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Saturday, September 30, 2017

10 Painfully True Examples of Murphy’s Laws for Motorcycles

So, just in case you don’t know what the Murphy’s Law is, it’s an adage that never comes of age. The law is simple.
“Anything That Can Go Wrong Will Go Wrong”.
And if there’s one thing it really applies to is, motorcycling. A lot of things which can go wrong, do end up going wrong for a lot of motorcyclists. Here’s a list of 10!


What’s worse than falling of a motorcycle? A bunch of people standing there to see it and laugh at you. Generally, the larger your ego, and the larger the crowd that has its eyes on you, the more your chances are of falling. An expensive new motorcycle makes it all the more worse.

You’ve put in all your gear. Boots, Padding, Jacket, Protector, Gloves, Helmet. Just about everything. And right then, nature will give you a call. And when nature calls, there’s no “Reject” button.

Ohh, the weather is all good today. I haven’t ridden in quite a few days. It’s time to take that long ride I’ve been planning since some while. Let’s head out. No need of any rain gear, even. Well buddy, give yourselves 20 minutes into the ride, and you’ll be soaking wet in rain that came out of nowhere.

“I’m riding 50 miles an hour. My head isn’t even the size of a badminton racket. What are the odds I’ll hit a bug.” Just try testing that once with your visor up and mouth open. I bet you’ll never dare again.

“There’s something wrong in the bike. Let me get down and check.” “Ohh, it’s just a quick fix. Let me do it here itself, by the side of the road”. Try doing that and you’ll be apprehensive about using the word “quick” ever again.

“The repair kit is too much a pain to carry around. Let it stay at the house as well. I don’t ever need it anyway”. Well buddy, today you will. Today’s the day you’ll get the flat you haven’t gotten in a lot of months.

You urgently need some parts. Not a problem. I’ll just order it on Amazon and get it in a day. Well good luck buddy. The one time you need that part, neither will it be on discount, nor will it be available. Get ready to use Uber for quite some time now.

“It’s just a single problem. I’m pretty sure the rest of the bike is just fine”. Wait for it. Just as you think you’re about done fixing what you set out to, you’ll find a whole pandora box of other problems, which you’ll now HAVE to fix.

You’ve just cleaned and shined your bike. You’ve taken out every spec and particle of dust from every crevice there is. “How about I take this good looking lady for a nice spin?” Minutes later you’ll find yourself riding through a puddle which came out of nowhere.

You’re low on gas. “It’s okay. There’s a station every few miles”. Guess what buddy? Today, they’ll all vanish in thin air. And the ones which won’t, wouldn’t have any gas to give you.
How many times have you fallen prey to any of the above situations? Let us know your tales of distress and bad luck in the comments section below.

FCC Freedom of Information

FCC Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) The Freedom of Information Act,
commonly known as the FOIA, was enacted by Congress in 1966 to give
the American public greater access to the Federal Government's
records. The Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996
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more easily and widely available to the public. Most recently in
December 2005, Executive Order 13392, "Improving Agency Disclosure of
Information," reaffirmed that FOIA "has provided an important means
through which the public can obtain information regarding the
activities of Federal agencies" and required Federal agencies to make
their FOIA programs "citizen-centered and results-oriented."

The following is an informal explanation of the FOIA process at the
FCC. Please consult the full text of the FCC's regulations
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filing a FOIA request. In addition, you may wish to consult the United
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Freedom of Information Act Guide and Privacy Overview that contains an
extensive analysis of the statute and FOIA case law. If these
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To make a FOIA request pursuant to 47 C.F.R. § 0.461, you have several options:

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1.Records classified national defense or foreign policy materials, 5
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2.Internal personnel rules and agency practices, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(2);

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7.Records compiled for law enforcement purposes, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7);

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9.Oil well data, 5 U.S.C. § 552 (b)(9).

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Under the FOIA Exemption 6 and the Privacy Act, the FCC may be
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Under the FOIA, the FCC must determine within 20 business days of
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Lane Splitting: Educational Guidelines Legislation (California AB51) Update...6/28/16

Lane Splitting: Educational Guidelines Legislation (California AB51) Update...6/28/16
Yesterday, AB 51 made it out of the Senate Appropriations Committee and was placed on their second reading file pursuant to Senate Rule 28.8…
28.8. Any bill referred to the Committee on Appropriations pursuant to Joint Rule 10.5 that does not appropriate money may not be set for hearing and shall, along with any nonsubstantive amendments, promptly be reported to the Senate with the recommendation it be placed on second reading if the chair of the committee determines that (a) any additional state costs are not significant and do not and will not require the appropriation of additional state funds, and (b) the bill will cause no significant reduction in revenues.
Today, AB 51 was the 8th bill on the Senate Floor agenda.…
Will know what the status is later today. But…in the event it does pass a vote on the Senate Floor today, AB 51 will then go back for approval by the House of Origin because of the changes made to the bill while it was in the Second House. This is called Concurrence…
… Approval by the House of origin to changes made to a bill while it was in the second House (e.g., Assembly approval of Senate amendments to an Assembly bill).
If concurrence is denied, the bill is eligible to be sent to a two-house conference committee - A joint Assembly and Senate committee composed of six legislators, three from each House. The conference committee meets in public session to reconcile differences between the Assembly and Senate versions of a measure. Three Assembly conferees are chosen by the Speaker; three Senate conferees are chosen by the Senate Rules Committee.
If concurrence is approved, the bill will be forwarded to the Governor for his signature. If the Governor signs the bill, it will go into effect in January, 2017.
It is hoped that AB 51 passes both the Senate Floor and Concurrence in the Assembly by June 30 before Legislature goes on summer recess during the month of July.
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New police radars can 'see' inside homes

How much more before you say enough is enough and DO something?…/police-radar-see-throug…/22007615/

At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies quietly deployed radars that let them effectively see inside homes, with little notice to the courts or the public.

(Photo: L3 Communications)

WASHINGTON — At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance.

Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used. The technology raises legal and privacy issues because the U.S. Supreme Court has said officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors to tell them about the inside of a person's house without first obtaining a search warrant.

The radars work like finely tuned motion detectors, using radio waves to zero in on movements as slight as human breathing from a distance of more than 50 feet. They can detect whether anyone is inside of a house, where they are and whether they are moving.
Play Video

The RANGE-R handheld radar is used by dozens of U.S. law enforcement agencies to help detect movement inside buildings. See how it works in this video provided by L-3 Communications VPC

Current and former federal officials say the information is critical for keeping officers safe if they need to storm buildings or rescue hostages. But privacy advocates and judges have nonetheless expressed concern about the circumstances in which law enforcement agencies may be using the radars — and the fact that they have so far done so without public scrutiny.

"The idea that the government can send signals through the wall of your house to figure out what's inside is problematic," said Christopher Soghoian, the American Civil Liberties Union's principal technologist. "Technologies that allow the police to look inside of a home are among the intrusive tools that police have."

Agents' use of the radars was largely unknown until December, when a federal appeals court in Denver said officers had used one before they entered a house to arrest a man wanted for violating his parole. The judges expressed alarm that agents had used the new technology without a search warrant, warning that "the government's warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions."

By then, however, the technology was hardly new. Federal contract records show the Marshals Service began buying the radars in 2012, and has so far spent at least $180,000 on them.

Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said officials are reviewing the court's decision. He said the Marshals Service "routinely pursues and arrests violent offenders based on pre-established probable cause in arrest warrants" for serious crimes.

The device the Marshals Service and others are using, known as the Range-R, looks like a sophisticated stud-finder. Its display shows whether it has detected movement on the other side of a wall and, if so, how far away it is — but it does not show a picture of what's happening inside. The Range-R's maker, L-3 Communications, estimates it has sold about 200 devices to 50 law enforcement agencies at a cost of about $6,000 each.

Other radar devices have far more advanced capabilities, including three-dimensional displays of where people are located inside a building, according to marketing materials from their manufacturers. One is capable of being mounted on a drone. And the Justice Department has funded research to develop systems that can map the interiors of buildings and locate the people within them.

The radars were first designed for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. They represent the latest example of battlefield technology finding its way home to civilian policing and bringing complex legal questions with it.

Those concerns are especially thorny when it comes to technology that lets the police determine what's happening inside someone's home. The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that the Constitution generally bars police from scanning the outside of a house with a thermal camera unless they have a warrant, and specifically noted that the rule would apply to radar-based systems that were then being developed.

In 2013, the court limited police's ability to have a drug dog sniff the outside of homes. The core of the Fourth Amendment, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, is "the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion."

Still, the radars appear to have drawn little scrutiny from state or federal courts. The federal appeals court's decision published last month was apparently the first by an appellate court to reference the technology or its implications.

That case began when a fugitive-hunting task force headed by the U.S. Marshals Service tracked a man named Steven Denson, wanted for violating his parole, to a house in Wichita. Before they forced the door open, Deputy U.S. Marshal Josh Moff testified, he used a Range-R to detect that someone was inside.

Moff's report made no mention of the radar; it said only that officers "developed reasonable suspicion that Denson was in the residence."

Agents arrested Denson for the parole violation and charged him with illegally possessing two firearms they found inside. The agents had a warrant for Denson's arrest but did not have a search warrant. Denson's lawyer sought to have the guns charge thrown out, in part because the search began with the warrantless use of the radar device.

Three judges on the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the search, and Denson's conviction, on other grounds. Still, the judges wrote, they had "little doubt that the radar device deployed here will soon generate many questions for this court."

But privacy advocates said they see more immediate questions, including how judges could be surprised by technology that has been in agents' hands for at least two years. "The problem isn't that the police have this. The issue isn't the technology; the issue is always about how you use it and what the safeguards are," said Hanni Fakhoury, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The Marshals Service has faced criticism for concealing other surveillance tools. Last year, the ACLU obtained an e-mail from a Sarasota, Fla., police sergeant asking officers from another department not to reveal that they had received information from a cellphone-monitoring tool known as a stingray. "In the past, and at the request of the U.S. Marshals, the investigative means utilized to locate the suspect have not been revealed," he wrote, suggesting that officers instead say they had received help from "a confidential source."

