HJC and Marvel Comics Unite for Officially Licensed Graphic Helmets

Squids are going to love this – and it may even persuade some non-helmet wearing folk out there to don a lid. Marvel Comics, creators of art house films such as The Avengers, Iron Man and Captain America have announced the first or three officially licensed graphic helmets which will be available next month.

The press release is extremely light on detail, save for the fact that there will be an Iron Man, Punisher and Captain America helmet ranging in price from $175 up to $255 and sizing from XS up to 5XL (that’s a big head). Pictures of them are below:

 

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New Touratech Aventuro Mod Helmet Hits Shelves

Touratech is a well known and respected brand for adventure riders and have been making great aftermarket parts for a wide range of bikes for many years. They also have a good reputation among riders for their riding gear too and have now teamed up with Schuberth on a new modular helmet.

The Touratech Aventuro Mod was announced last year but is now finally hitting shop shelves. “Instead of an all-round solution, we took a modular approach from the start. Using exchangeable components gives a modular helmet the desired functionality without needing to make as many compromises as with an all-round helmet that tries to cover too many applications at the same time,” says Touratech CEO Herbert Schwarz.

By fortunate coincidence, German helmet manufacturer Schuberth was also planning a modular helmet. The new Aventuro Mod is the result of close collaboration between the development departments in Magdeburg and Niedereschach. Its design and graphics are the work of Touratech designer Bart van den Bogaard. In addition to the firm’s cumulative touring experience, Touratech has also contributed numerous parts for the new helmet in conjunction with TT-3D, its plastics competence centre in Murnau.

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The Aventuro Mod uses the same basic structure as the Schuberth C3Pro, but features numerous detail enhancements. The helmet shell is made of special glass fibre laminate, a technology developed by Schuberth to produce glass fibre reinforced plastics that combine high strength with low weight.

As well an anti-fog, distortion-free visor that meets European “class 1 optics” standards, a continuously adjustable sun visor, and washable liner, the Aventuro Mod has an aerodynamically optimised helmet shield – with cover caps included – that is easy to fit without tools. Ingeniously, the peak has a memory function so when the chin section is flipped up, it remembers the position it was set to and then magically rebounds to the riders chosen position when the helmet is closed.

The Touratech Aventuro Mod will retail for $829 in the US and priced between £469.99 and £529.99 in the UK. For Australian riders it will set you back $1,261.

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Study Finds Injuries Jump After Repeal of Motorcycle Helmet Laws

While probably not a surprise to most, a study recently published in the American Journal of Surgery has found that post the 2012 repeal of the mandatory wearing of motorcycle helmets in Michigan, non-helmeted crash scene fatalities were higher after the repeal (14% vs 68%), non-helmeted riders had a significantly higher in-patient mortality (10% vs 3%), injury severity score (19 vs 14.5) and abbreviated injury scale head (2.2 vs 1.3).

The study undertaken by a team the at Spectrum Health Hospital in Grand Rapids began soon after the repeal of the law commenced when Dr. Carlos Rodriguez noticed a massive spike in motorcyclists being treated at the hospital for head injuries, “I just could not help but notice the number of patients that had been in motorcycle crashes with no helmet on, which was enormously different in number and volume than we had experienced the weekend before.”

The study team looked at records for patients admitted to Spectrum Health Hospital and at state transportation department records of fatalities at crash scenes for the seven-month motorcycle season (April to November) in 2011, before the law was repealed, and for the same period in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Of riders who died at the scene, the proportion of those not wearing helmets increased from 14 per cent to a massive 68 per cent and of those that did make it to hospital, 10 per cent died compared to only 3 per cent who did wear helmets.

In a finding that we can only assume means people are deciding to sacrifice themselves to the motorcycle gods, alcohol use among riders who crashed while not wearing a helmet was higher as well. And for those arguing that individual freedom should usurp laws enforcing safety standards, the cost to the health system because of riders not wearing helmets was almost 50 per cent higher.

Source: American Journal of Surgery, Reuters

non helmet rider

Bell and 360 FLY Join Up to Create Helmets with Integrated Cameras

The action camera market just got a little bit more interesting with Bell Powersports and 360 Fly announcing that they are teaming up to produce helmets together that combine Bell’s expertise in the motorcycle helmet industry with 360 FLY’s next generation action camera. And this isn’t an aspirational announcement either – the helmets will be on sale before the end of the year.

