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How the latest technology is used to protect riders

How the latest technology is used to protect riders

It has been a long time since riders went out with protection that was little better than that used by cyclists…

Nowadays the protection worn by riders has evolved in parallel with the technology used on their bikes, tyres, lubricants and even the design of the circuits themselves, and the clothes for riders in the twenty-first century has little in common with that used in the olden days.

One of the accessories that has most evolved since those times is the helmet. Everybody now has one thing clear; safety is the most important thing and a good example of this is the level of attention that is given to helmets, the most important life-saving accessory a rider uses.

`After each session we hand it over to the technical service for a complete inspection´ says Dani Pedrosa, `because nowadays a lot of attention is paid to our helmets´.

They require a lot of maintenance; and that is why the major companies have a technical assistance team in a truck at each circuit. There the specialists from each of the brands make sure that the helmet has not suffered any important damage after a fall, and they take care of even the smallest details; the cushioned interior, the air vents and the visor.

Having good vision is vital for riders who ride at high speed; that is why the care of the visor is so meticulous. Riders have three types of visor available, from dark to very dark which are used depending on the level of sunlight and cloud cover. And visors are protected by a fine film of plastic, 0.13mm thick, that can be removed as the rider goes along because they get covered with dirt. It is a way of protecting the visor and the level of vision they provide, and importantly it is not spoilt by insects hitting it. These protectors are also replaced after each session, so that the level of vision is always optimum.

When rain begins to fall the helmets are prepared in a different way. Normally, riders have three available, two with the specifications for the wet and one ready for rain. The latter is equipped with a visor that is totally transparent and with specific treatments; to avoid condensation forming and to stop water entering. Moreover, the riders use a mask which directs the air they breathe out towards the bottom of the helmet so that the formation of the dreaded condensation is avoided, this can cause the visor to get clouded up.

But the manufacturers do not only worry about the vision through the visor and safety, they also take into account the level of comfort. As Julian Simon points out, `It is important for the helmet to insulate you against the noise in the right way, and obviously it has to be of top quality and safe to use.´

Something that is obvious but equally important is that, `It has to be comfortable when you are riding, without it being too tight or pinching you when you crouch down on a straight,´ comments Esteve Rabat. That is why it should not be too bulky as it is also important for you to be able to hide behind the fairing and not to touch the fuel tank, and for it not to stand out over the top of the screen either.

Since the very start of the World Championship riders have taken advantage of their helmets to be easily recognised. Pedrosa has been using a new red, white and blue design, whilst Nicky Hayden decided to `get up to date, although without any big changes. I have a new detail for special occasions, like races in my home country,´ says the American.

Rabat prefers something simpler, with just his favourite colours: red, blue and yellow. Last year Simon changed the whole decoration, and since then he is accompanied by his mascot in every session, whilst Marc Marquez carries the most aggressive design put forward by his sponsors, as he preferred it to another simpler design.

Courtesy of the Repsol Media Service

MotoGP, 2008

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