William Sorukas, a former supervisor of the Marshals Service's domestic investigations arm, said deputies are not instructed to conceal the agency's high-tech tools, but they also know not to advertise them. "If you disclose a technology or a method or a source, you're telling the bad guys along with everyone else," he said.

Follow investigative reporter Brad Heath on Twitter at @bradheath



In CA a helmet ticket is a FIX IT ticket, a $25 fine. But because the vast majority of riders refuse to learn, fight back or simply go buy something the cops want them to wear; the cops get to freely fuck with bikers. They write the tickets as non correctable, a $200 fine. And of course should you choose to wear a legal helmet that the cops don't like, they will swarm you and throw your ass in jail, all for your safety. We cannot fight for your rights, you have to be American enough to stand on your own. We can help you to fight. Or you can support us in our Federal Class action lawsuit

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Espinoza's Leather Story and Bios..


It was a pleasure meeting you (electronically) and an honor to be on your show. Per you request I have enclosed both the REVOLUCION magazine article and the bio from our website which combined give some background and facts of our shop and history. Just below are the bios of each member in chronological order. Thank you once again for your interest in our business and the opportunity to reach out to your fans.
Joe Espinoza

________    THE CAST________
Gilberto Espinoza, SR
Rides 2010 Street Glide Trike
Gilbert Espinoza JR
First Son - Works at Shop weekends and Events
Rides 2010 Fatboy
Joe Espinoza
Second Son - Works many evenings, weekends and shows/events
Rides 2000 Softail Duece
Eric Espinoza
Youngest - Works full time at Shop and all events/shows
Rides 2010 Street Bob
Revolucion Magazine Article

Gilberto, Joe, Gilbert Jr. and Eric Espinoza of Espinoza’s Leather tell their story: one of sacrifice and hard work that spreads over three generations.

The vest is sacred throughout the biker world and without saying a word it communicates who we are, where we come from and whom we ride with whether in a group or solo. When Gilberto Espinoza started making leather bracelets and belts after a farmer strike in 1971, he had no idea that it would eventually lead him, and later his three sons, down a path to becoming one of the industry’s most respected makers of biker vests and leathers. But the story of this family-run business goes far beyond leather hides and sewn-on patches. Their story is of one man making sacrifices for his family, only to have his family do the same in return to take care of him. This is the story of Gilberto Espinoza, a quiet and humble man, as told by his three sons, Joe, Gilbert Jr. and Eric.

How did you start making leather goods?

My dad left his home when he was only 8 years old. He made his way from his childhood home near central Mexico  to Tijuana. After some diffucult years he made it into America where he started working as a meat cutter and that’s when he met my mom. My mother’s father was dabbling in belts and leather goods and my dad saw an opportunity to start his own business. He started out making berrets, key chains and bracelets with individual’s name stamped in them. We have pictures of a huge mountain of bracelets where people would come, pick one and we’d stamp in their name. The cost was one dollar and the stamp was free. That’s how my dad’s business first started in ’71.
Gilberto (The Father)
I started my business back in 1971. I was a meat cutter. One time the farmers went on strike and there was no more meat to cut. My father-in-law told me why don’t you go to the store get some leather, make some belts and wallets and sell them at the swap meet. While there I met a lot of bikers who would ask me to do little repairs and some other custom items. That’s how I first started working with bikers.
My Father started this business in the garage with a couple of wooden tables and a machine we still use today. My dad would be stamping out leather all day and my brother and I would paint the edges. My brother and I sacrificed every summer traveling to all the state fairs. There was one summer we had to work 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and 10 a.m. to midnight on the weekends. We grew up in that world. We didn’t really see it as a bad thing. It’s just what we did. Little did we know, that 40 years later we’d have this huge retail place with customers from all over the world.
Gilbert Jr.

My dad’s first customers were at the La Mirada swap meet. A guy named Popeye introduced us to the biker scene. We started with only one table and a Dodge Charger. My parents would have to sit in the Charger because we didn’t have a canopy for shade. My dad would always say “I know it’s tough on you guys but in the end it will benefit you.” Sure enough my dad has proven that to be true.
I was the youngest so I was a little more spoiled and started at age 12.  I wasn’t ready to run the business but I had a general knowledge of how things worked. Joe taught me how to measure so we helped each other. Now I’m here everyday taking care of the customers. People come from everywhere. We had a guy come down from Switzerland just to buy an Espinoza T-shirt. Over the years my dad has built a steady clientele. We offer the type of customization others can’t. We can take a basic vest and do whatever you want with it. You might have a small chest and a big belly, but we can make a vest that fits right. That’s what my dad offers to the people that no one else can.
When it comes to the Chicano-style riders, the style has always been clean cut with ironed pants and shirts and never looking grungy. We always presented our bikes and ourselves the right way. That’s how we were as Chicano men back in the day and as time progressed that’s how we still are. Chicano men tend to want the longer vest that is fitted and looking good. They don’t want to go and buy a tiny vest. Also we treat everyone as family and with respect no matter what background you come from.

As you can see it’s always been a family business so it doesn’t feel like work, just spending time with the family. Eric is 100% like my dad. He has that type of personality that makes people want to come in and talk to him for hours. He acts exactly how my dad does by spending a lot of time with customers, but now my dad gets on his case for doing the exact same thing! (laughs). Two years ago I tried to figure out how to launch a Web site for a mass market. You can’t. How do you show a 100% custom experience to a mass market? The way I try to appeal to the public is to explain why it’s worth it to take a ride here whether you’re in San Diego, San Francisco or other surrounding states. Whenever you’re in California, come on in. I’ve been trying to get the word out that to wear an Espinoza cut is to have something special. We must be doing something right because we realize it’s more than a business when my dad shows up to an event and a crowd surrounds him. They all want to say hi to my pops. That’s when you know it’s more than making cuts for riders. Funny part is, my dad hates crowds and usually tells me ‘Mijo get me a beer’. They love you, huh dad?

The people they love me (big laughs).
Does the family ride together also?
My dad stopped riding in 1991 until about 3 years ago when I started working full time for him. Watching a pack of bikes leave the shop everyday, I’d get so pissed off and say “I need a bike! I need a bike!” I kept telling my dad I need a co-signer. (laughs) He finally said OK. I bought a 2010 Dyna Street Bob. I guess I was watching too much Sons of Anarchy. (laughs) When my dad was there with me, he fell in love with a trike and bought it on the spot.

I went with them just for moral support and sat on a Softail. I bought it that same day also. Two months later my brother ( Gilbert Jr.) bought a motorcycle and eventually, his son Gilbert III, bought a bike–now all three generations ride.

Gilberto - Final Thought...Thank you all for your business. 
Starting in 1971 with the manufacturing of leather bracelets and barrettes, immigrant Gilberto Espinoza was determined to grow his small one man operation into a prosperous business.
Soon leather belts, chain wallets and purses made its way into the inventory. The result was growth warranting the opening of a formal manufacturing location. So the garage was returned to the family car and small but suitable shop was found in a strip mall in Rosemead.
In September of 1985 the first retail store was opened just two short blocks away from the first shop. Espinoza’s Leather Goods retail was born and the offering at the time was the same inventory of wallets and purses with some samplings of import products from Mexico.
That summer the first motorcycle jacket was made and Gilberto never looked back. Leather jackets, vests and chaps are his passion coupled with customer satisfaction.

Federal Court Rules Citizens Have No Right to Film Politicians & Police in Public

In a stunning departure from lengthy precedent, a federal appeals court has ruled citizens have no right to film politicians and police in public.

Friday, September 29, 2017


The membership requirements, at least officially, for the Hells Angels MC as well as almost all other one percenter motorcycle clubs are relatively straight forward.
We could start off this article by saying that the Hells Angels Membership Requirements included needing to do 12 drug deals, commit 1 murder and then bludgeon 4 baby harp seals …but then we would be lying, that’s not how to become a Hells Angel.
Below is what you want to know if you one day wish to be on the list of the famous Hells Angels members.
1.The Personality

We can safely start with saying that if you are interested in joining the Hells Angels MC, the Outlaws MC, the Bandidos MC or any other one percenter motorcycle club for that matter  and you are really on Google to tell you how to do it, then you probably won’t be joining them any time soon. The first in the list of Hells Angels membership requirements is to have the right personality. You will have similar interests and therefore probably also friends in common. People with similar interests usually gravitate.
2.The Harley Davidson Motorcycle

An important step if you want to learn how to join the Hells Angels, then the next in the list of Hells Angels membership requirements is a motorcycle, but not just any motorcycle. It should be a Harley Davidson motorcycle, however some other makes including Buell motorcycle (which is owned by Harley Davidson) may also be acceptable. In general, any of the major one percenter motorcycle clubs will not allow non-American motorcycles. Some of the reasoning behind this links back to the period when many of the clubs were started, World War II was fresh on the mind and supporting the enemy nations was not high on the list of priorities. Riding American made bikes shows strong patriotism.
3.You Will Ride Often

Next in the list of Hells Angels membership requirements is that you will need to ride, a lot. Don’t even think about buying a Harley Davidson fresh from the showroom floor, parking it out the front of a clubhouse and thinking that means you are a biker. Clubs including the Hells Angels MC go pretty much everywhere by motorcycle, they aren’t just the toy that comes out on the weekend if the sun has come out.
You will be expected to live on your Harley Davidson, riding across cities and states on your way to meets and as your primary form of transport, if you want to know how to become a Hells Angel then you need to be a dedicated Harley Davidson rider.
Importantly though, this shouldn’t sound like a chore. This should be the only way that you want to travel. If you don’t love this idea, then this lifestyle is not for you.
4.The Club Comes First, This is Your New Life

A fully patched member will have voting rights, of which they are expected to utilise. The Hells Angels MC has a number of meets throughout the year and it is expected that all members should attend whenever possible. If you start missing several of these meets then questions will be ask about your dedication to the club.
It is easy enough to read this article about Hells Angels membership requirements and have an understanding of what is required, but actually following through and practically dedicating your life to the club is another thing completely. You must be absolutely passionate about the lifestyle, there will not be much free time for other activities outside of the club, so hold off on signing up at the yacht club.
5.How To Leave Hells Angels: You Don’t Leave
Once last point to close out this article about Hells Angels membership requirements, is that you can’t leave the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club easily. It’s much easier to complete the steps of how to join the Hells Angels than it is to leave without having major problems.
Committing to join the club should be thought of as a life commitment. If you do try and escape the club then you must hand your patches back, or they may be taken by force.
The exception to this rule is in the case where members have provided several loyal years of service with the club, they may be allowed a graceful exit and in some cases after enough time may even be allowed to keep some of their patches.
The Hells Angels MC shouldn’t be seen as a club you will try out for a while and see how it goes for you with the option to then drop out.

