Helmets—Everything You Need To Know

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One very important part of riding a motorcycle is wearing a helmet. Chances of surviving a crash are much higher when a rider is wearing a helmet, and strapped on tight.

So ever wondered who came up with the first helmet design and how the law came into being? How or since when did a helmet become such an essential part of motorcycling and motorsports?

Here is a little peek into the history books about how the helmet came into being, different types, standards and laws in countries regarding helmets.

What exactly does a helmet do?

Helmets are an essential safety gear to protect a person's head from serious injuries, in the event of an accident. A study showed that wearing helmets reduce the risk of head by almost 69 percent and even death by almost 42 percent.

Where and when did it come into existence?

The origin of the helmets can be dated all the way back to 1914. During motorcycle races in England, Dr. Eric Gardner noticed many of the riders who crashed suffered head injuries, and this kept happening every couple of weeks. So the doctor got Mr Moss to design something out of canvas and shellac, that could withstand a heavy blow to the head, but was smooth enough at the same time.

How was it accepted?

Gardner took this design and presented it to the Auto Cycle Union, where the idea was scrapped. Later, the helmet was made compulsory at the Isle of Man TT races, but riders were not ready to accept it yet. But Gardner took 94 helmets with him to the races and one rider crashed into a gate, and was saved since he was wearing a helmet. Gardner then received a letter from from the Isle of Man medical officer, claiming that usually, after races, many cases would emerge of concussions, but that year, there was none.

Helmets and motorsports:

By the end of the 1950s full face crash helmets were regarded as essential equipment for drivers in all forms of motor racing. Bell developed the first mass-produced auto racing helmet in 1954.

Military and civilian usage

The death of Lawrence of Arabia was one key reason the military and civilians increased the usage of a helmet while riding. Lawrence of Arabia crashed on his motorcycle, on a narrow road, trying to avoid two cyclists. He lost control, crashed and died due to a coma a few days later, after sustaining head injuries. Hugh Cairns, a neurosurgeon who attended Lawrence in the hospital, carried out research which increased the usage of helmet with the military and civilians.

Photo credit: Wiki Commons

What types of helmets are there?

Helmets come in different types—full face, off road or motocross, flip-up, open face and half helmets. The full face helmets offer the maximum protection. Motorcross helmets are mainly competition focused and make it uncomfortable to use while riding on the street because it catches air and will stress your neck. Flip-up helmets are a good selection too since it gives you a choice to ride with a full face protection or half protection. Open face and half helmets will not protect the head in a major crash.

What are modern day helmets made of?

Modern day helmets are made of plastics, reinforced fiberglass, kevlar and also carbon-fibre. The inners are made of expanded polystyrene foam, to offer comfort and protection. Carbon-fibre helmets are light, offer superior protection but are expensive.

How to choose a helmet that fits properly?

Helmets come in different sizes and for one reason-to offer better protection. A helmet must fit like how a woolen cap fits on one's head. It has to fit tight, but not too tight. Never settle for a helmet that is one size bigger because a helmet that doesn't fit you well can be the reason for your injuries itself. many helmet buying and manufacturer sites have a table, so one can measure the right size.

Photo credit: Getgeared

How to choose a helmet with a good standard?

Many countries have a specific standard to which helmets have to meet. India has Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), but many helmets out there do not meet such standards. These helmets will offer almost no protection at all. With many international companies now in India, D.O.T and ECE certified helmets are among the best one can buy.

Photo credit: Wiki Commons

How long will a helmet last?

If taken care of well, a helmet will last for 5 years. Natural wear and tear will take a toll on the helmet. Another important thing to remember is to never ever drop a helmet. Helmets are designed to protect just once and if dropped, the protective fibre shell takes a hit and may not offer 100 percent protection, as it was designed to.

How strict is the law?

Since helmets can save lives by greatly reducing the chances of injuring the head, many countries have strict laws. In India, any form of two-wheeler ridden without a helmet is an offence in a few states, and few states require the pillion to wear a helmet as well. The rule applicable throughout India, but local law enforcements are yet to implement harsher penalties to offenders.

What are some good helmets that can be bought in India?

Studds, Vega and LS2 are some good brands. If budget is a constraint, if not, Arai, Shoei, Bell and AGV are some very good brands which are certified by D.O.T and ECE.

One key thing to remember:

Just an expensive helmet which meets D.O.T or ECE standards will not offer much protection unless it is strapped on! Wear a helmet and strap it on—that's the secret behind protecting your head!

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