Hello there and welcome to the BMW Car Club of America.

If you are a BMW CCA member, please log in and introduce yourself in our Member Introductions section.

Helmet Purchase

Discussion in 'Driving Schools' started by ltir, Mar 23, 2008.

    ltir guest

    Post Count: 15
    Likes Received:0
    I'm interested in taking my car to the track for some high performance driving sessions. Besides making sure the helmet has a Snell Rating of 2005; can anyone offer a recommendation (brand, features, etc.)? So far I'm considering the Bell BR-1. Thanks.

    -Russ
    • Member

    MGarrison

    Post Count: 2,892
    Likes Received:151
    A little surprising no one else kicked in w/ a response yet. I've chosen the Bell M3 for my current and previous helmets - the M3 is nominally lighter than the M2 and Sport III counterparts, and more expensive, but I know I'll be wearing it for many hours every year instructing & driving, so it's worth it as far as I'm concerned.

    Unless you're planning to do track events in an open-cockpit vehicle with little or no windshield coverage, I think the M3 & Sport III are better for the typical BMW driver's school scenario. The BR-1 has a ventilation system designed to take advantage of airflow/airpressure coming over the helmet, none of which you'll get driving a roofed sedan with a full front windshield, and aiming a couple of vents at your face with the fan blower can't equal what you're going to get going 80 mph in an open-cockpit car.

    So, I suspect the BR-1 might be a little hotter in-car compared to the other two. The M3, M2, & Sport III all have forehead vents, and mouth vents located in front of your mouth; the M3 & Sport III add top vents for extra ventilation. The M2 has a larger eyeport if you need that, but lacks the top vents. The M4 has forehead & top vents, and a larger eyeport, but the mouth vents are slightly off to the sides, not centered.

    Given how hot it can get in-car while on the track, I find maximum ventilation appealing. With the exception of a pyrotect helmet that has front-placed mouth vents (but no forehead or top vents), most of the other helmets I could find online to take a quick look at seem to be more tailored to open-cockpit applications and/or mouth vents all off to the sides. Simpson has some badass lookin' helmets, but I'll take comfort over aesthetics, and Arai and OMP seem to be a good bit more expensive over the Bells. G-Force helmets are competitively priced, but lack the ventilation of the Bells.

    I do wear glasses, but they have a fairly low vertical profile and aren't a problem for me w/ the M3 eyeport. If you've got some giant-honkin' Ray-Ban's or something like that, you probably won't easily fit them on while wearing the M3.

    Faceshield? I remove mine for driver's schools, helps keep things a little cooler. There is a nominal chance of some debris kicking into the car (pretty rarely though) so wearing glasses is recommended if you opt-out on the face shield.

    ltir guest

    Post Count: 15
    Likes Received:0
    Wow; thank you for taking the time to provide such a helpful tutorial on purchasing a helmet. A friend just showed me an article in Grassroots Motorsports magazine that didn’t provide nearly as much insight as your posting. One example being that although the article discussed the BR-1; it didn’t mention the limited ventilation benefit for closed cockpit drivers.

    One thing I noticed you didn’t talk to was the protection the helmets provide. Do you know if Snell 2005 helmets from Bell, Arai, G-Force, Impact, etc. all offer the same level of protection? I wasn’t sure if the Snell 2005 rating was a “minimum” standard that was exceeded by certain manufacturers or certain models.

    As a novice (with a budget); I’m trying to ignore the benefit of the lighter helmets that are hundreds of dollars more expensive than similarly featured helmets made of heavier material - but I am focused on ventilation and visibility. I first thought after reading your post that I should consider the M-4 (forehead vent, top vent, and larger eyeport). However, you placed significant stress on having a center mouth vent (the M-4’s mouth vents are slightly to the sides) several times. So if I forgo the larger eyeport for a center mouth vent; I’m back to the two helmets you originally recommended in the second paragraph; the M3 and Sport III.

    So now that I know the brand (Bell for overall price and ventilation) and models (M3 or Sport III for center, forehead, and top vents); are there any Bell retailers you recommend?

    Thank you again…

    -Russ
    • Member

    MGarrison

    Post Count: 2,892
    Likes Received:151
    Whatever ventilation you can get is going to be helpful. Regardless, there's no getting around it, any helmet is going to be hot to wear if the weather's hot, you're gonna sweat whatever helmet it is. If it's a cooler weekend, then thankfully things shouldn't be quite so hot 'n sweaty.