Hells Angels Race Requirements
Historically the Hells Angels race requirements have seen them as a predominantly whites only outlaw motorcycle club, however over the decades this stance has loosened slightly, especially for chapters outside of the USA.
Within the United States it is extremely unlikely that you will ever see a black American Hells Angels member, although within the USA there are patched members of others origins including Hispanic and Native Americans. Having said that, many chapters within America will still party with, and do business, with black Americans, it is just that they will not be patched as an Angel.
If you look internationally to some of the European Hells Angels Charters there are looser Hells Angels race requirements for entry and evidence of black members, as well as a mix of many races.
The Phases of Membership
  1. The Hang-around: Being a hang-around is the first stage, where you have probably been invited by other members of the club to an event, possibly at a Hells Angels clubhouse. This will provide you with an opportunity to meet some of the other members and get a feel for what this lifestyle may have to offer you. The other Hells Angels MC members will also be judging your character along the way.
  2. The Associate: The next step up from the Hang-around is the Associate, where you will spend up to a few more years attending some of the events and meeting other members. The members will continue to evaluate you as you learn the ropes of how to become a Hells Angel.
1. The Prospect: Once you are made a prospect you are allowed to attend a lot more events, however you will not be able to place any votes on club matters and there may also be some meetings that you are not allowed to attend. It is over this period that the members will determine whether or not they believe that you will be a suitable fully patched member in the future.
2. The Fully Patched Member: The final step in the process will see you made into a Fully Patched Member. You will only reach this stage after a vote, where you must receive a unanimous vote from the other Hells Angels MC members. It is the several years of evaluations during the recruitment process which will determine whether or not you receive the votes required. In addition to the voting there may also be other requirements made of the Prospect in order to become a fully patched member, however due to the secrecy of all of these clubs it can’t be confirmed.
Successfully complete all of the above steps and you are well on your way to becoming a one percenter, you now know how to become a Hells Angel.
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Motorcycle Noise And Money

fuck these guys,performing highway robbery
It is tempting for bikers to laugh off the holy crusade against “motorcycle noise” and aftermarket exhaust pipes. In the first place, the reasons for replacing the stock exhaust on a Harley are obvious to the people who do it.
Back in the day, 82 inch Shovelheads made about 70 horsepower right out of the box. Brand new 82 inch Twin Cams make about 58 horsepower. The reason for the decrease is that modern bikes are intentionally set up at the factory to run inefficiently. They must run poorly in order to meet the mileage, noise and pollution abatement goals that are mandated by a self-righteous and distant bureaucracy.
It all seems like so much red tape to most riders. Harley-Davidson does not build motorcycles that run well. Harley builds motorcycles that meet arbitrary and fatuous government standards. The standard set of improvements made to brand new motorcycles even has a name. Most people call it “the Harley tax.”
The Harley tax is the amount new owners must pay to “let the engine breathe.” The results of changing the pipes and air filter and fattening the gas to air mixture are immediate and potentially life saving. Motorcycles are small and vulnerable, so riders commonly try to stay safe by out-accelerating danger. And, factory pipes frustrate that ambition to stay alive.

Loud Pipes Save Lives

Secondly, as anybody who has ever actually ridden a motorcycle knows, Harleys are not vehicles so much as they are cloaks of invisibility. It is not simply a matter of motorists not seeing motorcycles. Drivers tend not to recognize the motorcycles they see as other motor vehicles sharing the road with them. So it is common for drivers to simply run over bikes. In the United States these collisions make the papers about 15 times a day. And, it is much harder to survive a freeway collision on a bike than in a car.
Motorcycles that are loud enough to be heard inside a sound-proofed passenger compartment are not only better able to run away from bike-blind motorists. They are also much harder to ignore. Even motorcycle cops know this.
In 2007, the city of Oakland put stock pipes on all 30 of its Harley-Davidsons. The new pipes stayed on until an Oakland cop riding a Harley with a stock exhaust was struck by a driver who said he never knew the motorcycle was there.
According to then Oakland Deputy Chief Dave Kozicki, “the decibel drop sparked a chorus of complaints from other officers, who said they felt less safe.” The department concluded, Kozicki went on to say, that “it was in the best interest of the officers to put more-audible pipes back on.”

The Noise Nuts

The campaign against “motorcycle noise” is also easy to dismiss because it is led by a bare handful of fatuous and unpleasant busybodies.
The concept of “noise pollution” was invented in 2004 by a UCLA professor of “political activism” named Ted Rueter. Rueter started a campaign called “Noise Free America” and as recently as 2005 he had to justify the concept to the left leaning digest Utne Reader. “A lot of people get off on noise and think that there’s something wrong with peace and quiet,” Rueter told the digest. “We’re still fighting a public perception that this is a trivial issue and anyone who’s concerned or interested in curbing noise is a crank.”
Other cranks became aroused when they heard Rueter’s seductive call and most of them took pains to make themselves appear more important than they actually are. The well known and often quoted group Noise Off is a guy named Richard Tur. (The spelling is not a typographical error. He actually spells his last name without the final “D.”)
A “citizen’s group” in Maine, called MECALM (Maine Citizens Against Loud Motorcycles) is a guy named Andy Ford who has a neighbor who is a state senator. A similar “grass roots organization” in New Hampshire called NHCALM is another guy named Bill Mitchell.
It is common to underestimate how important fanatics like Rueter, Tur, Ford and Mitchell are becoming. But, they are important because they are warping public perception and inspiring new laws.

New California Law

One of those is a California law scheduled to go into effect next year. It is called the “Motorcycle Anti-Tampering Act” and it was sponsored by a California State Senator named Fran Pavley. Pavley said her new law was aimed at “a few bad apples on our roads (who) are infringing on the rights of others with their illegal, attention-seeking loud pipes.” Pavley’s statement was a loathsome lie but it became true because nobody was able to contradict her.
Pavley is a former middle school teacher who represents the most affluent neighborhoods in Los Angeles and she demonstrates a tendency to treat other adults as if they are her middle school students. She is so ridiculous a person that it is also tempting to either ignore her or laugh her away. Unfortunately, she has the power to enact ridiculous laws.
Pavley’s law effectively forbids Harley owners from replacing their exhausts with better ones. The act requires motorcycle exhausts sold after 2012 to have a visible EPA stamp. The law also requires that motorcycles not exceed a sound level of 80 decibels which is 1.3 decibels quieter than New York’s tony Indochine restaurant on a quiet night as measured by the Zagat restaurant guide. It is 10 decibels quieter than a normal conversation, 30 decibels less than a lawn mower and about 15 decibels quieter than the police bikes in Oakland when they idle. Eighty decibels is also five decibels quieter than the traffic noise inside an auto with the windows rolled up.

Searches And Fines

Police departments throughout the country have eagerly jumped on the motorcycle noise abatement bandwagon. Not only is “loud” quickly becoming probable cause to detain passing motorcyclists. Ensuring that all passing motorcycles are not “loud” has become a reason to implement motorcycle road blocks. These road blocks are, in effect, dragnets that allow police to stop bikers in order to try to get something on them.
The 80 decibel limit is so arbitrary and unreasonable that it gives police a reason to stop and fine everybody. And, as everybody already knows, these fines are a growing revenue source for cities and towns desperate for cash. They are in effect, in the most literal way, highway robbery.
Money, rather than neurotics, is the main reason why motorcycle noise abatement campaigns are picking up steam. There is money in “motorcycle noise” for police and politicians.

Chris Real

There is also money in “motorcycle noise” for a guy named Chris Real.
In order to write the new California law and similar laws in cement, police must have a scientifically justifiable standard for measuring motorcycle noise. And, they must also have the equipment to make those scientific measurements. The author of the scientific procedure is an entrepreneur named Chris Real. He also makes the equipment.
The new standard for measuring motorcycle noise is titled SAE J2825. SAE used to be an abbreviation for “Society of Automotive Engineers.” It is now the trademark of a for-profit company called SAE International. SAE sets numerous standards ranging from socket sizes to the standard dimension of cargo containers. It leans heavily on independent contractors to invent its standards. Chris Real, who owns a company named DPS Technical Incrporated in Upland, California is the author of SAE J2825.
For the last year, since the California “Motorcycle Anti-Tampering Act” was signed into law, Real has been teaching the procedure he invented to cops around the country. The training in California has been subsidized by the state Office of Traffic Safety. The same state agency has also subsidized a campaign in Elk Grove, California to see how much revenue police there can generate by writing motorcycle noise tickets. The Elk Grove police have been writing the tickets for the last year. They don’t write noise tickets for jackhammers or trucks. They only write noise tickets for motorcycles.
Real’s procedure uses what Real sells. DPS Technical’s main product is a “law enforcement sound measurement kit.” The kit includes a “Sound Level Meter, ANSI Type 1 Field Calibrator, 2 vibration tachometers, measuring tape, OHV RPM testing data, spark arrester probe and case.” It also includes “certificates of calibration, personal protection equipment and field carrying case and (an) informational DVD.”
A “typical kit for field enforcement purposes,” the “PN: SLM ENV KT 1” costs $3,100.
No highway robber should be without one.

