(Top) 6D’s new ATR-1 off-road helmet aims to provide rider’s with a safer helmet in the event of an accident. The helmet has already proven itself having helped Eli Tomac survive a heinous over-the-handlebar crash through the whoops at Anaheim 2. (Center) The ATR-1 helmet uses a unique floating suspension system to help dissipate energy in lower speed crashes. (Bottom) The crew at 6D has spent two years designing and testing the helmet and it will be available this summer at a cost of $745.
When it comes to rider protection a helmet is the most vital piece of safety equipment a motorcyclist can wear. Southern California-based start-up 6D wants to enhance rider safety and push protection to new levels with its ATR-1 off-road helmet.
“Our goal was to manufacture and design a superior off-road helmet,” says 6D’s Bob Weber, a motorcycle industry veteran who has played an active role in the growth of many successful motorcycle brands, including most recently Troy Lee Designs. Weber has an intimate knowledge of the sport having raced in the pro ranks during the ‘80s and continues to compete for fun today. “The motocross guy—he’s going to fall off his motocross bike, he’s going to crash. We all do. What we want to do is reduce the propensity of a concussion.”
According to 6D and data supplied by the Asterisk Mobile Medical Center, head injuries account for almost one-third of all serious crashes, most of which are derived from concussions. Due to the nature of competition, many times the symptoms of brain trauma are masked, both purposely and on accident, which can make riders further susceptible to life-altering damage in the event of another hit to the head.
It’s this sort of head injury that prematurely ended the career of Broc Hepler. After inking a deal to race both Supercross and motocross on a then factory Yamaha YZ450F for the 2007 season, the rider from Pennsylvania encountered another serious hit to his head while preparing for Supercross. This crash proved to be one concussion too many and Hepler would retire at just 21-years-old. Fast forward to today, and Hepler still isn’t 100%
“I can hardly work out without some issues arising,” said Hepler in Motocross Action’s candid Seeing through the Fog interview. “I start to lose my vision and my reaction time slows. It’s almost like I’m in a fog. It’s a scary feeling.”
Armed with the engineering expertise of Robert Reisinger (who raced as an AMA pro in the ‘70s and was a factory Kawasaki R&D test rider) the two racing enthusiasts devoted the last couple years to building their new ATR-1 lid and are beginning to roll it out, first with the Geico Honda 250SX Supercross team, then to the riding public later this year. In fact, Tomac has already proven the helmet’s worthiness having hit his head hard in a fast fifth-gear, over-the-bars style crash through the whoops at Oakland last month and being back to race fitness seven days later.
At the heart of the helmet’s design is what 6D terms as Omni-Directional Suspension (ODS) technology. The idea behind it is to supplement a helmet’s conventional foam EPS liner (designed to dissipate energy in a big impact) with a network of tiny dampeners to reduce forces during slower speed impacts. Furthermore the dampers are engineered in such a way that they move freely in “Six Degrees of Freedom” (X, Y, and Z-axis plus allowing for rotation in terms of pitch, yaw and roll) which allows for a more accurate and biometrically correct dissipation of kinetic energy. This allows your head to float slightly within the helmet much like your brain does within the skull.
“Today’s helmets are very stiff and designed to meet and exceed the existing standards of SNELL, DOT and ECE—and those are very high-level energy demands,” shares Weber. “While that’s necessary, the helmets don’t really function too well at lower demands. Our system has an active liner in it that can manage that force at the lower energy and mitigate it much better than existing helmet designs.”
6D cites testing data, specifically G-forces (both straight and angular) in relation to velocity (meters per second) to demonstrate that its patent-pending system is able to consistently dissipate forces better as compared to name brand, SNELL/DOT and ECE-approved helmets. For more information on its testing protocol and results make sure to peruse the “Press Kit” on its website. Right now 6D plans on having production helmets available this summer at a cost of $745.