Introduction: Micrometric Ratcheting Quick Release Buckle for Helmets
If you're an ATGATT type of guy then you know how much nicer it is to ride with gear that works with you and not against you - and that especially includes your helmet. There's nothing worse than speeding off into the sunrise...only to have to park on the side of the road minutes later because you forgot to fasten your helmet and can't buckle up the D-Rings with gloves on while riding. Extra points if you have to stop your riding group as well.
Once I got used to a micrometric ratchet quick release, there was no going back. It's unconditionally superior regarding convenience and comfort. Not only can you release your helmet one handed, but it also makes flapping webbing a thing of the past. Another benefit is that since it's micrometric, it can ratchet into multiple positions like zip ties. You can adjust it exactly how you want it for every single ride with precision, even while riding. And it's so quick and easy to fasten that I simply can fasten it any time I walk in to a store and carry around my helmet like a basket, grabbing on to the buckled strap as a handle.
The europeans have already seen the light on this feature, since many/most mainstream Euro helmets have a ratcheting buckle. Like our unit system it seems us americans are lagging behind on this one, too. But no worries, there's a fix for that. In this tutorial we're going to go over the best way to add a ratcheting quick release to a D-Ring equipped helmet. Let's Begin.
Tool Requirements: Basic
Time: 2-3 Hours
Motorcycling is an inherently dangerous activity, and no amount of protection will ever guarantee walking away from an accident without injury. Anyone who decides to follow this tutorial must do it at their own risk and under their own exclusive responsibility. Neither this Instructable nor it's author make any claims about the performance or safety of any item after any modifications have been made, including any in this document. For the best safety, any equipment worn should be undamaged and unmodified, used as the manufacturer intended.
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Step 1: What You'll Need
Whenever possible, I'll try to link to the site with the lowest price, best service and if possible, free shipping; to help make things easier if you try to follow the project. The following links are to either Amazon or Ebay. Items in parenthesis mean optional. The following list is mainly so you can make sure you have everything available before starting the project. I expect most people to already have most tools and supplies in their garage.
- Helmet: You already have this, right?
- Micrometric Quick Release Ratchet: Don't let the reviews disuade you, the vast majority are from people who were not happy with the fact that sewing is required to attach them. Or click here for an Amazon search. In general most seem to be of similar quality, though there are differences in aesthetic quality between batches. If you're not satisfied with the quality, just return it and buy the same item from another vendor. There are also other models, though I prefer the versions which have a toothed strap over the "seat-belt type" since it gives you a lot more adjustability mid-ride. It's also easier to fasten and release with gloves. To check Ebay for cheaper options with longer overseas shipping click here.
- 1" Triglides Sliders: While you can simply sew the toothed side in place, it will take you a lot longer, and if you do so the adjustment will be limited to the length of the toothed section alone. If you add a triglide, you'll save yourself half the sewing and be able to infinitely adjust the buckle length in the future. You'll want a sturdy (non fashion) tridlide however. And preferably stainless steel or powder coated (for rust resistance). The best choice is the unit linked since it's made for scuba gear, and as such you can count on it being strong, well finished, and rust proof.
- Speedy Stitcher: To quickly sew through the thick webbing.
Hot Knife: While you can also use a hobby knife and a lighter, a powerful hot knife does a better job of cutting and sealing the ends (the webbing used in helmet straps is tubular so heat-sealing the end is necessary). The Dremel Versatip I used did a great job. Don't bother with the smaller 25w Hot Knifes though - I tried it and it was underpowered for the job.
- Speedy Stitcher #4 Small Needle or Denim Needles: To sew through the thick webbing with multiple rows of stitches, you'll need a strong needle. The easy choice (when using a Speedy Stitcher) is the #4 small needle, but one of the best (unadvertised) things of the Speedy Stitcher is that it accepts normal sewing machine needles. In other words, you can also use "Jeans" needles or any other sturdy (non-cutting, read leather needle) machine needles you already have.
- T90 Upholstery Thread: While it is probably still overkill, in my opinion T70 or T90 bonded upholstery thread is probably the best choice strength wise for this project.
Step 2: Note - Can I Do This by Hand, Without a "Speedy Stitcher"?
To be honest, this is the first time I've ever used a Speedy Stitcher when adding a quick release. All the times prior I've simply sewn by hand with a thimble and some pliers. Using mostly the pliers. If you don't have a Speedy Stitcher and refuse to buy one, you can do it by hand. However given that they are relatively inexpensive and extremely useful, there's little reason not to have one in your sewing kit. I use mine all the time when sewing thick materials which few domestic sewing machines can power through. Or simply when I don't feel like bringing out and setting up my sewing machine. It's just really useful to have.
Also of note is that given how the Speedy Stitcher stitches - more akin to a sewing machines lock stitch - the sewing will be more aesthetically pleasing, much quicker, and less likely to break or damage the thread mid-project. It will give a better result.
Step 3: Note - What About Non-Sewing Quick Release Buckles?
If you really, really, really don't want to sew anything, then try the Echo Helmet Quick Release. After spending months with it (before deciding to install a buckle the right way), my opinion is that it isn't a bad product, but it isn't a great option either. The truth is that none of the "no-sew" quick release buckles are very good. And most are pretty bad. But I can understand someone choosing it if they want to save the hassle of installing a buckle themselves.
