It became a legal requirement to wear a crash helmet in 1973 when riding a motorcycle on the road, but it’s not compulsory to wear any other form of protective clothing whilst riding a motorcycle.
Interestingly, a crash helmet is not regarded as personal protective equipment (PPE) and does not fall under the PPE Directive or Regulation.
All helmets sold in the UK must comply with at least 1 of these:
*British Standard BS 6658:1985 and carry the MOTOPPE (British Standards Institution) Kitemark
*UNECE Regulation 22.06, replacing 22.05
any standard accepted by a member of the European Economic Area which offers a level of safety and protection equivalent to BS 6658:1985 and carry a mark equivalent to the MOTOPPE Kitemark.
All Helmets sold in the UK must meet ECE 22.06 regulation which replaces ECE 22.05 (Economic Commission for Europe Regulation no 22). Retailers can continue to sell ECE 22.05 approved helmets.Approved motorcycle helmets can easily be identified by their label:
ECE 22.06 is the new European motorcycle helmet testing regulations, brought in to replace ECE 22.05. Each helmet put on sale in Europe has to pass a series of rigorous tests before it can be sold.
New helmets only have to conform to these new regs from January 2024 (in areas who use ECE helmet regs only – so no US or Japan) and even then, old ECE 22.05 helmets will still be legal. It’s only new helmets on sale that will have to be 22.06 from that date on.
Testing Methods Include:
*Helmet Design ECE 22.06 ensures the basic layout of the helmet is defined (hard outer shell, shock absorbing inner etc.) and ensures a helmet has a large enough view port to look out of as well as provide enough coverage to give effective head protection. It must also be able to tolerate ageing and shouldn’t reduce in protection through exposure to sunlight, temperature changes or rain. 22.06 testing therefore conditions helmets using various temperatures, humidity, water and exposure to UV lights to simulate these various conditions. It also ensures any projections can’t stick out too far and that they’ll shear off during an impact.
*Helmet Liner Apart from protecting the user and absorbing energy, the liner shouldn’t deteriorate and it shouldn’t be affected by sweat or cosmetics or hair products. It shouldn’t cause skin irritation either. And of course, the shock absorbing liner plays a key part in passing the impact tests.
*Helmet Noise Helmets cannot dangerously affect the wearer’s ability to hear. Which means of course, you’ll never find a truly silent ECE 22.06 helmet.
*Chin Strap and Fastener The chin strap must be fit for purpose, permanently fixed and not too thin. It shouldn’t stretch either. The fastener also has to be fit for purpose, including only open when the user wants it to, not be capable of being partially closed and it must be easy to use. Helmets are tested for overall retention – meaning they’re tested to make sure they don’t come off. Full face helmets are tested with a 10Kg weight dropped from .5m and modular helmets are tested with chin bars in both full face and jet positions. They’re also tested to check the strap and fastener are strong enough using a 10Kg weight dropped from .75m and checking for damage or stretching – and checking the fastener still works and stays closed. Essentially, they check the durability and ease of use of the straps and fasteners as well as their strength.
*Modular Chin Bars If there’s a moveable chin bar – like on a modular helmet – it must be able to stay in place during impact tests in both Jet (J) and chin bar down in protective full-face mode (P).
*Visors and Sun Visors Peripheral vision is tested so the helmet doesn’t obscure vision in any direction. 22.06 also specifies a minimum level of light transmittance through a visor and for the first time specifies transmission through lcd or photochromic visors (which, like sun visors, can go down to 20% light transmission). The standard also covers distortion levels, scratch resistance, defects, mist resistance (for fog-free visors) and refraction levels. There’s even a test to check whether signal lights are visible through a tinted visor. New for 22.06 is the impact testing of visors to ensure they can resist penetration. In this test, a 6mm steel ball is fired at 80m/s or 180mph at the visor. It must stop the ball going through the visor, and if the visor breaks, it shouldn’t shatter into shards.
*Helmet Impact Testing UNECE has always had a comprehensive range of helmet impact tests, but they’ve now upped the number, introduced a higher and lower speed test, and introduced an angled impact test to simulate hitting an object that then spins the helmet, potentially causing brain damage. ECE 22.06 also includes fitting various official accessories to helmets, such as sun visors and OEM externally fitted mounts, to ensure they don’t cause damage to the helmet (and rider) during testing. Impact speeds include 6.0m/s, 7.5m/s and 8.2m/s (8.5m/s for the oblique test) to cover a range of lower and higher speed impacts. Though note, you may be surprised to hear that 8.5m/s still only equates to less than 20 mph! Helmets are then tested against a flat steel anvil, a kerbstone anvil and an angled ‘bar’ anvil, with a variety of head forms of different weights placed in the helmets. For all tests, helmets are tested at four different points on the helmet shell and against the chin guard. Further tests are then conducted with 3 impacts randomly chosen from 12 predetermined impact points to ensure the system can’t be gamed (where manufacturers strengthen only the test points).
