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Helmets & Safety

Helmet Types

There are three main types of motorcycle helmet shell; Full Face, Open Face & Flip-Up.

Manufacturers produce a wide range of helmet designs & styles incorporating various features which are all based on these three basic shell types.

Despite the aesthetic differences, modern motorcycle helmets are manufactured to exacting tolerances which means that size & fit between brands & models is generally consistent.

Many helmets also incorporate adjustable comfort features to ensure the perfect fit.

Some higher specification helmets offer a range of shell sizes related to the wears head size.

Price or helmet shell construction materials is not necessarily an indication of performance as many modern Polycarbonate helmets achieve equally high safety performance ratings as expensive hi-tech composite fibre models.

The variety of designs & materials used in helmet manufacture influence factors such as; safety, price, weight, lift, noise, features, ventilation, aesthetics etc.

Motorcycle helmets: The Law

You must wear a safety helmet that meets British safety standards when riding a motorcycle, motorscooter or moped on the road.

Motorcycle Helmet Standards

All helmets sold in the UK & Europe must meet one of the following safety satandards:

  • British Standard BS 6658:1985 & carry the BSI Kitemark
  • UN ECE Regulation 22.05
  • A European Economic Area member standard offering at least the same safety & protection as BS 6658:1985 & carry a mark equivalent to the BSI Kitemark

Visors & Goggles

If you ride with a visor or goggles they must meet either:

  • A British Standard & display a BSI Kitemark
  • A European standard offering at least the same safety & protection as the British Standard & carry a mark equivalent to the BSI Kitemark (UNECE Regulation 22.05)

About SHARP

(the Safety Helmet Assessment & Rating Programme)

SHARP is an organisation set up by the British Government in 2007 that independently tests & rates motorcycle helmets for crash performance.

The SHARP rating system assist you to make a more informed choice when choosing a helmet.

SHARP Testing

Every motorcycle crash is unique with its own unique set of variables, so SHARP test at a much wider range of impact speeds than those required by standard regulations.
SHARP also analyses national and international crash studies enabling SHARP to select the test points that are most representative of ‘real world’ crashes.
  
For every helmet model tested, SHARP run 32 tests on 7 helmets across a range of sizes, assessing how well each helmet could protect the brain in the event of a crash.

To ensure the validity of the assessment, they only test helmets that they have purchased themselves from retail outlets. It is important that the helmets SHARP test are the same specification as those you would buy yourself.
 
All helmets are tested by impacting them against anvils to represent flat surfaces & kerbs. SHARP tests are carried out at three different speeds to ensure the helmet provides good protection during both high & low severity impacts. Despite the risk of injury being much lower during less severe crashes, even a small risk could result in riders being seriously or fatally injured.

SHARP Ratings

Helmets are awarded between 1 & 5-Stars. A 5-star SHARP rated helmet offers good levels of protection right around the helmet. That does not mean a lower rated helmet won’t protect you. Regardless of its SHARP rating, every helmet on sale in the UK must meet at least one regulatory standard, ensuring it offers at least a minimum level of protection.
 
SHARP offers an independent indication on that unknown factor of a motorcycle helmet; how well it may protect you in the event of a crash?
 
SHARP tests have shown that not all helmets offer the same level of impact protection. During testing SHARP has found differences in performance of as much as 70% between high and low scoring helmets. That’s why the SHARP scheme is important, their independent advice can help to ensure you choose a helmet that offers the best protection possible.

Manufacturers are advised of the SHARP rating before it is published & they are able to lodge an appeal if SHARP’s measured data does not match what they have seen in development or production testing. This process ensures that the SHARP rating is representative of their helmet’s performance.

SHARP Critics

As with all organisations SHARP has its critics.

Some of SHARP’s test methods are questioned & are not universally accepted as ideal.

One view is that the performance of some polycarbonate helmets can deteriorate over time whereas fibre composite helmets generally retain their integrity for longer.

Because only new helmets are tested this aspect of a helmets performance is not measured.

As some helmets are specifically designed to exceed alternative, valid test criteria there have been examples of premium brand, high specification helmets receiving lower SHARP ratings than relatively inexpensive models.

Despite the contentions, SHARP’s rating system, although not definitive, is a useful guide to be taken into consideration when choosing your next helmet.

Visit www.sharp.direct.gov.uk for more information or use the SHARP widget on our website.

ACU Accreditation

All helmets used in motorsport must be ACU (Auto Cycle Union) approved with either a 'Gold' sticker for tarmac & other hard surfaces or a 'Silver' sticker for off road events.

Regardless of ACU accreditation if a helmet looks damaged or unsatisfactory in any way it will not pass event scrutinisers.

Helmets sent for approval by the ACU are subject to a range of rigorous destruction tests. If a helmet meets ACU criteria it will be given ACU approval & recorded on the ACU register.

As materials & production techniques improve, many relatively inexpensive helmets now attain ACU accreditation & can therefore be used in motorsport events. That is not to say that in an accident they will perform equally as well as premium brand helmets.

Open face & flip-up helmets can also achieve ACU accreditation. Open face helmets are often used in classic motorsport events.

As with SHARP ratings ACU accreditation is another factor to be taken into consideration when choosing a helmet as the user has the reassurance that ACU approved helmets have been tested & proved to exceed the statutary EU regulatory requirements. 

Visit www.acu.org.ukor Tel: 01788 566 400 for further information.

Material contained on this website is provided in good faith for general information purposes only & does not claim to be or constitute legal or other professional advice & shall not be relied upon as such.

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