Motown India conducted a
simple yet decisive test to check the strength of some new local helmets vis-a-vis new branded Indian ones. A few branded affordable new helmets from leading and popular Indian brands Steelbird,
Studds and Vega along with a few new unbranded local helmets were picked up for
A sledgehammer weighing more
than 6.6 kilograms was used to slam the helmets from a height of seven feet.
The results were shocking. But what is equally shocking is the fact that there
are hundreds and thousands of illegal and unauthorised stores selling unbranded
helmets across the country and government officials are doing nothing to stop
their production and sale. Moreover, educated and uneducated two-wheeler riders
and their pillions in the country are knowingly and unknowingly buying these unbranded
helmets to save themselves from a petty traffic fine of a few hundred rupees,
throwing all caution to the winds. While branded helmet prices start at around
Rs 1000 or so, the local unbranded ones are available for as little as Rs 100
or so upwards. Many of these local and unbranded helmets even carry the BIS
government quality standards, thereby making a mockery of all safety and legal norms.
But before we go any further
it is important to understand a bit about branded helmets. Like the egg that
cracks open to eventually take the shape of either an omelette or just a sunny
side up, our heads too can crack up when you fall off a bike or meet with an
unfortunate accident. It is here that helmets play an important role in saving
your skull from a fatal injury.
So irrespective of age,
whether you are on a cycle, or skiing down a mountain, or skating or riding a
motorised two-wheeler, the point to note here is that helmets are a must.
IS 4151 is the standard mark
for an Indian helmets for two-wheeler riding and is governed by the provisions
of the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986 and the Rules and Regulations made
there under. Mind you, the helmets covered by this standard are not intended
for high-speed competitive events.
Wearing a decent helmet makes
riding a two-wheeler a lot more fun because it protects you from dust, insects,
wind noise and even the windblast. It also goes a long way in reducing rider
Helmets are built to withstand
certain falls. They are supposed to be strong, should absorb shock and
eventually save the head from fatal accidents. When you are wearing a helmet
during a fall or crash, the force of impact is distributed over the surface of
the helmet, rather than concentrated on the head.
Experts say a motorcycle
helmet generally has a life of around five years or around three years if used
regularly. You need to keep it clean and even wear a balaclava to prevent the
helmet inner linings being damaged.
Four basic components work
together to provide protection in the motorcycle helmet: an outer shell; an
impact-absorbing liner; the comfort padding; and a good retention system. What
we see first is the outer shell, usually made from some family of fibre-reinforced
composites or thermoplastics like polycarbonate. This is tough stuff, yet it's
designed and intended to compress when it hits anything hard. Inside the shell
is the equally important impact-absorbing liner, usually made of expanded
Both the shell and the liner
compress if hit hard, spreading the forces of impact throughout the helmet
material. The more impact-energy deflected or absorbed, the less there is of it
to reach your head and brain and do damage. Some helmet shells delaminate on
impact while others may crack and break. These are ways a helmet acts to absorb
shock. The helmet has done its job and needs to be replaced.
The comfort padding is the
soft foam-and-cloth layer that sits next to your head. This padding keeps your head comfortable and
in some helmets, this padding can even be taken out for cleaning.
The retention system, or chin
strap, is one piece that keeps the helmet on your head in a crash. You have to
strap the helmet or else it would be flung off in a crash, serving no purpose.
The sledgehammer was first
used to hit a local helmet, one that is usually worn by pillion riders as well
as riders, especially women, in India. This was not a full mask one. The moment
the sledgehammer came in contact with the top of the helmet, it simply crashed through
the skull, thereby exposing its fragile shell. It was like slamming your fist
on a raw egg.
The second local helmet,
fraudulently carrying the BIS mark, too fared terribly. The sledgehammer simply
crashed through the helmet, smashing it into pieces. The third full mask
helmet, also carrying a BIS number, met with a similar fate. But when it came
to the three branded helmets, the results were very different. The branded
helmets from Vega, Steelbird and Studds simply absorbed the massive force of
the sledgehammer during the crash test. This characteristic of a helmet is the
one which saves lives of people during an accident involving a two-wheeler. In
fact, each of the helmets received at least three separate blows with the
sledgehammer but each time the helmets kept absorbing the shocks.
The sledgehammer test goes to
prove that local unbranded helmets stand no chance when it comes to shocks it
receives during a fall or a crash. There is a clear message for all two-wheeler
riders in this: In order to save your head, you have got to wear branded full
faced helmets so as not to meet the fate of the raw egg!
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