Editor's Note: Here's a question for you
old-timers: Can you name the the very first
motorcycle helmet reviewed on webBikeWorld.com?
Here's a hint: webBikeWorld went online in 2000, and
the review was published in the Spring of 2001.
Here's another hint: the helmet was made by the world's
longest-established motorcycle helmet manufacturers.
Give up? It was the
Lazer Century (review), my very first "flip-up"
motorcycle helmet. If you remembered that, you get
a webBikeWorld Gold Star award!
Lazer Helmets (Belgium) was new to the U.S.
motorcycle helmet market in 1999 and one of the very
first (lots of 'firsts' here) motorcycle helmet
manufacturers with an online presence that also featured
online purchasing! Don't forget, that was 10 years
ago, and the Internet was a much different place...
A few years after that, Lazer Helmets were marketed
and sold by AGV in the U.S., but the brand never became
as popular in North America as it was in Europe.
Lazer is now independent again, and they're going
through a sort of re-emergence in their 90th year
anniversary with a very interesting new technology
called SuperSkin. The helmets will be available
for sale some time in March 2009 in both "Jet" and
We're always anxious to learn about new technologies
with the potential to make motorcycling safer, and I
will be meeting the CEO of Lazer Helmets at the upcoming
2009 Powersports Dealer Expo in Indianapolis next week
to learn more and to take possession of a brand-new
Lazer SuperSkin helmet and I'll put it through the
standard webBikeWorld motorcycle helmet evaluation.
In the meantime, Lazer sent us some information on
this exciting new technology, which I've edited, along
with some interesting graphics.
What is Lazer SuperSkin? The concept of SuperSkin is simple Think about one
of the ways in which your skin protects you -- it moves
and slides over your body to provide some "give" when
you bump into things.
Sometimes the friction is greater than the protection offered by the skin,
resulting in a bruise or abrasion. But think about what might happen if
your skin didn't provide any "give" -- just like the surface of a traditional motorcycle
The SuperSkin helmet uses this same natural strategy
by covering a motorcycle helmet with a "skin" that
provides a sort of lubricity, which then allows the
helmet to slide, rather than catch.
According to tests, SuperSkin can reduce the rotational
acceleration of the motorcycle helmet by 60% (Edit:
Changed from 50%), resulting
in a reduction in the risk of intracerebral
shearing by 67.5%.
What does this mean for motorcyclists? As you can see in the Lazer SuperSkin video included at the end of this
article, a motorcycle helmet equipped with SuperSkin
rotates less when it glances off a surface.
The SuperSkin basically gives up its life for the motorcycle
rider by "lubricating" the surface of the helmet and
lowering what we call "stiction" -- the resistance to
movement forces, like in the seals on a motorcycle front
Lazer says that SuperSkin protects the head and brain
significantly better than traditional helmets in these
types of impacts by reducing the forces ultimately
transmitted to the head and
Alexander de Vos van Steenwijk, the CEO of Lazer,
told us that this is "based on the broadly accepted
medical diagnosis that
diffuse axonal injury is caused
by rotational impact".
He said "Rotational impact
causes 'torque' inside the brain. Diffuse axonal
injury is one of the most devastating lesions our brain
can suffer, in all medical literature it is explained as
Lazer Helmets has completed many tests to prove this
theory. The decrease of the rotational impact was
tested and certified by
Research Laboratory (TRL) in the UK, and is
demonstrated in the video of the falling helmets, where
the tangential force is reduced by 60%.
Professor Willinger's mathematical modeling, on
which he and his team are leading experts, estimates
that this probability is decreased by 67.5%.
Other tests at the Louis
Pasteur University of Strasbourg in association with the CNRS, the French
National Scientific Research Centre, were conducted in what is said to be a detailed scientific study
of the ability of the SuperSkin to prevent brain injury in accidents.
Lazer said that the tests prove that on head impact,
a Lazer SuperSkin helmet reduces the risk of
intracerebral shearing by 67.5%.
UPDATE: Here's an interesting
ABC News video discussing brain injury related to
the Natasha Richardson tragedy.
Following is an edited version of the Lazer
Helmets SuperSkin press release:
The Lazer SuperSkin Helmet
The skull, which is the best-designed casing for
providing the brain with protection, is itself naturally protected by the scalp. SuperSkin
is a layer on the outside of the helmet, which acts
exactly like the scalp does in the human head; by sliding on the shell it limits rotation.
Rotation of the head causes severe and untreatable damage to the brain from the
very first milliseconds following a blow and the scalp reduces the effect of the
impact by sliding over the skull.
