Check Your Head: Advances in Off-Road Helmet Technology


MXEditor

Check Your Head: Advances in Off-Road Helmet Technology

For the last sixty years, helmets have been basically the same old thing; a stiff exterior "shell" with some type of collapsible material which composes the interior "liner". And this design has remained the same with very little advancement in actual functionality.

Yes, today’s helmets are more comfortable, stylish, lighter and the foam used is more effective, but the bottom line is...motocross helmets are outdated.

Why say this?

It's because we know it to be true, and the facts lay bare the truth, we all need a better helmet.

So, with that said, we went out and looked at two helmet manufacturers, Kali Protectives and 6D Helmets, that offer advanced technologies that are claimed to improve your chances of avoiding serious head injuries when riding or racing off-road motorcycles.

We were refreshingly surprised at the mutual respect these two firms have for each other, both are aware of the other’s work and complimented each other’s efforts during our interviews.

Before we get into some of the more technical discussion of the way these helmets work, very simply put, both helmet makers have attempted to improve the way the brain reacts to blunt impact force, like when your head strikes the ground in a crash. You want the helmet to have some “give” or cushion between your skull and the ground.

Up until now, the stiff shell prevented the hard stuff from getting to your skull as well as spreading out the load, and the foam inside deformed when you hit the ground and that was that.

But what these new manufacturers are doing is essentially improving that area that “gives” in order to allow your brain more time to slow down before it slams into the inside of your skull and both makers do it in separate ways.

This isn’t voodoo or magic, its scientific testing, coupled with careful medical studies that all strongly suggest these products are the way forward.

KALI PROTECTIVES

We spoke with the team at Kali Protectives and they had a lot to say. Being the first to market with a new idea (or at least a departure from the old way of thinking) has its own unique rewards.

Arriving in the market in 2009, Kali Protectives brought a talented team to the game, including Bryan Mason and also Brad Waldron, a helmet designer and carbon fiber engineer for the aerospace industry. Having this type of experience on staff made for lots of one-off prototypes, which were tested over and over until the product was ready.

Kali’s main goals were to eliminate the gap between your head and the liner (reducing the time for your head to begin the deceleration process) as well as utilizing a thinner and lighter shell to reduce the pendulum effect. Kali firmly believes that lower mass is better and they produce a very light helmet, the Prana, which clocks in at around 1200 grams.

ccs-376432-0-96989500-1399487442.jpg

Photo: The Kali Prana Carbon

So what makes the Kali Protectives helmet better than a standard helmet?

According to Kali, it’s the way that their proprietary shell and EPS foam liner absorbs and dissipates “progressive linear impacts” and they achieve this by incorporating the liner foam as an integral part of the shell. The foam is directly fused with the exterior shell itself (no spot glue or tape is needed). Kali claims that “without a gap or requiring a third party bonding agent, the impact energy can be transferred to the EPS foam more efficiently and smoother, allowing for a stronger materials connection.”

ccs-376432-0-41513500-1399487443.jpg

ccs-376432-0-40755200-1399487449.jpg

So the foam is a key element to this new helmet type. Kali calls it their COMPOSITE FUSION Plus technology (see photo above), and incorporates separate “pyramids of different foam densities within the EPS/Shell connection”.

Kali continued: “During impact, as energy is transferred from shell to foam, the unique pyramid shapes collapse first, thereby directing the energy sideways within the foam, instead of linearly down to your head. This spreads the impact load over a greater area, allowing us to use softer density foam next to your head, right where you want it.”

Another area that Kali has addressed in their new design is the overly angular construction of current motocross helmets, like the chin guard and rear venting “shelves”. While these design elements may look cool, they actually become problematic in some crash scenarios such and sliding or hooking another object or your machine. These angular structures provide a way for the helmet to possibly get caught and overly rotate your head and neck causing serious injury.

So to address this aspect, the Kali Prana Carbon (MSRP $349) that we tested has a more rounded structure than the other helmets on the market, except for one, the ARAI units…which are considered to be the gold standard among many riders and racers…but they don’t feature the same EPS foam technology that Kali offers.

So, simply put, Kali has used a proprietary shell with a special liner bonding process, combined with different density foam pyramids and lighter weight to acting in unison to lessen the impact injury to your brain better than a “standard” helmet does. This reduces the impact to your brain and that’s a very good thing.

