Ask our Experts, we're here to help!
Making an informed decision about protective gear not only yields a better experience behind the wheel, it might also save your life. At the same time, experts agree that comfort is speed – the more relaxed and undistracted drivers can be, the more attention they can devote to driving and competing. With that in mind, there are many accessories to make your helmet more comfortable, more convenient, and more effective.
For this discussion, we’ll use a Stilo ST5 GT full-face helmet as our template. Stilo is noted to be one of the best in the industry with their integration of helmet accessories, but the basic equipment and concepts apply to almost any helmet. That said, it should be noted that the options available differ even between the Stilo GT, FN, and other helmet models.
To gain additional insight, we spoke to Stilo brand manager Preston Folkestad for his expert advice on how you can get your helmet dialed in for your personal preferences as well as the needs of the racing discipline that you’re using it in.
Getting the right helmet accessories isn't just a matter of safety. Experts agree that comfort is speed in all types of motorsport, because it allows you to concentrate free from distractions and stay alert throughout the race. This is especially vital in endurance events, where drivers are in the car for prolonged periods.
No matter what kind of motorsports you’re competing in, being able to see situations as they arise will always be your first line of defense against potential crashes and resulting injuries. So, you should give considerable attention to aspects of your helmet that affect visibility, in particular the shield (often referred to as a visor). Helmets in the industry vary in viewport size. These variations are determined by what environment the helmet was designed for.
Most helmets are available with different types of shields, and you should choose them carefully. For example, all Stilo ST5 helmets come with a 3mm-thick clear shield that has a unique anti-fog coating on the interior side of it to improve outward visibility. This is a great multi-purpose shield, but it’s worth noting that additional shields are available. They can provide a more specialized approach and even ratchet up the helmet’s curb appeal.
“The clear double-glazed shield, for example, does not have the anti-fog coating because it is specifically designed for dusty environments,” Folkestad notes. “In off-road or rally racing, this is a better option. The anti-fog coating is kind of like a wax, and if the visor is open, it can collect debris from a dusty environment. The coating also requires a special cleaning agent to avoid damaging it, so the double-glazed shield is often the ideal choice for racers in these types of disciplines.”
Viewport sizes vary between helmets, which is typically determined by what environment the helmet was designed for. Along with this, choosing the most effective shield is crucial for driver safety and comfort.
Stilo offers smoked, mirrored, and iridium shields as well, and those can be handy in environments where glare is a potential concern. For night stints in an endurance race, or racing in overcast conditions, a yellow or amber shield may be a better option. Smoked, mirrored, and iridium options tend to be better suited for excessively bright environments. “The smoked, mirrored, and iridium shields are all available in Medium and Dark tint options, too,” Folkestad points out. “Medium is a 50% tint, while Dark is 70%.”
The company also offers a short visor that replaces the shield, allowing air to travel through the eye port for improved ventilation while still protecting the driver’s eyes from glare. And for those who need more sun protection, a helmet peak will take things a step further.
“The helmet peak is similar to a visor on a ballcap,” says Folkestad. “This is a great option for someone who is going to be competing in an environment with a wide range of dynamic lighting, which can be found in endurance racing, rallying, and even boat racing. Being able to have consistent coverage is really helpful in those situations.”
Helmet peaks are like the visor on a baseball cap, and they offer additional protection from sun glare and the compromised visibility that can result. Peaks are a great option for drivers competing in the varying light conditions typical of endurance events, rally, and boat racing.
Helmet skirts and chin flaps can also help protect and improve visibility in dusty racing environments by preventing dirt and other debris from finding its way inside the helmet. In addition, a helmet skirt or chin flap and air setup can help create positive pressure inside the helmet and therefore keep dust out.
Meanwhile, Stilo’s ABP (Advanced Ballistic Protection) shields are designed to be paired specifically with Stilo’s ABP-style helmets due to the unique shape of their eye port.
While some helmets have aerodynamic elements incorporated into their shell designs to reduce the potential for the helmet to “lift” in an open cockpit car as speeds increase, aero kits can improve a helmet’s aerodynamic profile even if the shell might have originally been designed for closed cockpit use.
“There are several different aero pieces that can go on the outside of an ST5 helmet. If you plan on being in an open cockpit environment, the ST5 FN is recommended,” Folkestad says. “The first aero piece is a front chin spoiler, which is useful for karting or any open cockpit car where helmet lift is a concern. And like the chin spoiler, the purpose of the rear spoiler attachment is also to create a cleaner break of air from the rear of the helmet and provide more stability at speed.”
The Stilo IndyCar Aero Kit accomplishes similar goals using a more comprehensive design, adding multiple aero pieces, while its air intakes serve as a ram air-style ventilation system.
Although some helmets are made specifically for open-cockpit use, aero kits can be added to improve the aerodynamic profile of many helmets designed for closed-cockpits. Rear spoiler pieces such as this one create a cleaner break of air from the rear of the helmet to enhance stability at speed.
Ventilation is a vital element in setting up helmets. Inadequate air supply to the driver or excess heat buildup can cause fatigue and distract drivers, diminishing their effectiveness and therefore making them less competitive on-track.
