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Skip Navigation Links. What's the Snell:

Have You Ever Wondered, What's a Snell Rating? So you re in line for tech inspection and someone comes up to your car and says, "Can I see your helmet? Is it Snell approved?"

Because the Club is updating the minimum helmet standard for Driving Schools to Snell 90, I became curious and decided to find out more. Here is what I discovered.

Back in 1956 a gentleman by the name of Peter Snell was fatally injured in a racing accident. Several members of the Sports Car Club of America at the time wanted to memorialize Peter because he was so well respected. The outcome of this desire became known as the Snell Foundation. The primary focus of the foundation was to ensure suitable head protection for motorsports participants.

The Snell foundation is now known for its ongoing work in setting, maintaining, and upgrading the highest helmet standards in the US and throughout the world. Helmets meeting Snell standards significantly surpass those set by the US Department of Transportation (DOT), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and the Society of Testing Materials (ASTM).

The Snell Foundation currently tests over 6,000 helmets each year and maintains neutrality by remaining independent of helmet manufacturers, and government bodies! They do not accept donations from individuals or companies with a financial interest in the production of safety helmets. They are primarily interested in developing and promoting the latest in safety standards for helmets. Their income comes from testing fees and the sale of Snell Approved Labels. The labels found in all helmets meeting Snell standards are bought directly from the Snell Foundation. Each label, in each helmet, costs the manufacturer about 40 cents.

The testing that's done for a specific helmet model to pass inspection is incredible. They do a retention test, which is a dynamic strength test. They do a roll-off test (how easily it falls off the head), and a penetration test. This is followed by an impact series where they hit each helmet nine times, four times in the front, four times in the back, and once on top. The eight hits to the front and rear are in only four locations, using a laser guiding system to ensure the same exact spot is hit twice (For the engineers out there - the force used is a 150 joule impact-energy on the first hit and then 110 joule impact-energy on the second hit in the same location.) The penetration test is conducted by shooting the shield with a pellet moving at 500 kilometers per hour.

What I found very interesting is that they do all these tests under conditions normally found in nature: hot, cold, wet and ambient. This means they demolish four helmet samples for each helmet model tested: one for each of the various conditions.

So you might be asking yourself why must I stop using my beautiful helmet just because it only has a Snell 85 Rating. I easily found an answer for that question!

The Snell Foundation recommends that helmets be replaced every five years. This isn't a policy that stems from a capitalistic desire to make more money. It comes from an objective to provide the safest head protection available. The intent is safety! Helmets have to be replaced because a variety of factors can cause the liners to degrade, such as the glue that holds the liner to the inside of the shell, perspiration, hair oil, and the normal compacting through long term use. The bottom line.... If the liner becomes deteriorated - your head is not as well protected. So as a general policy, because of normal degradation and improvements in the helmet, Snell recommends that helmets be replaced every five years.

The Driving Schools are all about safety, not speed. The safety we are concerned about is yours. Protect your head. It's the only one you get! Buy your helmet now, so that come Spring you will be prepared!

How to Buy a Proper Fitting Helmet

Here are a few very important things to keep in mind when you buy a helmet: Below you will find a chart of sizes - use this to start the process. Measure around your head just above the ears and about an inch above your eyebrows. The chart should be thought of as a guide - not an absolute rule! It is important to keep in mind that people's heads are of different shapes. Although two different people may have the same measurement, the shape of the head will have a dramatic effect on how well a helmet fits.

A helmet must be the proper size for your head if it is going to offer its full protection to you. A helmet that is too big is not a safe solution! For maximum protection, a helmet should fit snugly, not tight and uncomfortable, but snug.

After you have measured your head and gotten an approximate size, now you are ready for the second step. Put the helmet on and strap it securely, now hold your head still and try to roll the helmet off your head forward. If the helmet comes off you need a larger size!

The next test is to hold your head steady while grasping the helmet with both hands, try to move or rotate the helmet while keeping your head still. If the helmet moves around on your head while your head stayed still - try a smaller helmet!

If you can't seem to get a good fit because size is too big and the next smaller size is too tight - try a different model or a different manufacturer. There is a great deal of difference in the same size from one manufacturer to another.

So where do you go to try these helmets? In the past I have always gone to motorcycle shops, they have a large selection and a knowledgeable staff that can help answer your questions.

Re-printed from der BAYERISCHE BRIEF. Article by JD Walter.

CONVERSION CHART
HEAD/HELMET/HAT SIZE
INCHES HELMET HAT
21.25 X-Small 6.75
21.625 Small 6.87s
22 Small 7
22.375 Medium 7.125
22.75 Medium 7.25
23.125 Large 7.375
23.s Large 7.s
23.87s X-Large 7.62s
24.2s X-Large 7.75