Snell M2015 < back

A Long Legacy

The Snell Memorial Foundation was created out of a desire to guarantee that powersports helmets actually did what they were advertised to do—save lives. In the 1950s, there was a tremendous and risky range in helmet quality and Snell sought to level the playing field by creating testing standards that would subject helmets to very high-energy impacts. M2015 is the latest iteration of a standard aimed at street riding. It succeeds both M2005 and M2010.

Less common, more challenging.
As with all Snell helmet standards, M2015 is a completely voluntary standard, whereas DOT (United States) and ECE 22.05 (Europe) standards are mandatory. Helmet manufacturers who’ve sought Snell certification have generally done so because of the prestige often associated with passing the “toughest” standard. Indeed, M2015 requires that test helmets be hit with greater force (from higher heights and at higher velocities) than both DOT and ECE 22.05.

Snell M2015 requires impact testing on flat, hemispherical and edge anvils. The Foundation contends that this greater range of anvils more accurately represents the wide range of objects a motorcyclist may strike during a crash. Others have argued that it’s something closer to overkill. What is beyond debate is that Snell has standardized the most challenging impact test for motorcyclists. The Edge anvil is particularly difficult to pass.

Does Snell’s standard hit too hard?
Critics of Snell’s approach argue that a helmet designed to pass this standard’s extreme impacts may not perform well in less high-speed, high-energy accidents. The basic idea here is that manufacturers must use a harder foam in the helmet to survive those hits and that harder foam may transmit more energy to the rider’s head during a slower-speed crash.

In the past (with M2005 and prior Snell standards), Snell-approved helmets did, in fact, have a difficult time passing Europe’s ECE 22.05 standard—particularly the Extra-Small, Small and Medium-sized helmets. They transmitted more than the 275 G-limit mandated by ECE 22.05.

Snell contends that the root of the problem had more to do with the different headforms required by each standard. ECE 22.05 calls for five different headforms of varying weights. Snell long called for fewer headforms.

Beginning with their M2010 standard, Snell adopted a similar headform policy as the ECE. Snell M2015 now utilizes six headform sizes. The result: Snell-approved Extra- Small, Small and Medium helmets featuring softer, more resilient foams that test more successfully under the ECE 22.05 standard. Though Snell-approved helmets are less common in Europe than in North America, it’s now possible for companies to manufacture a helmet that will pass both standards. Snell’s M2015 standard has a 275 G threshold for its larger-sized helmets and even lower G thresholds for smaller helmets.

M2015 includes both a chin bar impact test and a face shield penetration test. Snell technicians shoot the face shield in three different points along its centerline with a pellet gun. If any of the pellets penetrate the face shield, the helmet fails. Like all standards (except for ECE 22.2) the Snell standard gives Snell’s technicians great discretion in seeking out potential weak spots in the helmet shell and subjecting them to impacts—something Snell argues makes for more legitimate test results. As with all Snell standards, certification is handled directly by the Snell Foundation, which also conducts random, follow-up tests following certification. Companies cannot self-certify their helmets under the standard.

*This chart compares impact energies across standards, per each standard’s required drop heights. For illustration purposes, it assumes a headform weight of 5 kilograms, though some standards actually test a variety of different headform sizes/weights).

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