How the Crash Helmet was Evolved.


HE safety-helmet really owes 11its existence to two things : firstly, the rapid development of the flying-machine, and secondly, to the fact that the motor cycle engine developed faster than the frame, brakes, or tyres. This rapid development of the power-unit naturally overstressed the immature frames, with the result that accidents due to structural failure of the machines were far too common in the early days of the track. The first evolved

were designed solely with the idea of protecting the aviator, and they were on the lines of the helmet shown in fig. i They were found to be ineffectual for track work, for reasons which will become apparent later.

Three or four years before the war a number of officials of the Auto-Cycle Union, headed by Dr. Gardner, the well-known medical officer of Brooklands, began to investigate the problem of safeguarding the rider. In the Tourist Trophy races of 1914 the A.C.U. helmet was first made a compulsory part of the racingrider’s kit, and it proved so satisfactory that it is now obligatory in all speed events held in this country. Furthermore, it is illuminating to recall that the Royal Hunt Club are standardising the Robinson ” SafetyFirst” helmet for the steeplechaser next season. Thus has the older sport followed a younger in such an important detail as safeguarding the lives of its participants.

The investigations of the A.C.U. led to the discovery of the fact that the path taken through the air by a thrown rider is a parabolic one, and that the ground is seldom struck by the top of the rider’s head, but at an acute angle. The problem resolved itself into providing a means of taking the initial shock of impact and making the rider’s body act as a not-too-effective brake—it will easily be understood that the longer the time taken to bring his body to rest, the less will be the shock of impact. The required helmet had to be both a buffer and a skid.

The helmet shown in fig. I was already in use ; but while it formed an effective buffer, and protected the skull, the rim and the top rib were liable to catch in stones as the rider slid along the ground, and in catching, would pull him up with a jerk, involving the risk of a broken neck. ____……„„…STIFF LINEN DOME TREATED WITH SHELLAC

Principles of Head Saving. “

Fig. 2 shows, in part-section, the Robinson ” SafetyFirst ” helmet. A somewhat similar construction applies to all A.C.U. approved crash-helmets. It will be seen that the helmet consists of two main parts—an outer shell and a skull-cap. The skull-cap, which can be laced up by the user so as to fit his head, in conjunction with the fluted cork rim at its base, has as its object the distribution of any impact sustained over the largest possible area, thereby effectively preventing fracture of the skull due to a localised blow. The shell, which is fixed to the rim of the skull-cap, is a perfectly smooth,

polished dome built up of layers of shellac-treated linen. It is lined with thick felt on the inside so as to act as a cushion in the event of an extra-severe shock causing the shell to collapse. It should be noticed that the dome is of a shape calculated to deflect the blow ; and provided that the rider is suitably protected against flaying, a toss, even at very high speed, need have no harmful results. In the interests of the rider, the A.C.U. have taken up the task of proofing and testing the helmets ; and the reader would be well advised, when he buys his next crash helmet, to have one that has been actually tested

Three Approved Types.

Three types of helmet are used— the Day, the Robinson ” SafetyFirst ” and the Grose ” Savus.” The standard helmet that the A.C.U. use themselves and loan out to clubs for hill-climbs, is the Day, which is shown in fig. 3. This can only be bought through the Union, and is already proofed and tested. Fig. 4 shows the Robinson helmet, which varies from the prototype only in detail. The two thin ridges which keep the peak-strap in place are of interest. While in no way interfering with the skid action of the helmet, they form an effective means of keeping the

detachable peak in place. the Grose differs from

Grose the aforementioned two by the addition of a webbing crucifix fitted between the felt padding and the skullcap in such a manner as to afford extra protection. Fig. 5 shows this feature. Across the front of the helmet is fixed a strip of leather-covered padding, which, the makers claim, adds materially to the comfort of the wearer. This strip is plainly visible in the “New Imperial” model shown in fig. 6. It is of interest to note that the winner of every T.T. race this year wore a Grose ” Savus ” helmet.

A Touring Crash Helmet.

While still on the subject of head protection, I should like to draw attention to a new patent Robinson helmet

which is suitable for either sex. This helmet, which can be supplied either leather or fur lined, has been designed for those fast-riding on the road. It is an excellent device for those who feel they require some head safeguard, but do not wish to wear the conspicuous-looking racing helmet. It is illustrated in fig. 7. In an article of this sort it is well to mention the protection against flaying that is afforded by a stout leather waistcoat, breeches, gloves and knee-boots. The perfect glove and boot have yet to be invented. A

glove that is satisfactory from the point of handwear is nearly always too stiff to be of practical use.

Unbreakable Glass Essential.

Triplex goggles I consider essential to safety. The glasses shown in fig. 8 were worn by Mr. Cathrick. When he crashed at Brooklands, spectators say that he skated 30 yards on his face ; and there is no doubt that his sight was saved by his glasses.

:• The ideal goggle, however, in . my • opinion, is the new Meyrowitz type, and in spite of their very high cost, they are well worth having. The glass fitted is Triplex, and the metal frame is bound with a soft, semi-pneumatic rubber binding in such a manner as to render them extremely comfortable and dust-excluding.

A Standard First Aid Outfit.

After considerable experiment, the A.C.U. have at last standardised the very complete first-aid outfit shown in fig. 9. This outfit can easily be carried in pannier bag or pocket, and as the Union are distributing them at

2 /– each, plus postage, no motor cyclist should be without one. In conclusion, I may say that I consider that the point of safety to which racing has now

been brought has been the principal triumph of the Auto-Cycle Union.