TT Editor note: I received a Kali Prana Carbon for evaluation and even though I didn’t do 100 laps with it on, at first glance I found it to be a very high-quality lid and it doesn’t look as rounded up close as it does in some of the photos. It looks very similar to all modern helmets on the market today and features some cool features we liked a large multi-part screen intake port, wide eyeport for goggles, a very comfortable liner and best of all, incredibly light weight. I normally ride with the Fly Racing F2Carbon or the Bell Moto-9 among others, so I’m familiar with premium offerings on the market today.

6D HELMETS

Next up was 6D Helmets, the other player in this field, and they’ve made a big splash coming to market. We spoke to the team at 6D and they also had a lot to say about their product, why it’s better and why riders and racers may want to take a closer look at their offering before they buy their next lid.

Founded in 2012 by motocross go-to guys and ex-AMA motocross pro racers Bob Weber and Robert Reisinger, 6D Helmets also offer a different approach to the same old helmet. It may look essentially the same, but under the skin it’s a whole new animal.

ccs-376432-0-23203300-1399487441.jpg

Photo: 6D Helmets ATR-1

Wise sponsorship and marketing decisions have pushed 6D into the limelight in the motocross helmet space…most significantly, the sponsorship of the successful Geico Honda team featuring riders like Justin Bogle and Eli Tomac, has helped provide valuable television exposure for the new brand.

One dramatic example we recall is when

during the 2013 Dallas Supercross wearing the new 6D helmet. It was a hard hit to the dome and it appeared Bell was actually knocked out for a few seconds as he was lay motionless on the track. Many of us commented…”Well that’s a good test of the 6D!” and many racers in the room predicted we wouldn’t see him line up again, but amazingly Bell passed the Asterisk Medical Team’s testing for concussive effect and was cleared to go.

We felt this was a good example (albeit unscientific) of the new helmet’s ability to protect the head, neck and most importantly the brain.

So what makes the 6D helmet better than a standard helmet?

Similar to Kali, the key element of the 6D technology improvement is in the way the liner reacts when the helmet is impacted. Their top concern and mantra is to “mitigate impact energy to the brain” and even though we aren’t medical professionals, this sounds great to us. 6D accomplishes this by significantly altering the liner portion of the interior. This is a very simple way to state what they do.

First off, 6D uses two liners, both are made of EPS foam, and the first liner is bonded tightly to the shell and the second layer of EPS is on the “inside” of the helmet around your head. Between these two separate liners are special isolation dampers that allow the inside liner(s) to compress/shear/rotate in a separate manner from the outside shell.

ccs-376432-0-48011000-1399487442.jpg

Photo: 6D Helmets ODS Technology - Cutaway View

The unique isolation dampers allow 6D to engineer helmet specific rates of compression into the liner, thereby decreasing the deceleration effect that can injure your brain. The anti-rotation element is specific to the 6D design, allowing the helmet to rotate without significantly rotating the head in a linear fashion, and can help with potential neck rotation injury. This rotation effect is also minimized by other design aspects of the helmet like visor screws which shear off upon impact and reductions in the angular surfaces on the helmet.

So each element of the 6D helmet construction is key to the helmet performing as a whole; the EPS density, the durometric properties of the isolation elastomer array and the amount of air gap between the liners all contribute to preventing injury to the rider.

Apart from the differences in construction, the 6D helmet is among the most expensive in the market today at approx. $745.00 MSRP. This may cause some budget-conscious riders to consider whether this is a wise choice for them…6D has tried to address this concern with a new credit program that basically provides a credit for customers who have a crash or otherwise damage their helmet during the first year of ownership. The program details are being finalized but from what 6D tells us, the credit is sizable and will encourage riders to replace the helmet at minimal cost if a crash occurs.

In conclusion, we believe that helmet technology needs to move forward and these two products are filling that need. Why riders would spend $1200 for a carbon fiber exhaust system that they aren’t capable of even using the full potential of…but not half as much on their helmet just baffles us…isn’t your head more important?

If it is, take a look at these new lids, and check your head before you ride!




User Feedback


When you look at the relative cost of a high quality helmet versus everything else we buy, it's not that much.

 

The Kali Prana Carbon that is shown is fairly affordable at $349 MSRP and I've seen them for a lot less online, under $300. 

