Improved Helmets: Catalyst: Motorcycle Clothing

My father just spotted this television program segment regarding the safety of motorcycle clothing, in relation to thermal management .

They tested two factors, one was how well the clothing managed the wearer’s temperature, and also how well they protected the wearer. Interestingly, there is no Australian Standard regarding protective gear other than the helmet. Gear sold here typically comes with tags citing the CE standard.

Apparently, a lot of gear out there is not fit for purpose, with the more popular clothing being totally inappropriate in our hotter climate, and materials like “ballistic nylon do very poorly for abrasion protection (leather and denim do better). The poor thermal management contributes to heat stress, and the poor design decisions sometimes leave the wearer with a false sense of security.

I suppose it’s worth pointing out what I look like when I go out on the road. This is me wheeling the bike out one afternoon to head home from work.

That’s a cheapo $60 motorcycle helmet (I have never trusted bicycle helmets), and fairly lightweight overalls. Not what you want to try out at 60km/hr on a bitumen road, but I feel is a reasonable balance between thermal management, visibility and protectiveness on a bicycle. A MAMIL I am not!

My commute is about an hour, and involves two biggish hills. Yes, I sweat a bit, particularly my head, but when going long distances, I often take short breaks for a minute.

Riding from my home at The Gap in Brisbane’s north west, to Rochedale in the far South East, a journey of about 40km, I’ll typically stop once when I get to South Bank for a drink, then again near Holland Park, then I reach my destination. I’ve done this in the summer heat without issue. Then again, I’ll be riding at maybe 20km/hr most of the time, which requires less concentration. I find I’m still able to think clearly much of the time.

A loss of concentration on a motorcycle could be fatal due to the higher speeds typically involved. Reaction times are crucial there.

Helmets are typically made from expanded polystyrene foam, the same material used in eskys. In the former case, it is chosen because it crushes. In the latter, it’s for its thermal insulation properties. The head radiates the most heat in humans, and so is a prime candidate for thermal management.

It’s factors like this that make me wonder what came of that AIM prototype helmet design mentioned in the ” Lifting the Lid ” article. Being an aluminium honeycomb would make it more like wearing a heat-sink, an interesting concept that ought to make it cooler. Could this be adapted for motorcycles? I guess we’ll have to find out.