Motorcycle Helmet Performance: Blowing the Lid Off


Motorcycle Helmet Performance: Blowing the Lid Off

Searching for the truth behind motorcycle helmet design, helmet standards and actual head protection

By Dexter Ford
Photography: Jim Brown helmet test

How good is your helmet? Will it actually protect your brain in your next crash?

These seem like easy questions, ones you probably think you can answer by reciting the lofty standards your helmet meets and the lofty price you might have paid for it. But the real answers, as you are about to see, are anything but easy.

There's a fundamental debate raging in the motorcycle helmet industry. In a fiberglass-reinforced, expanded-polystyrene nutshell, it's a debate about how strong and how stiff a helmet should be to provide the best possible protection.

Why the debate? Because if a helmet is too stiff it can be less able to prevent brain injury in the kinds of crashes you're most likely to have. And if it's too soft, it might not protect you in a violent, high-energy crash. What's just right? Well, that's why it's called a debate. If you knew what your head was going to hit and how hard, you could choose the perfect helmet for that crash. But crashes are accidents. So you have to guess.

To understand how a helmet protects—or doesn't protect—your brain, it helps to appreciate just how fragile that organ actually is. The consistency of the human brain is like warm Jello. It's so gooey that when pathologists remove a brain from a cadaver, they have to use a kind of cheesecloth hammock to hold it together as it comes out of the skull.

Your brain basically floats inside your skull, within a bath of cervical-spinal fluid and a protective cocoon called the dura. But when your skull stops suddenly—as it does when it hits something hard—the brain keeps going, as Sir Isaac Newton predicted. Then it has its own collision with the inside of the skull. If that collision is too severe, the brain can sustain any number of injuries, from shearing of the brain tissue to bleeding in the brain, or between the brain and the dura, or between the dura and the skull. And after your brain is injured, even more damage can occur. When the brain is bashed or injured internally, bleeding and inflammation make it swell. When your brain swells inside the skull, there's no place for that extra volume to go. So it presses harder against the inside of the skull and tries to squeeze through any opening, bulging out of your eye sockets and oozing down the base of the skull. As it squeezes, more damage is done to some very vital regions.

None of this is good. Helmet designers have devised a number of different liner designs to meet the different standards. The Vemar VSR uses stiffer EPS than most, but has channels molded in to soften the assembly (to ECE specs) and enhance cooling.

To prevent all that ugly stuff from happening, we wear helmets. Modern, full-face helmets, if we have enough brains to protect, that is.

A motorcycle helmet has two major parts: the outer shell and the energy-absorbing inner liner. The inner lining is made of expanded polystyrene or EPS, the same stuff used in beer coolers, foam coffee cups, and packing material. Outer shells come in two basic flavors: a resin/fiber composite, such as fiberglass, carbon fiber and Kevlar, or a molded thermoplastic such as ABS or polycarbonate, the same basic stuff used in face shields and F-16 canopies.

The shell is there for a number of reasons. First, it's supposed to protect against pointy things trying to penetrate the EPS—though that almost never happens in a real accident. Second, the shell protects against abrasion, which is a good thing when you're sliding into the chicane at Daytona. Third, it gives Troy Lee a nice, smooth surface to paint dragons on. Riders—and helmet marketers—pay a lot of attention to the outer shell and its material. But the part of the helmet that absorbs most of the energy in a crash is actually the inner liner.

When the helmet hits the road or a curb, the outer shell stops instantly. Inside, your head keeps going until it collides with the liner. When this happens, the liner's job is to bring the head to a gentle stop—if you want your brain to keep working like it does now, that is.

The great thing about EPS is that as it crushes, it absorbs lots of energy at a predictable rate. It doesn't store energy and rebound like a spring, which would be a bad thing because your head would bounce back up, shaking your brain not just once, but twice. EPS actually absorbs the kinetic energy of your moving head, creating a very small amount of heat as the foam collapses.
Schuberth S1 insides
The Schuberth S1 uses five separate foam parts glued together to meet the ECE standard.

The helmet's shell also absorbs energy as it flexes in the case of a polycarbonate helmet, or flexes, crushes and delaminates in the case of a fiberglass composite helmet.

To minimize the G-forces on your soft, gushy brain as it stops, you want to slow your head down over as great a distance as possible. So the perfect helmet would be huge, with 6 inches or mosre of soft, fluffy EPS cradling your precious head like a mint on a pillow.

Problem is, nobody wants a 2-foot-wide helmet, though it might come in handly if you were auditioning for a Jack in the Box commercial. So helmet designers have pared down the thickness of the foam, using denser, stiffer EPS to make up the difference. This increases the G-loading on your brain in a crash, of course. And the fine points of how many Gs a helmet transmits to the head, for how long, and in what kind of a crash, are the variables that make the helmet-standard debate so gosh darn fun.
Standardized Standards
helmet drop test
The helmets are mounted on a 5-kilo (11 pound) magnesium headform and then dropped from a controlled height onto a variety of test anvils to simulate crash impacts on various surfaces and shapes. In the real world, your helmet actually hits flat pavement more than 85 percent of the time

To make buying a helmet in the U.S as confusing as possible, there are at least four standards a street motorcycle helmet can meet. The price of entry is the DOT standard, called FMVSS 218, that every street helmet sold here is legally required to pass. There is the European standard, called ECE 22-05, accepted by more than 50 countries. There's the BSI 6658 Type A standard from Britain. And lastly the Snell M2000/M2005 standard, a voluntary, private standard used primarily in the U.S. So every helmet for street use here must meet the DOT standard, and might or might not meet one of the others.

Just by looking at the published requirements for each standard, you would guess a DOT-only helmet would be designed to be the softest, with an ECE helmet very close, then a BSI helmet, and then a Snell helmet.

Because there are few human volunteers for high-impact helmet testing—and because they would be a little confused after a hard day of 200-G impacts—it's done on a test rig.

The helmets are dropped, using gravity to accelerate the helmet to a given speed before it smashes onto a test anvil bolted to the floor. By varying the drop height and the weight of the magnesium headform inside the helmet, the energy level of the test can be easily varied and precisely repeated. As the helmet/headform falls it is guided by either a steel track or a pair of steel cables. That guiding system adds friction to slow the fall slightly, so the test technician corrects for this by raising the initial drop height accordingly.

The headform has an accelerometer inside that precisely records the force the headform receives, showing how many Gs the headform took as it stopped and for how long.

If you test a bunch of helmets under the same conditions, you can get a good idea of how well each one absorbs a particular hit. And it's important to understand that as in lap times, golf scores and marriages, a lower number is always better when we're talking about your head receiving extreme G forces.
On The Highway To Snell
dual-density foam liner insides
All the Snell/DOT helmets we examined use a dual-density foam liner. The upper cap of foam on this Scorpion liner is softer to compensate for the extra stiffness of the spherical upper shell area. Some manufacturers, including Arai and HJC, use a one-piece liner with two different densities molded together.

On the stiff, tough-guy side of this debate is the voluntary Snell M2000/M2005 standard, which dictates each helmet be able to withstand some tough, very high-energy impacts.

The Snell Memorial Foundation is a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to "research, education, testing and development of helmet safety standards."

If you think moving quickly over the surface of the planet is fun and you enjoy using your brain, you should be grateful to the Snell Memorial Foundation. The SMF has helped create standards that have raised the bar in head protection in nearly every pursuit in which humans hit their heads: bicycles, horse riding, harness racing, karting, mopeds, skateboards, rollerblades, recreational skiing, ski racing, ATV riding, snowboarding, car racing and, of course, motorcycling.

But as helmet technology has improved and accident research has accumulated, many head-injury experts feel the Snell M2000 and M2005 standards are, to quote Dr. Harry Hurt of Hurt Report fame, "a little bit excessive."

The killer—the hardest Snell test for a motorcycle helmet to meet—is a two-strike test onto a hemispherical chunk of stainless steel about the size of an orange. The first hit is at an energy of 150 joules, which translates to dropping a 5-kilo weight about 10 feet—an extremely high-energy impact. The next hit, on the same spot, is set at 110 joules, or about an 8-foot drop. To pass, the helmet is not allowed to transmit more than 300 Gs to the headform in either hit.

Tough tests such as this have driven helmet development over the years. But do they have any practical application on the street, where a hit as hard as the hardest single Snell impact may only happen in 1 percent of actual accidents? And where an impact as severe as the two-drop hemi test happens just short of never?

Dr. Jim Newman, an actual rocket scientist and highly respected head-impact expert—he was once a Snell Foundation director—puts it this way: "If you want to create a realistic helmet standard, you don't go bashing helmets onto hemispherical steel balls. And you certainly don't do it twice.

"Over the last 30 years," continues Newman, "we've come to the realization that people falling off motorcycles hardly ever, ever hit their head in the same place twice. So we have helmets that are designed to withstand two hits at the same site. But in doing so, we have severely, severely compromised their ability to take one hit and absorb energy properly.

"The consequence is, when you have one hit at one site in an accident situation, two things happen: One, you don't fully utilize the energy-absorbing material that's available. And two, you generate higher G loading on the head than you need to.

"What's happened to Snell over the years is that in order to make what's perceived as a better helmet, they kept raising the impact energy. What they should have been doing, in my view, is lowering the allowable G force.