It is precisely this infinitesimal time lapse
of 15 milliseconds that is so critical, it is what scientists call “rotational
injury”. The Lazer SuperSkin helmet was invented and designed precisely to
counteract this in the most effective manner.
Rotational Injury: The Absolute Enemy
It is important to note that in 67% of
all cases the head is affected in a motorcycle accident and, according to the
European COST 327 helmet study concerning motorcyclist safety, “rotational
acceleration was identified as a principal cause of head injury”.
In order to
understand how this phenomenon occurs, you should be aware that the brain is not
fixed to the inside of the skull and the brain linings but that it floats,
immersed in cerebrospinal fluid. In fact, the skull and the brain can be
compared to a hollow globe that encloses a gelatinous sphere, the brain matter,
which floats within the bony walls in a whole network of membranes and elastic
cables (blood vessels, tissues etc).
Any impact causes instantaneous pivoting of
the head, to a greater or lesser degree. Of course, the brain mass follows the
rotational movement of the skull, but with a slight time delay. Kinetic energy
results in the brain undergoing a rotational to-and-fro movement inside the
And as described previously, this happens within the first 15
milliseconds following the impact. Clearly the violence of this rotational
movement within the skull can instantaneously cause the tearing of blood vessels
and nerve fibers inside the brain.
This phenomenon, called “intracranial shearing” by doctors, is the cause of
serious and inoperable injuries leading to serious disabilities (coma, paralysis
and various other disorders) and all too often, death.
This is why, in
conjunction with the work carried out on this subject by Dr Ken Philips of
Philips Helmets Limited, the makers of LAZER helmets have decided to invest
their effort and capital in the development of a new technology – PHPS®: Philips
Head Protection System, that makes it possible to considerably limit the
pathological and neurological consequences of rotational injury on the brain
Actually, as we can see later, a helmet fitted with the SuperSkin membrane reduces intracerebral shearing by 67.5%, by reducing the
mechanical effects of rotational acceleration by more than 50%. This exceptional
outcome is the result of long research and meticulous design and development.
Video: Lazer Superskin Demonstration
Do All Motorcycle Helmets Slide in an Accident?
Even if your helmet is as shiny and
lacquered as a piece of Chinese furniture, and even if you can
imagine that in the event of a fall it will slide like a bowling ball, in fact
matters are much more complex.
This is what has been proved by work carried out
by the biomechanics team at the Louis Pasteur University of Strasbourg in
association with the CNRS (the French National Centre for Scientific Research),
as well as by tests for official approval carried out by the independent
Transport Research Laboratory in the United Kingdom.
On carrying out impact
tests on an anvil (the inclined impact test, part of the approval tests for the ECE 22.05 regulation) with a LAZER Rider standard model, and comparing the
results of these with results of the same tests carried out on a LAZER Rider
SuperSkin, video recordings clearly show that the rotational effect is greatly
reduced with the model equipped with the SuperSkin membrane.
The elasticity of the covering combined with the lubrication
of the LAZER SuperSkin helmet provides a quantitative reduction of up to 60% of
the tangential force.
Diagrams demonstrate that the maximum rotational speed
experienced is four times greater with the standard helmet than with the SuperSkin. These experiments have clearly indicated that the synthetic membrane
reduces the rotational acceleration by two-thirds, clearly demonstrating the
potential effect of this unique solution on the risks of brain damage.
This major technological advance, LAZER SuperSkin, becomes the pioneer of a new
generation of advanced helmets whose qualities in terms of passive safety will
soon be indispensable to all users of two-wheeled vehicles, drivers and
New Advanced Research Methods for Motorcycle Helmet Safety
It would have been impossible for LAZER to devise a truly
innovative helmet without basing this work on the results of the various studies
carried out by specialists using more highly specialized research tools than
those traditionally used.
Today, more advanced instruments are available to
biomechanics researchers. These are computerized mathematical or digital models,
making it possible to evaluate with greater precision what is happening to the
head in terms of pressure and intracerebral shearing in the event of an impact.
Due to this type of highly specialized equipment and at the request of LAZER,
researchers at the Institute of mechanics of fluids and solids at the Louis
Pasteur University of Strasbourg, under the direction of Professor Rémy
Willinger, have been able to define the performance of the LAZER SuperSkin, by
comparing it with a standard helmet without a protective membrane.
only the linear acceleration was taken into consideration in helmet design,
whereas it is now indisputable that rotational acceleration is particularly
dangerous to the head and must be a feature of all future design.
