News Feature

The Science of Modern Helmet Design


shark helmets : spartan details || rahoul ghose

April 22, 2019 | Rahoul Ghose

SHARK’s Spartan leading the charge

THIS … IS … SPARTAN!

The flagship of SHARK Helmet’s mid-range Pulse product line is as robust, agile and streamlined as Gerald Butler’s King Leonidas in 300 (2006). But its heritage heralds from much further west in Europe, specifically the South of France, where two former professional moto racers – brothers André and Robert TESTON – created one of the world’s safest helmet brands more than three decades ago with 1990 World SBK Champion Raymond Roche (Ducati).

While SHARK’s offerings in the US range from full-on race helmets worn by many MOTO GP competitors (Racer-R Pro), to street lids – full and open-face (SKWAL2 & Drak), and even a modular offering (the Evo-ONE 2), the Spartan – which retails for a modest $370 to $400 depending on graphics – boasts some innovations and underlying research you’d see in competitor’s headgear twice the price.

The initial reaction to our demo model – a glossy black, sleek helmet with adjustable air vents in the chin and upper forehead area, an aerodynamic dual spoiler, an integrated, drop-down sun shield, and even a retractable chin curtain – was one of appreciative surprise.

It’s not carbon fiber, but its fiberglass shell is light, and the helmet’s overall fit is comfortably snug. For reference only, my current go-to helmets are an Arai Signet-Q and a Bell Race Star, both light, and the former wonderfully quiet while riding.

The Spartan is also quiet while two-wheeling it through the city, drawing on several aerodynamic design features to provide rider comfort, the most apparent being its overall shape from front to back.

Designers relied heavily on computational fluid dynamic (CFD) studies to optimize the aerodynamic profile of the helmet, its penetration through air, the reduction of the ‘buffeting effect’ while riding, acoustic nuisances, and the overall aerodynamic drag coefficient (CX) of the product.

This included a study of air flow paths along the helmet, and an analysis of pressure zones on the surface to ensure better ventilation. Finite Element Analysis (FEA) – numerical crash test simulations to guarantee an optimal level of protection – was also part of the ‘reverse engineering’ design process, which starts from the perspective of the user’s head, and gradually adds functionality.

spartan helmet : testing || shark helmets marketing image
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  Our goal is to offer high safety motorcycle helmet concepts that are different from other manufacturers. We bring innovative concepts, often patented – like the Evo-ONE 2 and Evoline modular helmets – that have never been seen before. We are always pushing the boundaries of the motorcycle helmet industry in terms of design, functionality and safety.  

-- Sarah Benadjemia, SHARK Helmets - Head of Sales and Operations – Americas
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SHARK Helmets USA is based out of Chicago, IL. However, the Head of Sales and Operations – Americas, Sarah Benadjemia, calls Brooklyn, New York home, having relocated from Marseilles, France where she oversaw a similar bailiwick for the entire company.

Benadjemia says the company’s investment in a US presence reflects their ultimate ambition to take on the larger manufacturers – Bell, Shoei, Arai – in the highly lucrative North American market.

“Our goal is to offer high safety motorcycle helmet concepts that are different from other manufacturers," she said. "We bring innovative concepts, often patented – like the Evo-ONE 2 and Evoline modular helmets – that have never been seen before. We are always pushing the boundaries of the motorcycle helmet industry in terms of design, functionality and safety.”

SHARK is actually one of six companies under the umbrella of the French group, 2 Ride Holding SAS, which specializes in equipment for riders: helmets, leather, textiles, luggage and upholstery. The remaining five European brands include Bering, Bagster, Segura, Cairn, and the recently acquired Nolan.

Benadjemia says the US and European motorcycling markets are very distinct.

"There are massive differences in the way we use motorcycles or any two wheels in Europe versus in the USA," she said. "It’s a means of transportation in major cities like Paris, Milan, Barcelona, where people ride every day, rain or shine. A big percentage of riders don’t own a car, only a bike. Whereas in America, most people see riding as a leisure (for) occasional use when the weather is nice."

Two different uses means two different levels of expectation.

"Europeans are very aware of safety specifications, weights, and pay a lot of attention to the functionalities. I have noticed that in America, and especially in states where there is no helmet laws, most riders pay too much attention to the look and style of their gear, and not so much on the safety aspects."

In Europe and many other countries worldwide – including Canada and Australia – SHARK Helmets conform to the United Nations standard ECE 2205, not currently recognized for road riders in the US, which insists on a DOT rating and recognizes SNELL, a private label rating created specifically for the car racing industry.