    If you like the M4 features, I doubt having the mouth vents slightly off to the side are gonna make any noticeable difference compared to the other helmets, realistically. You'll be taking in all the air you need through the faceport and front underside of the helmet anyway. Your exhalation presumably should not be a problem unless you're a really, really heavy breather (perhaps skip track events and consider a career in prank calling, in that case :p). Having a larger eyeport allows a little more air exposure to your face, and makes the helmet less claustrophobic; I don't know if visibility is substantially different from the others w/ the standard eyeport, but it will probably _feel_ like you have more visibility, comparatively speaking. The larger eyeport is certainly more accomodating to a larger variety of eye/sunglasses, and they'll be easier to put on/off.

    Pyrotect would be your least expensive option, after that, the Bell M4 or Sport III (identically priced, I think)

    I'm sure you can google up the story of how and why the Snell foundation was started - what they do is provide a level of standardization for the protection that helmets offer. They update their tests every 5 years, although the last couple of times, the changes to the standards that helmets must meet for certification I think have been relatively minor. There was a certain point in time, maybe 15-20 years ago, that certification standards were upped substantially.

    This doesn't mean a 15 year old helmet offers 'almost' as much protection as a new helmet - the materials in a helmet age, cure/dry out, and lose flexibility over time. I think I was told at one point how much resiliency is lost in a helmet over 5 years in a conversation w/ someone from Bell (forgot how much though, but it's not insignificant). That's why the club chapters that run driver's schools require helmets to have a Snell rating no older than 10 years. At the moment, anyone who has a Snell SA2000 rated helmet will be required to get a newer one before the 2011 season. As to whether one offers more protection than another, I don't think there's an armchair answer for that, since the Snell cert. specifies the minimums that must be met, rather than the maximums.

    Anyway, for any helmet to be Snell certified, they all have to pass the same battery of tests to show they offer the minimum levels of protection specified by Snell.

    I have bought directly from Bell the last couple times - http://www.bellracing.com/public/index/product/category/1/

    Anyplace you do buy from should have the exact same price as shown on the Bell website; Bell is not competing w/ their dealers. Downside of mail order is you might not get the size right on the first shot, and I think the helmets tend to be sized a tad small. But I had no problem dealing w/ the Bell folks on that 10 years ago, they were very helpful. If you have to exchange, just make sure you're returning it in the condition as-received; trying it on the rottweiler just for kicks to watch him bang his head into the wall trying to get it off would not be recommended, for instance (if it wasn't self-evident :D).

    The Bell website there has a dealer locator - I don't know if you can expect a dealer to have the msrp necessarily, they presumably have more overhead - seems like the mail order houses all try to remain competitive and sell at msrp. As usual with mail order, watch s/h charges, and whether or not sales tax is charged.

    If you do have a dealer locally, then you should be able to try them on and get the right fit.

    Pegasus sells the Pyrotect, I imagine you can google up some other places also that sell it - it looks a lot like a Bell product, although I don't know if it's made by Bell and sold under the Pyrotect name as a budget item or not, maybe.

    http://www.pegasusautoracing.com/productselection.asp?Product=2247

    If you get one of the helmets w/ forehead vents, you _may_ want to punch a hole in the helmet liner fabric in line w/ the forehead vent holes (the fabric typically is over the holes in the helmet). I suppose that might compromise fire safety in some sense, but it's a rare day ( a _really_ rare day) for some BMW at a driver's school to experience a fire. Don't think I've ever seen it happen in 20 years, actually.

    If your budget is particularly tight, you might find the Pyrotect just fine - at a typical driver's school weekend, you're wearing the helmet for three 1/2 hr sessions each day, plus maybe a demo session or two w/ yours or another instructor. Depends on how much it matters to you when the temps start to rise. As for me, I like the idea of having as much going for me comfortwise as is reasonable to consider when the outside temps are hitting the 80's or 90's (never done a coolsuit yet - but, I like the idea!).

    Consider getting a helmet bag, something to protect it, you won't want to allow it to get knocked around. And if the helmet's all hot n' sweaty - let it dry out before you stuff it in your bag.

