By September 8, 2005

Riding tip #1: Keep the brain in the head.

I’ve been doing a lot of research on motorcycle helmets over the last month. It’s a puzzling, over-marketed world, motorcycle helmets. There are multiple safety standards — the optional Department of Transportation standard, which is on the honor system as far as compliance goes, the mostly US-based SNELL standard, and the mostly European ECE 22-05. I was all set to buy a SNELL helmet, since it has the most stringent standards and a reputation for churning out high-technology helmets.

That is, until I read this article from Motorcyclist magazine about the different motorcycle helmet standards and how the “toughest,” the SNELL standard, might actually be worse for your head in case of an accident. In a nutshell, the stronger, tougher helmets protect themselves and send the energy generated in an impact into your softer, squishier noggin.

The medical profession uses the Abbreviated Injury Scale to give rule-of-thumb measurements to injuries on the scene. The AIS has six scales, with 1 being the least injurious and 6 being everyone’s favorite, “unsurvivable.” An accident that generates between 200 and 249 G forces worth of energy is considered an AIS 4, or “severe.” 250 – 300 Gs is “critical.”

One of the DOT-certified helmets mentioned in the Motorcyclist article was the Z1R Strike Blade helmet from Z1R Helmets. I know the name is juvenile, but the Strike Blade helmet transmitted an average of 152 Gs during testing (peak 178), whereas a top SNELL-certified helmet transmitted an average of 211 Gs, with a peak of 236 Gs. Meaning, the top SNELL-certified helmet in the test will result in an AIS Severe injury any time you have an accident that in which the rider drops a mere 7 feet and hits their head. If you combine the little 7-foot factoid with the most common motorcycle accident involving two people (a car making a left turn in front of a motorcyclist) you may experience some free-flight, achieve your magic 7 foot threshold, and smash your shit thanks to your $600 SNELL helmet. But hey, at least your SNELL helmet will still hold up like a trooper.

Anyway, enough pedagogy. On to the helmet I ordered.

First off, I might be sending this helmet back if it doesn’t fit me correctly. Secondly, I don’t know what color my bike will be, if I get one, so I had to take a gamble that it will be black, blue, silver, or red. That covers the majority of the sport bikes out there, except of course for Kawasaki Green and any tone of yellow.

It’s not a Ghost Rider flaming skull or anything, and I know it’s a bit flamboyant, but if the helmet doesn’t fit me and/or the color scheme is awful in person I can send it back for an exchange or refund.

I got it for $90 USD plus shipping from the folks over at RideGear.com. They are one of the few places to have a decent amount of the Z1R Strike Blade helmets in stock. The closest ECE certified helmet is the Schuberth S-1, transmitting 161 Gs on average. Cost online: $639 for solid colors. The next closes SNELL helmet, the ICON Mainframe helmet, transmits 181Gs on average, or greater than the Z1R Strike Blade’s worst impact score. Cost of the ICON: $210.00 – 220.00 online.

It should get here while I’m out of town in California, but in plenty of time before my Motorcycle Safety class. I also got a high reflectivity military spec riding vest and a balaclava (crazy SWAT mask) for when it gets cold.

I’ll post a review proper once the helmet gets in. In the meantime, the Strike Blade might not be the most featured filled helmet out there, but if it doesn’t fog up and fits me correctly it will protect me better than almost any other helmet money can buy.

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2 Comments on "Riding tip #1: Keep the brain in the head."

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  1. configuratrix says:

    Could you just repaint the helmet if you like the fit/specs?

  2. drfaulken says:

    Yeah, and that’s not too bad of an idea. There are plenty of really good airbrush places around Richmond (they mostly do portraits of rap/pop stars on t-shirts). If it’s a fittment issue — for example, if my chin happens to hit the front of the helmet, then it doesn’t matter what the helmet looks like and it has to go back.

    I would say that if I go with a repaint I might be better off getting a flat color, say white, and having them paint it as opposed to a multicolor screen like the helmet I purchased.