Hello and welcome to Alex's Blog. This week I wanted to look in to motorcycle helmets and how they have evolved over the years.
I have written a couple of previous blogs on Helmets - why and when to replace? and Time to change your helmet? - which are worth a look - I wrote them, so they are obviously extremely well written as well as useful and informative! We know about why you need to replace helmets, but this blog is looking at the history behind motorcycle helmets, how did we get to where we are now?
The history of the motorcycle helmet.
The first motorcycle helmet dates back to 1914 when Dr Eric Gardner who was a medical officer at Brooklands race track noticed an alarming rate of head injuries caused by motorcycle crashes. He commissioned Mr Moss of Bethnal Green to make a canvas and shellac helmet which would be hard enough to withstand a heavy blow.
He chose shellac to make sure it was smooth enough to deflect any projections. This helmet, when presented to the Auto-Cycle Union, was originally rejected but then eventually made compulsory for the 1914 Isle of Man TT races. Even though it was in their best interest the riders actually resisted the idea! This started to change when the IOM TT medical officer noted that normally they had "several interesting concussion cases" but in 1914 there were no cases.
The next incarnation of the motorcycle helmet, closer as we know it to date, was in 1935. T.E Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") had a motorcycle crash. He was in a coma for six days and eventually died. One of his doctors, a neurosurgeon named Hugh Cairns, began a study in to unnecessary loss of life by motorcycle despatch riders through head injuries. This research led to an increased use of helmets by motorcyclists.
As helmets became more popular, and even made compulsory, the demand was there so supply needed to happen hence the birth of this selection of helmet brands:
The acronym for Amisano Gino Valenza, is named after the company founder Gino Amisano who started the Italian company in 1946 and the town he was from.
The first AGV helmets were made from leather moulded over wood and put in the oven for over an hour to harden then it was painted (not recommended with your AGV now).
In 1954 AGV made the first fibreglass crash helmet and in 1956 they revolutionised their classic "pudding basin" design creating a much more protective (and aerodynamic) "jet" helmet.
In 1969 AGV had the first full-face helmet to be worn at an Italian GP worn by Alberto Pagani. In 2007 AGV started their AGV Extreme Standards which is designed around the rider's head not the shell. All AGVs since 2012 are designed around this approach.
The instigator of Arai helmets, Hirotake Arai worked as a hat maker but was a big motorcycle enthusiast. He combined both of these to make Arai helmets starting with making them for his family and friends. This was in the 1950s and Arai became very well known. In 1976 Mitch Arai decided that he wanted Arai helmets to stand out and to be better than average, he wanted Arai to be "Number One".
Mitch Arai set about on making helmets with better shell strength. He wanted a round shell to deflect objects but knew that shell strength was key. Months of experimentation followed and used the bag moulding method to increase the ratio of fibre to resin.
Mitch very much wanted to create shell thickness consistency but with the method used this was nigh on impossible, so Arai implemented a double quality control check that is still in place to this day.
Once he was satisfied with the shell Arai began work on the liner. EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) was the chosen material, after lots of further testing, and again, is still used to this day.
Arai then went a step further with helmet performance by pioneering the concept of multi-density liners to better deal with different impact energies in differing areas around the helmet, allowing the maximum amount of energy management with the minimum liner thickness. Arai helmets garnered the interest of racers and gained a great reputation and have kept that reputation to this day.
Bell began manufacturing helmets in 1954. Roy Richter who was big on the California hot rod and racing scene, saw lots of accidents and the death of a long-time friend so decided to do something to help.
The name Bell comes from where Roy's garage was - in Bell, California. Bell started with a polystyrene liner in 1957.
In 1968 Bell debuted their first full-face helmet the "Star". The 1968 Star gained a reputation with its EPS lining and in 1971 Bell diversified to motorcycle helmets from originally only doing car helmets.
Bell now make motorcycle helmets, car helmets and famously bicycle helmets now as well.
