Some Truth About Helmets

I'm posting on this because of a few reasons. (This is a response to a thread on
First, because I hate it when one magazine does something stupid and it drags the collective magazine credibility down the toilet.
Second, because I wear a lot of helmets and I've used them for what they are designed for. I've had a few concussions in different brands and for the most part the helmets are all doing their jobs. I don't like to test helmets but sometimes I do.
Third, because I have a few simple rules about helmets that are easy to follow. Fourth, I replicated the TW test and it is 100% bogus.

Lastly because I feel it is my responsibility to our readers and to dirt bike riders anywhere to dish out solid information when I have it even if there are not enough pages in the magazine to do it.
(Disclosure: Sparx advertises in Dirt Rider, where I'm the editor. And personally I didn't care for the ad's content as I feel it was a little too naughty for our reader even though that stuff does not bother me. I don't have any say over the ads and rarely see them before the magazine goes to print.)
So, rule number one, buy a helmet that fits your head. That is the safest thing you can do. And throw it away (or make a lamp shade out of it) after a good hit or crash, it has done its job and it will be a lot less safe the next time it hits the ground. That is the second safe thing you can do.
About 20 years ago I was a test rider for Dirt Wheels and I was given a Bieffe helmet, (a cheap brand) to wear for photos. It fit. I wore it and was involved in a nasty crash where I slammed head-first. I didn't have any concussion nor did I feel funny but I swore I didn't hit my head like the photographer told me I did. The helmet was scratched a little but that could have happened in the following tumble. So a few days later I saw the photo (pre-digital, dude) and was shocked at my head landing in the dirt like it was. I was sold based on performance. I called Bieffe and tried to get sponsored. They were shocked, since what racer wanted to wear a cheap brand, and offered me a deal. I wore them until I became an editor and they did their job plenty of times. When I started to get all these helmets for free, top of the line ones, I was wearing Shoei for the longest time and had similar results as I'd had with my Bieffes in crashes, the helmet protected my head. I would not wear Arai during this time because it did not fit my head properly. At some point Shoei changed their fit and I started searching around for a new favorite and learned that Arai has changed their fit so I started wearing one of those most of the time. I was still wearing Bieffe but they were disappearing. I also found Vemar and Suomy helmets were quality. Remember I get all this stuff for free. Left to my own penny pinching ways I might not be so extravagant. Or maybe I would. It is my head and I tend to buy high-end stuff for things I love. I have a top of the line skateboard and the best pads and I pay for that stuff. Same with running shoes, bicycle equipment and chain saws. Just not beer. But back to the point. Sometimes you don't have the bucks for the best stuff, no matter what. And of all the studies I've seen and scientific tests that have been done on helmets it is so subjective and random to actually compare that to real world crashes. Believe me they try and most of the standards are a good thing for making helmets safer and giving consumers a "stamp of approval" of sorts. My testing in my head has shown that a good fitting approved helmet will do a decent job of protecting you as a rider until you have that one header that is off the charts, then it is in God's hands.

So I saw the TW test and I was shocked. Sure I knew it was the sacrificial lamb tested of the month but I was horrified by the photo. I had been wearing (yes, while riding dirt bikes, and outside of my office) a couple of Sparx helmets for the past few weeks and since they fit well (I feel they run just a bit on the large size, my medium feels like a medium-and-a-half and Sparx seems "rounder" than my favorites), had the certification it was a decent helmet. I'd even crashed in one and hit my head a little above average in my totally subjective scale and it worked fine, only slightly scratched. So I grabbed my helmet and tried to break it with my bare hands with no luck. Sure I made it pop and crackle with some pretty unrealistic (long slow speed sustained pressure) pushes, but not breaking. We even talked about shooting a video, but didn't have the camera and sort of forgot about it. So skip forward a few more days and I'm out riding in another Sparx helmet. I tell one of my editors, Jesse Ziegler about the test and hand him my helmet (after the ride.) He goes to town on it, being the gym-going muscle man he is he gets some pretty good movement out of it and after a few good pushes and tugs gets a crack at the lower vent opening but could not get the total detachment that is shown in the TW photo. That took all of my weight pressing on the already cracked lid from the back ramming the chin bar into the ground. Basically like running my head into concrete and having the bike land on top of it. Then with some twisting it finally broke. I have a good idea of what this took force-wise and I'm still comfortable wearing this brand of helmet when riding (just not that specific helmet as it is in the garage and I throw it at the wall when I get mad). I'm going to break some other helmets just for comparison because I want to know, even in my unscientific way, how some stuff stacks up. I can afford to do this, I get these helmets for free. I'll let you know. And yes, I'm going to use old used ones I have laying around.
I've been regularly wearing a couple of Fulmer helmets ($99-$109 retail) and often I choose to wear the One Industries Combat over the higher end Trooper based on fit. I've had good luck in Fox and Troy Lee Helmets as well. Currently Bell and Shoei helmets do not fit my head as good as the previously mentioned lids. But my outright favorite is still the Arai with the best fit and what I consider the best safety based in a few things. It is very round and has no sharp edges. It has a lot of foam padding and it has the best feeling material inside the liner. Even where the straps are located just fits better than any other lid and I'd expect that if I were paying $500. And I would. I typically race (if you call it that these days) with an Arai. But for under $150 you get what Sparks and Fulmer are offering, that is a deal and I wouldn't go bashing a lower end price product because it is easy to pick out as being "uncool" giving the condemner wearing his trophy lid some safe ground to stand on. Sure they may be new, their designs might not be the best looking to you, the price point or country of origin may have implications on perception of safety. But until you test it properly you shouldn't be telling everyone what you know. If I were a magazine reader and I had DR and TW in my hand and I read the review of the Klim helmet (if it has been published yet, I loose track) where DR gave it an 89 out of 100 and TW rated it a 4, what would I think? One of those guys is wrong or lying to me. If 5 of the TW points were for style and the author, who I'm unsure of because there isn't name on it didn't like the looks, then that rating is OK. But since I wore the helmet a lot and I know some of the things they claimed to be a problem are not a problem, then it's bogus.

were the guy who wrote that I'd be apologizing first to my readers who got bogus and stilted information and then to the company for doing some pretty severe damage. At Dirt Rider we sign our names to our DR Tested because I feel the editor should take responsibility for what he says to the reader and be held accountable for the results of a test. If it's jacked up there's no black hole of who did it.

Oh yea, I wrote this because it is a plug for the magazine I work for even if the post is loaded with useful information.


Fulmer Helmet
Klim Helmet
Shoei Helmet