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ZAMM Fanatic
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2,730 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I continually get blasted about buying/wearing used helmets. So I thought I'd open a discussion on the topic.

For starters, I don't purchase helmets over 7 years old. 5 would be better, but we can probably ALL agree that by 7 years, the styrofoam is no longer capable of absorbing energy and is either on it's way to becoming yellow dust or has been compacted to a useless .. state!

SNELL? I'd love to only purchase SNELL-approved helmets. But the fact is DOT approved helmets are probably..."safe enough."

FIT? I think FIT is critical, as important as the helmet itself, which I why I no longer even TRY and buy mail order.

As far as actual safety goes, I'm going to make up some #'s.


% of safety imparted by:

50% Wearing a helmet, ANY modern helmet at all. No leather "skull caps"
20% Wearing a 3/4 versus "shorty" helmet with the strap properly
snugged so it doesn't slide off to the side when you hit the tarmac
10% Wearing a newer helmet with foam that actually absorbs energy
10% Wearing a properly fitting helmet that doesn't bounce around OR
isn't too tight, preventing the foam from doing its job cause you've
pre-compacted it
5% Full face versus 3/4 (neck injury vs. jaw destruction)
3% SNELL vs DOT rating
2% other

We can argue about these #'s. Probably wearing ANY helmet, even a 25 year old "Captain America" full of yellow dust is SO much better than no helmet at all the first # should probably be 70% instead of 50% - provided it fits.

Debates rage about full face versus 3/4, that you're more likely to break your neck versus have your chin disintegrated in a wreck... but survive.

I hear a lot of arguments "If a helmet has EVER been dropped it's got to be discarded." I call b.s. If there isn't spiderweb cracking of the fiberglass outer shell, I SERIOUSLY DOUBT a helmet has been compromised. The shell provides an ablative surface (read: designed to be destroyed) sliding down the asphalt, impact resistance --- preventing sharp things poking through -- but mostly helps DISTRIBUTE the forces of impact around the full circumference of your skull.

Ideally you'd want the outer shell of a helmet to shatter, crumple, crack and absorb energy....just like a crumple zone on a car -- at the moment of greatest impact, RATHER than bouncing off.

Key to helmets is, of course, ACTUALLY WEARING it.....personally I have quick (metal) strap releases on all my helmets to ENCOURAGE me to always wear one, esp on short grocery runs where it's helmet on, helmet off, helmet on, helmet off...

I'd love it if someone knows someone at NHTSA, SNELL, or a helmet mfr who could comment, add some REAL #'s or a mfr's perspective. But share with me YOUR beliefs about helmet safety. What's "safe enough" for you and what's "unacceptable."

By sales #'s alone HJC has stormed the market, obviously the majority of riders think these are "safe enough" and don't pop for the $600 Arai's, Shuberths, etc. (I agree, they're fantastic helmets, and Arai's happen to fit my head perfectly --- meaning COMFORT!"

Photo of my new (brand new) Pawn Shop helmet, BTW.



$50, including a handful of punches, drill bits, brass wire brush, etc.
 

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American Legion Rider
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21,231 Posts
I actually don't have a problem with used. Give it the smell test and if it ain't rank, why not. There are many "used" helmets that have only been worn a hour or so because the hurt or bothered the owner. Old, well how do you know anyway. If it isn't beat to heck or a white one that is now yellow, but one in good shape, sure. Most helmets you get have had someones head in it already and I've seen plenty of sweaty heads trying the on. So why not go to the cheaper route. Don't we have a thread already about your purchases based on whether you were poor or not?
 

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ZAMM Fanatic
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2,730 Posts
Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Don't we have a thread already about [one's] purchases based on whether you were poor or not?
I guess I'd rather wear a used, but SAFE $50 helmet, and spend the $500 on an airbag VEST that might protect me from something a helmet never could no matter HOW much I spent on it.

Every helmet I've ever looked in has a sticker showing the date of manufacture. My guess is it's required by NHTSA.. So I've never had to guess how old a helmet was. I've even suggested to some thrift stores/pawn shop mgrs that they discard certain older helmets. And they actually did, believe it or not!

