Performance Technic Tip: Everything you should know about your helmet
Performance Technic is the new technical facility in Kyalami, run by the same team behind the phenomenally successful Fire It Up and Bike Buyers. Every Tuesday they will be providing some technical know-how that could make your biking life a better and easier one. Today, we talk about your helmet and all the important things you should know about it.
Helmets are important. While this might appear to be an obvious statement, we still see people, particularly those riding recreationally off public roads and on quads, not wearing them. Here’s a simple fact for you – if you crash without a helmet on, this crash is 40% more likely to be fatal.
With that out of the way, we now look at things less obvious, like how a helmet actually works and how to keep it working. The layers of a helmet are made up of three parts – the outer shell, a layer of a substance that is similar to polystyrene and the padding. The outer layer is made of plastic, fibre-glass or carbon-fibre, and its function is to protect against road rash and help spread the load of impacts. It does the latter by flexing slightly and broadening the load on the second layer. Plastic shells are cheaper but less protective than the fibre-glass variety, while carbon-fibre offers similar protection to fibre-glass but with less weight.
The second layer is the most important, and while it might resemble polystyrene, it is made up of a type of foam, the contents of which are strictly guarded secrets of each brand. It is this layer that offers the most protection during impact.
The last layer, the padding, is for rider comfort and to assist with fitting, something more important than people give it credit. Usually, fitting of helmets is based on what is most comfortable, meaning they often end up with a helmet too big for them, and herein lies the problem – the helmet relies on minimising the shock on your brain, and to do this there needs to be no loose space between the head and the protective layers. When there is free space, the head will literally crash into the helmet itself, creating extra shock and reducing the protection of the helmet. If in doubt, take a helmet that is slightly too tight and then get the salesmen to fit different padding.
Now that the right helmet has been chosen, you are now tasked with the job of looking after it. The outer shell needs to spread the load of the impact, and it can’t do this properly when cracked or compromised. This is why the helmet needs to be replaced after a crash impact and even after a hefty fall. The second layer needs to absorb most of the impact, and here is the danger zone. It does this only when it’s structure is still intact. If it has been compressed – like when being knocked during a crash – it no longer has the absorptive capabilities and will not protect as it did before. More so, it also gets compressed in other ways, like when you stick your helmet on a mirror or carry your groceries in it.
The padding needs to be washed regularly because sweat, petrol vapours and other solvents compromise the stitching and material. Most pads can be removed for washing, and the helmet is purchased with detailed instructions of how to do this.
One more tip – do not leave your helmet out in the sun. Both the UV rays and the heat will make your helmet more brittle and again reduce protective qualities. If you look after your helmet well, it could happily see a lifespan of five years, maybe more.
Performance Technic Contacts:
Tel: 010 880 2849