This is exciting for two reasons. Firstly in some jurisdictions such as the states of New South Wales and Victoria in Australia, attaching anything to your helmet – including action cameras – has been deemed illegal. There’s nothing the plod can do however about a helmet with an integrated camera – and one with a full 360 degree field of view no less. This will allow riders to prove their innocence in accidents like never before – both in front and from behind.

But it’s also great news for track riders. Many tracks have banned the use of cameras at their facilities due to the potential hazard they can cause (and of course the resulting insurance issues). Yes, action cameras can come off their mounts and a small missile bouncing in front of other riders isn’t really safe. Facilities that do allow cameras almost universally don’t allow them to be attached to a rider’s helmet in any event. But now, that won’t be a problem.

Bell and 360 FLY Join Up to Create Helmets with Integrated Cameras

The two helmets that will first receive the 360 Fly integration are the 2016 Bell Star and the Bell Moto-9 Flex. Despite the obvious lump atop the helmet, Bell seem to have done a pretty good job of integrating the 360 Fly into the overall design – it looks a lot better than a GoPro stuck on top of your lid in any event.

“The benefits of integrating digital video and intuitive digital technology into action sports
helmets is a ground-breaking advancement for our sports,” said Terry Lee, Executive Chairman & CEO, BRG Sports. “This “smart helmet” collaboration with 360 Fly is yet another landmark milestone within our 60-year history of helmet innovation and industry leadership.”

“From day one, our focus has extended beyond the baseline benefits of immersive 360-degree VR content, and into the expansive universe of intuitive “smart” technologies that our single lens technology enables,” said Peter Adderton, 360 Fly CEO. “These helmets are merely the first of many unique applications for these technologies enabled by our proprietary 360 Fly 4K platform.”

It gets better, though. The integrated 360 Fly camera is detachable, allowing it to be utilized independent of the helmet by the user in other scenarios. There’s also a number of new features that will be rolled out for the range of helmets including:

  • AutoPilot action tracking – Allows users to track and follow the main subjects in their
    videos, making it easy to create dynamic edits with the rider at the center of it all.
  • Collision Avoidance Alert – Senses and automatically notifies the rider of potential
    oncoming dangers that are outside the rider’s natural field of vision
  • Live Streaming — For professional, commercial or advanced users looking to live stream 360-degree video, the integrated camera pairs with its Micro-HDMI accessory base and is able to output a real-time full 360-degree HD video stream

Bell has confirmed that the new helmets will be SNELL certified but no word on whether they will meet European or AU/NZ standards as well. They also won’t be cheap. The Bell Star on its own costs around $600 US, while the 360 FLY retails for about $400 US.

Bell and 360 FLY Join Up to Create Helmets with Integrated Cameras

Vozz Helmet is an Actual Revolutionary New Helmet Design

While “next-gen” helmets are focused on heads up displays and the use of some new materials, the Vozz Helmet is an entirely new design. It’s a helmet with no chin strap, and that’s because it has a chin bar that fits extremely close to the user’s jaw line. You might be wondering then how you fit a big fat head through a now small hole. Just lift the back of the helmet up, silly.

Yes, the Vozz Helmet uses a hinge that effectively means you put your head in from the rear. It’s hard to explain without seeing it in action, but the image below illustrates it well. So why go to all the trouble of completing redesigning the way virtually all helmets have worked since their invention? It’s all in the name of safety.

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At its most basic level and because of the way you put your head into the helmet, it can be designed in such a way that offers far greater protection. Because of now only needing a hole at the bottom of the helmet to fit a neck and not an entire skull, the  helmet can be made to be smaller and thus sit closer to your head.

But more importantly is the way the helmet can be removed in an emergency. One of the most difficult things to assess in a motorcycle crash is a riders spinal state – taking off a conventional helmet has to be done in a very specific way and if done wrong (especially by a well meaning passer by) it can result in serious injury.  At the same time, paramedics need access to your airways as quickly as possible, so it can be a catch 22.

This is how the Vozz is so clever. It incorporates an emergency safety release system, meaning medical personal can easily take the helmet apart without any movement of the riders neck. The lack of the exposed chin guard also reduces ‘snag points’ – effectively how an object can wedge itself between your chin and the helmet chin bar and twist your neck. Without a gap, there’s no here for foreign objects to get in.

The team of Mark Bryant and Damian Chown have been working on the VOZZ helmet since 2005, and it’s taken them 10 years to perfect it and get it to market as the Vozz RS 1.0. One thing we were curious about the helmet was if it felt claustrophobic when putting it on as we’re so used to having the air rush up underneath the chinbar – but it honestly didn’t bother us one bit when putting it on and the snugness of the helmet around our head was second to none.

