don’t directly address a key point – proper helmet fit.

According to the Snell Foundation, “Helmets are normally comprised of four elements:

- Rigid outer shell
- Crushable liner
- Chin strap(s)
- Comfort padding

The rigid outer shell adds load spreading capability and prevents objects from penetrating the helmet. It’s kind of an additional skull. The liner, usually made of Styrofoam, absorbs the energy of an impact by crushing. The chin strap, when properly buckled and adjusted, helps the helmet remain in position during a crash.

Helmets work kind of like a brake or a shock absorber. During a crash, the head is traveling at a certain speed. Since the head has weight, and is moving, there is a certain amount of energy associated with a head in motion…In short, everything slows down really quickly. A helmet will effectively reduce the speed of the head by breaking and crushing which reduces the amount of energy transferred to the brain. The whole process takes only milliseconds to turn a potentially lethal blow into a survivable one.

So, understanding how helmets work, which one do I chose?

There are a few steps in determining what is right for you as a driver:

1. What kind of racing are you participating? Road racing, drag racing, rally or oval track racing require a more robust level of protection.
2. Helmet weight. The higher g-force car you are racing, the more strain on your neck you will experience with a heavier helmet.
3. Helmet fit. What size do I choose? Most helmet manufacturers list helmets in inches, or centimeters. However, some use hat sizes or small, medium, large, and extra large. Still, all manufacturers recommend that you measure and obtain a number that corresponds to size. Try on a number of manufacturers since different brands will fit different heads.
a. It is important that the helmet FIT AS SNUG AS POSSIBLE WITHOUT CAUSING PAIN.
b. The best fit is determined by how the helmet fits around the crown of your head.
c. Check all axis of fit. Horizontal and side to side. If the helmet slides, go a size down.
d. The top of the eye-port padding should be just above your eyebrows.
e. Make sure that the cheek pads are in contact with your cheeks.
f. Check the pressure points. When you remove the helmet, look at the coloration of the skin. It should be slightly red (more if you are Irish) at the temples, cheeks and near the ears. If there is pain associated with removing the helmet, you may need to increase the size.

It has become increasingly popular for drivers to paint their helmets. When doing so, it is a good idea to send the newly painted helmet back to the manufacturer for inspection. Many of the solvents and chemicals used in painting can adversely affect the inner liner and comfort liners of helmets. This same inspection service should also be utilized if a helmet is dropped from a distance greater than 4 feet. Most manufacturers offer this service free of charge.

You know how much your head is worth. Just remember that a helmet is the most expensive piece of safety equipment that you hope you never have to use. It is a “one time use product”. Protect your brain. It is the only one you have.

killer ZETEC 06-15-2007 08:57 PM

good i understand that stuff. but how about a list of sites that sell helmets

around here a cycle helmet will work for auto x but i want to run my car at road america so i need a race helmet right?

any sites you know would help

Impaled 06-16-2007 12:58 AM

Yeah a helmet is the only thing keeping me from autoxing at this point. Any good cheap sites to buy one from would be nice, but then how do we try em on? lol.

SkaAddict 06-16-2007 01:36 AM

I got mine from Summit Racing (mainly because their showroom is about 30 minutes away from where I live,) a Bell Mag-4 open face for $300 plus tax. I figure I never plan on owning an open top/windshieldless car so I don't need a full-face helmet, and I think open face helmets are more comfortable to wear, espeically for longer periods of time (I got it mainly so I can run at a road course about an hour away from where I live.) Like he said, put "low price" out of your thoughts when considering a helmet.

WeeAsp 06-17-2007 11:29 PM

My apologies for not posting sooner...I was out of town for Father's Day.

A couple of things.

1. You DON'T need to spend $1000 for ahelmet. As the article indicates, decide what kind of activity you intend to pursue and go from there. For AX an "M" Certified helmet is more than sufficient. There are also manufacturers like HJC that offer reasonable helmets for less than $200.

2. Buying online. This is a bit of a concern because you will not know how the helmet fits until you try it on. Each manufacturer sizes differently. So, your best bet is to try on a helmet and go from there. If you can accurately size your helmet in person, then buying online is less of a concern.

A quick story. A good friend of mine who had a marginal interest in motorsports wnt to WAL-MART and purchased a no-name $78 dollar helmet for use on track and in AX. He failed tech inspection because the helmet was not up to certification standard because it could not be proven.

He returned the helmet and bought an HJC. For $40 more he was able to purchase a certified helmet at a reasonable cost. Since he is only marginally intereste, his needs for AX were met and coud also participate in track events.

$140 was all his budget will allow for at this time. So, take that into consideration as well.

However, heed the advice of the article in going too far on the cheap...

killer ZETEC 06-18-2007 07:09 PM

thanks man! now to go to the yamaha dealer down the street !!

SkaAddict 06-18-2007 07:16 PM

Before buying an M-rated helmet, stop and think for a you ever plan to do anything more than just auto-x? Because aside from auto-x and some drag strips, pretty much all road courses and similar tracks require a SA helmet (or equivalent), and while auto-x is fun, you might eventually step out of the parking lot and into a real race enviroment.

GaryS 06-18-2007 07:44 PM

For an autocross helmet just go to the local motorcycle shop. The HJC brand of helmets is the most popular helmet at the SCCA Solo Nationals and a couple of winters ago I bought a HJC CS-5 (open face) at the local Honda dealer for $65. I like it better than my Bell Mag 4 that cost twice as much. Just be aware that not all helmets sold at a motorcycle shop will be Snell approved (needed for SCCA Solo competition). Make sure it has the Snell sticker inside on the foam before you buy.

OBTW- Many SCCA Solo National Championships have been won by folks wearing a <$100 helmet.

WeeAsp 06-19-2007 08:55 AM

^^ Very true. There are deals to be had when it comes to purchasing a helmet. $100 or $150 is not an unreasonable price...

Depending on your activity.

To SK's point, and yours, if you intend to take a car to a track, then you WILL need the SA rating.

So, if that is part of your plan, then spend the extra money (within your budget) and get the SA rating.

focusedintentions 06-19-2007 10:13 AM

I have a $750 arai limited edition can't buy a better helmet from them...but that's cuz i ride and it matches my bike lol....yes my head is worth alot! I use that for my autoX or karting days.

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