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Old 05-08-2018, 08:35 AM   #1
Jarrett
 
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DOT vs. Snell Helmets

How big a deal is a DOT-certified helmet versus a Snell-certified helmet?

The reason I ask is I have a Snell-certified Bell Vortex, but was kicking around buying that Sena Momentum INC helmet that has their device integrated into it but its only DOT-certified.

Wondering how much safety I'm giving up if I were to make that switch?
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Old 05-08-2018, 08:51 AM   #2
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Re: DOT vs. Snell Helmets

The DOT testing more closely resembled the initial impact and subsequent bangs your helmet/head are likely to experience than the Snell testing. It's been several years since I looked into this, but I came down satisfied in having only the DOT label on my helmet.
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Old 05-08-2018, 08:58 AM   #3
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Re: DOT vs. Snell Helmets

A DOT certification is minimum standard. Likely a baseball helmet would pass DOT standard (not really).
You are much better off with a Snell certified.
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Old 05-08-2018, 08:59 AM   #4
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Re: DOT vs. Snell Helmets

I haven't had a Snell-rated helmet in years. In the 70s when I was first riding, there was a huge difference. Over the years, the DOT standard has been significantly upgraded. Snell is still the highest standard in the world to my knowledge, but a lot of sources I've read think that Snell is, in effect, overengineered for what most daily riders need, and some of its tests are based on pretty unlikely real-world scenarios. In fact, one source I read claimed that the added stiffness of a Snell potentially increased the possibility of a neck injury - this was about 10 years ago. But do a quick google today, and you'll find plenty of sources that argue both ways.

If you wear a modular (flip face) helmet - and I do - I'm not certain you can get one with a Snell rating.
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Old 05-08-2018, 09:09 AM   #5
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Re: DOT vs. Snell Helmets

Opinions will vary widely on this subject. There is another test "SHARP" that measures force to brain and some other things besides impact. They don't have data for every helmet available in the US. It is however interesting to compare some helmets that are DOT with Snell. They also talk about proper fit.

The fit may be the most important factor in a helmet doing the job it is intended to do. I would make sure any helmet I was considering fit my head before I started comparing features and rating.

https://sharp.dft.gov.uk/get-the-right-fit/
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Old 05-08-2018, 09:50 AM   #6
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Re: DOT vs. Snell Helmets

Here's an interesting article that is less than a year old. What should be clear, after you read this and a few other articles, is that there is no consensus, even among experts, that the Snell rating is necessary or even good. The good news, though, is that helmet technology has evolved mightily in the past few decades, and lots of respected manufacturers are betting your life and their reputations on their products.

I do agree with Gary, though. You're probably better off with a $200 helmet that fits properly than with a $500 helmet that wobbles around on your head. Even if you don't buy your helmet in person, some of the better cyber stores (Revzilla and Motorcycle.com come to mind) are quite good at helping you with fitment over the phone.

http://www.mcrider.com/snell-motorcy...ication-rated/
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Old 05-08-2018, 10:39 AM   #7
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Re: DOT vs. Snell Helmets

Quote:
Originally Posted by tshelfer View Post
Wow, that really muddies the water. Never considered that my helmet was too stiff to prevent injury.
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Old 05-08-2018, 11:29 AM   #8
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Re: DOT vs. Snell Helmets

Sometimes, safety is counter-intuitive. Indy cars used to describe their sport as "men of iron, cars of steel." In a wreck, their sturdily built cars would bounce around like bowling pins. The drivers would all be dead, but the cars could be uprighted and keep on going, assuming they didn't explode. Modern safety, both for racing and street cars, is about building a vehicle that crushes predictably and gives itself up for the driver's safety.

A simple illustration is to put an aluminum can on the garage floor and stomp it flat. No biggie. But imagine stomping on the bare floor with the same force; it would hurt like blue blazes and you'd likely sprain an ankle.

Helmet safety is way beyond my comprehension. I read the articles and consider the sources. And in my mind, the preponderance of information out there suggests that DOT is the standard I should concern myself with. Now you get to make up your own mind about your own brain. Hopefully, you're now sufficiently confused.
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Old 05-08-2018, 12:17 PM   #9
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Re: DOT vs. Snell Helmets

I’d like to echo the importance of proper fit.

I only have personal anecdotal evidence but I would argue that getting a good fit is more important than the safety rating.
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Old 05-08-2018, 01:32 PM   #10
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Re: DOT vs. Snell Helmets

If you are going to race or do high speed stuff, you want SNELL.

If you want reasonable protection for highway speed and you want modular and options other than a full face helmet, a name brand DOT will be fine.

I also agree that fit is probably more important than helmet rating.
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Old 05-08-2018, 02:11 PM   #11
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Re: DOT vs. Snell Helmets

"If you are going to race or do high speed stuff, you want SNELL." I agree


I've never seen a Snell helmet that didn't meet DOT standards, but lots of DOT helmets don't meet Snell standards. If you buy a DOT helmet that's not Snell approved, you don't know if it would pass Snell or not. One of the requirements to meet Snell is to pay Snell to certify it. If the manufacturer decided not to pay then you don't know. Both of our local roadrace organizations require Snell or ECE (European) certification. I always buy quality helmets that fit properly. The fact that they are usually Snell or ECE) approved is not because I require it.
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Last edited by humanrace; 05-08-2018 at 02:16 PM.
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Old 05-08-2018, 03:46 PM   #12
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Re: DOT vs. Snell Helmets

Quality is far more important IMHO. I'd rather trust my noodles to my DOT-only Neotec than a cheap generic lid with a Snell sticker.
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Old 05-08-2018, 04:55 PM   #13
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Re: DOT vs. Snell Helmets

Quote:
Originally Posted by MidlifeCrisis View Post
Quality is far more important IMHO. I'd rather trust my noodles to my DOT-only Neotec than a cheap generic lid with a Snell sticker.
Agree. But not many generic SNELL helmets. SNELL testing and certification isn't cheap.

