When we buy a motorcycle helmet we like to assume that they are fit for purpose and provide a decent level of protection in the event of an accident.
The only way we can know this is by purchasing a helmet that has been certified as passing a set of standards to test its protective ability.
In the UK the standard manufacturers have to meet in order to be able to sell their helmets is called ECE 22.
The latest version of this is ECE 22.06.
This article is going to explain everything you need to know about ECE 22.06 the latest standard in helmet regulations.
What is ECE 22.06?
In 1972 the No. 22 Regulation came into effect from the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE).
The Regulation laid out a set of standards that motorcycle helmets had to abide by and meet in order to be eligible for sale.
The standards cover things such as level of head coverage, the weight of the helmet and even down to where the stickers need to be applied with the ECE certificate and what information is to be included on them.
“The Regulation applies to protective helmets for drivers and passengers of mopeds and of motorcycles with or without sidecar/ and to the visors fitted to such helmets or intended to be added to them”
The ECE certification is applicable in 48 different countries, not all of these are European countries, for example, the No. 22 standard is used in Australia.
The countries whose authorities have approved the helmet as meeting the ECE standards each have a code that can be found on the sticker inside the helmet. For example E1 = Germany, E2 = France.
You can read the full regulation and standards laid out for helmet manufacturers in the full document below.
What are the new standards replacing?
ECE 22.05 was recently replaced with ECE 22.06 in June 2020; the .05 or .06 pertains to specific revisions and amendments to the No. 22 regulation.
It has been 20 years since ECE 22.05 was implemented in June 2000.
In the last 20 years, there have been significant technological, design and engineering advancements in motorcycle helmet production.
Therefore it was becoming imperative that new revisions were put in place to cover the abundance of new features and materials that helmets are packed with.
When do they come into effect?
The new regulations will come into effect from January 2024, which gives manufacturers time to produce helmets to meet the new standards.
Until that time helmets that meet ECE 22.05 are still legal for sale as new helmets.
After January 2024 you can still legally wear your ECE 22.05 helmet but any new helmet you purchase will be required to be certified as ECE 22.06.
Summary of key updates for ECE 22.06:
- A new set of standards that apply specifically to modular helmets.
- Helmet accessories such as integrated sun visors will have standards applied that they will need to meet in order to pass testing.
- The testing procedures themselves have been overhauled with the latest science being applied to the process.
- The impact tests will see harder and faster impacts being created as well as low-speed impacts too.
- There will also be a new angle rotation introduced to the impact test.
- The visor will now face a penetration test of a steel ball being fired at it.
- If Bluetooth communication kits are offered with the helmet, the helmet will be required to pass testing with and without it installed.
Now we will take a closer look at the administrative and testing procedures that helmets will undergo to meet the new standards.
Types of Helmets Tested
First of all, let me just summarise the different types of helmets that are covered under ECE 22.06:
(J) Jet: helmet without any part to cover the lower part of the face. Open face.
(NP) Jet: helmet with a detachable or movable part that covers the lower part of the face that does not protect the chin. (Must be marked with a warning that the helmet does not provide protection for the chin.)
(P) Full face: Helmet with a detachable, movable, or integral (permanently fixed) part of the helmet covering the lower part of the face and intended to protect the chin
(P/J) Modular Helmet: means a helmet, equipped with a movable or detachable protective lower face cover, that meets the requirements for both conditions of use with or without chin guard in position. Chin protection is only guaranteed with the lower face cover in position. In modular helmets, the retention system tests must be done in J and P configuration.
Application for Approval
Before manufacturers can even get to the testing procedures they need to submit helmets for first-round testing, followed by helmets ready for production for a second round of testing.
A sample of 20 helmets with and without visors must first be submitted. They must be in a range of sizes and an additional helmet must be supplied for the first approval test.
A minimum of 14 visors must be submitted for each visor type the helmet will be supplied with. A further 6 visors must be submitted if testing for the visor is claimed to be mist-retardant. One of these visors will be kept back for the first approval test.
A technical description and drawings all need to be submitted along with the helmets, listing materials and processes used to produce the helmets.
At this stage manufacturers also need to ensure that the helmets submitted for approval have the appropriate markings on them supplying correct information.
- Sizing information with a Letter and in CM
- Year of Production
- Where relevant if the chin bar is a protective element of the helmet
- The Visor needs the Trademark/Name and whether the visor is suitable for all riding conditions or just daytime etc.
Once approved as meeting the Regulation there are several other markings that need to be added:
- Approval number relevant to the number of revisions (.06)
- International mark followed by the country of approval – this is an ‘E’ enclosed with a circle followed by a number. E1=Germany
- This is followed by the letter assigned to the helmet type for example J, P, NP, P/J.