    One more thing - if you get a Bell and use it enough or have the helmet liner get messed up somehow, Bell keeps helmet lining material on hand for 5 years. They'll reline the helmet for you if it's up to 5 years old (for a charge, of course) - after that, you're out of luck and you'll have to find some nomex or material and do it yourself.

    Other equipment to consider - some simple racing gloves can be nice to use, particularly if you're on the track in some cool weather (single or dual layer are fine for driver's schools - racing, you'll probably have some spec requiring something w/ more protection).

    A neck brace can also be helpful -huge range of those - the max protection ones can be a bit claustrophobic or limit head movement - but, it's nice to have a little extra support in corners, plus the protection in case something happens. Shop around to find something you think might work.

    Driving shoes - not an absolute neccesity, but you'll definitely have better pedal feel w/ a shoe designed for racing.

    Grassroots Motorsports - good source for places selling racing gear as well.

    Good luck and enjoy the track experience when you get to it!

    ltir guest

    Post Count: 15
    Likes Received:0
    You answered every quesiton I had; as well as ones I hadn't yet thought of; THANK YOU!!!
    • Member

    pcbeckwith

    Post Count: 48
    Likes Received:0
    Okay, so we start the 2009 thread on a helmet purchase. I am going to take my 530i and attend a driving school in April or May of this year plus a couple autocross events and need to purchase a helmet. I've looked at the Bell M4 and it seems to fit my purpose for a full face helmet as I wear glasses. On the other hand, since I will be in a closed cockpit and I don't anticipate driving competitively in the near future, I also am looking at an open face helmet like the Bell Mag 4. I would appreciate any type of input from the community.
    • Member

    Bimmerdan

    Post Count: 422
    Likes Received:4
    MGarrison delivered a perfect "Helmets 101" tutorial. From there it really boils down to personal preference, comfort and budget. I drive closed cockpit cars exclusively so I didn't really need a full face helmet but I liked the additional protection afforded by the integrated chin bar so I went with the hybrid. It's got a much larger eye port than most full face helmets so it easily accomodates virtually any glasses and is less claustrophobic (if you're prone to that sort of thing). However, it has a full chin bar so it also gives you that additional feeling of security. I got the G-Force but I think Bell or Simpson make one also (at least they used to).

    Here's what it looks like:

    [IMG]

    And in regards to hot weather (because it get's nasty hot in Houston in July when you're sitting in grid...), I got myself a cotton 'headsock' and it's one of the best things I ever bought! It keeps the inside of the helemt nice and dry and the sock dries out completely between sessions.
    • Member

    MGarrison

    Post Count: 2,892
    Likes Received:151
    Doublecheck w/ whatever the requirements may be for your events. Typically, I think most BMWCCA-run drivers schools or auto-x's would allow open-face helmets. But, perhaps other groups such as SCCA or others might require a full face helmet.

    Personally, I prefer the extra protection of a full face, even though I'm in an enclosed sedan, as a 'just-in-case'. Also, here in town we have an indoor go-cart we hit on occasion for fun, which provides their own full-face helmets. Preferable to use one's own instead of a loaner, and I think they require a full-face, obviously wouldn't be able to use an open-face in that case, if I had one. Just a thought if something like that's a possibility for you. If so, doublecheck that requirement too.
    • Member

    pcbeckwith

    Post Count: 48
    Likes Received:0
    I found a site that is selling a Bell M2 SA2005, what is the major difference between the M2 and M4, other than price, and since the M2 has been discontinued and replaced by the M4, what would be a fair price to pay for a new M2? Since the M2 is a little less inexpensive then the M4 and they both have XL eyeports, would you consider buying the M2 vs the M4?

    1996 328ti guest

    Post Count: 96
    Likes Received:2
    I'm not sure if anyone mentioned, but you must try on helmets in person, preferably in the car you are going to be driving and with the glasses you may be wearing.

    If you want to buy mail order afterwards, be sure it is the same exact model and Snell rating.
    The same model helmet may vary from Snell 2000 to Snell 2005.
    • Member

    az3579

    Post Count: 3,270
    Likes Received:3
    Or you may get lucky and mail order one and it fits perfectly like I did, but that's a fat chance and I got extremely lucky.


