Helmet Safety, Price, and Drops
So I was on a different forum and the discussion of helmet price and drops damaging helmets came up and I made this post and will share it here. Hopefully it will be of some use
Cheap and expensive helmets that are sold are really built to meet the same standards and there aren't any actual industry tests that will check the differences between different helmets. The only thing you get with a more expensive helmet are almost always down to five points:
1. Lighter weight/material (carbon fiber)
2. Less noisy
3. More ventilation
5. Name brand
I have the famous independent study done about 12 years ago where the cheapest helmet was actually the safest helmet based on G forces transferred to the head. It was the Z1R helmet which ran for under $100. That helmet out-tested AVGs, Sharks, Schuberth S-1, Arai and Icons. In fact, the Arai Tracker GT had the 3rd worst rating in terms of felt G force out of 16 helmets total.
And yes, the harder the helmet, the more energy is transferred to your head and that was the issue of that groundbreaking aforementioned study and was the cause for the changes to the SNELL 2010 standards. Talk to a physics scientist and they will confirm that you have to have this perfect medium and there is a thing such as too stiff/hard and too soft and SNELL still forces helmets to be on the harder side.
Here's part of that article:
"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."
The only part of your post that is incorrect is about the DOT testing. The positive that SNELL has over DOT is the fact that to be SNELL certified, helmets are actually tested by the SNELL foundation which is a third party while DOT-certified helmets allow each individual helmet manufacturer to do their own in house testing in their R&D factories and then the manufacturer then slaps the DOT sticker on their own helmet. They are subject to random testing but it may happen but once every few years and only on select models. For example, HJC could make 5 different helmets this year and only two models may get tested.
About how long a motorcycle helmet is good for? Again, as most have already discussed, it depends on climate and how long it has been used. For example, many helmets that are sold on the market, unless you get the newest model, can be as much as 3-4 years old. Manufacturers used to state that helmets are only good for 5 years once you start wearing it assuming the new helmet has been held in an environment that has constant temperature, pressure, and humidity. Realistically, they are likely safe for upwards of 10 years but I'm one to err on the side of caution so any helmet after 5 years, it's out the door.
Also, this whole "once you drop a helmet about waist high or higher it's no longer good" is absolute garbage. Independent studies (I used to have these somewhere) proved that dropping helmet alone without anything in it causes no structural damage and once again, any physicist can attest to this being true as well. Now if you throw a helmet down with force or throw it against a wall, that's a different story. Of course helmet manufactuers don't make money if you don't replace helmets so since about 2010, there's been this unfounded paradigm shift, led by manufacturers, that once a helmet is dropped, it's structure integrity MAY BE COMPROMISED AND IT'S BEST TO BE REPLACED bullshit. Don't buy into it. Dropping it a few times from waist high to 6ft is not going to cause any structure damage as the energy from the drop is minimal and it gets dispersed onto itself, thus causing a self reaction which basically means the helmet is not damaged.