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites


Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Reply with:


  • Similar Content

    • By aviat
      I have ridden for a few years and may be interested in a new helmet-if I knew what I would get for the upgrade. I have a basic cheap helmet and it has served me well, but like most things in this sport-I don't what I'm missing until I learn/try something else. What do I get for a good helmet? I am probably most interested in weight as I am 51 and I don't have the greatest neck (gets a little sore sometimes). Are all the good helmets lightweight? Is it possible to get a lower priced lightweight helmet?
    • By fenderlove01
      I will tell mine! I actually talked about it briefly in another thread asking for advice but last sunday I had a noob crash and it was embarrassing because there were people behind me to . To start off it was a few hours into riding and we were at a this place which was all deep sand. I did pretty well for most of the day but at the end it started getting questionable... I was going around a big trail loop, I was tired, and we came up to a very simple corner and I guess I accidently locked up my brakes and popped the clutch and the bike stalled on me. There was a kid off to the side sitting laughing at me probably wondering how I could have possibly stalled the bike right there.
      So I was kind of like damn... kicked it and started, took off and almost immediately hit a rut going only in first gear and fell over... Now he and everyone are all laughing.
      But it doesn't end... I continue and I am doing ok again I came up to this tiny little hill or more like a mound, it has rounded well on the sides and in the middle it had this huge rut. I was tired and not all there so I rolled over it and then my bike stalled because my frame got stuck on the tip of the mound and my tires were not touching the ground .
      And yet it isn't over... I start it and this was the worst part. I was at the tip of this mound but on the other side it was more like a hill, it dropped down probably 15 feet or so. So I through it into first and started going down at the bottom there was a corner, I turned (remember I am on sand), the back end washed out on me, throttle hand gets jerked, next thing I know I am popping a wheelie and heading for a tree at full throttle which is maybe about 6 feet in front of me. I rebound off the tree and the bike flips on top of my foot and injuries my left foot and leg.
      I felt like it was my first day riding again .
      What is your most embarrassing crash?
    • By supervokes
      Every year I set an objective over the winter months (ie lighten my bike, etc.).
      This year it was to rid my bike of all "made in China" goods and support Canadian and US manufacturers to the highest level.
      I am amazed at the number of quality companies in the US manufacturing excellent parts and offering great service (ie Promoto Billet, Cycra, Rekluse, FMF, etc.)
      Anyway, I "think" my bike is now "china free" (cannot control where the manufacturers make the parts), so I am now looking at clothing. Already have the boots and helmet covered (OK, not US made, but not China made either).
      Anybody know of US companies (or other) who manufacturer riding gear (jerseys, pants, etc) not manufactured in China ? I am thinking KLIM off the top of my head ?? Its time for replacement, so I am now looking at options .. "if" they exist ??
      PS ... I don't care if you have all Chinese made parts on your bike... .... a Chinese I-phone ... heck even ride a Chinese bike !! ... I am not debating this (save your opinions), just wondering if ANY companies manufacturer riding gear that is made in the US or Canada (or secondly not in China)?
      Thanks
    • By slolane
      Curious what motorcycle gear others are wearing for different riding on the LRP.
      I'm in need of some summer gear and want a DS helmet too. I just started to look around, for now here is what I use...
      Spring/Fall
      Icon 1000 Chapter jacket in grey. Very high quality piece, love this jacket.
      Couple different pair of gloves depending on temps.
      Winter
      Firstgear Kilimanjaro Jacket, nice and warm.
      Tourmaster Synergy 2.0 heated gear: Jacket liner, pant liner and leather gloves.
      Firstgear Overpants, I only wear these on the longer rides.
      A few pair of fleece lined jeans and cargo pants.
      Summer
      I want to pick up a new textile/mesh jacket for those hot days. Since I ride 90% street anyway maybe just a mesh street jacket?
      I'm down to two helmets, an old Shoei RF800 and a new Bell Star Rally Red with monochromatic shield. Unless I'm going to leave my helmet on the bike then I will take the Bell, the auto tinting shield works perfectly, WAY better than some cheaper glasses that I have had that do that. Now am looking to add a DS helmet, maybe the Arai XD-4?
      Funny thing is I have been riding street for 22 years and had the same leather jacket until 2 years ago when I started to get better gear. I always got a new helmet every 5-6 years but that was it really. I have to say having nice gear really makes the ride for me, never really noticed it until recently though.
      Anyway, please share what you have or plan to get, and any advice on DS helmets would be good too.
      Thanks!