Michael Dunlop’s decision to ride in a ‘period appropriate’ steel and cork helmet may have been dangerous. But it was also brilliant.
For the last 14 days, we have revisited TT fever with the build up and start of the Manx TT and even though it’s over for this year, all those who fancy a little taste of it, head to the Goodwood Revival later this year where you can discover the nostalgic joy of period dress and the smell of Castrol R.
As would appear to be standard fare now, there was a lot of debate once more over the IOM TT races this year; both the classic and the main festival. The usual boring chorus of “It’s too dangerous. Fans are blood thirsty. Ban it!” finds itself in full swing by June and then continues in a never ending drone like Paul McCartney singing Hey Jude for months.
Then, just when you think it’s all died down, around August, the classic TT arrives, and the whole monotony starts again.
This year, there has been a lot of focus on Michael Dunlop’s helmet. Of course, given it is the killjoys causing the uproar, they have done no research and ended up slamming Dunlop’s decision to wear a ‘period appropriate’ helmet. Using it as another reason to shame the festival, but not realising the touching reason Dunlop chose to wear the 1957 open faced Steel and cork headgear.
It was a tribute to The late Bob McIntyre who set the 100 mph lap on the event’s 50th anniversary in 1957 on a red and white Gilera machine.
Of course, safety is paramount, and a 100 mph average is pretty scary stuff around the TT circuit. The argument is, if you are going to ride a tribute lap to honour the man who did it first, you have to do it in the same kit. Right?
And so, with the internet going bonkers about Dunlop’s choice of lid, we decided to take a look at the evolution of the motorcycle helmet.
It was the 19th of May, 1935 that started it all. Lawrence of Arabia had just died after six days in a coma due to a motorcycle accident. His neurosurgeon, Sir Hugh Cairns, set to task and designed what became the first motorcycle helmet. He then convinced the military to make it mandatory wear for all motorcyclists and finally, this was adopted as a UK law for all civilian riders.
Early civilian helmets tended to focus more on style than safety. Leather was used to protect the head, and advertising was focussed on how they could ‘keep dust from your hair’ It wasn’t until the 1950’s that these helmets widely offered a decent level of protection. Using steel to protect the heads of many riders Shuberth were amongst the first to offer German military and police a harder option with a little impact protection.
Fibreglass and cork were used to provide impact protection, but almost all motorcycle helmets up until the mid 70’s were focussed on the head, not face protection. In Japan, a rather enthusiastic hat maker called Hirotake Arai decided he wanted to create something to protect fellow bike riders. He founded the company which we now know as Arai. They produced their first full face helmet in 1967. However, we had to wait until the mid 70’s before full protection helmets came into play. Thanks to riders such as Kenny Roberts and Mario Andretti, full face helmets started to become mandatory on the race circuit. In 1977 Arai was being used by many professional Japanese riders. Freddie Spencer won the World GP 500cc Road Race Championship as the first World Champion with Arai and Arai Racing Service was introduced and over on four wheels 26 out of 28 drivers were using Arai helmets by 1986.
BELL Helmets also produced a full face helmet in the late 60’s. The Star was worn by Dan Gurney at the 500 miles of Indianapolis. The company is more synonymous with auto racing.
Aerodynamics could be seen in its primitive form back in the 1950’s with Schuberth’s Aero helmet. Although, it wasn’t until the late 80’s that this became a focus. With German designers promoting aerodynamics as a performance enhancing bonus, reducing drag and making the rider more streamlined. One of the first companies to advertise aerodynamics was Porsche Design. The company founded by Ferdinand Porsche who was responsible for the Porsche 911.
The CP-4 was designed exclusively for the motorcycle industry and was inspired by helmets worn by astronauts. It featured the world’s first integrated ventilation which employed the low-pressure area behind the helmet to pull air through, similar to the way virtually every helmet ventilation system works today. However, very few were made, as is expected from the PD team.
It’s clear to see motorcycle helmets have changed a lot over the years. From the early steel helmets to the Carbon Fibre ones and, of course, the HANS system for extra support. Rider safety at events such as the TT festival should always be paramount. However, we take our helmets off to Michael Dunlop for sticking to the era and riding out for the tribute lap in the correct gear.
Mainly because there is no chance we’d do it!
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Six things a rider should always carry
There’s no doubt that the reliability of modern bikes means seeing one stuck at the side of the road is a rare thing these days, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
Even if you’re not on a brand-spanking new bike, most mechanical breakdowns can be avoided with regular servicing, maintenance and pre-ride checks, but no matter how diligent you’ve been don’t be fooled into thinking that your bike will look after itself; or that something like a puncture or a broken indicator from a static fall, will happen to you.
Knowing how to fix the basics – and having the equipment to be able to do so – can make the difference between a short delay to your journey and it ending altogether, and don’t think just because you have 24hr recovery added to your insurance that you don’t have to worry either; five minutes strapping back on that body panel that’s fallen off, or standing on the hard-shoulder waiting for a man for an hour and a half, which one would you choose?
Here’s six things you should always have under your seat, just in case:
Multi tool/compact tool kit: the obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t carry one. We’re not talking full kit here, just enough to re-tighten the things that have worked loose and carry out basic repairs.
A puncture repair kit and mini compressor – if you’re running tubes, you’ll need tyre levers too: Practice in the warmth and comfort of your garage/shed, so you know the kit works and you can do it quickly and confidently.
Gaffer tape: holds a multitude of things – cracked bodywork, screens and indicators – together until you get home.
Cable ties: also great for holding things together in an emergency, they can be used in place of broket luggage straps and can even hold where bolts and screws have let go.
WD40: keeps damp out of electricals, and things like levers and cables moving. Also helps free-up stubborn fasteners, making changing tyres etc. a lot easier.
A piece of paper with key contact numbers – recovery, home etc. – on, so you have everything to hand if your mobile has a flat battery, or no signal.
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Isle of Man TT video game is up for pre-order now!
Reckon you’ve got what it takes to beat the King of the Mountain around the Isle of Man course?
It’s been years since a decent TT game has been available but now with ‘Ride on the Edge’ it looks like finally videogaming motorcyclist’s wait will be over.
Produced by Big Ben Interactive and with the option to race as one of 23 TT racers on 38 different motorcycles, the PS4, Xbox One and PC game is looking pretty incredible.
There’s only a month to go until it’s available in the shops and outlets are finally placing the game on pre-order.
The Isle of Man TT website has it available for £39.99 but say that they aren’t sure of the release date, whereas British videogame retailer Game are a little bit more confident on the release date of the 6th of March 2018.
The Isle of Man organisers have played a great part in allowing the designers full access to both the course and riders, saying that with a full laser scan of the Course has allowed the game designers to produce the most accurate ever simulation of every twist and turn of the 37.73 mile Course.
As you speed along the familiar roads, they say that you’ll face the same conditions as real life TT stars: your screen will be gradually accumulating flies, the shadows under the trees will make it hard to spot your line and just when you think you’ve got it you’ll flash out into bright sunshine and lose it all over again.
As your skills improve and you take on a full race on the Course don’t forget you’ll have to stop in the famous pitlane for fuel and tyres.
With a career more, online play and training modes, this promises to be a stunning looking game that could really give an authentic feel of what it must be like to make that plunge down Bray Hill…
And because it’s all a make believe simulation, you can even get McGuinness back onto a Honda if that’s what spins your wheels!
Fire it up in the comments below:
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