State-of-the-Art Snowmobile Helmet Technology
Researchers are learning more about Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) every day, which is currently the leading cause of death and disability for Canadians under the age of 40, according to Brain Injury Canada. As motorsports enthusiasts, we are particularly prone to this type of injury.
Along with our increased understanding of exactly how brain injuries occur, helmet technology has improved to help prevent TBI. To protect our brains from injury as best we can, it’s important for us to be outfitted with the latest helmet technology available. With that in mind, here is a rundown of some of the most recent helmet safety developments.
Direct Impact Protection Technology
Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is the bread-and-butter of helmet safety, and has been for a long time.It’s still the most common impact absorption material built into helmets today. EPS is the same material used in those white styrofoam picnic coolers, though the stuff used in helmets is of higher quality.
Today’s helmets commonly use combinations of EPS of varying degrees of density. This is sometimes called multi- or progressive-density EPS. The varying densities work together to spread out the forces of an impact and offer better protection in both low- and high-speed impacts.
Ever received a package with a fragile item packed in a honeycomb-like material? It works! To understand how Koroyd is similar, consider a paper towel tube standing on end; now create a grid of thousands of those tubes standing up, all fixed together. This is essentially the structure of Koroyd.
Koroyd consists of tens of thousands of co-polymer extruded tubes, thermally welded together to create an engineered core. This core is then shaped into a protective layer in your helmet.
In a high-speed impact, the Koroyd honeycomb core buckles homogeneously, reducing energy transmission very effectively. But Koroyd has another advantage over EPS as well. Before reaching the threshold that will cause Koroyd to buckle, it can also deform elastically. The result is that Koroyd can provide energy absorption in low-speed impacts better than EPS.
The final benefit of Koroyd is that its hollow, tube-like structure allows air to easily flow through the material—unlike EPS which acts like insulation inside your helmet.
Which helmets use Koroyd?
The Klim F5 Konroyd Helmet is the first motorsports helmet on the market to utilize Koroyd technology.
The Conehead Technology liner is a shock-absorbing EPS foam liner that uses cone shapes to help absorb energy in an impact. The inner layer, which features cone-shaped structures directed outwards, is made of a low-density EPS. The density of these cones varies by region, to account for the structure of the skull. The outer layer, which fills in the gaps around the Conehead inner layer, is made of a more dense EPS.
The most important benefit of Conehead Technology is that it allows the helmet to absorb impact energy more effectively. Impact energy is directed sideways, away from the brain, rather than straight on. Conehead Technology also allows the use of a thinner liner, resulting in a lighter helmet.
Which Helmets Use Conehead Technology?
- Scott 550 Angled ECE and 350 Evo ECE Helmets
Technology Designed to Absorb Rotational Forces
Research has established that brain injuries occur not just as a result of direct impact. Rotational forces applied in a crash can cause the brain to move or stretch, which can also result in traumatic brain injuries. Several new technologies have been developed to help reduce and absorb the rotational forces applied to the brain in a real-world crash.
Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS)
First developed in Sweden in the mid-90s by a team of scientific and medical researchers, Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) is a technology that has recently been implemented into dozens of brands of helmets.
A helmet with MIPS has a special “Low Friction Layer” built between the EPS foam and the comfort liner. In an angular impact, the inner layer conforms to the head and the low friction layer allows the helmet to slide, relative to the head. This helps absorb and redirect the rotational forces and energies placed on the outer shell.
Which Helmets Use MIPS?
- Fly Racing F2 MIPS and Toxin MIPS
- Scott 550 Angled and 350 Evo Helmets
- Klim F5 Koroyd Helmet
Omni-Directional Suspension (ODS) is a new technology developed by 6D Helmets—a moto, street and bicycle helmet manufacturer—which significantly improves protection in low-force impacts.
With ODS, two layers of EPS are separated and suspended by a series of isolation dampeners. In a low-speed crash, the dampeners can compress and shear in any direction to reduce the stress of angular deceleration. In a higher-force impact, the two EPS liners do their job in the same way that they would in a helmet with a standard EPS liner.
Which Helmets Use Omni-Directional Suspension?
ODS is an exclusive technology of 6D Helmets. It is offered in their ATR-1 and ATR-2 moto helmets.
Other Helmet Safety Considerations
Helmets should provide some degree of hearing protection. Got one of those pesky, loud aftermarket cans? Either wear earplugs or look for a helmet with additional sound-dampening properties.
Visibility and Venting
The size and shape of the helmet eye port can have implications on the user’s field-of-view. Also, not all models of goggle fit well with all helmets, which can result in undue fogging. Reduced visibility is always a legitimate safety concern.
Not only is a lighter helmet more comfortable to wear and less tiring, but it can also significantly reduce the forces applied to the neck in a vicious wipeout.
Threading and unthreading a chin strap through a D-ring can be arduous to the point that some riders are known to ride with an unsecured chin strap! Not safe. Fortunately, the recent development of quick-release buckles such as Fidlock and other ratchet-style systems allow for quick and reliable securement and release of the chin strap.
Helmets were in existence before neck braces became popular, so generally speaking all neck braces should be designed to fit with any full-face helmet. However, on some modern helmets you will see a flange (or rear diffuser) around the base of the helmet that is specifically designed to interface with a neck-brace. These allow the neck brace to start doing its job more quickly and effectively in a wreck.