Shrinking The Planet – One Ride At A Time

SHARP Dressed Man

I was never one to get into the ride with or without helmet argument.  For me, wearing one seemed to make sense.  During my short racing career, I learned that my neck was not up to the job of keeping my head from contacting the ground.  That that orb of skin, bone and brain affixed to the top of my shoulders was pretty vulnerable.  No matter how hard I tried, my head often struck the road whether my falling off was precipitated by a high side or a low side.  So my choice was limited to what make of helmet to wear and whose rating system I should consider.  Snell, ECE, BSI or DOT.

The choice of helmet has been made even more difficult with many manufacturers claiming that they have premium protection over the competition.  You could spend less than $50 on a DOT sticker beanie, and less than $100 on an open or full face helmet.  The choice is made even more difficult with helmet manufactures making all kinds of claims about the certifications they’ve obtained, while others have remained silent on the subject.

I used to think that having a Snell or ECE sticker on my helmet marked it as a quality helmet. Having a DOT or BSI sticker was OK, but not a sign of cutting edge protection.  But over the last couple of years a debate has broken out as to whether these ratings were based on good science and real world situations. Some claimed that the Snell certification did not represent real world scenarios and resulted in a helmet that was too “hard” that would transfer more energy to the rider than a “softer” (i.e. DOT/BSI) helmet.

A major magazine did an article that questioned the ratings systems and postulated that indeed, the generally cheaper and softer helmets DOT helmets were a better alternative to the harder more expensive Snell helmets.  From there a major firestorm erupted.  If the ratings system didn’t tell the truth, what can we rely on when choosing a helmet?

Well arguably there’s a new sheriff in town and it is gaining wide acceptance throughout Europe and perhaps soon in the United States.  It’s called the SHARP Helmet Safety Scheme.  It’s based in the United Kingdom and it claims that it takes the best elements from each of the safety standards, while using a more rigorous targeted testing process.

SHARP evaluations take testing one step further than the other major certifications.  Using a 5 star rating system, instead of just earning a “certification” SHARP ratings compare helmet performance against the SHARP standard and assign the helmet from one to five stars.  Because of this, you can compare the tested results not only against the standard, but against other helmets.

So with all these choices, certifications and claims, what do you use to help you make a decision as to what certification you should trust when choosing a helmet?  Want to know how your Arai RX-7 GP rates against an AGV GP Tech?  You can compare them right on the SHARP website and get the star rating for each (in this case 4 stars for the Arai RX-7 GP and 5 stars for the AGV GP Tech).  You can review all the helmets tested so far here:

The only problem is that they are still testing many makes and models of helmets so you may not find yours or the one you want to purchase.  But we now have another source to assist us in making our helmet choices.

Are you even more confused now?  I don’t know a lot about the exact science of helmet testing, but I do like having the ability to compare helmets against each other.  What do you think?


5 responses

  1. NO DOT helmet has to be pretested prior to selling. When a manufacturer puts a DOT sticker on a helmet all they are doing is “certifying” that should the helmet ever actually get tested it may pass FMVSS218. NHTSA only tests about 30 helmets a year and approx. 30 percent of those fail. The truth about helmets? If they actually did tell the truth a lot of people would probably quit riding motorcycles. The article the this “ad” is referring to is “Blowing the Lid Off” The long time motorcycle magazine editor was fired…pushed out by the helmet manufacturers. And he was and is 100% pro helmet usage.


    March 31, 2014 at 9:45 am

  2. Experimental Ghost

    A friend was wearing a Shoei when she had her accident recently. The shell did split from ear to ear but there was no internal damage to the padding inside. She came out with all her faculties intact. The rest of her is not so good, a 25m sheer drop will do that though.

    For me, I have a Shoei head and wear an XR1100. No other brand fits comfortably. The accident my friend had has reinforced to me that I have made the right choice.

    Having said that though, the question should be. “How much do you value your head?”

    You get what you pay for.


    March 31, 2014 at 6:08 pm

  3. itsmewilly

    Didn’t know there was such controversy about the rating system. That Sharp system is worth keeping an eye on. Knowing what helmet is best for you can save your life.


    March 31, 2014 at 6:49 pm

  4. Jean-Pierre

    In Europe, all helmets have to fullfill the ECE norm, which in some views are contradictory to the US Snell norms from a technical point of view. Is your helmet not ECE approved
    your insurance will reduce it’s commitments in case of injuries.

    There are only two helmets which fullfill the Snell AND the ECE standard. The Shoei X spirit 2 and the Arai GP7 RX both are very good but very expensive approx. US$ 1’000.-
    however to latter is only 4 stars in the sharp test.

    The helmets tested by the Snell certification are provided by the manufacturers directly, which means these helmets could differ in its construction from the same helmets you buy in the shops.

    With the SHARP standard the helmets are bought from the shops directly and it is an independant authority which test these (SHARP). This sharp test tells you that some helmets like the Caberg Konda (not anymore produced) could be 5 stars and very cheap.

    Personally I use Shoei S-Spirit 2, Caberg Konda and Shark Race Pro all of these 3 helmets
    have a 5 stars rating.

    I drive a BMW S1000 rr and a MV Agusta Brutale 990 r which are
    both very powerfull bikes, hence I prefer to be on the safe side. Not to forget that helmets are tested at a speed of 30km p.h (or appro 25 m. p.h.), how often do you drive at this speed ? not very often which such bikes. Your shoes, gloves, throusers, jackets and
    as important is your quality of your back protection (which should fits with the standard for the race track) even if you drive only on opened roads.


    April 7, 2014 at 12:34 pm

  5. I was personaly wearing an exo scorpion 1000 when I had my accident and I’m very greatful for this. I hope every famous brands are good otherwise that would be awful for everyone.



    May 28, 2014 at 4:16 am

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