Biggest problem I've found is original owners often use chemicals which remove the anti-fog coating(s) from the visors. Solution: Replace visor. Everyone loves a new, unscratched visor anyway.
 

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Pale Rider
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528 Posts
According to the Hurt Study, wearing a helmet of any type, only increases your survival chance by 30%... Dr. Hurt did, however, strongly recommend a full-face helmet. To my knowledge, it has never been proven that full-face helmets pose a significant risk of neck injury in an accident, compared to the improved safety they offer against head impacts.

If you look at that and say, "Pffft! That's not worth it!", I would suggest looking at it another way: "I can improve my chances of surviving an accident by 30%, just by wearing a helmet!" That is my take on it.

Dr. Hurt stated, in an interview, that the DOT-rated, $80 Pep Boys helmets offered just as much protection as an $800 racing helmet. I go for DOT only, especially since the latest Snell rating is comparable for G-force transmission allowances considered to be safe.

As for used, I just don't know how it has been treated. I consider helmets the same way I consider tires: I only have one, and with a new helmet, I know it has not been abused, physically, or with inappropriate chemicals; I also know it's age. YMMV. Cheers!
:coffee:
 

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ZAMM Fanatic
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2,730 Posts
Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
A wearing a helmet of any type, only increases your survival chance by 30%..
That may indeed be true, but if you've ever known a victim of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and painfully observed the glacial pace of the (typical) 10-year rehab cycle, which ultimately produces a very different, and far less capable person than your friend USED to be...

You'll wear that damn helmet.
 

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American Legion Rider
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21,231 Posts
Wish I still had the picture of my helmet from my crash. Darn near in two halves. Yep, one of those you'll die if you wear a helmet older than 5 years old kind. Saved my noggin. Yep, I got another just like it. I agree with you wade(which I hate to do:D) that any helmet is better than none.
 

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Premium Member
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7,652 Posts
Helmet

I have three full face helmets, one for each bike, all purchased new.
On one of my track crashes, my head hit a rock and laid me out for 45 minutes.
Concussion has a lot longer lasting effect than most realize. Parts of the memory can go missing.
I have never had a crash on the public highways.
So which example from above should I use? So I will only buy new Snell approved helmets, or a reasonable equivalent.
Next helmet will likely be an open face Shoei for the scooter.
I used to be the rider safety dude out our track. I inspected all the gear they were wearing, and monitored their crashes. Forgot what the age limit on helmets was, but it is not very long.

Unkle Crusty*
 

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Pale Rider
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528 Posts
I agree, Wade. I never ride without my helmet, a Modular, DOT rated unit. There are fates worse than death, and a TBI is on my personal list. I've had four low-side's, and only one of them showed scratches on the helmet... But I wear one no matter what. It really takes very little force of impact on the skull, to inflict a TBI, or death.

Just wanted to share Hurt's surprising number regarding the effectiveness of wearing a helmet. He mostly talked about deaths in his report -- at least that is what I paid more attention to. Tracking the TBI's, and their devastating effects, was beyond what he could do in his infamous study. The reality is that even with full gear, including an inflatable vest, a high-speed impact with a solid object, is going to do a great deal of damage to your body. Ride safe! Cheers!
:coffee:
 

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Troublemaker
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2,517 Posts
I buy new full face or modular helmets every two years, not because they are wore out, but I just like new helmets. I will never buy a used helmet, doesn't matter how cheap it is. Wearing a used helmet would be no different than wearing someone else's underwear, you don't know the history. A helmet is a personal item, it is intended for one head, and once it's been compromised, it is garbage.

My new Icon will last me two seasons, and then it will go in the back of the closet only to be brought out to use if the new helmet I get doesn't work and feel the way I think it should. No helmet is ever kept more than 5 years here unless it's for parts on a like helmet.
 