Currently, a standard helmet is composed of a layer
of shock-absorbing material of a thickness of about
30mm. The effectiveness of
the protection relies in this case on the deformation and dispersal of the
energy of the helmet.
This traditional concept of a helmet, essentially based on
protection from linear acceleration, now has to be enhanced by the results of
the biomechanics studies that highlight the tangential impact component.
Dr. Ken Phillips: Intuition and Perseverance Led to SuperSkin
Dr. Ken Philips is a British
doctor who has spent several years working on improving helmet safety, which was
a discussion with his son, a journalist specializing in the motorcycle press.
Dr. Phillips considered that the best helmet had already been invented by
nature -- the scalp. He postulated that the skin on the skull played an
all-important role in the event of an impact and was able to demonstrate that
the same effect was achieved by putting a lubricated membrane on a helmet.
pioneer has dedicated a total of fifteen years of his life to saving ours. Over
the years, he has developed his head protection concept, called the Philips Head
Protection System, or PHPS.
By joining forces with this project, the LAZER immediately became aware of the tremendous added benefits that the
SuperSkin solution could provide for its customers in terms of safety.
now has the exclusive use of this concept adapted to motorcycle helmets. For his
part, Dr Philips envisages extending the application of his discovery to helmets
for cyclists and to riding helmets and other forms of protective headwear.
Lazer SuperSkin and Traditional Motorcycle Helmet
From the outside, it is impossible to
tell the difference between a standard LAZER helmet and its SuperSkin version.
The principle is to coat the helmet of the LAZER range (Full-face and Urban Jet)
with a synthetic membrane and its lubricant, which can be colored without any
problem and without any loss of its intrinsic qualities.
This means that the SuperSkin helmet keeps its LAZER look, with the advantage of its flattering
design that contributes to the success of the brand.
But although nothing is
evident to the eye, it is easy to tell the difference by the feel. When the surface of the helmet
is stretched with the fingers, the membrane lengthens slightly, evidence of
the suppleness of this innovative and life-saving covering.
European Helmet Safety Studies Led to the
Development of SuperSkin
At the root
of the work carried out by the Louis Pasteur University and the French
National Scientific Research Centre is the in-depth statistical study on
motorcycle accidents and their injuries, led by the European study COST 327
(European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research).
total of 253 accidents involving motorcyclists, the vast majority of whom were
wearing helmets, were analyzed within the framework of the COST 327 project,
The results show that rapid rotational motion was
responsible for over 60% of all head injuries. This statement of fact has
brought to light the urgent necessity for improvement to the protective
capacities of helmets.
The first conclusion of the COST 327 report is as
follows: “in order to reduce the number and gravity of these injuries, it is
necessary in the first instance to reduce the rotational impact".
What Happens During an Impact to the Head?
In order to give a detailed analysis of what takes
place when the head receives an impact, a real motorcycle accident with head
injury was digitally simulated, the first time including the rotational
acceleration experienced and the second, without the rotational forces.
this, researchers were able to calculate the shear stress inside the brain. The
comparison of the results of the two tests made it possible to assess the
damaging effect of the rotational element of the head in intracerebral shearing.
Digital models also made it possible to show that a very brief, hard impact
(such as a hammer blow) causes fractures to the skull, whereas a longer –lasting
impulse tends instead to cause neurological lesions.
The three most common
Skull fracture associated with deformation of the bone: a
Subdural hematoma associated with the rotational movement of
the brain/skull (this causes the rupture of veins joining the brain mass and the
Neurological lesions or intracerebral shearing caused by the
rotational component of the impact.
Digital simulations have shown a 67.5%
reduction in the risk of intracerebral shearing. This significant result
represents a key advance in terms of safety.
LAZER Helmets - Since 1919
At the beginning of the twentieth
century, the very first helmets worn by automobile, aviation and motorcycle
pioneers were made only from leather.
So it is not surprising to learn that the
family business that was to become the LAZER Company was, at the outset, a
modest leather workshop, founded by Roger Lacroix.
This craftsman could never
have imagined that in 2009 his business would be celebrating its ninetieth year.
the Second World War, Lacroix changed its name, became the CROSS company and
started marketing rigid leather helmets. In 1980 CROSS created LAZER, which from
then on became the brand name under which all the company’s products were
In spite of its great age, the company‘s high-tech name demonstrates
its determination to remain one of the front runners in innovation and progress
- a policy that remains unchanged.