There’s also the added bonus of being able to put your helmet on with your gloves on (hooray!!) and leave your sunglasses on too (double hooray!!).

While the helmet is certified to meet DOT, European and AU/NZ Standards, it’s currently only available online for Australian residents at a price of $888 (US $635) which gets you the helmet, a clear visor and a tinted visor. It will hit Canada and the US in April 2016 and Europe TBA.

And for the ADV riders out there – yes, they’re working on a dual sport version.

Source: Vozz Helmets

The Frustrating State of Australian Motorcycle Laws

Over the last year or so, Australian riders residing on the eastern coast of the country have had cause to celebrate with the legalisation of lane splitting finally happening in the three most populous states of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria – something that the overwhelming majority of riders in the US don’t enjoy. But with these updated laws has come a hodgepodge of differing rules that have caused confusion and frustration for motorcyclists.

The main area of frustration has been in regards to helmet laws where it is now the case that a rider taking a trip from Queensland, through New South Wales and into Victoria could theoretically require a change of helmet three times in order not to run foul of the law in the respective state. Imagine if state laws weren’t unified on the type of vehicle you could have in each jurisdiction – and yet that is the current situation in Australia.

When Queensland introduced its filtering laws, they also updated helmet laws to allow residents to ride with helmets that met ECE helmet standards and not necessarily Australian Standards. That was fantastic news and something locals were wanting for years – but it left Queensland on its own and meant that should a rider venture from the Gold Coast through to Tweed Heads wearing an ECE and not AE compliant helmet, they could be fined for effectively not wearing a helmet at all – and the $319 fine that goes with it.

Thankfully, on 6 August, the Victorian Government adopted the policy of Queensland and allowed riders to wear ECE compliant helmets as well. As of the writing of this article, New South Wales still has not done so and riders from Victoria and Queensland going to New South with ECE complaint helmets are breaking the law. This is despite even the Australian Federal Government now relaxing import laws which previously prohibited the importation of ECE helmets for sale in Australia.

So while Victoria and Queensland have started applying logic to the types of helmet that can be worn, the same can’t be said for the wearing of action cameras on helmets in the garden state.

Police Radar Gun

For many years now – even if sporadically – riders have been fined for wearing GoPro’s or similar devices on their helmets by police in New South Wales and Victoria. In March 2014, Victorian man Max Lichtenbaum was fined $289 and lost three demerit points for failing to wear an approved helmet after being pulled over by police in Frankston, in Melbourne’s south-east. His helmet was not deemed approved because in the police’s eyes, it had been modified from the Australian Standard because he had fixed a camera to it.

If that sounds ridiculous, it gets worse. Malcolm Cumming of Maurice Blackburn took the case on pro bono due to the issue becoming a major issue of frustration for motorcyclists. His argument in court was that the Australian Standard only applies to helmets at manufacture – once purchased by an individual they no longer apply. Unfortunately, Mr Lichtenbaum lost the case and with the help of Maurice Blackburn is appealing the decision which will be heard in February of 2016.

That means as it stands, if you wear a GoPro, a Bluetooth intercom device or even replace your visor with a tinted one, you are deemed to be in effect not wearing a helmet in Victoria and can be fined accordingly. The absolutely bizarre interpretation of the law makes even less sense when you travel to Queensland or Western Australia, where not only will you not be fined for wearing any such device on your helmet – the police there actively wear such devices themselves.

In those states, the respective governments have effectively adopted the view that Maurice Blackburn was arguing in Victoria – that Australian Standards only apply at the point of sale – not after. It’s altogether more frustrating when the use of cameras by motorcyclists is a key weapon in the proving of innocence in accidents.

“The repeated feedback from motorcyclists to us is there’s a marked change and improvement in driver behaviour when drivers become aware that they are, or are potentially, being recorded,” said Malcom Cumming. “In our work supporting riders injured in road accidents, we know that video from helmet cameras is some of the best evidence you can have if you are in a collision.”

Maurice Blackburn should be applauded for their work in this matter, but it’s ridiculous that they had to get involved at all. Prior to Mr Lichtenbaum losing his case, there seemed to be a sporadic enforcement of the interpretation of the law in Victoria – what happens now though is anyone’s guess.

Helmets aren’t the only issue either. For example in Queensland, riders can ride on the shoulder of roads that have a maximum speed limit of 90km/h or more as long as the rider goes no faster than 30km/h – this is a wonderful way to travel on congested highways. Yet again however, Queensland is alone in this rule and a rider could be riding along the Pacific Highway in Queensland on the shoulder and upon crossing the border now be riding illegally.