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A legend in his own mind
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2,600 Posts
I don't have the link anymore, but it has been proven that dropping a helmet damages the foam inside upon impact.(flat spot)
Recommended replacement is 5 years because the foam breaks down and may not absorb impact properly after that.
That being said, My full face helmet is over due for replacement by age, but I can't afford it yet, so it'll have to do (better than nothing right?) I do have a new half helmet that I wear for most of my riding, that's why it was replaced first.
I don't feel comfortable though buying a used helmet either, no clue as to how it was treated or if it was buffed out after a minor impact. I'd rather wait and get new.
 

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ZAMM Fanatic
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2,730 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
I actually don't have a problem with used. Give it the smell test and if it ain't rank, why not.
I suspect the smell test is more important than we may realize.

If a helmet has been ridden hard and put away wet, the mold and moisture are going to not just create a bad smell, they're likely to decompose the helmet liner and perhaps even soften the styrofoam.

Which is one reason I try and set my helmets out to dry in the warm sun after a ride that generates enough sweat to leave my hair wet instead of putting them back in my gear closet.
 

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ZAMM Fanatic
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2,730 Posts
Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
I don't have the link anymore, but it has been proven that dropping a helmet damages the foam inside upon impact.(flat spot)
.
I don't doubt that you had a link to such a report. I do, however, doubt the veracity of it. I personally believe it's likely to be "wishful fearmongering" by helmet mfr's and/or stooges on their behalf.

Think about it. The outer fiberglass SHELL takes an impact and DISTRIBUTES it across the entire inner styrofoam liner. In other words, one of it's design goal is precisely to PREVENT all the force of impact from passing through to a small spot in the helmet.

Not only that but the fiberglass outer shell is design to do so with a 50# bowling ball in it (your head) versus the empty weight of the helmet itself.

So in other words, as a degreed engineer, I call b.s. on a "One and Done!" theory that a single drop from a tabletop damages a MC helmet to such a degree that it is no longer capable of providing suitable protection for a rider's head.

And how many among us can honestly say we have NEVER dropped our helmet, not even once?

I'd postulate that iif a helmet could be ruined by a SINGLE medium height spill, even onto concrete, that would be pretty good grounds for a lawsuit against helmet mfr's for willfully negligent design. That would require PROVING that a helmet could indeed be ruined by a single drop. You really think MFR's are going to expose themselves to that level of liability, by putting out a product that THEY KNOW could be PROVEN to have been ruined by a single drop.

I doubt it. Seriously.

Have you ever, even ONCE, seen a warning label inside a helmet that CLEARLY stated "This helmet MUST be replaced if it is EVER dropped to ensure the continued safety of the wearer? No? Don't you think NHTSA, who requires endless airbag, tire, infotainment display, & other warning labels in cars, would require such a label of helmet mfr's if "One and Done" were true even for 1% of drops?

But if there are any other ENGINEERS here or for that matter, any ATTORNEYS who concur with a "one and done" model of helmet destruction, well shoot, I imagine we'll ALL be wearing FREE brand new replacement helmets this time next year. That AND/OR every helmet mfr will be out of biz.
 

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Gone.
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17,857 Posts
That may indeed be true, but if you've ever known a victim of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and painfully observed the glacial pace of the (typical) 10-year rehab cycle, which ultimately produces a very different, and far less capable person than your friend USED to be...
I heard a comment on NPR a year or two ago that said that almost 25% of returning veterans from Iraq had suffered TBI's, "whether they knew it or not."

:coffeescreen:
 

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Gone.
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17,857 Posts
And I'd have no problem with buying a used helmet. (Theoretically.) If I lose the one I've had for the last 10 years I'd likely buy a new one, but if a great deal on a helmet I liked that was used popped up, I'd buy it.
 

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Pale Rider
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528 Posts
You make some valid points, Wade. Thanks for shining some light into a murky corner. Looks like advertising has done its job all too well, once again.

I do think that the styrofoam will break down over time. I thought it was only two years, so the five year comments have proved useful.

