View Full Version : How to get a properly fitting helmet

06-29-2002, 07:59 AM
Hey everyone,

This is a post that came off of a subaru related mailing list that I am on, and was just recently re-posted on the i-club. I thought I would post it here for the benefit of those of you looking to get involved in motorsports but requiring a helmet. Enjoy and put the info to good use :)


Finally have a chance to contribute to the excellent mailing list, after just
passively sucking knowledge from all of you for months now!

All Snell rated helmets offer the same level of protection for a given rating
year. They are generally rated every 5 years. Most sanctioning bodies look
for a Snell rated helmet rated in the last 5-10 years. Snell 00 helmets are
just coming out, so they are a better investment than a Snell 95 helmet. The
wide difference in price only relates to the graphics and the features
(removable padding, vent systems, etc). The only appreciable design
difference is between the SA and M helmets. M stands for motorcycle, and
these helmets are more engineered to absorb and dissipate a single impact
(like you and your bike smacking a bus, and not multiple small impacts, like
your body rolling and rolling after laying down a bike softly on the road).
SA helmets are designed to take multiple impacts in a given crash (car bounces
off a wall, then gets t-boned by a competitor, then gets hit again, etc).
Most local autox's don't care whether its M or SA, but the more you get into
wheel -to - wheel combat, the more likely you'll need a SA rated helmet.
Overall, SA helmets tend to be more expensive than M.

A very important factor in helmet safety is fit - many more people buy a
loose helmet, than a helmet that is too tight. A loose helmet doesn't
dissipate impact energy within the helmet, but is more likely to transfer
that energy directly to your head. Clues of a proper fit: 1) the helmet
should squeeze your head evenly all over your head; 2) when you gently shake
your head in a "no" motion, or a "yes" motion, the helmet should actually
move the skin on your forehead, cheeks, and back of head, and not move OVER
the skin on the head; 3) walk around the helmet shop with the helmet on for
15 minutes - does it still feel evenly snug all over? Also, notice that it
doesn't feel so tight anymore?

Finally, a word about head shape and race. If you are Caucasian or of
African-American descent, your head is more likely to have what the Arai
helmet people call a "long oval shape" (from an overhead view perspective).
If you are of Asian descent, you are more likely to have a "short oval". Arai
is a Japanese manufacturer who first made only short oval helmets, but have
expanded their line to now sell long ovals as well. Keep that in mind if you
are buying a helmet from a Far East maker (Arai, Shoei), and it pinches the
forehead or back of your Caucasian or African-American head. Same goes if you
are buying from a Western maker (Bell, Pyrotect), and it is pinching the
sides of your Asian head.

Lastly, remember, this is YOUR HEAD. Don't borrow a poorly fitting helmet to
be cheap. Never, ever buy a used helmet (did the person crash their bike in
a ditch, so the helmet has no scratches?). Never trust a helmet that has been
crashed. You can get a Snell M rated helmet for <$150. If you've ever seen a
person who had TBI (traumatic brain injury, from a blow to your head), you'd
understand that these injuries are 1) life changing 2) permanent, with at
best partial recovery, and 3) more sad for everyone around you than you can
imagine. As a neurologist who specializes in TBI, take my word for it.

Not used to preaching so late at night, but if you're smart enough to be on
the Impreza list, we need to keep you safe!
Franck in Philly