Modern Sports Helmets - wBW
Modern Sports Helmets: Their History, Science
by James A. Newman
Hardcover: 256 pages
Dimensions: 22.5 x 28.5 x 2.5 cm
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing, Atlen, Pennsylvania USA
List price: $49.95
Book Review by "Burn" for webBikeWorld.com
This book is not just about motorcycle helmets; it's part history
and part technical guide to the evolution of head protection from
ancient times to the 21st Century.
The author worked as an engineer for many years in the area of head
protection for Bell Helmets and others.
The title is a
clue to the focus of this book, which describes both the science of head
protection and the art of trying to make head protection look like
it's not head protection.
Sports covered include motorcycling, bicycling, equestrian
activities, skiing and contact sports.
The book Modern Sports Helmets: Their History, Science and Art became
noticed by the print motorcycle press in 2009, but why it took them so long is
not known. The book was actually first published in 2007 by the author, a
mechanical engineer who worked in the head protection industry for many years.
Large photographs of motorcycle racers grace the front and rear covers of the
book and two-page spreads of motorcycle racers are located on the inside of the
front and rear covers also. This led me to believe that it was a book
about motorcycle helmets, but I was surprised to learn that there is coverage of
many other sports also.
Head protection for all sports is related to a certain extent, but I do feel
that the publisher should have made this more clear, as my interest is solely on
motorcycle head protection. However, on the flip side, the author does
explain that a lot of modern sports helmet and head protection technology for
everything mentioned above and also the military comes from initial research and
development of the motorcycle helmet.
In fact, there's an interesting story about the very first motorcycle, said
to be invented by Sylvester Roper in the U.S. in 1867, believe it or not.
A coal-powered steam engine was attached to a bicycle, and old Sylvester died on
the bike at the age of 73! So the first person to invent the first
motorcycle ends up also being the first person to die on one.
Who knew? Maybe this is why Moms around the world are so anxious about
letting their kids ride a motorcycle!
The book actually starts by describing the history of the "sports helmet"
from way, way back. The first photo in the book is of a Greek bronze
helmet from the 5th Century BCE!
Following this are many excellent
photographs of various types of helmets and other types of head protection
through the years, including some very strange-looking prototypes.
The prototype photos are interesting. We get many emails from
webBikeWorld visitors who have what they think is a new idea for a motorcycle
helmet, and I'd suggest they look in this book first, because it was probably
invented, tested and prototyped by somebody somewhere, sometime.
I am a little disappointed that the author doesn't go into more detail on the
technology and mechanics of motorcycle helmet head protection. In fact,
this topic was the main reason I bought the book.
There aren't many books
written specifically about this topic, so I figured that for sure this book
would cover in intricate detail all of the science behind head protection.
Alas, this is not to be. Yes, there are many chapters and paragraphs
that generally discuss the science, but it all seems very general and not
specific. So I have to wonder, who will spend $40.00 or so on a relatively
obscure book about a very specific topic like this, yet not be interested in a
very detailed description and analysis?
It's almost like the book has confused its audience. The "coffee table"
format and the many photos and even the layout of the print and photos inside
seem very much aimed at the casual reader. The expert or the person who
really does want to know more about helmet technology will probably also enjoy
the photos, but my guess is they will not learn much that is new about the
science that they don't already know.
There is actually only a brief section on helmet standards with some
information on testing methods, but to me, this is the part of the book that is
the biggest letdown. I expected much, much more, with an analysis on pros
and cons of different testing methods and world helmet safety standards, but it
is not there.
And even though the book was published in 2007, the author only lists the
Snell 2000 standard as most current, a strange oversight. Indeed, I think
an entire book could be (and should be) written on just this topic alone.
So I end with mixed feelings on Modern Sports Helmets. It is enjoyable to
look at the photos of helmets and other types of head protection, and many of
the photos have not been previously published.
But on the other hand, I expected much more from this book. The
publisher, Schiffer Books, deserves credit for bringing this to market.
They have a couple of other books on helmets, including The Motorcycle
Helmet: The 1930's - 1990's by Rin Tanaka and U.S. Combat Helmets of the
20th Century: Mass Production Helmets by Mark A. Reynosa.
By the way, the publisher also lists a book entitled Motorcycle Jackets:
Ultimate Bikers' Fashions by Rin Tanaka, which sounds interesting.
If it was up to me, I'd encourage the publisher to release some type of
updated version of Modern Sports Helmets but with much more technical detail and
featuring an in-depth comparison of world helmet standards and testing methods.
I think a book like that would be of interest to many readers.
This book is available From:
Review Date: February 2010
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