The company now has the a large
Research and Development department, with all the mechanical and informational
means available for developing, modifying and testing all the components of a
As a direct consequence for the consumer, the quality and safety
criteria for LAZER helmets are often higher than the European standards in
force as well as other official standards across the world.
LAZER is present in
49 companies via a network of 6000 dealers. Thanks to these retailers, in 2008
the company sold over half a million helmets.
By commercializing the new SuperSkin
the forerunner of the next generation of helmets, the world’s
longest-established helmet manufacturer has brilliantly demonstrated that after
almost one hundred years, the venerable LAZER Company is younger and more
dynamic than ever.
The Rider SuperSkin is in production now and in March
a full-face version will follow shortly thereafter.
Comments are ordered from most recent to oldest.
Not all comments will be published (details).
Comments may be edited for clarity prior to publication.
Editor's Note: UPDATE: I met
with Andrew de Vos van Steenwijk at the 2009 Powersports
Dealer Expo during the weekend of February 13-16 to
discuss the new Lazer Superskin helmet and answer your
questions. More detailed responses are available
Lazer SuperSkin FAQ page on their website.
From "J.E.": "I beg to
question the testing procedure used by Lazer SuperSkin
Helmets in the video. It appears that the helmet
is hanging “loose” in the test, as in no resistance to
In the real world, there is a lot of resistance to
rotation provided by both the skeleton and musculature.
My uneducated guess that if this resistance were applied
to the testing procedure, the rotational difference
would be miniscule.
You simply cannot compare a freely rotating helmet to
a helmet attached to a skull that is attached to a neck
that is attached to a spine and on and on."
Editor's Reply: The helmet is not
"hanging loose". It is on a
standard headform used for motorcycle helmet testing.
Also, notice that the same headform is used for the
"normal", non-Superskin helmet and it clearly shows the
difference in rotation.
From "J.Y.": "So how much and
where can you buy them??"
Editor's Reply: March 2009 availability.
From "M.S.": "Does the SuperSkin
make a helmet any more or less fragile to drops and
bumps? If my buddy accidentally knocks mine off my
ride while goofing off, should I expect that it has been
damaged and needs replacement?"
Editor's Reply: Not based on anything I
can see. The Superskin helmet should be handled
the same as a standard helmet. The Superskin is
very tough. Damage concerns should be identical to
any other helmet.
From "K.D.": "Interesting
concept. Could you make sure the face shield is
"anti fog" as well."
Editor's Reply: Won't know the answer to
that one until the helmet is released for sale.
From "S.F.": "Looks intriguing
and makes logical sense as demonstrated. I'm
curious about the additional weight of the lubricated
membrane as well as the construction of the core helmet.
Have they cost reduced the other components to pay for
this new technology?
Editor's Reply: The helmet does feel
slightly heavier, but the Superskin layer appears to be
only about 1 mm thick, so I don't think it adds much.
I'll have to wait until we can put it on the scale, and
then we won't have a non-Superskin equivalent to compare
it to. But any weight it adds seems negligible.
The rest of the helmet appears to be high quality,
and no other components were changed from a "normal"
helmet. The size large open face "Jet" style
helmet I tried on in size large felt like it had a
neutral to round shape and was very comfortable.
From "D.H.": "Living in Arizona
I'm all too aware that extreme temperatures can effect
my riding experience. How will extreme hot/cold
temperatures effect the performance of Lazer SuperSkin?
We easily reach ambient temps of 120 degrees on the road
here in Phoenix area during the summer and ride into 30
degree temps in the cool mornings in winter."
Editor's Reply: No difference from
From "J": "Interesting concept.
Does this mean we'll have to use Nivea to clean the
helmet instead of Plexus?"
Editor's Reply: No, but I heard
you have to shave it once a week... ;-)
From "G.K.": "I'm curious to know
if this technology can be applied to existing helmets,
or can it be applied only during the helmet's original
Editor's Reply: It could be applied to
other helmets but needs a special manufacturing
technique. For now, it will be featured on Lazer
Superskin helmets only.
From "M.K.": "How would the
skin hold up against debris flung up at high speeds
while riding on the highway, such as a rock. Will
it cut the Superskin?"
Editor's Reply: See response above.
No difference from any normal helmet shell.
From "P.F.": "In your review and
on their website, the reduction in rotation is listed as
67.5% from university lab testing. However, if you
listen to the good doctor himself speak on the video, he
says 60%. It appears that he mouthed 67.5% or
something else, but the audio cuts out briefly after he
says the word "sixty."