Protect Yo' Noggin' (11 min read)
Like many who are getting started, you need a helmet, and don’t know where to start, right? Perhaps your best friend offered to sell you his old helmet, or maybe you’re tempted to buy a motorcycle helmet you found on Amazon because it matched your S2000. No AND no.
DO NOT BUY A USED HELMET. Wearing a used helmet is it like wearing a fungus-ridden bowling shoe on your head; and Febreze isn’t going to mask that nasty-ass funk. Odor aside, even if the helmet has never been involved in an accident, there could be underlying issues that you’re not aware of.
Here are a few causes of wear and tear: After a while, the glue and resin begin to dry up, causing the helmet’s internal structure to become brittle. Consistent sweat and bodily funk get absorbed into the foam can compromise its integrity. Even long-term vibrations from being in the car can weaken the helmet over time. Notable organizations like SCCA and NASA limit how old a helmet can be for reasons like this. After a while, they’re just not as safe as they once were. It's in good practice to retire your helmet after five years of use. Don't believe me? See link: Snell: Why Should You Replace Your Helmet Every Five Years?
I know this part sounds cheesy, but it’s true: You work hard for what you have in life; your car, mortgage, husband, wife, kids, and your XBOX account. So what happens when you’re a vegetable and can’t take care of these things any longer? I know that sounds extreme, but it happens. Always prepare for the worst. Invest in a helmet that’s going to protect you, not simply because “it’s a helmet” and checks the safety box. I’ve meet many people who say, “I just need a cheap helmet.” Why the fuck, why??? What does that say about yourself? Another great line is, “I don’t drive that often, so I just need something cheap.” Not to sound brash, but I’m sorry, but life doesn’t have a pause button. When you’re flat-out heading into turn one at Fontana, and find yourself sliding into the wall, life doesn’t say, “ Hey PAUSE! Jimmy only races twice a year!” It doesn’t matter if you race once a year, or fifty..a wreck is a wreck. Veteran or not, chances are, if you race less, there’s a better chance your skills aren't as sharp as those who race consistently. Name any top-performing athlete that doesn't practice.
Fitment is important, and another reason why you don’t want to use someone else’s helmet. There’s a pretty good chance it doesn’t fit you. Your helmet should fit snug. You should have equal pressure around the crown of your skull. If it’s too loose, it’s bound to move around your head, and not do it’s job properly. If it’s too tight, it’s going to cause headaches and ruin your day. Also, look for areas of isolated pressure or discomfort, such as in the middle of your forehead, or very top of your skull. The key word is balance. (Side Note: keep in mind that your skin moves, so a little bit of movement is expected to occur, and not to be confused with being too loose)
If you have the means, it's a good idea to do a proper head measurement. If you don’t have a tailor’s measuring tape, simply take a piece of string and measure the circumference of your head, starting slightly above your eyebrows, going all the way to the back of the widest part of your skull, (that bump where the spinal chord connects to the skull), and back to where the string begins (make a complete circle around your head). Lay the string next to a yard stick or measuring tape. This will give you a good starting point to compare helmet sizing charts. Each helmet manufacturer fits differently, so be sure to compare your measurement specific to the manufacturer you're shopping for.
So why a “motorsports” helmet and not a motorcycle helmet? Wouldn’t a motorcycle helmet protect you more? The answer is yes and no. Motorcycle helmets are meant for motorcycles, and designed to take one big smack, from say, falling off the bike onto a solid object like a curb or another car. A motorsport-specific helmet with a Snell SA rating is designed to take repeated hits from situations like a rollover. Although similar in aesthetics, motorcycle and motorsprots helmets are structurally different. For more information on Snell ratings, see link: http://www.smf.org/helmetfaq
So, why are some helmets $200.00 and others are $2,000? If they all meet the Snell standards, aren’t they all the same? Unfortunately, no. There’s a difference between meeting minimum standards and exceeding them. What separates a Corolla from a 3-series? They both have 4 doors and 4 tires, ect ect. Just like a car, it’s all about the use of material and overall quality. Some helmets are made of fiberglass, carbon fiber, or a composite. Even carbon fiber has different grades. Additionally, a cheap helmet is going to have minimal comfort, whereas a higher-priced helmet is going to be a little more cush, with options like removable and interchangeable padding. A great starter helmet is the HJC AR or Black Armor composite. These helmets have a great balance of comfort and quality for the price of under $400.00.
For more helmet options, check out the store. (soon to come)