What is SHARP?

SHARP is an acronym for the 'Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme'. The SHARP motorcycle helmet rating system was introduced in 2007 by the Department for Transport (DfT) after research showed that there was a difference in safety performance of different motorcycle helmet brands and that around 80% of motorcyclists will be involved in an accident of some form on the road, despite only accounting for 1% of road users.


SHARP logo


SHARP Helmet Ratings

Following the latest helmets that have been rated there have been a total of 420 helmets which have been extensively tested and given an official rating from SHARP.


A full list of these helmets can be found at the SHARP website, with functionality allowing you to filter by ‘Manufacturer’, ‘Model’, ‘Type’ and ‘Minimum Rating’. To make the helmet browsing even easier, SHARP also provide the price, sizes available and the ‘latch % rating’ (something explained in more detail later in this article) of each model.


Latest ratings (2017)

Whenever a new set of helmets have been tested and given a rating, SHARP publish an article to share the findings. This publications will typically be brought out around once every month on the ‘News’ section of their website but they also mention new ratings on their Twitter account (@SHARPgovuk).


The most recent publication was just yesterday (24th August 2017), with the G-Mac Renegade and Black Optimus SV receiving 4 stars and 3 stars, respectively. The Black Optimus SV also received a 66% rating for how often the face guard remained fully locked on impact.


Other helmets that have been rated within the last few months include:

  • • Agrius Rage SV
  • • AGV Veloce S
  • • Arai QV Pro
  • • Black Titan SV
  • • Halfords MYX
  • • Scorpion EXO710 Air
  • • Shox Assault
  • • Shox Axxis
  • • Spada Arc

AGV Pista GP R rating

AGV Corsa R rating

Which helmets perform best?

AGV is the manufacturer with the most 5 star scores, with 10 of their helmets achieving that feat. Arai helmets also score very highly, with an average of 4 stars across the 13 helmets they have had rated.


The AGV Pista GP R (left) and AGV Corsa R (right) are two of the best scoring AGV helmets on the SHARP rating system. They are similar in that they are both performance helmets perfect for racing and track. One thing that differs on each model is the shell material and vents, however the performance when tested by SHARP is identical. Both helmets perform to optimal level, showing that AGV design their products with safety in mind.


No AGV helmet that has been tested has scored less than three stars on the SHARP rating system, meaning that all the AGV helmet models offer a higher level of safety than the minimum requirement for all motorcycle users. 


Guy Martin's Pista GP crash helmet

GUY MARTIN'S CRASH HELMET: AGV PISTA GP


Arai RX-7V helmet rating

Arai QV Pro helmet rating

The Arai RX-7V (left) is Arai’s top of the range motorcycle helmet which includes the wealth of knowledge that has been built up by Arai’s team.


Then there’s the QV Pro model (right), which is Arai’s new 2017 sports-touring motorcycle helmet. The QV Pro features the same outer shell and advanced VAS (Variable Axis System) technology as the RX-7V, whilst the ventilation and other details differ.


As with AGV, there hasn’t been an Arai helmet that has been tested by SHARP and scored less than three stars, showing that Arai helmets are more than fit for purpose.











How is SHARP Testing carried out?

The SHARP test is based on the 2001 European research activity which is a motorcycle study that studies a wide range of motorcycle accidents that have occurred in Europe which allows Sharp to relate their tests to impacts and areas that are most likely hit within an incident.


All helmets that are SHARP tested go through the exact same process to make sure that all of the motorcycle helmets are graded fairly, no matter the brand or model.


Every helmet is tested in five different areas of the shell, including: front, rear, both sides and the crown of the helmet. This allows the test to establish what protection is provided by each area where impact can occur. By placing the helmet on a mould that has sensors within it, the test can determine what impact would have occurred to the brain on the impact of a crash. The helmet tests are carried out on both flat and kerbed surfaces.


Each helmet is put through a minimum of 32 impacts as this is the amount that is needed to give the helmet an accurate and trustworthy rating. These tests are done over three different speeds: one being 22.05 linear, which is the regulation speed that must be tested; the other two being either side of this regulation linear (one over and one under).


All helmets also undergo a test to determine whether the chin bar (on both full face and flip front helmets) has sufficient mechanical strength to protect the face and jaw from injury on impact. However, this is not included in the star rating but is shown separately in the report of each individual helmet.


On each report, there is also an impact zone diagram showing the impact on a flat surface around the shell of the helmet in the five areas that they test which is colour coded depending on how good the motorcycle helmet performed.


 Impact zones from high speed testsScale for high speed impact testing


Each helmet tested should reach a minimum of one star, indicating that the helmet offers the minimum protection that is allowed whilst riding a motorcycle in the UK.