    Our "local" racetrack has a store on the premises selling race-related stuff and some memorabilia. They sell helmets as well. Check to see if there is such a store that's within a reasonable distance from where you are located and try some on before you go looking at anything online. Looks can be deceiving, and I noticed that it's not just with clothes that manufacturers have varying actual sizes despite them having the same "size" rating. A "large" helmet from one make may be different than a "large" from another.
    • Member

    MGarrison

    Post Count: 2,892
    Likes Received:151
    from above...
    I don't really know what a fair price would be for a new, still-in-inventory, discontinued model of helmet. Google like crazy and see if anyone seems to be discounting them for that reason. Personally, I'd probably opt for the M4, for the top vents, or the M4 pro for slightly lighter construction, but that's my preference.

    AZ & 328ti have valid points - if you have anyplace you can go to that has a selection, you can try them on for fit, see if you have any clearance issues in the car or anything else, and have a selection available. I had no problems dealing w/ bellracing on a mailorder - I decided on the helmet I wanted, the first was too small, exchanged it, and the next size up was the right fit - if you go mail order, make sure of their exchange policies.

    A conversation with your vendor whether in person or mail order will get you started on proper sizing & fit. If you are in-person with someone, if you don't have experience with proper fit, then that's an advantage over mail order and trying to judge for yourself. You'll want to keep a helmet on your head for a few minutes (hopefully without breaking a sweat) to check fit. Marginally too small/tight might seem ok at first but be uncomfortable after a bit.

    If you're less decided on a specific model, having a selection to choose from and try on can be an advantage over mail-order. If you know exactly what you want, then it is obviously easy to comparison shop over the 'net.
    • Member

    az3579

    Post Count: 3,270
    Likes Received:3
    Oh, I forgot to mention:

    I heard somewhere that you should have a helmet that's a little tight than one that's a little loose. A tighter helmet obviously means a tighter fit and no place for your head to bang into should there be an incident, where with a looser helmet, your head can travel more and there is more potential for damage. So, if you do try on a helmet, try to get one that's a little bit tight, but not too tight.

    This logic to me makes perfect sense and have bought my helmet based on this logic. It is a tight fit, I have to admit, and my glasses are a bit compressed, but it's all worth it in the name of safety.
    • Member

    MGarrison

    Post Count: 2,892
    Likes Received:151
    As I recall, proper fit is that it should be tight enough for your forehead skin to move with the helmet as you move the helmet, not tight enough that you get a headache, and you should not be able to roll it off your head with the chinstrap tight, while pulling the back of the helmet forward. Any helmet vendor should be able to advise on proper fit.
    • Member

    CRKrieger

    Post Count: 1,616
    Likes Received:20
    Actually, the amount of movement you're talking about in a loose-fitting helmet is negligible. The real issue is keeping it on your head. The forces in a crash could actually cause it to come off if it fits too loosely.

    gregnesbitt guest

    Post Count: 2
    Likes Received:0
    Full face vs Open

    I saw an earlier response to a full face helmet vs. open helmet post. I will be attending my first BMW driving school in Atlanta at Octoberfest. Driving schools will likely be as far as my track driving goes for a while with three young kids and college tuitions to plan for. That being said, will I be the only goof at the track in an open face helmet if I go that route?

    On a similar note, I have a 2007 335i that I will be driving. Do people typically buy a supplamental collision policy for track days? Even an unlikely trip into a gravel trap would spell big bucks on that car.

    Thanks for any advice than can be offered!
    • Member

    steven s

    Post Count: 2,265
    Likes Received:74
    You won't be the only one with an open face helmet although I do prefer a full face but have found myself leaving my glare shield all the way up.

    Track insurance? A judgment call. You need to read your insurance policy's exclusions first.
    • Member

    CRKrieger

    Post Count: 1,616
    Likes Received:20
    No ... and I have never noticed any 'helmet snottiness', even toward the chinbar set wearing silly-*** motocross helmets. :p

    [IMG]

    FWIW, I wear this:

    [IMG]

    Actually, that's precisely why we use pea gravel at race tracks. It rarely hurts anything - unless you happen to be one of those anal retentive types who pay to have the rocker panels of their car Zymoled ...

    gregnesbitt guest

    Post Count: 2
    Likes Received:0
    Helmet Head

    Thank you...my helmet anxiety has been relieved. Buying one is going to be half the fun. Good news about the pea gravel.

Share This Page