Established in 1957 after the tragic death of Pete 'William' Snell in a car racing accident, the Snell Memorial Foundation was formed to encourage race helmet use. Snell was not wearing a helmet at the time.

"As you can imagine there is a big difference between car and motorcycle accidentology," Benadjemia said. "SNELL tests double impact at the same exact spot, which is completely irrelevant to motorcycle accidents because you will never fall or bang your head twice on the same spot."

When the market stateside will adjust to the worldwide trend is anyone's guess," Benadjemia said.

"We do not know when the USA will accept the UN-ECE 2205 standard but we are seeing progress in the world championship class with the AMA recognizing and accepting it on race days. This was not the case up until four years ago. But most people aren’t aware about it."

spartan helmet: the details || shark helmets marketing image
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  There are massive differences in the way we use motorcycles or any two wheels in Europe vs in the USA. It’s a means of transportation in major cities like Paris, Milan, Barcelona, where people ride every day, rain or shine. A big percentage of riders don’t own a car, only a bike. Whereas in America, most people see riding as a leisure (for) occasional use when the weather is nice.  

-- Sarah Benadjemia, SHARK Helmets - Head of Sales and Operations – Americas
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S P A R T A N   H E L M E T   F E A T U R E S

  • DOT approved
  • Two shell sizes covering XS to XXL
  • Lightweight fiberglass construction
  • An anti-fog pinlock MaxVision insert lens, included in box
  • An aerodynamic dual spoiler
  • Shark skin side covers to reduce noise
  • An integrated, drop-down sun shield
  • A D-Ring chin strap closure
  • An auto-seal shield system for sound and weatherproofing
  • A quick release face shield system
  • An easy-fit glasses system that provides optimal comfort for riders wearing glasses
  • A retractable chin curtain
  • A removable anti-fog mask
  • Bamboo fiber interior lining
  • 5-year warranty
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Getting back to the Spartan, the helmet features a couple breakthrough technical innovations in performance and user protection, including: ‘SHARK skin’ covers over the shield hinging system to improve acoustics (reducing the whistling noise), and a specially crafted, ‘easy fit’ system to accommodate riders who wear corrective glasses ... in commonspeak, slots along the inside padding that you can easily slide the arms of your glasses into.

The ‘SHARK skin’ mimics the effect that, for example, dimples create on a golf ball in flight; Those dimples reduce air friction … Less friction, less noise.

The Spartan also boasts an auto-seal shield system for sound and weatherproofing, and a unique, aerodynamic dual spoiler at the rear of the helmet which not only provides an improved air trail; It helps to increase internal cooling through embedded air extractors.

Ultimately the helmet’s features set adds up to a comfortable, quiet ride where your head position reduces neck strain and you remain well ventilated.

Then there’s the little details: the retractable chin curtain, which when engaged, keeps warmth in on cold days; and the integrated, drop-down sun shield – controlled easily through a slider on the top, middle of the helmet, even with gloves on.

The former is a cool addition as most similar features we’ve encountered are snap-on, snap-off pieces. I will say after a long ride I did forget it was folded out and almost took my nose off when I tried to remove my helmet. The stretchable cloth piece is folded around a plastic frame. Lesson learned.

As to the drop-down shield, more happiness, as the dark-tinted lens slides down further than most, so you avoid the light leak on the bottom edge during those evening rides when the sun hugs the horizon. The slider also allows you to finitely adjust how far down the shield is positioned.

Finally, the Spartan has an easy quick release face shield system with an anti-fog pinlock MaxVision insert lens included in box. And its interior has a removable anti-fog mask covering the nose, and a bamboo fiber interior lining, which provides a stiff but comfortable fit with natural anti-bacterial properties.

Overall, the Spartan – which comes in gloss black and gloss white, matt black, and three colored graphic varieties (Karkenblack|yellow; and Karken Matred|grey|black and grey|black) – offers the benefits and features of far more expensive helmets at an affordable price point.

Internationally, SHARK sells more than 400,000 helmets a year through 5,000 sales outlets worldwide.

Locally, SHARK Helmets are available for purchase at Filipacchi (Manhattan) and Union Garage (Cobble Hill), as well as New York Honda Yamaha in Long Island City and Moto World Inc in Brooklyn.

For more information visit the North American website at: us.shark-helmets.com
International website: shark-helmets.com
Instagram: @shark_helmets

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