Snell Loyalty

People are loyal to the oddest things. For a couple of decades scientists and testing engineers have questioned the Snell standards. A key part of Snell's standards is the dual impact (same location) test and the 300g internal impact allowance. Those two bits mean that the helmet must be harder (less able to spread impact) both on the shell and in the internal impact liner. A while back, Motorcyclist magazine did some of their own testing and cast some aspersions on the Snell standard. More recently, the New York Times published a piece called Sorting Out Differences in Helmet Standards.

I'm not here to argue the standards. I read the Motorcyclist article and was impressed with the authors' thoroughness. At the time, I'd traded my comfortable old (highly damaged) Shoei X11 (a Snell helmet) for a brand new non-Snell HJC CL-15. The new HJC was the first non-Shoei, non-Snell helmet I'd owned since the early 1980s. That first HJC was the first of three HJC helmets that I've owned since. While my Shoei's have saved my bean from several scrapes, nothing about the crashes I've experienced have tested Snell's extreme standards. I'm, apparently, inclined to get off at 20-50mph, on dirt trails and deep gravel or sand, and I have yet to land on top of my head. I have scraped the paint off of the side of my full-face helmets and gouged the snot out of the faceshields.

On a MN motorcycle chat site, the responses to the NYT article went like this:
  • "The advantage in my eyes to a Snell rating is that I know the helmet's been validated to the guideline. "
  • "Until the standards are re-written its just a holy war and I'll continue to wear my RF1000 helmet replete with 05 Snell standards. "
  • "My helemts [sic] (full face always) have always been snell rated, but I am an Arai loyalist and they don't make anything less than snell rated--and honestly--I wouldnt want it any other way."
  • "Usually the NYT limits its coverage to political and scientific thingsthat they don't understand. Now they've added international standards setting to the stew."
I think it's interesting that a testing lab can generate so much customer loyalty, even with other testing labs, scientists, and engineers disagree with those results. No, I don't know what that means. Yes, I'd love to hear your opinions.

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