The hunt for the perfect racing helmet can be daunting, raising numerous questions in the minds of racers. Here at DRIVEN Performance, our aim is to steer you in the right direction. Dive in as we dissect the nuances of size, shape, certification, price, features, and helmet care.
Size is the Key
The mantra for helmet shopping is crystal clear: Size is pivotal. Surprisingly, the vast majority of racing helmets are a size too big. To learn your exact helmet size, use a cloth measuring tape or a taut string, wrapping it around the largest part of your head starting just above your eyebrows. Repeat the measurement several times, slightly altering the angle. The largest consistent measurement is your go-to size which you can find on a helmet sizing chart.
A well-fitted helmet should:
- Exert uniform pressure around your head's widest section
- Not have any distressing pressure points while being worn
- Have no contact gaps
- Apply pressure on your cheeks, causing slight skin bunching when the helmet is adjusted
- Remain firm, with minimal frontal sliding
However, comfort isn't synonymous with safety. A snug fit is paramount, but there's more to delve into below.
The Shape of Your Helmet Matters
Heads, like fingerprints, are unique. They typically align with one of three overhead shapes: Intermediate Oval (the most common), Long Oval, or Round Oval. DRIVEN Performance recommends using either BELL helmets or B2 helmets as they cater to all head shapes, boasting an industry-leading range. The difference between the B2 and BELL helmets is that BELL helmets can be used by professionals as they are typically certified to higher levels and use stronger (and more expensive) materials, while the B2 helmets may be more appropriate for amateurs and semi-pros for their affordability.
Decoding the Price Tag: $300 vs. $3,000 Helmets
It's a familiar quandary that essentially boils down to the old adage – you get what you shell out for. Helmets vary in shell materials, with each offering a balance of protection, weight, and cost.
Fiberglass is generally affordable but is also heavier. Kevlar composites, on the other hand, are light and superior for impact absorption, but they tip the price scale. Premium-grade carbon fiber tops the chart with unmatched lightness and stellar protection, demanding a premium price.
But it's not just about the shell. Helmet elements like foam layers, interior padding, visor mechanism, and more define a helmet’s safety, comfort, and functionality. A top-tier helmet doesn’t just meet certification standards – it surpasses them, justifying its higher cost.
Because the helmet is a crucial piece of safety equipment, quality, and durability need to be balanced with your budget so that you get the best helmet possible.
Understanding Helmet Certification Standards
While you will find a number of different helmet certifications that may come with your equipment, there is two in particular that are commonly used throughout the karting world which you can look out for; Snell and and FIA.
Safety ratings from the Snell Foundation come in four different types: K (karting), SA (sports application), M (motorcycle), and CM (children’s motorsport).
Each safety certification ensures that helmets are manufactured with the right materials so they can protect drivers in specific environments. This is why choosing the right helmet is so important, because the wrong one may not have the capabilities to protect you at higher levels.
Deciding When It’s Time for a New Helmet
The longevity of a helmet is often debated. At DRIVEN Performance, we lean towards caution, suggesting a helmet refresh every 3-4 years, regardless of its visual state. However, if budgeting is a concern, updating your helmet with every new Snell standard (typically every five years) is a wise choice. Helmets, with time, undergo material degradation.
It's crucial to note: if you have been in an accident or if your helmet suffers a drop from over a foot onto a hard surface, it's time for an immediate replacement. Helmets are built for a single impactful defense. A fall can compromise its structural integrity, diminishing its protective capability.
If you still have a myriad of questions about helmet selection, materials, or anything else to do with your next go-karting adventure, then feel free to contact the DRIVEN Performance team for expert guidance.