Throughout my life, I’ve heard so many things about helmet usage and helmet safety that I could probably write a book just refuting the well-intentioned comments, apocryphal stories, and flat-out lies about helmets. Here’s a quick snip of the reality of helmets, certifications, replacement recommendations, and other neat things to know. Some links are posted below for some more info if you become more curious.
CO Helmet Laws - You may not know it from all of those super cool-looking guys riding around with their sunglasses and their bandanas for protection, but Colorado DOES in fact have a helmet law: “Motorcycle operators and passengers under 18 are REQUIRED to wear a DOT-approved helmet.” Furthermore - this isn’t a helmet, but - CO law also requires that you wear some type of eye protection.
DOT Rating System - Since the law above references “DOT-approved helmets,” let’s understand what those criteria are. What does the testing look like for DOT-approved helmets? How many helmets does the DOT test before they go on the market? How does the DOT certify helmets on a per-manufacturer basis? Well, in short… they don’t. The DOT and the NHTSA do not test or certify motorcycle helmets at all! DOT-approved helmets are built and certified on a type of honor system with manufacturers. DOT-approved helmets are said to meet the Federal Motorcycle Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 218. Not tested by the DOT for certification.
Snell Foundation - Snell-certified helmets are widely available, and I’m sure that plenty of you know and use them. These are the most accurately tested helmets on the market and are independently certified by the foundation. The Snell Foundation has multiple certifications for helmets depending on the application, and you should become familiar with these certifications when purchasing a helmet.
Helmets are a very personal item, and as such lots of folks have lots of opinions about which brand, what shape/style, what accessories, etc. Just remember that you can and will void the warranty and certifications of your helmet by modifying it - including by adding comm systems!
From a personal perspective, I tend to sacrifice some of the safety features put forth by the Snell Foundation in favor of comfort and ease of use. I currently wear a Shoei GT-Air II, which can’t be Snell-certified because of the fighter-pilot-style sunglasses visor. To be honest, I just love having that visor in my helmet and feel that Shoei helmets are of a caliber that exceeds DOT standards. On top of my visor, I also have a SENA comm system attached to the side of my helmet that, while giving me the ability to talk and listen to the radio, provides a big fat bump on the side that could be grabbed and twisted violently in an accident (if you catch my neck-breaking drift). So pay attention to how you accessorize your lid, what your helmet wear looks/feels like now, and make sure you’re ready to replace it when you should - there might be a few sales going on soon!
As always, feel free to reach out. I love to argue about safety and training on bikes. Email me at [email protected] and follow my weirdo training exploits on Instagram @jared_drops_his_motorcycle
Replacement notes from a few MFGs:
All - Replace after a crash. Replace if the inner liner is damaged by fall, chemicals, or heat. Replace if due to normal wear, an improper fit has developed.
Snell Foundation: Replace a helmet every 5 years. Dropped from the tank? “Generally the answer is probably not. If your helmet drops to the ground from your hand, off a seat or handlebar of a motorcycle, you do not have to replace it.”
Arai: Follow Snell guidelines. Dropped from the tank? “If a helmet suffers an impact and any doubt exists as to its further ability to protect, it should either be returned to the manufacturer for competent inspection or discarded and replaced.”
Klim: Replace every 5 years. Dropped from the tank? “Should be replaced in a fall”
Schuberth: Replaced every 5-7 years. Dropped from the tank? “After an accident, fall or drop - even from a low height <1m - the full protection can no longer be guaranteed.”
Shoei: Replace every 3 years. Dropped from the tank? They obfuscate the answer