*Oblique Test New to ECE 22.06 is an angled or oblique test. A bar anvil is used in the rotation or oblique angled test. It’s a severe 15° from the vertical, has 5 case-hardened steel bars across it and is covered by 80 grade aluminium oxide abrasive paper! It’s a serious test and is designed to test the rotation-inducing forces caused by the helmet hitting a high friction surface, along with any accessories fitted. 22.06 uses brain injury criterion (BrIC) derived from a rotation acceleration figure to calculate whether a helmet has passed the oblique test. Essentially, rotational acceleration can’t exceed 10,400 rad/s2 for any test.
*Helmet Shell Deformation Helmet shells are also tested for deformation, with conditioned helmets placed under a max of 630 Newton load (around 10 stones/64Kg/141lbs) – both side to side and front to back – and deformations measured. Helmets will only pass if they deform less than 40mm when under maximum load and 15mm when under the minimum 30 N load.
SHARP provides advice on how to select a helmet that fits correctly and is comfortable, and information about the relative safety of helmets to help motorcyclists to make an informed choice.
Invest time trying on as many helmets as possible. Once you’ve found those that fit you best, you can then choose the helmet with the highest SHARP rating for the best possible protection.
Tips to help you choose the right fit:
Get Measured: Measure around your head just above the ears and take a measurement at the forehead. This measurement is a good starting point and will correspond with a particular brand’s size (bear in mind a medium in one brand may be different to a medium in another). Getting the right fit is paramount, so don’t be tempted to go for another size if your dream helmet is out of stock.
Try It On: Place the helmet firmly on your head, securing the chin strap so you can fit two fingers between the helmet and your jaw. If the helmet has a quick release buckle, then take your time adjusting the strap. Once on, you should be able to feel the helmet against the whole of your head – without feeling “pressure points” or the helmet leaving red marks. Keep it on for a few minutes to make sure it’s comfortable.
Check The Fit: Secure the strap and try rotating the helmet from side to side. If you’re wearing a full-face helmet your cheeks should follow the helmet’s movement, while remaining in contact with the cheek pads firmly and comfortably. If the helmet moves or slips on your head it’s the wrong size. Next, try tilting the helmet forwards and backwards. Again, if it moves or slips it’s the wrong size.
Will It Stay On?: Make sure the chinstrap is done up and tilt your head forward. Ask someone to try and roll the helmet off your head by carefully pushing up from the rear of the helmet at its base. If you can roll it off in the showroom, then it’s sure to come off in a crash.
Sharp Impact Tests:
Each model of motorcycle helmet undergoes 30 linear and 2 oblique impact tests in order to achieve a SHARP rating. To complete these 32 tests, a minimum of 7 individual helmet samples, in a range of sizes, are subjected impacts at three speeds 6, 7.5 and 8.5 metres per second.
The linear impact tests, helmets are impacted against both flat and kerb shaped surfaces which represent the surfaces likely to be impacted in real world road accidents. The impact anvils are as specified in UN ECE Regulation 22.05.
The oblique impact test is carried out to assess the surface frictional properties of the helmet that can lead to rotational acceleration injuries. For this test SHARP follows the requirements of Regulation 22.05 completely.
SHARP tests at a higher impact velocity than required by regulation (8.5m/s). This represents approximately 30% more energy input than required by UN ECE Regulation 22.05.
Facial Protection (Chin Guard/Lower Face Cover) SHARP believes the tests conducted during assessment under UN ECE Regulation 22.05 to be appropriate and compliance with this optional element of the Regulation forms part of the SHARP assessment.
% Scores For System (Flip-Front) Helmets
The percentage score latch rating relates to the number of times the lower face guard remains fully locked after each of the linear impact tests. For example, if the lower face cover stays completely closed in every one of the thirty impacts the score would be 100% but if it should open on nine occasions, the score would be 70%.
Calculation Of SHARP Safety (Star) Ratings
The test results are weighted according to the best motorcycle accident data available. This weights the likelihood of impacts occurring to different regions of the helmet, of impacts occurring at different speeds, and of impacts with different surfaces, based upon the accident studies carried out as part of the COST 327 study. This found the side and rear of the helmet to be commonly impacted and a strong correlation between impact location on the helmet and injury. The side of the head was also found to be particularly vulnerable to injury. Calculation of the safety rating is complex so to enable the identification of those helmets likely to offer the highest level of protection, the ratings are expressed as a simple star rating with 5‐stars being the highest and 1‐star the lowest.
Impact zone diagrams: To provide information about the performance of helmets in our tests and in particular those areas where a helmet has performed well or could be considered as lacking protection, an Impact Zone Diagram is included in each helmet data page. In each diagram, the SHARP test point has been attributed a colour to show the level of performance measured against a flat surface in the high-speed test (8.5m/s) against the flat anvil. The images show the performance of the helmet at each test point to give a better understanding of the all-round protection offered by each helmet.
The impact zones have been graded in six colours which are marked as being from ‘Very good’ to ‘Poor’.
Green Peak acceleration up to 275g: the ECE 22.05 test limit at 7.5 m/s.
Yellow Peak acceleration up to 300g: the British Standard 6658:1985 test limit at 7.5 m/s used by SHARP as the maximum permitted value for a 5–Star rating.
Orange Peak acceleration up to 400g
Brown Peak acceleration up to 420g
Red Peak acceleration up to 500g
Black Peak acceleration in excess of 500g.