"In my opinion, Snell should keep a 10-foot drop [in its testing]. But tell the manufacturers, 'OK, 300 Gs is not going to cut it anymore. Next year you're going to have to get down to 250. And the next year, 200. And the year after that, 185.'"
The Brand Leading The Brand

"The Snell sticker," continued Newman, "has become a marketing gimmick. By spending 60 cents [paid to the Snell foundation], a manufacturer puts that sticker in his helmet and he can increase the price by $30 or $40. Or even $60 or $100.

"Because there's this allure, this charisma, this image associated with a Snell sticker that says, 'Hey, this is a better helmet, and therefore must be worth a whole lot more money.' And in spite of the very best intentions of everybody at Snell, they did not have the field data [on actual accidents] that we have now [when they devised the standard]. And although that data has been around a long time, they have chosen, at this point, not to take it into consideration."
Z1R ZRP-1 insides
The Z1R ZRP-1 uses a soft, one-piece liner to soak up joule after joule of nasty impact energy.
A World Of Hurt

Dr. Hurt sees the Snell standard in pretty much the same light.

"What should the [G] limit on helmets be? Just as helmet designs should be rounder, smoother and safer, they should also be softer, softer, softer. Because people are wearing these so-called high-performance helmets and are getting diffused [brain] injuries ... well, they're screwed up for life. Taking 300 Gs is not a safe thing.

"We've got people that we've replicated helmet [impacts] on that took 250, 230 Gs [in their accidents]. And they've got a diffuse injury they're not gonna get rid of. The helmet has a good whack on it, but so what? If they'd had a softer helmet they'd have been better off."

How does the Snell Foundation respond to the criticism of head-injury scientists from all over the world that the Snell standards create helmets too stiff for optimum protection in the great majority of accidents?

"The whole business of testing helmets is based on the assumption that there is a threshold of injury," says Ed Becker, executive director of the Snell Foundation. "And that impact shocks below that threshold are going to be non-injurious. "We're going with 300 Gs because we started with 400 Gs back in the early days. And based on [George Snively's, the founder of the SMF] testing, and information he'd gotten from the British Standards Institute, 400 Gs seemed reasonable back then. He revised it downward over the years, largely because helmet standards were for healthy young men that were driving race cars. But after motorcycling had taken up those same helmets, he figured that not everybody involved in motorcycling was going to be a young man. So he concluded from work that he had done that the threshold of injury was above 400 Gs. But certainly below 600 Gs.

"The basis for the 300 G [limit in the Snell M2000 standard] is that the foundation is conservative. [The directors] have not seen an indication that a [head injury] threshold is below 300 Gs. If and when they do, they'll certainly take it into account."

So nobody is being hurt by the added stiffness of a Snell helmet, we asked.

"That's certainly our hope here," answered Becker. "At this point I've got no reason to think anything else."
European Style

The Snell Foundation may have no reason to think anything else. But every scientist we spoke to, as well as the government standards agencies of the United States and the 50 countries that accept the ECE 22.05 standard, see things quite differently.

The European Union recently released an extensive helmet study called COST 327, which involved close study of 253 recent motorcycle accidents in Germany, Finland and the U.K. This is how they summarized the state of the helmet art after analyzing the accidents and the damage done to the helmets and the people: "Current designs are too stiff and too resilient, and energy is absorbed efficiently only at values of HIC [Head Injury Criteria: a measure of G force over time] well above those which are survivable."

As we said, it's a lively debate.
brain injury
If your brain is injured, swelling and inflammation often occur. Because there's no extra room inside your skull, your brain tries to squeeze down through the hole in the base of the skull. This creates pressure that injures the vital brain stem even further, often destroying the parts that control breathing and other basic body functions. If you're hit very violently on the jaw, as in a head-on impact, the force can be transmitted to the base of the skull, which can fracture and sever your spine. It's a common cause of death in helmeted motorcycle riders—and a very good reason to wear a full-face helmet and insist on thick EPS padding—not resilient foam—in the helmet's chin bar. When your brain collides with the inside of your skull, bony protrusions around your eyes, sinuses and other areas can cause severe damage to the brain. And if your head is twisted rapidly, the brain can lag behind, causing tearing and serious internal brain injury as it drags against the skull. A helmet is the best way to avoid such unpleasantries.
How Hurt is Hurt?

Doctors and head-injury researchers use a simplified rating of injuries, called the Abbreviated Injury Scale, or AIS, to describe how severely a patient is hurt when they come into a trauma facility. AIS 1 means you've been barely injured. AIS 6 means you're dead, or sure to be dead very soon. Here's the entire AIS scale:

    = Minor
    = Moderate
    = Serious
    = Severe
    = Critical
    = Unsurvivable

A patient's AIS score is determined separately for each different section of the body. So you could have an AIS 4 injury to your leg, an AIS 3 to your chest and an AIS 5 injury to your head. And you'd be one hurtin' puppy. Newman is quoted in the COST study on the impact levels likely to cause certain levels of injury. Back in the '80s he stated that, as a rough guideline, a peak linear impact—the kind we're measuring here—of 200 to 250 Gs generally corresponds to a head injury of AIS 4, or severe; that a 250 G to 300 G impact corresponds to AIS 5, or critical; and that anything over 300 Gs corresponds to AIS 6. That is, unsurvivable.

Newman isn't the only scientist who thinks getting hit with much more than 200 Gs is a bad idea. In fact, researchers have pretty much agreed on that for 50 years.

The Wayne State Tolerance Curve is the result of a pretty gruesome series of experiments back in the '50s and '60s in which dogs' brains were blasted with bursts of compressed air, monkeys were bashed on the skull, and the heads of dead people were dropped to see just how hard they could be hit before big-time injury set in. This study's results were backed up by the JARI Human Head Impact Tolerance Curve, published in '80 by a Japanese group who did further unspeakable things to monkeys, among other medically necessary atrocities.

The two tolerance curves agree on how many Gs you can apply to a human head for how long before a concussion or other more serious brain injury occurs. And the Wayne State Tolerance Curve was instrumental in creating the DOT helmet standard, with its relatively low G-force allowance.

According to both these curves, exposing a human head to a force over 200 Gs for more than 2 milliseconds is what medical experts refer to as "bad." Heads are different, of course. Young, strong people can take more Gs than old, weak people. Some prizefighters can take huge hits again and again and not seem to suffer any ill effects other than a tendency to sell hamburger cookers on late-night TV. And the impacts a particular head has undergone in the past may make that head more susceptible to injury.

Is an impact over the theoretical 200 G/2 millisecond threshold going to kill you? Probably not. Is it going to hurt you? Depends on you, and how much over that threshold your particular hit happens to be. But head injuries short of death are no joke. Five million Americans suffer from disabilities from what's called Traumatic Brain Injury—getting hit too hard on the head. That's disabilities, meaning they ain't the same as they used to be.

There's another important factor that comes into play when discussing how hard a hit you should allow your brain to take: the other injuries you'll probably get in a serious crash, and how the effects of your injuries add up.

The likelihood of dying from a head injury goes up dramatically if you have other major injuries as well. It also goes up with age. Which means that a nice, easy AIS 3 head injury, which might be perfectly survivable on its own, can be the injury that kills you if you already have other major injuries. Which, as it happens, you are very likely to have in a serious motorcycle crash.

The COST study was limited to people who had hit their helmets on the pavement in their accidents. Of these, 67 percent sustained some kind of head injury. Even more歅 percent—sustained leg injuries, and 57 percent had thorax injuries. You can even calculate your odds using the Injury Severity Score, or ISS. Take the AIS scores for the worst three injuries you have. Square each of those scores—that is, multiply them by themselves. Add the three results and compare them with the ISS Scale of Doom below.

A score of 75 means you're dead. Sorry. Very few people with an ISS of 70 see tomorrow either.

If you're between 15 and 44 years old, an ISS score of 40 means you have a 50-50 chance of making it. If you're between 45 and 64 years old, ISS 29 is the 50-50 mark. And above 65 years old, the 50-50 level is an ISS of 20. For a 45- to 64-year old guy such as myself, an ISS over 29 means I'll probably die.

If I get two "serious," AIS 3 injuries—the aforementioned AIS 3 head hit and AIS 3 chest thump—and a "severe" AIS 4 leg injury, my ISS score is ... let's see, 3 times 3 is 9. Twice that is 18. 4 times 4 is 16. 18 and 16 is 34. Ooops. Gotta go.

Drop my AIS 3 head injury to an AIS 2 and my ISS score is 29. Now I've got a 50-50 shot.

Obviously, this means it's very important to keep the level of head injury as low as possible. Because even if the head injury itself is survivable on its own, sustaining a more severe injury—even between relatively low injury levels—may not just mean a longer hospital stay, it may be the ticket that transfers you from your warm, cushy bed in the trauma unit to that cold, sliding slab downstairs.
helmet test graph
Department Of Testing

In the other corner of the U.S. helmet cage-fighting octagon is the DOT standard. It mandates a testing regimen of moderate-energy impacts, which happen in 90 percent or more of actual accidents, according to the Hurt Report and other, more recent studies.

Where the Snell standard limits peak linear acceleration to 300 G, the DOT effectively limits peak Gs to 250. Softer impacts, lower G tolerance. In short, a kinder, gentler standard.

The DOT standard has acquired something of a low-rent reputation for a number of reasons. First, it comes from the Gubmint, and the Gubmint, as we know, can't do anything right.

The DOT standard, like laws against, say, murder, also relies on the honor system; that is, there's only a penalty involved if you break it and sell a non-complying helmet and get caught. Manufacturers are required to do their own testing and then certify that their helmets meet the standards. But it also gives helmet designers quite a bit of freedom to design a helmet the way they think it ought to be for optimum overall protection. The question is, how well are those designers doing their job with all that freedom?
DOT, ECE BSI, SMF—Let's Call The Whole Thing Off

In a typical large motorcycle dealership you're likely to find helmets that conform to all these standards. Most U.S.-market full-face helmets made in Asia—Arai, HJC, Icon, KBC, ScorpionExo, Shoei, and most Fulmer models—are Snell M2000 or M2005 certified. (The Snell standard did not change substantially from M2000 to M2005.) Most helmets from European companies—Vemar, Shark, Schuberth, etc.—conform to the ECE 22-05 standard.