- Production Serial Number
There is a list of general specifications that helmets need to meet. This includes specific information on the following:
- Basic construction of the helmet with an outer shell, inner impact absorption layer and comfort liner
- Markings on the visor and chin bar stating what they are suitable for
- Components or devices need to be fitted in a way that the helmet will still pass the standards required
- The size of the shell and how much of the head it needs to cover
- The amount of protective padding and where it needs to be
- Ability to hear can’t be impeded
- Vents need to be built in to avoid rising temperatures
- Chin straps need to be in a certain place and withstand a certain amount of pressure
- Materials used need to be able to withstand the elements over time
- Visors have to be certain sizes and allow a minimum amount of visibility
- There is a whole section on internal sun-visors specifications
- Any performance features/external components need to be fitted in a way that they won’t detach on impact
A headform is used appropriate to the size of the helmet and is the average weight of a human head to ensure as accurate a testing process as possible.
All helmets submitted for testing will be subjected to conditioning and testing under these varying conditions.
There are 4 conditions helmets are tested under:
- Ambient temperature and Hygrometry
- UV Radiation and Moisture
Helmet Design Testing
Most of the helmet design is tested against the general specifications that the Regulation lays out.
On top of that, the design of the helmet needs to withstand the four conditioning processes that it is subjected to.
By laying out specific regulations that all helmets have to meet, a necessary standard is upheld.
The helmet liner is a crucial part of a helmet, as the lining also consists of the shock-absorbing layer under the outer layer.
The durability of this protective layer is crucial to passing impact tests.
It should not deteriorate due to sweat, cosmetics or hair products and also the comfort layer should not cause any skin irritation.
Visors and Sun Visors – Visibility
Two key new changes occurred when it came to Visors and Sun Visors.
The first change was a new high-speed particle test has been introduced for visors whereby a steel ball will be shot at the visor at a speed of 180mph.
The visor should not deform, split into two or more pieces, fracture, and the visor housing should still be able to hold the visor in position.
This test is to make sure visors can withstand potential projectiles like stones that may on occasion hit a rider’s helmet.
The second change was the detailing of specifications for sun visors.
Many manufacturers in the last 20 years have started to produce helmets with internal sun visors that flip down between the riders eyes and main visor.
ECE 22.06 has stated that sun shields cannot prevent the natural movement of the main visor. The sun shield must be operated independently from the main visor and this movement needs to be a simple process.
Helmets put forward to go on the market with a sun shield will go through the testing procedures with the sun visor in the working position.
Other key factors regarding visibility include:
- Peripheral vision is tested and must not be obstructed from any angle.
- 22.06 has laid out a minimum level of light that can be transmitted through a visor and specifies this information for tinted visors which can go down to as low as 20% light transmission.
- Scratch resistance, defects, distortion levels, refraction levels, mist-resistance (for claimed fog-free visors) are all checked.
- Tinted visors are tested to see if indicator signals can be seen through the visor.
Chin Bars and Modular Helmets
The chin bar on a modular helmet will be tested when it is in position as an open face helmet (J) and when it is equipped as a full-face helmet (P).
It has to stay in place in order to be considered satisfactory and protective to be certified as a P/J modular helmet.
If the chin bar does not do this and pass the testing procedures then the chin bar needs to be marked as Non-Protective.
The helmet will then be classed as either an open-face helmet if the chin bar is non-protective or as a full-face helmet if the chin bar remains in place when in the full-face position.
However, it is then only legal to ride with the helmet as a full-face helmet not with the front flipped up.
Read more about our favourite modular helmets.
In short, the retention/chin strap must not be too thin, not stretch too much and be permanently fixed.
It must be easy to operate and only be able to be in the open or closed position.
The strap must withstand a tension of at least 3 kN without breaking.
A 10kg weight is attached to the strap and is dropped from .5m to make sure they don’t come off.
Then a 10kg weight is dropped from .75m to check for damage and stretching, it must also be able to open and close as normal.
Modular helmets are tested in both the Open and Full-face configurations.
The deformation test is a new process for ECE 22.06.
Two plates will be placed on either side of the helmet and pressure applied to a total application of 630 N.
Then two plates will be placed at the front and back of the helmet and the same amount of pressure applied (using a different test helmet).
They must deform less than 40mm when under maximum pressure load and only 15mm when under a pressure load of 30N the minimum pressure applied.
An appropriate number of reflective stickers either need to be applied to the helmet and sold with them already applied, or they can be supplied with the helmet as long as their specific instructions as to where they need to be applied and what size is required.