Generally speaking, most road rules reach uniformity among states over many years, so there’s hope they will eventually equalise for motorcyclists in the near future. But given the outright hostility the Victorian and sometimes New South Wales police forces have shown for riders recently, don’t hold your breath.

Victorian Police

 

The Shoei X-Spirit III Gives you Wings

Shoei has updated its top of the line track focused helmet, the Shoe X-Spirit III and as can clearly be seen from the images below, aerodynamics is the name of the game. It seems making helmets more slippery and stable at high speeds is the next focus for helmet companies competing in the premium space for riders wanting the best of the best when venturing to the race track.

There’s now a massive rear spoiler on the back of the lid which can actually be removed and replaced with a thinner one for slower tracks. The standard spoiler is designed to improve aerodynamic performance for speeds in excess of 300 km/h (186 mph), hence it’s unlikely you’ll see much in the way of benefit on the street (or even at many tracks for that matter…).

Also changed from the previous version is that Shoei’s AIM+ six layer shell has been employed for better safety and the interior is now fully modular, allowing you to remove and/or re-position the pads for an optimum fit. Ventilation is also claimed to have improved.

So, if you’re the type of rider that needs the best of the best, prepare to fork out £549.99 for the the plain coloured version and  and £649.99 for one with graphics. That’s the equivalent of at least half a dozen track days, but hey, it’s Marc Marquez’s helmet of choice so you’ll probably get at least a few tenths lap time improvement from it.

 

It’s Time To Ban Standing Starts In Motorcycle Racing

Last weekend, Bernat Martinez and Daniel Rivas Fernandez lost their lives at MotoAmerica’s Superbike/Superstock 1000 race. The incident occurred at the start of the race in a situation that is any rider’s worst nightmare – Fernandez’s bike either stalled or lost power after the green light and he was a sitting duck while riders at full acceleration rode past. Unfortunately, Fernandez was hit and in the ensuing chaos, both he and Martinez received what would ended up being life ending injuries. It was not the first time an incident like this happened and it won’t be the last, unless standing starts are done away with.

Such events aren’t isolated to motorcycle racing by any means. There have been numerous such incidents in Formula 1 over the years including one that resulted in the death of Riccardo Paletti at the Canadian Grand Prix in 1982 due to another car stalling on the grid. Back in 2011 there was a spectacular though thankfully not fatal incident due to a car failing at the start in a V8 Supercar race in Perth, Australia.

The difference between modern race cars and motorcycles when it comes to these incidents today is that fatalities in four wheeled racing are almost unheard of. Race cars are surrounded by carbon fibre and steel with safety cells and roll cages. A car can virtually be destroyed and the safety cell with the driver inside will remain intact – at worst the driver may receive concussion, bruises and whiplash.

In motorcycle racing, there is no protective bubble. Incidents like this are the equivalent to someone walking out onto a freeway and getting hit by a car at speed – you cannot survive that and yet it’s something that’s deemed an acceptable risk in motorcycle racing. The starting grid at Laguna Seca from end to end is approximately 150 metres (500 feet) in length. That’s more than enough distance for a literbike to easily reach speeds that prevent a rider from reacting to an unsighted and stricken competitor on the grid.

It should be kept in mind that the incident last weekend wasn’t at an amateur event. MotoAmerica is the premier motorcycle series in the USA and is a feeder category to the World Superbike Championship – the event that this particular race was supporting. These were professional racers – the danger to amateurs with less experience and less skill is even greater.

Bernat Martinez and Daniel Rivas Fernandez

Purists will no doubt argue that introducing rolling starts is just further sanitation of motorcycle racing. I would argue that unlike every other high risk sport, motorcycle racing hasn’t been sanitised at all over the years. Helmet technology has improved marginally over the decades and only a few riders at MotoGP and WSBK level have access to (or can afford) airbag technology. Literbikes can reach speeds in excess of 300 kph on many tracks. MotoGP riders hit 342 kph at Indianapolis – that’s comparable to what F1 cars reach at Monza. Motorcycle racing remains one of, if not the most dangerous form of motorsport in existence.

Le mans style starts were once common place but are now almost never used and this was done for safety reasons. While doing away with standing starts does take a type of skill away from racing, it’s an incredibly minor facet of a race and it merely puts more emphasis on qualifying.

The deaths of Bernat Martinez and Daniel Rivas Fernandez was a tragedy and unless rolling starts are introduced it won’t be the last.