>Rider protection has gained enormous proportions as improvements in technology, bikes, tyres, lubricants & circuits have changed the racing world to improve speeds and gain that little extra that leads them first to the finish line. The most important feature protecting the riders in these circumstances is the helmet.
With safety being of prime importance, helmets are given an extremely large amount of attention as they form a major part of the life-saving equipment that a rider uses during a race. “After each session we hand it over to the technical service for a complete inspection” says Daniel Pedrosa, “because nowadays a lot of attention is paid to our helmets”.
Maintenance is the main concern and as a result, all manufacturing companies provide teams with technical assistants at every race circuit. Specialists are called in to ensure that no damage has been suffered by the helmet after a fall, something that is of prime importance especially when dealing with certain essential parts like the visor, the air vents, etc.
The visor is the most important part and needs utmost care. Riding at those blinding speeds, each rider needs to be absolutely clear about what lies ahead and beyond. The tint on the visors depends on the intensity of the sunlight on the tracks and is vital in avoiding sudden flashes of light due to reflective surfaces around the track. Multiple plastic films of 0.13mm thickness cover the visor, ensuring that insects and dirt stuck on the visor can be removed by just removing a single layer each time.
For rain, helmets have their own set of pre-race preparations just as riders do. There are, usually, three sets of wet weather helmets available for the riders. Two that are meant for wet weather, while one is an intermediate helmet. With a transparent visor, treated specially to prevent condensation & built to block out water, these helmets are designed to allow the rider to breathe downwards to avoid condensation.
But vision & safety is not the only criteria for designing a helmet. Noise insulation is extremely important as is the feel of the helmet around the rider’s head. It needs to be not-too tight or bulky as riders need to be comfortable when they hide behind the fairing. Since the World Championships began, riders have used the helmet as an important tool to advertise themselves and their creativity. Daniel Pedrosa prefers a red, white and blue design whereas, the most well known of them all, Valentino Rossi, likes to go a bit crazy with his head gear, using vibrant colours and images to commemorate different occasions.
Dressed to kill but built to save, helmets are probably the most vital piece of equipment that is part of a riders’ safety gear.