Suomy helmets sold under its own name conform to either the ECE or the BSI standard, but Suomy private-labels some helmets to brands such as Ducati that are built and certified to Snell. Some AGV models sold here are made to Snell standards, some to BSI. And a few Asian-made helmets are DOT-only. Among major manufacturers, Z1R (a subbrand of Parts Unlimited) and Fulmer Helmets sell DOT-only lids at the lower end of their pricing scales. You can also get 'em at Pep Boys under the Raider brand name.
crash dummy head
Hurts So Good

To talk about helmet design and performance with any measure of authority, we should first look at the kinds of accidents that actually occur. The Hurt Report, issued in '81, was the first, last and only serious study on real motorcycle accidents in the U.S. The study was done by some very smart, very reputable scientists and researchers at the University of Southern California. The Hurt researchers came to some surprising and illuminating conclusions—conclusions that have not been seriously challenged since.

First, about half of all serious motorcycle accidents happen when a car pulls in front of a bike in traffic. These accidents typically happen at very low speeds, with a typical impact velocity, after all the braking and skidding, below 25 mph. This was first revealed in the Hurt Report but has been recently backed up by two other studies, a similar one in Thailand and especially the COST 327 study done in the European Union, where people have fast bikes and like to ride very quickly on some roads with no speed limits at all.

Actual crash speeds are slow, but the damage isn't. These are serious, often fatal crashes. Most of these crashes happen very close to home. Because no matter where you go, you always leave your own neighborhood and come back to it. And making it through traffic-filled intersections—the ones near your home—is the most dangerous thing you do on a street motorcycle.

The next-biggest group of typical accidents happens at night, often on a weekend, at higher speeds. They are much more likely to involve alcohol, and often take place when a rider goes off the road alone. These two groups of accidents account for almost 75 percent of all serious crashes. So the accident we are most afraid of, and the one we tend to buy our helmets for—crashing at high speeds, out sport riding—is relatively rare.

Even though many motorcycles were capable of running the quarter-mile in 11 seconds (or less) and topping 140 mph back in '81, not one of the 900-odd accidents investigated in the Hurt study involved a speed over 100 mph. The "one in a thousand" speed seen in the Hurt Report was 86 mph, meaning only one of the accidents seen in the 900-crash study occurred at or above that speed. And the COST 327 study, done recently in the land of the autobahn, contained very few crashes over 120 kph, or 75 mph. The big lesson here is this: It's a mistake to assume that going really fast causes a significant number of accidents just because a motorcycle can go really fast.

Another eye-opener: In spite of what one might assume, the speed at which an accident starts does not necessarily correlate to the impact the head—or helmet—will have to absorb in a crash. That is, according to the Hurt Report and the similar Thailand study, going faster when you fall off does not typically result in your helmet taking a harder hit.

How can this be? Because the vast majority of head impacts occur when the rider falls off his bike and simply hits his head on the flat road surface. The biggest impact in a given crash will typically happen on that first contact, and the energy is proportional to the height from which the rider falls—not his forward speed at the time. A big highside may give a rider some extra altitude, but rarely higher than 8 feet. A high-speed crash may involve a lot of sliding along the ground, but this is not particularly challenging to a helmeted head because all modern full-face helmets do an excellent job of protecting you from abrasion.

In fact, the vast majority of crashed helmets examined in the Hurt Report showed that they had absorbed about the same impact you'd receive if you simply tipped over while standing, like a bowling pin, and hit your head on the pavement. Ninety-plus percent of the head impacts surveyed, in fact, were equal to or less than the force involved in a 7-foot drop. And 99 percent of the impacts were at or below the energy of a 10-foot drop.
helmet testing lab
To Snell? Or Not To Snell?

In analyzing the accident-involved helmets, the Hurt researchers also addressed whether helmets certified to different standards actually performed differently in real crashes; that is, did a Snell-certified helmet work better at protecting a person in the real world than a plain old DOT-certified or equivalent helmet? The answer was no. In real street conditions, the DOT or equivalent helmets worked just as well as the Snell-certified helmets.

In the case of fatal accidents, there was one more important discovery in the Hurt Report: There were essentially no deaths to helmeted riders from head injuries alone.

Some people in the study, those involved in truly awful, bone-crushing, aorta-popping crashes, did sustain potentially fatal head injuries even though they were wearing helmets. The problem was that they also had, on average, three other injuries that would have killed them if the head injury hadn't.

In other words, a crash violent enough to overwhelm any decent helmet will usually destroy the rest of the body as well. Newman put this into perspective. "In most cases, bottoming [compressing a helmet's EPS completely] is not going to occur except in really violent accidents. And in these kind of cases, one might legitimately wonder whether there is anything you could do."

How many people were saved because their helmet was designed to a "higher" or "higher energy" standard than the DOT standard? As far as the Hurt researchers could ascertain, none.

But the Hurt Report was done nearly 25 years ago. There have been a couple of significant accident studies done since. Both of which, by our reading, tend to back up the Hurt Report's findings.

The COST 327 study investigated 253 motorcycle accidents in Finland, Germany and the United Kingdom, from '95-'98. Of these, the investigators selected 20 well-documented crashes and replicated the impact from those crashes by doing drop tests on identical helmets in the lab until they got the same helmet damage. This allowed them to find out how hard the helmet in the accident had been hit, and to correlate the impact with the injuries actually suffered by the rider or passenger. The COST 327 results showed that some very serious and potentially fatal head injuries can occur at impact levels that stiffer current helmet standards—such as Snell M2000 and M2005—allow helmets to exceed.

And remember, these guys are investigating crashes in Europe, where Snell-rated helmets are a rarity because they can't generally pass the softer ECE standard required there.

In other words, the latest relevant study, which used state-of-the-art methods and covered accidents in countries where there are plenty of 10-second, 160-mph superbikes running around, concluded that current standards—even the relatively soft ECE standards—are allowing riders' heads to be routinely subjected to forces that can severely injure or kill them. The COST study estimated that better, more energy-absorbent helmets could reduce motorcycle fatalities up to 20 percent. If that estimate is legitimate and was applied in the U.S., it would mean saving about 700 American riders' lives a year.

There's no good reason to think things are different here in the States than in Germany, Britain and Finland, all modern, well-developed, superbike-rich countries. Heads are heads, asphalt is asphalt, and falling bodies operate under the same laws of physics there as they do here in America.

If you ask most head-impact scientists or the representatives of the European helmet manufacturers how they like the Snell M2000/M2005 standard, they will generally tell you it's unrealistic, based more on supposition than on science, and forces manufacturers to make helmets that are stiffer than they should be.

If you ask the representatives of many of the top Snell-approved helmet companies, they'll say the Snell standard is a wonderful thing, and they'll imply helmets certified to lower-energy standards—that would be any other standard in the world—are suspicious objects, like smoked clams from the 99 Cents Only store. And not as good at protecting you in an extremely high-energy mega-crash as a Snell-approved helmet is.

What the Snell advocates won't tell you is that when these same makers sell their helmets in Europe, Japan and the U.K., they are not the same helmets they sell here, and they're not Snell rated. They are built softer, tailored to conform to exactly the same ECE or BSI standards as the European makers.

If you get these two groups of folks in a room together and ask these questions, we'd suggest wearing a helmet yourself.
Can Less Be More?

In the last 10 to 15 years a number of Asian-made helmet brands such as HJC, Icon, KBC and Scorpion have entered the market to challenge the once-reigning Japanese leaders, Shoei and Arai.

These new brands offer helmets that look and feel pretty much like the Arais and Shoeis we were used to wearing and seeing on all the magazine covers, but at substantially lower prices. Problem is, a lower price, especially in a potentially life-saving piece of safety equipment, can do as much harm as good to a brand. There's always the perception lingering in a buyer's mind that a product can't be as good or protect as well if it doesn't cost as much.

So what can a lower-priced maker do to enhance its brand reputation? Get Snell certified. Whether they think a Snell helmet is actually better at head protection or not—and there's no shortage of debate on that subject—they're essentially over a barrel. If they don't get Snell certified, they give the perception their products are not as good as the others on the shelf. And their helmets will sell like Girls Gone Wild videos at a Village People concert.

In six months of researching this article, I spoke to many helmet company representatives. Some in civil tones. Some not so much. One, in particular, summed up the Snell-or-not quandary best. It was Phil Davy, brand manager for the very popular Icon helmets and riding gear. "When you build a helmet for this market, meeting the Snell standard is your first, second, third, fourth and fifth concern. You can then start designing a helmet that's safe," he said.