Caberg was founded in 1974 in Bergamo in north Italy. Ca-Berg is short for Caschi di Bergamo (helmets from Bergamo) It first launched with two full-face helmets. One with a peak and one without. In 1978 Caberg launched the Ventura - with an innovative release spring visor system.
Caberg continued to release helmets and in 1992 were the first Italian company to release a flip-up helmet named 292 Unlimited. It is not confirmed if the band "2 Unlimited" were heavily influenced by Caberg helmets or not.
Continuing the firsts in 1998 the Just One model was the first motorcycle helmet model on the market that could be converted to an open face from a full-face as well as be used as a flip-front helmet. Another world first in 2014, Caberg introduced the Tourmax the world's first flip up dual-sport helmet. One we still sell to this day.
Founded in 1971 HJC concentrated its efforts to the quality of its products. The RPHA 10 was one of the best performing helmets in its class making it a tall order to create a higher performing helmet after that.
Incredibly HJC achieved this and the RPHA 70 is the newest model for 2017. Ultra-lightweight with premium safety features this continued the momentum HJC had reached with the innovation of the RPHA series.
HJC introduced the P.I.M technology to their helmets in 2016. HJC also have at their disposal a state of the art tunnel testing lab to test ventilation, noise, aerodynamics etc.
HJC also concentrate on graphics and as such have paired up with stalwarts of the entertainment world such as Star Wars and Marvel to offer crowd-pleasing helmet designs.
Nolan helmets started in Bergamo, Italy, in1972. Founded by Lander Nocchi, Nolan still make their helmets in Italy to this day and pride themselves on high-value products with innovative features at a good price.
Manufacturing in their own factory in Italy allows Nolan to exert extraordinary quality control of their products. Nolan has their own research team as well as their own test laboratory to ensure that each helmet conforms to each safety standard around the world.
All Nolan helmets are covered by a 5-year limited warranty and all N-Com communications products are covered by a 2-year limited warranty.
Schuberth made their first motorcycle helmet in 1954. In 1976 they made their first integral helmet made from composite materials and in 1981 the first integral motorcycle helmet with a framed visor.
From 1984 Schuberth began focussing on aerodynamics and then started using wind tunnel testing. In 1984 they brought out a helmet with a pivoting chin section with integrated chin strap. In 1998 came their first flip-front helmet.
In 2008 the first incarnation of the C3 the quietest flip-up on the market. In 2010 they launched the SRC System which is the first communications system to be integrated in the neck guard. Schuberth continue to innovate and offer premium quality helmets with highly innovative features.
French company Shark were established in 1986. Founded by professional racers such as Olivier Jacque, Raymond Roche, Carl Fogarty, Scott Redding and Troy Corser to name but a few.
The Shark ethos is always to push the technical boundaries and innovate so that each and every biker and racer can enjoy the sheer pleasure and freedom of riding in complete safety. From its headquarters in Marseille and its own factories, and with over 600 employees, Shark manufactures and sells new models each year.
Founded in 1958 by Eiraro Kamata with the first Shoei helmet released in 1960. Shoei manufactures all helmets (and all helmet parts) in Japan, even though manufacturing costs there have long since exceeded the level in many other countries.
Shoei employees take every single helmet as a personal challenge. Faulty Shoei helmets are basically unheard of, so known are they for the high standard of manufacturing (as well as safety) Shoei claim to be behind the first carbon fibre helmet in 1976 but were also the first manufacturer to use Kevlar in their helmets.
All Shoei helmets come with 5-year warranty so you can rest assured that their helmets are up to the job.
We've come a long way from moulded leather helmets. There are also many more helmet brands now.
I wrote another blog called "Motorcycle Helmets" which goes in to the science of modern helmet technology and safety standards.
This goes to show how far we have come technology wise...which got us here at J&S HQ thinking about helmets and how far they've come...make sure you read next week's Alex's Blog for an exciting announcement to do with the evolution of helmets...watch this space!
Until next time, stay safe