Flip front helmets have an extra test involved where the robustness of the locking mechanism for the chin bar is examined. A ‘latch percentage’ is provided dependent on the findings from the test – the higher the better. To get this percentage, they complete 30 impacts and if the mechanism remains closed every time then the score will be 100%. The more times it opens, the lower percentage will be. This score does not affect the SHARP safety rating and is a separate system altogether.


To display how these tests are displayed separately, take the AGV Compact ST again as an example. This helmet was rated four stars in the safety test carried out by SHARP with a 100% ‘latch rating’ for the robustness of the locking mechanism for the chin bar. 


AGV Compact ST rating and latch percentage


SHARP’s safety rating is calculated by using the results from the test and comparing them against real world injury data to determine a rating that reflects the safety that it would offer within similar incidents.


As for the star ratings, all is at it seems: the more stars that the helmet has, the more protection the helmet offers. More specific details about the product and its features are listed on each helmet’s rating pages, including the sizes available and the RRP of the helmet.



Criticism of SHARP Helmet Test

Though the SHARP Helmet test is endorsed by the government, applied across the motorcycle helmet industry and has been established for over a decade it is not without its criticisms.


Dr Nigel Mills was a previous chairman of the British Standards Institution committee for motorcycle helmets and has been involved in the design and testing for helmets for over three decades. He criticised the scheme as failing to properly account for certain factors associated with motorcycle accidents.


Shortly after the launch of the scheme, Dr Mills criticised the schemes use of impact velocities, and issues with the pass/fail criteria. Dr Mills also stated that differences between the test headform used in SHARP tests and real human skin & hair may also lead to differences between results.


He published a paper containing his research on the matter titled "Critical Evaluation of the SHARP Motorcycle Helmet Rating".


After a six month intensive study, Dr Mills said that the current model is too simple and does not take into account certain aspects of crashes. He criticised the dynamic aspects used in the scheme, such as the oblique impacts which don’t take into account rotational head acceleration.


Following on from his research, Dr Mills stated that the current model is too simple to be considered a meaningful measure of helmet safety performance.


Response from Transport Research Laboratory (TRL)

In response to Dr Mill’s criticism of the SHARP scheme, the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), who first introduced the SHARP scheme, issued a comprehensive response titled "Technical Response to the Unpublished Paper".


In this detailed response, the TRL addressed the claims in Dr Mills’ paper which criticised SHARP and provided evidence of its effectiveness. In the conclusion of the report, they stated that their studies show that SHARP test results "ensure that improvements in helmet design are targeted at reducing the risk of fatal head injury in the most common accident scenarios".


It also stated that the eight zones that SHARP divided the helmet into enabled the effect on different impact areas to be tested with accuracy.


The report also investigated the criticisms made by Dr Mills on the weightings placed by the SHARP scheme on different types of impact (oblique, flat and kerb-type impacts).


The SHARP scheme stressed that all helmets sold in the UK have been certified to comply with the correct legal standard for helmet safety ECE (Economic Commission for Europe) R22, which certifies that a helmet is road legal for use in the UK.


Ensure your Motorcycle Helmet Fits

After considering the safety rating of your chosen helmet, before purchasing you simply have to get the right fit. Forget the brand, colour and style of the helmet for a moment and remember why you’re purchasing a ‘crash helmet’ in the first place – to protect yourself.


If you buy a helmet that is too big or small then the safety properties that the motorcycle helmet offers will be lacking.


The three key points of making sure that your helmet fits include:


1. Measuring your head

Dainese will be able to help you choose the correct helmet size to fit you, however it’s worth having a rough idea by measuring yourself first. Measure just above the ears around to your forehead for the most accurate figure. This will give you a basic starting point but remember every brand’s sizes are slightly different (as you can see in the below charts) so it’s always best to ask an expert.


ARAI SIZE CHART

AGV SIZE CHART

XS53-54cmXS54cm
S55-56cmS56cm
M57-58cmM58cm
L59-60cmML59cm
XL61-62cmL60cm
XXL63-64cmXL62cm
 XXL64cm

2. Trying the helmet on

Make sure that the helmet feels fully comfortable and keep it on for a couple of minutes at least to ensure you’ve got a real feel for it. It’s a good idea to make sure you can fit two fingers between your helmet and jaw, as this is important to determine whether you have the optimal fit.


3. Double checking the fit

Ensure that the helmet fits flush to your head with no gaps whilst also not being too tight that it’s pushing on any pressure points. The helmet should flow with your head movements.


Finally, ask someone to try and roll the helmet off your head; if it doesn’t and you’ve also passed the other checks, you can be confident that helmet is the right fit for you. Keep in mind that no matter what the safety rating, price and reviews of a helmet; if you’ve got the wrong fit then your helmet will not protect you.