GL1800Riders Forums banner
  • Hey everyone! Enter your ride HERE to be a part of September's Ride of the Month Challenge!
1 - 20 of 37 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
20,014 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Most motorcyclists have wondered about whether a black helmet is hotter than a lighter color, like silver. The question is asked quite frequently on Internet Forums, and there is no shortage of opinions. Today I had a chance to actually test the theory for myself, as I was considering a black helmet. It seems to be the only color available right now in XL in the new Arai XC-Ram.

The story goes like this. We all know that dark colors absorb heat and light colors reflect it. But many proponents of black helmets claim that the 2 inch Styrofoam liner is a pretty darned good insulator. They say that if there was any difference, it would only be a factor at a standstill, that the moment you start moving, the wind will dissipate the heat. But I don't go for subjective testing. As an Engineering tech, I need to see concrete data.

I think those would be reasonable considerations, if the temps were only a couple of degrees apart. And that is what I set out to prove or disprove. Take a look at this test and my conclusions at the end. I found the results to be very surprising.

Helmet Temperature Test
2012 Arai XC Ram helmets Diamond Black vs Aluminum Silver

Test conditions
89 degrees. Mostly Sunny. Wind Speed Negligible. All air vents open. Visors closed. Visors facing away from Sun. Air probes were placed between comfort liner and inner styrofoam shell.

Test Equipment Fluke 87 Series 5 Multimeter with Temperature function
Fluke 62 IR Thermometer
2 matched K Type Thermocouples with Air probe tips.

Here is a picture of the setup.



Internal
probe
Internal
probe
External
Surface temp
External
Surface temp
SilverBlackSilverBlack
Start78.278.2
15 minutes *95.094.6110128
30 minutes95.2104.6110144
45 minutes99.2105.4111145
60 minutes **97.7106.1106.5134.5

*Test error. I mistakenly inserted the probes in the sun, allowing the probe for the silver helmet to be exposed to direct sunlight for about 2 minutes, allowing it to heat up. The first 15 minute sample may have been tainted, and cannot be considered accurate.

** last 10 minutes of test were under cloud cover.

Conclusions.

The first sample had me scratching my head, until I realized the mistake I had made. But I knew that the temps would stabilize, and it would not affect the subsequent samples.

1. The test proves that it is indisputable that at a standstill, a black helmet not only gets hotter inside, but a lot hotter.
2. With a surface temperature 55 degrees above ambient temperature, the black helmet was obviously absorbing a massive amount of heat. The extremely high temperature of the black outer shell prevented the inside of the helmet from cooling down. While the inside of the silver helmet cooled down under cloud cover due to the lower external surface temperature, the inside of the black helmet continued to rise, even though the outer temperature dropped. Getting the helmet out of the sun did not provide any relief inside the helmet.
3. Even though this test was done at a standstill, I do not believe that hot 90 degree air flowing over a helmet at speed could have made much of a difference in reducing inside temperatures. Not only that, but on a Goldwing, not that much air hits the helmet.
4. I had hoped for continuous sun. But the presence of clouds at the end of the test turned out to be a blessing. It shows that once you stop, even for a short time, the temps rise so rapidly on the outer surface of a black helmet, that once you start moving, it can never recover.
5. The temperatures of both helmets reached their peak fairly rapidly, and then either stopped rising, or rose at a lower rate.
6. I was very surprised that the internal temperature of the Silver helmet only rose about 6 degrees above ambient temperature up to 45 minutes. I think this may prove that wearing a helmet is cooler than no helmet. I may go out in the Sun tomorrow and measure the temperature of my bare head after 15 minutes.
7.Those who believe their black helmets are not any hotter are kidding themselves.

I did not have time to make this a highly detailed experiment. But the results are so skewed that the limited samples provided all the data that was needed. I believe this is the only actual experiment that has been done on this subject. Everything else on the Internet is only opinions, which vary wildly. I think that my test now proves the answer definitively. I would like to put the probes inside the helmet and test the helmets while moving, but then I would not be able to return them.

EDIT: It also should be noted that with a human head in the helmet, those internal temperatures would have likely been higher for both helmets. Not only would there be less ambient air to keep the temps down, but our heads generate heat as well. The silver helmet would not have remained as cool as it appears in the test. But at the same time, the black helmet temps would have likely become unbearable. This test should not be construed as an example of what the actual temps are inside a helmet while riding, but rather looked at solely by the differences between the two helmets.

The Black helmet is being returned, and I am going to wait for the sliver one to arrive.

