6D, a new off-road helmet company based in Brea, Calif., has shown for the first time its revolutionary new off-road motorcycle helmet.The big news about the 6D ATR-1 is its Omni-Directional Suspension (ODS) Technology, which is designed to lower the number of concussion injuries for motorcyclists.As most of us are aware, our heads are protected in a crash primarily by the collapsible EPS liner (of single, double or multiple densities), which sits between our heads and the helmet’s outer shell (typically plastic, fiberglass and/or carbon fiber). When the helmet contacts the ground with out head in it, the EPS liner is crushed and dissipates the force and lowers the level of g-forces hitting the rider’s head.The 6D ATR-1 adds another layer of protection. Between two EPS liners, sits an array of elastomeric isolation dampers. These dampers move in six directions – up/down/front/back, and side-to-side – which gives the helmet its 6D brand name. These dampers flex initially, giving the rider protection in lower speed impacts.These are the impact are the ones that typically result in concussions. The standards we are most familiar with – DOT, ECE and Snell – are more concerned with preventing a catastrophic injury, such as a cracked skull, rather than the lower-speed concussion types of injuries. This requires a stiff, strong helmet, and one that is not necessarily conducive to protection at slow speeds.By providing riders with this initial impact protection via the ODS technology, riders will be less likely to suffer concussions, particularly in impacts below approximately 9 mph (or four meters per second). While you may think that your head hits at higher speeds, keep in mind that the standard ground impact is a glancing blow caused primarily by gravity pulling your head down. Still, at a 9 mph hit can transfer 120 G to your head with a Snell- or ECE-helmet on your head. According to 6D, that’s double the impact needed to cause a concussion.The slower you’re going, the more the ODS technology will do for you. At about 4.5 mph at impact, it lowers the force from 79 G in a ECE helmet to a manageable 49 Gs in the 6D helmet. By 6.7 mph, the difference is 109 G and 72 G.This is in the danger zone, even for the 6D, but your head is suffering much less of an impact.By 11 mph, the difference is less pronounced, as the elastomeric isolation dampers are bottomed out and your protection comes exclusively from the EPS liner, just as it does on traditional helmets. There’s a slight improvement, but not much. At those speeds, your head is taking an extremely hard hit.The motion of the dampers in all directions–the 6D effect–also helps in crashes. Standard helmets are tested by dropping the helmet straight down on a hard anvil. Sensors measure the impact, and a helmet either meets DOT, ECE and/or Snell standards, or it does not. However, when we fall, it is usually a glancing blow – called angular acceleration energy. Fixed EPS liners are just that – fixed.With ODS, the hit can be reduced, regardless of the direction of the hit. Due to the practicalities of helmet design, our temples are at most risk, and benefit greatly from transferring the angular acceleration energy from your head to the liner and ODS system.
Additionally the speed at which the G force is accumulated is slowed down by ODS.In a 3 meters per second (6.7 mph) impact, a Snell or DOT helmet will hit 70 G in 1.5 milliseconds. ODS buys you some time, taking 4 milliseconds before that level is attained. This spreads the impact out over a longer stretch of time, meaning less of a force to your head at any given moment. From some angles, the acceleration is reduced by 80-percent.The first helmet in the series will be the 6D ATR-1, which will be worn by 2012 Supercross Lites West Champion Eli Tomac of the Factory Connection Racing/Geico/Honda team, beginning at Anaheim 1 on January 6, 2013. FCR Team Manager and former AMA Motocross and World Supercross Champion Mike LaRocco says, “We’re very excited to work with 6D. We’ve seen our share of concussions over the years and the safety of our riders is our first priority.”Other features unique to the 6D ATR-1 include a Clavicle Cut-Away to reduce collarbone injuries, a Sternum Pad that protects the chin, jaw and sternum in the case of a face plant or hitting the face of a jump, and Air-Gap Technology enhances venting through the space provided by the ODS system. Extra safety comes from plastic Shear-away Visor Screws (prevents head twisting motion) and Emergency Release Cheek Pads, though these are not unique to 6D.6D Helmets brags that, in the case of the ATR-1, “This changes everything.” It certainly makes us rethink the function and construction of the motorcycle helmet. The first 6D helmet, the ATR-1, will be released in February 2013. The price has not been announced, but you can expect it will be either the most expensive helmet on the market, or very close.6D also has a street helmet–the ATS-1 motorcycle helmet–in development. The elastomeric isolation dampers can be tuned for each particular application, so the resistance will likely be different in the ATS-1 than the ATR-1. A 6D bicycle helmet is also planned.