It’s long been a subject of great debate among riders – and particularly helmet manufacturers – whether a £500 top-of-the-range race replica offers better protection in a crash than a £50 budget lid. The new Government SHARP helmet test set out to end this debate once and for all when it published its first batch of test results earlier this year.
In an exclusive interview for MCN, a spokesman for the scheme explained the thinking behind it. He said: “SHARP aims to provide an independent assessment of how much protection a motorcycle helmet can offer in an impact and provide this objective advice to consumers to assist them with their purchase decisions.”
But the scheme has created even more controversy because it rated many cheap helmets above expensive ones. Naturally, those manufacturers whose lower-priced helmets came out of the tests favourably are delighted with the ratings and back the scheme all the way, while some of the most famous brands in the helmet market have criticised the SHARP tests for being misleading and methodologically flawed.
The people at SHARP, however, are convinced that their scheme, launched last November, can save up to 50 riders’ lives a year by helping them select a safer helmet.
Each helmet model is subjected to 22 different impacts on SHARP’s two specially-made test rigs. The tests are designed to replicate real-life accidents so the helmets are tested on flat and curved surfaces. The tests measure the level of acceleration, or G-force, the brain would experience during each impact rather than focusing on what damage is done to the helmets.
In other words, they measure how much of the energy from the impact is actually absorbed by the helmet and how much is left to be transferred through to the brain.
SHARP says: “Laboratory tests show there are real differences in the safety performance of motorcycle helmets.”
Can a £50 plastic helmet really offer as much, or better, protection as a £500 carbon fibre and Kevlar model? According to SHARP, they can, since a Lazer LZ6 which costs just £59.99 received a five-star rating while the Arai RX-7 Corsair – the most expensive helmet tested with prices up to £499.99 – only got three stars.
The SHARP team said: “Our research has shown that good impact safety performance was not restricted to premium price helmets (or those using particular materials or designs).”
Check out the list below to see the results for the first batch of helmets then why not click the 'buy now' button to see how much you could save in our Shopping section.