I have a Shoei Neotec and a RF-1100. One is SNELL and DOT and one is only DOT. Both are quality helmets and I trust them both but if I was going to do a highside and come down on my head, I'd rather be wearing the RF-1100 SNELL one.
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Old 05-08-2018, 05:13 PM   #14
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Re: DOT vs. Snell Helmets

Quote:
Originally Posted by MidlifeCrisis View Post
Quality is far more important IMHO. I'd rather trust my noodles to my DOT-only Neotec than a cheap generic lid with a Snell sticker.
^^^THIS^^^

When it gets down to the nut cutting, the Snell rating is pretty much a meaningless designation. All it ultimately guarantees is that a helmet will have a good set of D-ring fasteners instead of some time-saving, click-style fastening system that might fail more easily in a crash.

Tim Selfer mentioned some of the flaws from a few decades ago in F1 and Indy Car crash design, and that's a good analogy of the characteristics built into a helmet meeting Snell standards. As one example, when race car noses were initially stiffened without a crumple system to protect the drivers' feet, it worked well for that purpose, but essentially turned the car into a war javelin that would pierce savagely through another racer's car in a collision. It's similar in the case of a Snell-rated helmet, where it will essentially excel at absorbing one specific type of impact, but at the detriment of others.

In my experience, the bottom line is that you can't do any better than buying a quality DOT helmet properly constructed from all the materials required by law. As others have mentioned, strive for fit and function over anything superfluous, and you'll be as safe as anyone else on the street.
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Old 05-08-2018, 06:12 PM   #15
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Re: DOT vs. Snell Helmets

Just for giggles, I did a quick search on revzilla and found...

1. No less than 280 Snell-rated helmets

2. A Snell-rated full face can be had for as low as $89.

3. No less than 4 open face helmets that are Snell rated.

Now... you will never catch me saying "you get what you pay for", cus I hate that phrase with a passion. I do not automatically equate price with quality, nor do I deem a Snell-rated lid superior to a DOT bucket just because.

I do, however, judge each item on its own merits... in the context of its intended usage. Do I consider Snell sticker a definitely plus in evaluating a helmet? Absolutely! Would I rule out a helmet just because it doesn't have it? Absolutely not!

I bought the Neotec with the understanding that it is very difficult for modulars to pass Snell's testing matrix. Even more difficult when the shell design has to accommodate a built-in sun visor. For me, both features are a must have at the time I bought the Neotec, so I selected my favorite out of all the candidates.

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Old 05-08-2018, 07:33 PM   #16
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Re: DOT vs. Snell Helmets

There is some excellent commentary here! There is yet a fourth rating. DOT, Snell, Sharp have already been mentioned, but there is also ECE for Europe. ECE testing is different than DOT, Snell, and Sharp. All have their virtues and vices. None are clearly better than the other. ECE and Sharp testing have shown scenarios where Snell rated helmets transmit much more energy to the brain than helmets are "only" rated as ECE or DOT. The opposite is also true. It all depends on the scenario. As a general rule, Snell helmets have historically been heavier and stiffer. As stated above, the key factor is fit. When examining helmets, quality or lack thereof is always self-evident. That Shoei may be perfect, but if the internal shape just doesn't match up with your noggin it just won't provide the level of protection that a good fitting design will.
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Old 05-08-2018, 11:52 PM   #17
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Re: DOT vs. Snell Helmets

Another point on how the helmet fits is to be sure to get a new one eventually. My old helmet is 8-10 years old. I got my new helmet a little over a year ago. When I switched, I couldn't believe how loose my old helmet was despite the fact it "felt" fine while wearing it.

The pads on the inside will change shape a little over time due to the contours of your head/face and because of that the helmet won't fit as well as it used to. In turn, its not as safe or possibly not safe at all anymore.

That makes me wonder if anyone has ever had a "perfect" helmet for a few months and then it started to "not fit quite right".
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Old 05-09-2018, 06:29 AM   #18
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Re: DOT vs. Snell Helmets

Tell me what kind of crash you’ll have, and I’ll tell you which helmet is best. EVERY SINGLE HELMET legally sold in the U.S. is required to have DOT certification. Some meet other (different-not necessarily better) standards.
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Old 05-09-2018, 06:34 AM   #19
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Re: DOT vs. Snell Helmets

Thanks for all the info, much appreciated.

I went ahead and ordered a white Sena Momentum helmet to check it out. I had read that white helmets are a little cooler in the summer.

Their website says they are DOT and ECE approved.

Last edited by Jarrett; 05-09-2018 at 06:40 AM.
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Old 05-09-2018, 09:39 AM   #20
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Re: DOT vs. Snell Helmets

You're welcome, from all of us. Congrats on making an informed decision. Now - if you have questions about what kind oil you should use......... Whatever you do, don't ask here!
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