I do wonder, however, about the fitment. For example, shoes are re-sold often. IMO, shoes break down conforming to the shape, and weight of the first person wearing them -- they will never conform properly for a second owner/wearer. My concern is that the foam will shape itself to the first owner's head, but it may not conform to the second owner's head as well as it did for the first owner. Granted, we are talking different materials, but the foam liners will break down sooner than the styrofoam -- or will it?

What is your take on the conformity issue? Will the styrofoam, and padding, mold themselves to the first owner's head far better, while being limited in conforming to the second owner's head? No two heads are exactly alike, and I could see the styrofoam being shaped/slightly compressed by hours of pressure against the first owner's head. Cheers!
:coffee:
 

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ZAMM Fanatic
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2,730 Posts
Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
My concern is that the foam will shape itself to the first owner's head, but it may not conform to the second owner's head as well as it did for the first owner.
What is your take on the conformity issue?
:coffee:
I think you've raised a very valid point. In a new helmet the foam is all the same SOFT density, and the act of wearing it will indeed compress it in certain areas, say, if you've got an oval versus a round head. (Not that compressing it is good....it can't ABSORB as much energy once compacted)

So if you try on a used helmet, and if it does NOT fit comfortably, it probably won't CONFORM to your noggin as well (or as much) as a new one would.

You probably read my story of using a die grinder with a round bit to re-shape the foam in a helmet that felt ok in the store, but was too tight within 300 miles. I ended up with foam that was THINNER in some spots versus packed down. Result: Less total available energy absorption, but perhaps STILL better than "smashing" that foam down to concrete density...

I think ARAI helmets are supposedly more oval, Shoei's rounder (and smaller in the same listed size), and so on. So trying 'em on to find the brand/model that fits right brand new thereby MINIMIZING the amount of compaction that occurs is ideal.

(And at a place like the Helmet Center in Phoenix you can try on scores of different helmets...) For noobies, NEVER EVER order mail-order UNLESS you've tried on that exact helmet, even down to the model year, in person.)

(Who would have known I wear a 2XL Arai and a 3XL Shoei?)

Obviously, the BETTER the fit, and the less compaction ANY of the foam has experienced, the better a job the helmet will do of distributing and absorbing forces of impact.

Maybe the solution is indeed what an earlier poster proposed, try on innumerable high end, SNELL-approved helmets until you find one that fits perfectly, even if it costs you a small fortune helmet and replace it every 2-3 years for absolute maximum safety, because traumatic brain injury simply isn't to be trifled with.

It's just so damn hard when I find an el-cheapo (read: Chinese) size 2XL helmet (rare birds), DOT approved, for $50 in a pawn shop, it fits "good enough", brand new perfectly clear visor, for me to walk away from it. AND they throw in a bunch of drill bits, Taylor!

the added safety of a perfectly clear, brand new visor shouldn't be discounted either!

Great discussion. As a writer I now feel compelled to get someone from Snell or NHTSA to come in and give us their .02 on this thread and the points raised here.

Update: Sent an email to director of SNELL inviting him to participate in this thread, directly or indirectly.
 

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ZAMM Fanatic
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2,730 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
I sent an email to NHTSA asking to talk to someone about existing helmet regulations, labeling requirements, safety data, etc.

As one might expect..... I received a useless form reply in return.

@#[email protected]#$ Government!
 

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So long
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...
Every helmet I've ever looked in has a sticker showing the date of manufacture. My guess is it's required by NHTSA.. So I've never had to guess how old a helmet was...
Racetracks generally require Snell M2010 or M2015 is compliance. The Snell specs specify a 5 year age limit from the date of manufacture. Without that date of manufacture inside the helmet there would be no way to verify compliance with the 5 year limit.

Here's a link to the Snell foundation safety standards. http://www.smf.org/stds
 

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Premium Member
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Date

Racetracks generally require Snell M2010 or M2015 is compliance. The Snell specs specify a 5 year age limit from the date of manufacture. Without that date of manufacture inside the helmet there would be no way to verify compliance with the 5 year limit.

Here's a link to the Snell foundation safety standards. http://www.smf.org/stds
Without the date sticker inside, the safety inspector has no choice but to reject the helmet.

Unkle Crusty*
 
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