New scope has been added to the Regulations for additional accessories that manufacturers may decide to integrate into their helmets.
The accessories will be examined thoroughly to ensure the equipment has no negative effect on the helmet/visor and that they will still comply with the standard requirements.
Testing will take place with the accessory both in position and without (including any mounts).
There will be a heavy focus on energy absorption, sharp edges and visibility.
Modification after the fact when you purchased a helmet is not acceptable and accessories must be fitted as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Any alteration that is not synonymous with the original manufacturer’s helmet put forward for testing, will make the approval invalid.
So, please don’t drill holes into your lid to fit comms kits.
Impact Testing – New Oblique Impact Test
I left perhaps the most important testing procedure until last.
You can test a helmet all day long and it can pass everything with flying colours; but it is most essential that the helmet is equipped to handle impacts, otherwise everything else is pretty pointless.
For ECE 22.06 a new Oblique Impact Test has been introduced – this has essentially been created to test how much a helmet rotates in an impact.
Horrendous neck and head injuries are often caused by the instant rotations of helmets in accidents, so now the safety standards have incorporated this new test, which will hopefully ensure certified helmets keep this to a minimum.
The test spins the helmet simulating the helmet hitting an abrasive surface like tarmac in real-world conditions.
Essentially a bar anvil is used in the test placed at an angle with 5 steel bars placed across it covered in abrasive paper. The helmet is then dropped from height and speed onto the anvil.
The rotational acceleration is then measured and must not exceed 10,400 rad/s2 in order to pass the test. The criteria used is Brain Injury Criterion.
For the other impact tests, more changes have also taken place for ECE 22.06.
The number of tests has increased and they will take place at both higher and lower speeds which accounts for a wider range of incidents that a helmet may encounter.
Helmets are subjected to impact tests that use both a flat and curbstone anvil in strictly laid out points around the helmet. A single impact from each anvil is applied to the helmet and the results are measured by how well the helmet absorbed the impact.
The chin bar is also tested where there is one, by being dropped on to an anvil from height to see how protective it is.
Lastly, helmets are put through an abrasion test which focuses on the outer shell.
A shell that works up a lot of friction on impact is thought to cause more damage to the rider by causing twisting of the head; so the idea of the abrasion test is to help manufacturers produce helmets that minimize friction.
The abrasion test ties in well with the oblique impact test which is more of a more in-depth extension of the original abrasion testing procedures.
How do you know if a helmet is ECE 22.06 approved?
Okay, so you know what a helmet goes through in order to be ECE 22.06 approved.
Now, you are in the market for a new helmet, the good news is that ECE 22.06 approved helmets have clear ways that you can tell that they are certified.
Regulation No. 22 states that every certified helmet needs to have a sticker sewn into or onto the chin strap.
This will state the Regulation mark ECE 22.06, the letter ‘E’ followed by a number for the country that the helmet was approved and the production serial number; also the letter applicable to the type of helmet will be visible.
This information should also be applied via a sticker on the back of the helmet where other information such as brand name, date of production, sizing information and type of helmet should also be included.
ECE 22.06 Approved Helmets
There are not many ECE 22.06 approved helmets yet on the market.
In fact, it seems that only Shoei and Arai are the manufacturers ahead of the curve with newly certified helmets.
I suspect we will start to see more and more helmets added to the market over the coming 12 months as more manufacturers start to put their helmets forward for testing.
The Quantic is Arai’s first ECE 22.06 approved helmet and is a full-face race helmet, with protection at the heart of the build followed by performance.
I am biased towards Arai as I think their helmets are just brilliant and they fit my head shape perfectly.
Although my bias is not unfounded as each helmet is manufactured by hand to very high Arai quality control standards.
- 6 Intake and 6 Exhaust Vents
- VAS MAX-Vision Pinlock ready visor
- 3 Position sliding chin bar vent
- Removable and washable liner
- Speaker Pockets
- Facial Contour System for perfect fitment
- 3 Shell Sizes
- 5 Year Warranty
Another favourite manufacturer of mine is Shoei which I credit with equally high standards and premium quality. The NXR is Shoei’s lightweight sports-touring helmet.
It is Shoei'sfirst helmet to meet the new ECE 22.06 certification standards.
- Wind tunnel tested aerodynamics
- Vortex generators on the side of the helmet to aid in reducing wind noise
- Included anti-fog insert
- Moisture-wicking removable liner
- 6 Intake Vents and 4 Exhaust Vents
There you have it, everything you need to know about ECE 22.06 and how it applies to motorcycle helmets going forward.
The good news is ECE 22.06 has introduced higher standards that manufacturers need to meet, so will offer better protection to riders.