I hope this helps anyone considering a black helmet. FWIW, the Diamond Black Arai is gorgeous. I wish the results had been different.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,160 Posts
Good test and just what I would expect. I'm sure same goes for black clothing obviously. I have a black and also a silver Aerostich roadcrafter suit. I wear the black in winter, the silver in summer. Definately warmer in black.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
430 Posts
Excellent test. I just asked that question last week if black helmets were hotter than light colored ones. Im definetly going to go with silver. Thanks for posting:thumbup:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
860 Posts
When your riding with the vents open will there be a difference? Be interesting to put a fan in front of them and then check the difference.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
334 Posts
Awesome information...very informative, especially since I was just considering a new black helmet to match my black bike. May have to reconsider. Thank you for posting that.
 

·
Vendor
Joined
·
19,445 Posts
I used to have a white 04 Wing. A freind's was black. At a stop light on a hot day here in FL, my freind had me reach over and place my hand just above the fuel door and the same on my white one. The differance was so noticable that I always buy a white helmat.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
20,014 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
That is a good idea. I won't be able to return the helmets until next week. It's going to be near 90 for the next 3 days. Maybe I will retest with a fan. I don't have a way to calculate air flow speed, but it should still give a good idea of whether air flowing across the helmets makes a difference instead of just posting a theory.

Good idea. The more data the better.

I think it is a given that black clothing is hotter, which is why it boggles my mind why the LD Comfort stuff is only available in black.

The difference between a helmet and clothing was, does the 2 inches of Styrofoam insulate your head from the black outer shell. Obviously it does, just not enough.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
20,014 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I used to have a white 04 Wing. A freind's was black. At a stop light on a hot day here in FL, my freind had me reach over and place my hand just above the fuel door and the same on my white one. The differance was so noticable that I always buy a white helmat.
At the end of the test, I placed the palm of my hand on top of each helmet to feel the difference. I could barely sense any heat from the silver helmet, while the black helmet was noticeably hot to the touch.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,415 Posts
At the end of the test, I placed the palm of my hand on top of each helmet to feel the difference. I could barely sense any heat from the silver helmet, while the black helmet was noticeably hot to the touch.
Sounds like my next helmet will be silver, not only match the bike but will be cooler to boot. I know with a black helmet & blue kevlar suit on my head is warmer on hot days than the rest of me.
 

·
IronMan
Joined
·
18,394 Posts
HERE IN HOT N HUMID SUNNY FL LIKE TO SEE SOMEONE HOLD THERE HAND ON A BLACK CAR JUST FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOL FAN SHOULD HELP COOL BLACK HELMUT BUT IMOP WILL STILL BE HOTTER THAN WHITE THE GOOD GUYS ALWAYS WEAR WHITE :thumbup::thumbup:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,095 Posts
I've been wearing a white helmet for the last couple of years for this very reason.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
38 Posts
White helmet, White bike, and white riding jacket. HOT Oklahoma summers! :yes1:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,046 Posts
something doesn't feel right....

given the same thickness of styrofoam liner in both helmets wouldn't you expect the same amount (either % or actual temp) of heat transfer from the shell surface to the probe in the inner liner?

Looking at data at the 45 min. mark: Why would silver delta be only 12degrees, while the black is 40 degrees?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
269 Posts
I wear a black helmet to match my bike but it really get hot on 90+ days. in the winter it works in my favor. since i ride mainly in the summer i am going with a silver one. Thanks for the test results.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
20,014 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
something doesn't feel right....

given the same thickness of styrofoam liner in both helmets wouldn't you expect the same amount (either % or actual temp) of heat transfer from the shell surface to the probe in the inner liner?

Looking at data at the 45 min. mark: Why would silver delta be only 12degrees, while the black is 40 degrees?
I'm certainly not qualified to give a good technical answer to that. But I think it shows the same effect we see with many other insulators. The inside of the helmet is always going to want to remain at ambient. I think the test does show what a great insulator the styrofoam is. It's just not good enough to overcome that much heat. If you were to remove the insulator, the delta would not have been nearly as great. That's great news for those of us who ride in extreme cold temps.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
11,183 Posts
Great info Larry. Thanks.

As to the question FredGavin had, the thermal properties of a material change with temperature. Not sure what these values are for the insulating material used in the test helmets, but the values (differences) are typically quite low.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
20,014 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
One thing I should have added to my report is that with a human head in the helmet, those internal temperatures would have likely been higher for both helmets. Not only would there be less ambient air to keep the temps down, but our heads generate heat as well. The silver helmet would not have remained as cool as it appears in the test. But at the same time, the black helmet temps would have likely become unbearable.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,603 Posts
As Travelinlite says, "Thanks" Larry M for the test.
Good info for our NEXT helmet buy.
thecruiser
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
931 Posts
I've long suspected what your data shows even though I've always read there's no difference. I've worn a white helmet for years because of that suspicion and better conspicuity, at least compared to black. I wonder if white and silver helmets would yield about the same results or if the silver would still be significantly cooler because of superior relectivity. Perhaps most importantly, as TravelinLite wondered, does the higher heat appreciably affect the helmet's impact properties?

Thanks for posting this data and your conclusions.
 
1 - 20 of 37 Posts
Top