Ventilation can also be addressed with a number of provisions on most helmets, such as the optional side port on the Stilo ST5 GT. “This is geared toward racing formats where you’re going to be on-track for extended amounts of time, particularly in a closed cockpit car,” Folkestad says. “As we all know, it gets hot in race cars – especially in the summer months. Having ventilation helps to keep your head cool to reduce driver fatigue.
“With an ST5 GT, you can opt to use one of the side ports,” he continues. “They direct that air toward your face, or you can opt for a top air system, which utilizes the vents on the upper parts of the helmet to force air downward and through it.” Choosing between these two options largely comes down to personal preference, but the packaging constraints of the car you’re driving should also be taken into consideration.
Heat buildup in a helmet can cause fatigue and distraction, which increases danger and reduces the ability to compete effectively. Air systems like this one add small scoops to the top or sides of the helmet to direct air into ports and cool the driver's head.
Radio communications for drivers and crew have become commonplace in almost all forms of motorsports, and so this should be a prime consideration when selecting a helmet and setting it up.
On a Stilo ST5, electronics provisions can be integrated into the left or right side of the helmet. Although there’s no right or wrong choice here, most drivers prefer to have the electronics installed on the “driver’s side” of the helmet, as that typically makes it easier for crews to access these ports during a driver change.
As far as communications-kit options go, the Stilo and Gentex systems achieve the same goals, but they accomplish them in different ways.
“The Stilo mic integrates into a cutout that’s designed into the chin bar of the ST5,” says Folkestad. “The Gentex is a boom mic design – there’s a slot in the side of the helmet in between the cheek pad and the chin bar, and that positions the mic inside the helmet. The boom mic design will provide a bit more adjustability, while the Stilo design keeps the mic out of the way.”
Both the Stilo and Gentex mics can be paired with speakers that integrate into provisions in the helmet, or used with external ear buds by way of a 3.5mm audio jack. Stilo also offers a range of radio adapters to ensure that all components of your radio equipment can speak to one another. And if you’re in need of an intercom system, Stilo has a variety of wired and wireless options as well.
Radio communications have become essential in almost all forms of motorsport. Stilo offers effective options for adding radio systems to helmets, with several choices of microphone style and placement.
Much like ventilation systems, hydration systems are typically found in motorsport disciplines where drivers often have lengthy stints at the wheel. “It’s useful in any racing situation where you’re driving for an extended period of time,” Folkestad says. “That can be anything from endurance formats to SVRA and other club racing. It’s another tool that helps prevent fatigue.”
The Stilo ST5 GT offers a side port provision for hydration systems, but he notes that there’s a workaround if you’re using both side ports for other purposes or are using an FN helmet. “In that case, we’re able to utilize one of the front vents to integrate the drink system.”
Dehydration is a significant danger for racers, especially in longer events. Hydration systems like this one offered by Stilo combat the problem effectively.
In the event of an incident where there are concerns about potential neck injury, the available Integrated Eject feature for the Stilo ST5 can prove invaluable. “It’s a safety feature – picture a deflated polymer balloon that’s integrated into the inside of the helmet at the top,” Folkestad explains.
“In the event of a crash where first responders need to take someone’s helmet off without moving their neck, they can utilize this system with a hand pump,” he adds. “After releasing the chin strap, they’ll use that hand pump to inflate the eject system, which will push the helmet off of the head without putting any strain on the individual’s neck.”
Any helmet with a SNELL rating of SA2015 or newer comes pre-drilled for head and neck restraints. As we noted in our head and neck restraint buyers guide, there are several different types of head and neck restraint tethers and helmet anchors, and that means that not every anchor will work with every type of tether. Accordingly, it’s important to verify that the tether on your head and neck restraint is compatible with the type of anchor that you plan to install on your helmet.
Post anchors are considered the standard attachment type for a HANS device, and post anchors can also be adapted to work with a hybrid-style head and neck restraint.
As the names imply, both the Quick Click and M61 Quick Release anchors offer the convenience of a quick-release mechanism, though it’s important to note that the former hooks to the tether by way of a loop mechanism, while the latter allows the tether to simply snap onto the post and release by pulling the tether.
HANS devices or hybrid head and neck restraints are mandatory in many forms of competition, and they're highly recommended even if they're optional. There are several different kinds of anchors for HANS devices, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
“These days a lot of head and neck restraint manufacturers offer compatibility with all of these different anchor designs, so a lot of it really comes down to personal preference,” Folkestad says. “Another option is the D-ring-style anchor, where the HANS device essentially loops into this ring on the helmet. A lot of circle track racers like these because of the simple design. But, in general, the majority of what we see out there is the traditional HANS post.”
The features and options available will vary depending on the helmet you’re using, so some of this may not apply to your particular situation. But Folkestad is quick to point out that folks can give Stilo’s customer service team a buzz at (800) 654-7223 and speak to their well-informed staff if they have any questions or concerns.
Stilo is also slated to launch a new YouTube channel in late 2023 that will serve, in part, as a video knowledge base and informational reference for frequently-asked questions.
SEE THE ENTIRE LINE OF STILO HELMETS AND ACCESSORIES at StiloHelmets.com