The importance of SHARP 

The SHARP initiative was launched back in 2007, after the Department of Transport researched into the finding of the 2001 European Research of ‘COST 327’. The study recorded the data of 253 causalities over a 3 year period (1995 – 1998) in Finland, Germany and the UK; it focused on the frequency of impact on different regions on a crash helmet. The two key findings were:

  • The temple is particularly vulnerable to injury therefore helmet design should provide more protection
  • An increase in helmet energy absorbing capabilities of some 30% would reduce 50% of the critical casualties from motorcycle accidents.

32 different impact tests are performed on each and every single helmet model before it’s awarded SHARP rating. All 32 of these tests are conducted at 3 different speeds to ensure that the helmet provides a decent amount of protection during both high and low impacts.

The helmets that are tested by SHARP are ones they have purchased themselves from retail outlets as it’s important that the same helmets are being tested as the ones that you would buy yourself.

The tests conducted help to assess how well each helmet could protect the brain in the event of an accident. Not only that, tests are done to replicate ‘real world’ crashes as best possible, for example helmets are tested on an anvils to represent flat and kerbed surfaces.

SHARP only supply safety star ratings for the UK and are funded by the government, but other countries including Australia (CRASH) and America (Snell) have their own versions of SHARP which replicate similar testing on motorcycle helmets to ensure safety for all motorcyclists.

Check out this short video all about SHARP… 

SHARP Testing 

Every helmet tested by SHARP undergoes 30 linear and 2 oblique impact tests in order to achieve its rating. A minimum of 7 helmet samples, in a range of sizes, are tested at three impact speeds (6, 7.5 and 8.5 metres per second) as follows:

HelmetVelocityImpact type and location of helmetImpact surface
16.0m/sLinear impacts to Front, Left, Right, Crown and RearFlat anvil
26.0m/sLinear impacts to Front, Left, Right, Crown and RearKerb anvil
37.5m/sLinear impacts to Front, Left, Right, Crown and RearFlat anvil
47.5m/sLinear impacts to Front, Left, Right, Crown and RearKerb anvil
58.5m/sLinear impacts to Front, Left, Right, Crown and RearFlat anvil
68.5m/sLinear impacts to Front, Left, Right, Crown and RearKerb anvil
78.5m/sOblique impacts to the left and ride sidesAbrasive anvil

The reason behind there being so many different kinds of test is to make sure that the helmet can repeatedly perform under different type of pressure, strain and different circumstances.

Linear impact tests see the helmets are impacted against different variations of surfaces so they can closely replicate real life road situations. Oblique impact tests asses the surface friction properties of the helmet.

Check out this short video to see how the testing is really done… 

SHARP conduct all their tests at three different speeds to make sure helmets can take the impact of the energy, absorbing it before creating any potential damage to the head. Although it is not required by the UN ECE Regulation, SHARP believes it’s necessary to test the helmets for all types of scenarios; from high speed accidents to slow maneuvering falls.

Protecting your face

There are also a number of tests included to determine the strength and suitability of the chin bar on helmets. These results are not included in the overall rating of the helmet, but SHARP recognises the important of these feature as, if fitted properly, it can be an extremely effective measure in reducing head and face injuries.

How are the helmets rated?

Helmet ratings are based on the best motorcycle accident data available at the time of rating. It works out the likelihood of impacts occurring to different regions of the helmet, impacts occurring at different speeds, impacts on different surfaces, all based upon accident studies.

Most commonly the data showed that the side and rear of a helmet to be commonly impacted, along with a strong correlation between impact location on the helmet and injury.

To make the rating system clear and concise to all, a simple 5-star rating is given, 5-stars being the highest and 1-star the lowest.

It is clear that bikers are very conscientious when it comes to purchasing a brand new helmet with price, manufacturer and SHARP rating being the top three things they look out for; settling for nothing less than a 4 star SHARP rating.

Current helmet standards

SHARP has provided ratings for almost 400 helmets, adding to that total every year with at least about 30 – 40 helmets tried and tested. According to SHARPS figures, approximately 15% of helmets rated to date have a 5-star safety rating compared to approximately 15% have been awarded a one or two star rating.

With approximately 43% of bikers owning 2 helmets, it’s important that each crash helmet is providing the correct amount of safety when riding.

Vote on our poll…

Helmet MOT

Testing that your helmet is still safe is extremely important, so here’s some advice to make sure you keep your helmet in the best shape possible.

How often should you replace your helmet? 4 – 5 years.

It’s important that you don’t buy a second hand helmet, especially when you do not know how long the previous owner has had it for. The lifespan of a helmet is around 4 -5 years, even if the external shell of the helmet looks in pristine condition. After 4 years the glue and adhesives insides can become more fragile, even if the helmet has been well preserved. It’s all dependent on the frequency of use of the helmet, if you’re using it on a daily basis for commuting then you might need to replace your helmet sooner than you think.

Out of the 1,700 bikers we surveyed, 42% of them replaced their motorcycle helmet every 4 -5 years, and 34% replaced them even sooner – great news!

Should you replace your motorcycle helmet even if there is no visible damage after an accident?

If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident or crash then you should look to replace your helmet, regardless if there is visible damage to the shell or not. If you’re lucky enough for your helmet to be unscathed, it is still important to check the overall safety of the helmet because the inner padding (the retention system) could have been damaged therefore meaning it is no longer supplying adequate protection for you.

In our recent survey, 52% of bikers knew to replace their motorcycle helmet within 5 years of purchase date, however a shocking 9% would only replace their motorcycle helmet after an accident or crash.

What does my warranty cover?

Most helmet brands will come with up to 5 years manufacturer’s warranty so if you begin to see any defects to your helmet like the loosening of a screw then you can pop along to your local dealer and they will be able to help you out.

Due to the nature of motorcycling, there are continuous updates being made to helmets and protective gear to make sure you, as a rider, are safe as possible when out on the roads. This is why after owning a helmet for 5 or more years you will struggle to find parts to replace due to the make and model being updated.

Fitting your helmet

We’ve got some handy tips to make sure your helmet fits correctly. First things first, get out there and try on as many different helmets as possible – it’s just like finding the right bike for you.

Knowing the size and shape of your head is important for the task ahead so grab yourself a tape measure and wrap it around your head approximately 1 inch above your eyebrows. You may want to measure your head several times to make sure it’s an accurate result.

Now you can get picking a helmet with the measurements you’ve got you can select the closest size to yours by your preferred manufacturer. If you measure between two sizes then opt for the smaller size.  There shouldn’t be any room for movement, and no space to fit your fingers between the lining and your brow.

SHARP tell us everything we need to know about fitting your motorcycle helmet properly…

When trying on helmets, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Does the helmets inner lining fit around your head?
  • Does the helmets top pad press closely on top of your head?
  • Are the cheek pads touching your cheeks?
  • Does the brow lining fit snuggly against yours?

Have you answered YES to all these questions? You’ve got the perfect fit. Now try these steps to make sure you feel comfortable and confident in your helmet:

  • Pull your helmet from side to side and up and down
  • Tighten the chinstrap and try pulling off the helmet
  • Put your hand under the chin guard and try to push off the helmet from the rear

Now you’re ready to go on the amazing adventure of finding a new motorcycle helmet, exciting stuff!