It is important to note that every one of Davy's Icon helmets is Snell certified. He's no fool.
motorcycle helmet

Fewer Gs = Less chance of brain injury

DOT-only helmets:

Z1R ZRP-1 (P)
Average: 152 Gs
LF: 148 gs
RF: 176 gs
LR: 153 gs
RR: 130 gs

Fulmer AFD4 (P)
Average: 157 Gs
LF: 152 gs
RF: 173 gs
LR: 175 gs
RR: 130 gs

Pep Boys Raider (P)
Average: 174 Gs
LF: 163 gs
RF: 199 gs
LR: 185 gs
RR: 152 gs
BSI/DOT Helmets

AGV Ti-Tech (F)
Average: 169 Gs
LF: 156 gs
RF: 199 gs
LR: 195 gs
RR: 129 gs

Suomy Spec 1R (BSI) (F)
Average: 182 Gs
LF: 192 gs
RF: 215 gs
LR: 197 gs
RR: 126 gs
ECE 22-05/DOT Helmets

Schuberth S-1 (F)
Average: 161 Gs
LF: 151 gs
RF: 180 gs
LR: 176 gs
RR: 137 gs

Suomy Spec 1R (ECE) (F)
Average: 171 Gs
LF: 156 gs
RF: 200 gs
LR: 190 gs
RR: 140 gs

Shark RSX (F)
Average: 173 Gs
LF: 166 gs
RF: 187 gs
LR: 201 gs
RR: 141 gs

Vemar VSR
Average: 174 Gs
LF: 171 gs
RF: 198 gs
LR: 166 gs
RR: 162 gs
Snell 2000/DOT Helmets

Icon Mainframe (P)
Average: 181 Gs
LF: 168 gs
RF: 217 gs
LR: 189 gs
RR: 152 gs

Icon Alliance (F)
Average: 183 Gs
LF: 179 gs
RF: 200 gs
LR: 179 gs
RR: 175 gs

Scorpion EXO-400 (P)
Average: 187 Gs
LF: 185 gs
RF: 212 gs
LR: 193 gs
RR: 158 gs

AGV X-R2 (F)
Average: 188 Gs
LF: 192 gs
RF: 226 gs
LR: 166 gs
RR: 167 gs

Arai Tracker GT (F)
Average: 201 Gs
LF: 193 gs
RF: 243 gs
LR: 203 gs
RR: 166 gs

HJC AC-11 (F)
Average: 204 Gs
LF: 195 gs
RF: 230 gs
LR: 231 gs
RR: 163 gs

Scorpion EXO-700 (F)
Average: 211 Gs
LF: 207 gs
RF: 236 gs
LR: 226 gs
RR: 176 gs

Impact Key: LF: Left Front, 7-foot drop, Flat Pavement. RF: Right Front, 10-foot drop, Flat Pavement. LR: Left Rear, 7-foot drop, Flat Pavement. RR: Right Rear, 7-foot drop, Edge Anvil. Shell Key: (P): Polycarbonate (F): Fiberglass
The Rules Rule

OK. We promised an actual helmet impact test, and it's time to give it to you.

We asked the major helmet brands sold in the U.S. to each pick one model of their helmets. We asked for two functionally identical helmets in the same size, medium or 7¼. Why two? To give us a look at the consistency of the manufacturer's production techniques. Why all one size? To make sure any differences we saw were due to design and production differences, not random differences due to sizing. And we wanted to use the same-size headform in all our testing, again for consistency. We were also interested in learning as much as we could about different helmet constructions, and about how helmets built to different standards vary. So if a manufacturer made both fiberglass-shell and plastic-shell helmets, we asked for a pair of each. And if a manufacturer made helmets to two different standards, we asked for both as well.

Icon and Scorpion sent both fiberglass and polycarbonate helmets, all Snell/DOT-rated. AGV sent a pair of Snell/DOT-rated X-R2s and a pair of BSI/DOT-rated TiTechs. And Suomy sent the same model, its Spec 1R, in both BSI-rated and ECE-rated versions.

In the end, we wound up with 16 models, 32 helmets in all. A look at the accompanying chart will give you a rundown of the helmet brands that elected to participate and the models they sent. A number of manufacturers chose not to participate: Bell, KBC, OGK, Shoei and Simpson were contacted repeatedly, but chose not to send helmets. We also tested a couple of full-face Raider helmets purchased from Pep Boys for $69.95 a pop.

Unlike other standards testing, where the test parameters are published years ahead of time, we did not reveal the actual tests we were going to perform before we did the testing. So there was, essentially, no chance for them to send mislabeled, ringer helmets.

We needed somebody to help us design the tests and do the actual testing. So we hired David Thom. Remember the Hurt Report? Thom was one of the USC researchers who went out to investigate all those motorcycle accidents and then helped pull it all together. Thom worked at USC with Professor Harry Hurt for many years, investigating all the various ways motorcyclists and other folk hurt themselves, and striving mightily to find better ways to protect them.

Thom subsequently formed his own company, Collision and Injury Dynamics. He has his own state-of-the-art helmet impact lab where he does impartial, objective certification testing for many helmet companies. The DOT standard, for instance, relies on companies certifying their own helmets, and Thom is one of the people they contract with to do the actual testing. In other words, he knows what he's doing.

We had no interest in checking to see whether our helmets conform to any specific standard. Because a helmet's job is protecting your head, not passing a standard. We came up with our own battery of tests designed to duplicate, as best we could, the impacts that really happen on a statistically significant basis.

Real motorcycle accidents don't end with a helmet hitting a machined stainless-steel anvil—they end up with a helmet bashing down on good old lumpy, gravel-studded asphalt. So the industrious Thom grabbed a square-foot piece of Sheldon Street in El Segundo, California, the street out in front of his lab, when the paving crew tore it up for resurfacing. Set in concrete, that would be our "anvil," as they say in the biz, for flat-surface impacts.

Three of the four impacts we planned for each helmet would be on that flat asphalt surface—simply because that's what real motorcyclists land on when they fall, more than 75 percent of the time. The Hurt Report established this, and in the recent Thailand helmet study 87.4 percent of the helmet hits were from the road surface or the shoulder. Helmets do hit curbs a small percentage of the time, but usually after sliding along on the road first, which means that in most cases they are actually hitting a flat surface—the vertical plane of the curb.

For the energy of each drop, we selected a range of hits typical of both the DOT and Snell testing regimens. We hit the left front and the left rear of the helmets with an energy of 100 joules, which translates to a drop of about 2 meters, or 6.6 feet. According to the Hurt Report, this drop represents the 90th-percentile energy of the crashes they investigated. We also did one high-energy drop with an energy of 150 joules, the same energy—about a 10-foot drop—as the hardest hit specified in the Snell standards, on the right front of each helmet. That's 66 percent more violent than the drop specified by the DOT standard for a medium-sized helmet, and represents the 99th-percentile impact seen in the Hurt Report. Which means 1 percent or fewer impacts seen on the street exceeded this energy level. So we weren't exactly taking it easy.

To see what happens when you're unlucky enough to rear-end a truck's lift gate, slide into a storm drain or be flung into the Eiffel Tower, we also did an edge hit onto a scary-looking piece of upright steel bar. We debated whether to do this hit at a 2-meter, 100-joule energy level or a more violent 3-meter, 150-joule impact level. We opted for the smaller hit, more to protect the helmet test rig than to play nice with the helmets. If a single helmet bottoms out and squishes its EPS liner flat, the total impact goes right into the headform and test rig—as it would to your head. And just like your head, the test rig is gonna break. We weren't sure all the helmets would survive the 150-joule edge drop, so we pulled back to the 100-joule level. Fracturing the rig would put us out of commission for days, and we didn't have the time—or money—to risk that.

In the end we were too conservative. When we inspected the helmets after the full course of testing, the 100-joule edge hit hadn't come close to bottoming any of the helmets—even the supposedly wimpy DOT-only ones. We are confident we could have done the edge test at the 99th-percentile 150 joules—the Snell edge-anvil test—and seen results commensurate with those we saw from the other impacts.

The results of all our laborious impact testing were exactly as expected—but still surprising as hell.

The helmets ranged from the softest regimen, the DOT standard, to the Snell standard, the stiffest. But would the real-world, production-spec helmets actually show that progression from soft to stiff? In other words, can you predict how stiff a helmet will be simply by looking at the standard label? Absolutely.

In fact, our results show that modern helmets are all made with an amazing degree of precision, with their shell construction, liner density and liner thickness all controlled very well in the production process. In other words, almost everybody designing serious helmets seems to know exactly how to get what they want—the only variable is deciding what they want. And for the most part, the standards make that decision for them, not flashes of genius on the parts of the helmet designers themselves.

All the helmets we tested performed exactly as the standards they were designed to meet predicted. And they seemed to exceed those standards—that is, the DOT-only helmets were better at high-energy impacts than they had to be just to pass the DOT standard, and the Snell helmets were better at absorbing low-energy impacts than they had to be to pass DOT or Snell. So choosing a helmet, at least in terms of safety, is not a question of choosing high or low quality, it's one of choosing what degree of stiffness you prefer, finding a helmet in that range by choosing a particular standard, and then worrying about fine points like fit, comfort, ventilation, graphics, racer endorsements or computer-generated spokesmodels.
helmet test
How Hard Is Hard?

Not one helmet came close to bottoming in any of our tests. And they all handled the low-energy impacts, even the scary-looking edge impact, without strain.

In fact, in most cases the peak Gs in the edge impact were lower than the flat-anvil peak Gs for the same helmet at the same impact energy. Why is this? Because the edge impact flexes and/or delaminates the helmet shell sooner in the impact, letting the EPS inside—the real energy absorber in the system—start doing its work sooner.

In the high-energy impact, the 3-meter, 150-joule drop—the kind of hit a Snell helmet is, presumably, designed to withstand—the differences became more apparent.

The stiffest helmets in the Big Drop test, the Arai Tracker GTs, hit our hypothetical head with an average of 243 peak Gs. The softest helmets, the Z1R ZRP-1s, bonked the noggin with an average of 176 peak Gs. This is a classic comparison of a stiff, fiberglass, Snell-rated helmet, the Arai, against a softer, polycarbonate-shell, DOT-only helmet, the Z1R. OK. So let's agree that we want to subject our heads to the minimum possible G force. Should we pick an impressive, expensive fiberglass/Kevlar/unobtanium-fiber helmet—or one of those less-expensive plastic-shelled helmets?

Conventional helmet-biz wisdom says fiberglass construction is somehow better at absorbing energy than plastic—something about the energy of the crash being used up in delaminating the shell. And that a stiffer shell lets a designer use softer foam inside—which might absorb energy better.

Our results showed the exact opposite—that plastic-shelled helmets actually performed better than fiberglass. In our big 3-meter hit—the high-energy kind of bash one might expect would show the supposed weaknesses of a plastic shell—the plastic helmets transferred an average of 20 fewer Gs compared with their fiberglass brothers, which were presumably designed by the same engineers to meet the same standards, and built in the same factories by the same people.

