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Are Carbon Fiber Helmets Worth the Money?
Buying a helmet for the first time, or even replacing an old out of date lid nowadays, can be very confusing. Not only is there a multitude of design and aesthetic options, but also vast price differences between them.
What some of you may have noticed, is that generally, the more expensive helmets are manufactured using Carbon Fiber.
This material is no stranger to the automotive market, used in many high-performance vehicles, Carbon Fiber is famous for being lightweight and extremely tough. Carbon Fiber refers to a composite weave, created using very thin strands of carbon that are meshed together to create a laminate.
The Carbon weave is then mixed with a plastic resin or glue, which binds it together and creates its rigidity. Due to its complex manufacture, the cost of Carbon Fiber products can be drastically more expensive but it is not without its benefits.
Fast Racer has written this article to outline the main advantages of Carbon Helmets, and answer the important question; are they worth the money?
What is a Carbon Fiber Helmet? What is it Made of?
Carbon fiber is the most sought-after and valuable material and offers unbeatable properties. Carbon shells are the result of a careful process to bond filaments composed of carbon atoms and a matrix, a resin whose purpose is to hold the fibers in place, so that they maintain the correct orientation as they absorb impacts, protect the fibers and, of course, preserve the shape of the helmet.
Kevlar and fiberglass are also added to the exterior layer of the helmet, to provide flexibility and to further increase shock absorption.
It should be pointed out that any material or structure composed of two or more elements should be classified as composite. So carbon fiber coupled with epoxy resin falls into this category, which is usually used to identify different fibers, such as aramid and glass.
You’ll often hear terms like 3K and 6K carbon fiber. This refers to the number of carbon fiber filaments in each carbon thread. So 3K carbon fiber has 3000 filaments and is the ‘workhorse’ good all-rounder type of carbon fiber, whereas the 6000 filament 6K carbon fiber and is slightly cheaper with a thicker weave.
Bell helmets currently offer a range of different carbon weaves on their Bell RS7, Bell HP7, Bell HP5, Bell GP3 Carbon and Bell GTX3 Carbon. Which takes into account their difference in cost. Notably, the weave count can also affect the appearance of the carbon.
Bell Carbon Fiber Helmet and OMP Outfit for Bertrand Baguette
The Benefits of Carbon Fiber Helmets
- The obvious advantage of Carbon Fiber is its weight. Used widely within the sports market, carbon fiber has an incredible strength to weight ratio making it ideal for motorsports use.
In a sport where weight means everything, carbon fiber lids can save you grams when they're most needed. Furthermore, the physical advantages of having a lightweight helmet can significantly reduce strain on the neck and head whilst also improving physical endurance.
- Crash effectiveness – all race helmets are fit for purpose. All officially licensed race helmets are safe. Carbon fiber however goes one step beyond. New products released by Bell and Stilo, now have helmets rated to FIA regulation 8860-2018 ABP (Advanced Ballistic Protection) which is the highest possible standard of crash safety.
This level of security has only been achievable in carbon fiber helmets.
- Comfort is another key aspect to consider. As previously mentioned, having a lighter helmet will reduce fatigue and strain on the body. Carbon fiber helmets can also have thinner outer shells, meaning more space inside the helmet to position padding and foam.
This means that the internal designs of carbon helmets can be more ergonomic and more customizable. Almost all of the top-spec helmets will offer a range of padding solutions to ensure the perfect fit.
The Negatives of Carbon Fiber Helmets
Carbon fiber is known for its rigidity and brittleness, because of this, carbon helmets have very little flex in their outer layers of material. Due to the decrease in movement, the shock created to the surface of the helmets can be higher compared to plastic or fiberglass.
This means that carbon fiber helmets must deflect energy through their internal padding and layering. This being said, carbon helmets are still incredibly strong at dissipating impact energy but are more likely to show signs of whare when dropped or scratched.
It is no secret that carbon lids have outrageous price tags. Due to the complexity of manufacturing and the cost of raw materials, the price of carbon fiber can be extremely high.
A point mentioned earlier is the “thread count” of carbon weaves, this can affect the price. There are minor differences in weave pattern; strength and weight which will all affect the helmet cost.
Are Carbon Helmets Worth It?
Unfortunately, to answer the above question must take into account personal preference, depth of pockets and dedication to motorsport.
For the seriously-minded athletes, the move to carbon fiber helmets should be an easy one, yes they are worth it! In racing where every gram matters, saving weight that is mounted high in the vehicle makes a big difference to vehicle performance.
Furthermore, drivers that will spend a large amount of time stuck in their helmets (like endurance and rally drivers), will find huge physical advantages to the reduction in weight and increase in comfort.
Carbon fiber helmets are usually the highest spec helmets sold by manufacturers, because of this, they often have the leading technology, ventilation, dinks and comms systems, creating a cutting edge design that will stay relevant for years to come.
The main question is, do you have the budget to make the jump from composite helmets to carbon? If you can afford it, then by all means make that jump. Aesthetically and structurally more advanced, carbon fiber helmets are more durable, crash-resistant and lightweight.
So are they worth it? If you have the budget and you're serious about racing, then yes. If motorsport is more of a hobby than a serious endeavor, then no! Composite helmets can still get you there.
Author: Matt Lambert, owner and Writer at RightMotorsport.