Most riders know that wearing a motorcycle helmet while riding can significantly increase safety. Of course, the amount of safety provided depends on whether your chosen helmet meets high safety standards. Riders in hot and humid climates don’t want helmets without good ventilation, for example. Also, if you want to ride safer but don’t have much money, you’ll probably grab whichever helmet fits your budget, regardless of what safety standards it meets (or doesn’t).
Enter the FIA. Yes, we’re talking about the global motorsport sanctioning body. Although it hasn’t historically worked on the helmet creation side of things, it does set helmet safety standards for its various motorsport series—which then also transfer to commercially-available helmets for regular riders and drivers.
In July, 2020, the FIA announced an ambitious plan to create a low-cost helmet with great ventilation that would be comfortable for riders in hot, humid, and tropical climates. Numbers fluctuate year to year, but around 80 percent of the world’s motorcycle, scooter, and moped riders regularly ride in countries with hot, humid weather. Throughout Asia, Latin America, and Africa, there’s a clear need for safe, comfortable, and affordable helmets for riders on two wheels.
Gallery: FIA Safe and Affordable Helmet Programme Launch - Mexico City - 2021
Now, apart from enlisting some Formula One drivers to come up with helmet graphics for a November, 2021 distribution event in Mexico City, the FIA didn’t create these helmets. Instead, it enlisted the help of Spanish helmet manufacturer NZI to come up with a design that meets certain requirements. Firstly, the helmet had to meet the ECE 22.05 safety standard. Additionally, it needed to be comfortable for those hot and humid climates, and finally, it also had to meet a $10 wholesale price point.
Previously, helmets that met this safety standard were seen as too big, bulky, uncomfortable, and expensive to be practical in many countries. While the FIA doesn’t want to get into making helmets itself, the goal of this project was to create a template for other helmet manufacturers to use, while also putting a thumb on the scale to shift market forces into demanding helmets with these characteristics.
The November, 2021 event saw thousands of these helmets get distributed in Mexico. The Keep Fighting Foundation, which was created by Michael Schumacher’s family, donated 2,600 helmets for this purpose. Other organizations, including governmental, nonprofit, and private business entities came together to support this initiative as well.
Riders don’t usually want to be unsafe. However, when it comes down to a choice between buying an expensive, uncomfortable helmet or paying your bills, you’re going to choose paying your bills every time. In this particular case, the FIA decided to put its might into asking why more riders can’t have both—and it’s a very good question to ask.