Why is this? We're guessing—but it's a really good guess: The EPS liner inside the shell is better at absorbing energy than the shell. The polycarbonate shells flex rather than crush and delaminate, and this flexing, far from being a problem, actually lets the EPS do more of its job of energy absorption while transferring less energy to the head.

Remember, these polycarbonate helmets from both Icon and Scorpion are also Snell M2000 rated. So they are tested to some very extreme energy levels. And Ed Becker, executive director of the Snell Foundation, is on record as saying that a low-priced—that is, plastic-shelled—Snell-certified helmet is just as good at protecting your head as a high-priced—that is, fiberglass—Snell-certified helmet. So at the high end of impact energy, we have the Snell Foundation vouching for their performance. And our testing, without the extreme two-hit hemi test, says they're actually superior.
Score One For Faceless Government Bureaucrats

The DOT helmets we had were all plastic-shelled, and none cost more than $100. How did they do? They kicked butt. In what must be considered a head-impact Cinderella story, the DOT-only helmets from Z1R delivered less average G force to the headform through all the impacts than any others in the test.

And they still excelled in the big-hit, 150-joule impact—a blast 66 percent harder than any actual DOT test for a medium-sized helmet.

The Z1R ZRP-1s continuously amazed us. After all the testing, its outer shell looked essentially unharmed: The slight road rash at the impact sites caused by our stubborn insistence on hitting actual pavement looked no worse than we'd expect if the helmet had fallen off the seat at a rest stop.

When we pulled the ZRP-1s apart, the EPS had cracked and compressed at the impact sites, just as it's supposed to do, and just as it did in every other helmet. But it had come nowhere near bottoming; there was still an inch or more of impact-absorbing foam left. And the plastic shell seemed completely unharmed, from the inside as well as the outside, even where it had taken the terrifying edge hit and the big three-meter bash.

This illustrates just how hard it is to tell from the outside whether a helmet has taken a severe hit. And why you should never, ever buy a used helmet.
fiberglass helmet damage
Fiberglass helmets such as the the Arai Tracker (shown) showed substantial damage to their shells after the edge impact. The polycarbonate-shell helmets were largely unmarked. Neither result is essentially better: Either shell material can be used to make excellent helmets. Polycarbonate helmets generally transmit fewer Gs to the head in our testing than fiberglass-shell lids, even when certified to the same standards.
The Hardest Hits

So the softest DOT helmets came through our tests with protection to spare. But doubt lingered, in spite of everything we had seen: How would they do in a monster, wicked-big impact?

So we decided to kill them. We ran the Z1Rs up the test rig one last time. Not just to the 10-foot, 150-joule Snell test height, but all the way to the top of the rig: 3.9 meters, or 13 feet. This hit would be at 8.5 meters per second, an energy of 185 joules. That's higher and harder than any existing helmet standard impact. And, not coincidentally, the same height and energy called out in the COST 327 proposed standard, the one that may replace the current ECE 22-05 specification. We did one hit on the pavement and one on the curb anvil—the same hits called out in the COST proposal. We did them on the back of the helmets, in the center, because that was the only place we hadn't hit them before.

So this last test is not directly comparable to the others. But it showed, in no uncertain terms, just how tough—and how protective—an inexpensive helmet can be.

The peak Gs for the monster hits were 208 for the curb impact and 209 for the flat-pavement impact. Just a few Gs more, that is, than many of the Snell-rated helmets transmitted in their seven-foot hits on the flat anvil. And even after these mega hits, the EPS liners were still nowhere near used up.

The ZRP-1s are also well finished, quiet and very comfortable, though maybe a little short on venting. They're also light: Our ZRP-1s weighed only about an ounce more than the lightest helmets in the test, the Arai Tracker GTs. What's the cost for all this excellent impact absorption, comfort, light weight and highly durable finish? In a solid color, a ZRP-1 retails for $79.95.

The least-expensive helmets in the test, the $69.95 Pep Boys Raiders, also did well in all the standard impacts. But we can't recommend them because their chin bars have soft, resilient foam, not the EPS you need to absorb a severe head-on impact. Our advice is to spring for the extra $10 and treat yourself to a Z1R ZRP-1.

Another helmet that taught us a thing or two was the Schuberth S-1. The Schuberth is certified to the ECE 22-05 standard, which dictates impact energies marginally higher than the DOT standard. Like the Z1R ZRP-1 and the Fulmer AFD4, it has relatively large outer dimensions, leaving room in the shell for thicker, and presumably softer, EPS. And like the DOT-only lids, it soaked up energy like a sailor soaks up Schlitz. If you can't bring yourself to wear a $79.95 helmet just to get excellent energy management, you'll feel very comfortable with the Schuberth, which sells for $640 to $700.

The other helmets we pulled apart used either a one-piece or a two-piece EPS liner. The S-1, on the other hand, uses a complex, five-piece liner, with separate front, rear and overear pads glued to a central foam hat. Leave it to the Germans to use five parts to do what the Z1R does with one.

A few of the European helmets—the Vemars, the Sharks and the Suomys—use a different kind of EPS liner than we're used to seeing in Asian-built helmets. Instead of a solid foam liner of a specific density, these Euro-lids use stiffer, more rigid foam with deep channels in it to soften up the assembly and vent air through the shell. The effect is that of a highly vented bicycle helmet stuffed into the requisite hard outer shell. The ECE-rated Vemars and Sharks and the ECE and BSI-rated Suomys performed well on the impact torture rack, showing generally lower G-transmission than we saw in typical Snell-rated helmets.
helmet layers
The Human Race

"But I'm a racer," we hear you rationalizing. "I go really fast. I go so fast, in fact, that I need a very special, high-energy helmet to protect my wonderful manliness and fastness." Not so, Rossi-breath.

If you're going to land on flat pavement when you crash—and you almost always do—you can afford to wear a softer ECE or DOT helmet, because softer helmets do a very good job of absorbing big impacts—even really, really big impacts—on flat surfaces. Remember, the hard part about getting a helmet past the Snell standard involves surviving that mythical steel orange very hard twice in the same spot on the helmet, simulating a monster hit—or two—on, say, a car bumper. Been to Laguna Seca recently? No car bumpers or steel oranges anywhere.

Racers don't typically hit truck parts, storm drains, sign posts, tree shredders or the Watts Towers. They fall off, sometimes tumble, and almost always hit the racetrack. Or maybe an air fence, a sand trap or hay bale. In other words, the racetrack is the best-controlled, best-engineered, softest, flattest environment you're going to find. Racers are even more likely to hit flat pavement than street riders—and street riders hit flat pavement around 90 percent of the time.

The AMA accepts DOT, ECE 22-05, BSI 6658 Type A or Snell M2000-rated helmets. That's for going 200 mph on a superbike at Daytona. The FIM, which sanctions MotoGP races all over the world, accepts any of the above standards but DOT. Why not DOT if DOT helmets are comparable to ECE helmets? Because the DOT is an American institution, and the FIM doesn't really do American. And because the DOT standard doesn't require any outside testing—just the manufacturers' word that their helmets pass.
Yes, Size Does Matter

There's one more issue with the Snell and BSI standards we should mention, even if we didn't specifically address it in our testing.

Snell and BSI dictate that every helmet be impact-tested with the same-weight headform inside, no matter the size of the helmet. That is, an XS helmet is required to withstand exactly the same total impact energy as an XXL.

The DOT and ECE standards vary the energy of the impacts by varying the weight of the headform, under the reasonable rationale that a very small head weighs less than a very big one. In the eyes of the governments of both the U.S. and the European community, in other words, helmet makers should tailor the stiffness of their helmets to suit the head sizes of the wearers to protect everybody's brain equally.

What does this mean to you? If you have a relatively heavy head, the difference in stiffness between a Snell helmet and a DOT or ECE helmet will be relatively small. If you are a man, woman or child with a lighter head, on the other hand, the difference in stiffness between a Snell helmet and a DOT or ECE helmet will be relatively huge.

So if you are concerned after reading all this that a Snell helmet might be too stiff for you, Mr. XXL, you should be even more concerned about putting your XS wife or child into a Snell or BSI helmet. The Snell Foundation's position on this is that they have no proof big heads weigh more than small heads. Hmmm. Isn't a head basically a shell of thin bone filled with water? Doesn't more bone and water weigh more than less bone and water?

And it's not just us. One study by Mr. Thom concluded that head weight does increase with head circumference. He found there is good evidence that smaller heads weigh less and that smaller helmets should thus be softer.

As Thom says regarding the Snell Foundation's position on this: "They are not in touch with reality."
All Helmets Are Great. We Investigate.

The good news in all this is that helmets—all helmets—are getting better. The last time we did an impact test on helmets was back in '91, in the November issue if you're rummaging through that pile in the garage next to your 1929 Scott Flying Squirrel.

We did some of the same impacts this time, a 7-foot flat drop and a 10-foot flat drop, as we (and Thom) did in '91. So the results, at least on those tests, are highly comparable.

Back in '91, both DOT and Snell/DOT helmets routinely exceeded 250 Gs in the 7-foot drop, and often spiked past 300 Gs in the 10-foot drop. Ouch.

In our new results, no helmet exceeded 250 Gs in the 10-foot drop, and the vast majority of the 7-foot drops stayed well below 200 Gs. So falling at a 10-foot energy level today—a 99th-percentile crash—is like falling at a 7-foot energy level was back in '91. That means more and more people are being protected better and better. It also means that in well over 90 percent of the impacts we did, the rider would probably have come out with no more than an AIS 3—or serious—brain injury.

Helmets are getting better, and some of the least-expensive helmets provide truly amazing protection. But just how good can helmets get? Stay tuned—we'll explore that topic very soon.