How can you tell when a motorcycle helmet needs to be replaced? Sure, there are the obvious signs, like when pieces of the liner start blowing in your eyes, or when the foam turns yellow, or when the chin strap starts looking (and smelling) like Swiss cheese. Yuck!
I’ll never forget an email message to a motorcycle list I read once. This is a true story – the writer wanted to know when he needed to replace his disposable earplugs. He had been using them for one year and they were getting kind of crusty!
This is probably the same guy still wearing his plastic Sears helmet that he bought in 1972. An extreme case maybe, and motorcycle helmet shelf life is a debatable issue.
But helmet technology has been evolving so rapidly that I’d say it’s time to start thinking about a new one about every 3 years. Maybe less if you don’t wear a helmet liner and you don’t have a washable liner!
All kidding aside, those examples are the extremes and they’re very obvious. What isn’t so obvious is the internal damage a helmet might suffer from something as simple as a fall from a shelf, or off the seat of a parked bike (you don’t rest your helmet on the seat, do you?).
Or have you ever loaned your helmet to a friend? How do you know what happened to the helmet when it was out of your control?
The Shok SpotR helmet damage sensor is a new product that can help you determine if your helmet has suffered any damage.
The device is only 4 mm thick and it weighs an imperceptible 7 grams (1/4 oz.). It’s designed to be installed on the centerline of the helmet towards the rear. It has a sensor that turns red when the helmet experiences damage that could affect its performance.
The device is relatively inconspicuous, except for the “warning” sticker on the back. If it weren’t for that sticker, and if the body of the Shok SpotR was made from a reflective material, you’d probably never know that it wasn’t part of the helmet.
We decided to give it a try with a hardly-used HJC open-face helmet. We placed the Shok SpotR on the rear of the helmet per the instructions. The device has double-sided tape on the back, and it takes only a few seconds to peel the backing and attach it to the helmet.
We dropped the helmet from 2, 4 and 6 feet on to a bare concrete floor, directly on the top of the helmet. The shorter drops didn’t affect the device, but the Shok SpotR activated when dropped from 6 feet.
The Shok SpotR folks tell us that the device is calibrated for the weight of a helmet on a human head, so dropping an empty helmet probably isn’t a fair test.
We’re assuming that this distance might vary, depending upon the size, weight and shape of the helmet, which could affect the outcome due to the different mass and impact.
But the Shok SpotR worked as advertised. You would probably know if the helmet was dropped from, for example, a 6-foot high shelf, but perhaps not if the floor had a vinyl covering or something that protected the helmet from getting scratched.
Other than a couple of scratches on top and some damage to the Shok SpotR, you’d never know the helmet was dropped and it could easily be overlooked.
Shok SpotR suggests that the devices is also useful for a child’s helmet, which could sustain damage or a fall and the parent would have no way of knowing if the helmet was damaged.
The helmet could be damaged directly on the Shok SpotR itself, but if the device was damaged enough for it to activate, then the helmet should be sent back to the factory for an inspection anyway.
If your helmet sustains damage, or if you’re unsure of the helmet’s ability to protect you, we recommend that it’s sent back to the factory for an inspection. In the meantime, the Shok SpotR can act as a monitor to help you determine if your helmet has sustained enough damage to warrant further inspection.
By the way, the Shok SpotR is available through any motorcycle dealer that uses Western Power Sports Distributing, or through any Kawasaki dealer through Kawasaki USA.