Another option is simply buying a helmet that comes with a quick release as the original option. I don't know which models on the american option come with one, but one option is buying the HJC Rpha Max Evo Helmet. The "Evo" model is simply the european version of the "normal" Rpha Max helmet, which is a very positively reviewed helmet. And it comes with a micrometric quick release helmet by default. I bought the Dorgon Evo which looks awesome, since I was looking for a quiet, lightweight modular helmet - without paying Schuberth prices. And I'm certainly satisfied with it.
But for most people with a helmet that already has a a few scratches on it, and who aren't looking forward to spending big bucks, simply installing a real quick release buckle and getting over it once and for all is the best option.
Step 4: Take a Look at Your Helmet
First, simply remove the cheek pads on your helmet and plan what you're going to do. I'm doing this on a Scorpion EXO-GT920 Modular Helmet. An excellent helmet for the price, let it be said. On this model the foam ear pieces were removable (simply tug forward on it after removing a single screw) so I pulled them out to give myself more space to work with. Consider how much strap length you want, where you'll be tucking in the spare webbing, if you can remove the strap padding without unstitching anything, etc.
While I'll be doing this to a modular helmet (which makes taking pictures a lot easier), obviously this can be done just as easily to a full face helmet.
Also, now would probably be a good time to remove the visor to keep it from being in the way or getting scratched.
Step 5: Undo the Stitching on the Strap Pads
Regrettably, on this model the strap pads (the padding next to the chin strap) isn't removable. On some (many?) helmets it can be removed with velcro or a snap but that wasn't the case here.
Carefully undo the stitching with a seam ripper without damaging the pads.
Step 6: Undo the Stitching on the Buckle
Now it's time to undo the stitching for the D-Ring Buckle. Pretty Straightforward.
Step 7: Remove the Snap on the Long Strap
On virtually all helmets with D-Rings, there is a snap on the longer side (the one that gets threaded through the D-Ring) so you can snap it in place to keep it from flapping in the wind (another one of D-Ring's quirks). To be able to slip on the triglide, we're going to need to remove it.
You can either remove the snap or just cut the strap just past the snap. I did the former. Just cus'.
Step 8: Test Fit the Setup
Now would be a good time to just test fit everything to see if you like how things are going.
Step 9: Sew in the Buckle
Now the moment of truth - sewing in the buckle.
First you'll want to set up the Speedy Stitcher. I like loading it with those cheap little transparent sewing machine bobbins (since they're plentiful and I don't have to waste a lot of thread on them), and then putting an extra bobbin in the back to take up the spare space. I also like putting a couple of rubber bands on the body to keep the thread from jumping over the pin, as well as applying extra tension on the thread so it doesn't feed as easily. If it still pulls out to easily, wrap the thread around the post multiple times.
I used a Speedy Stitcher #4 Small Needle because I had one on hand, but if not I would have happily used Denim Needles for machine sewing. Extra points if you apply some machine oil to the needle so it powers through the webbing easier. But that's only worth it if it's giving you a lot of trouble.
I won't get into how to use a Speedy Stitcher - there's plenty of good information on that out there already. But regardless it's pretty straightforward. Just pull some thread through the material, and keep creating lock stitches by threading that thread through the loop created by the tool. Through it's easier said then done in the beginning. If you haven't ever used the tool before I'd recommend you practice first. If you make the mistake of threading the thread through the front instead of the back even once, then you'll have to backtrack quite a bit). But once you get a hang of it, it has no equal for sewing thick materials. Gone are the days of sewing with a hand needle and pliers! Plus, it's stitch is a lot more aesthetically pleasing as well as gentler on the thread when sewing long sections.
Regarding the stitch itself, just imitate a crossed box stitch like the one that was removed earlier. In my case I sewed pretty much over the exact same spot the original sewing was.
I used some binding clips to hold back the strap pad. I've really come to like those clips whenever I do any sewing. They're quick and easy to use, and unlike pins don't damage the work material.
Step 10: Cut the Excess Strap
You'll want to cut off the excess strap from the toothed side, and you'll want a heavy duty hot knife to do so. I cut the strap perpendicularly at the snap's previous location to be able to use that rounded part as a template. Then I marked with some chalk where I want the strap to end. I cut there, and then I followed the tab to make a similar curve (though a 1" metal coin would have probably been better). I then used some flush cutters and a lighter to smooth out any rough bits.
Note: The webbing used for helmet straps is tubular, meaning that it's actually a tube pressed flat. You'll have to properly melt and seal the end to avoid it from opening in the future. It's easy to do, just don't get lazy about it.
Step 11: Outro
Well that's it! Hopefully it didn't take too long! Enjoy the upgrade and stay safe.
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Step 12: Addendum - Safety
So the summarized conclusion? There is none. I still fully trust D-Rings, although now it might not be a dogma anymore. On the other hand, I don't feel like I trust quick releases any more or less than I did before. I still think they are better for casual street riding or a passenger unfamiliar with D-Rings. I don't consider either options to be superior safety wise. They simply will fail in different ways. This is just food for thought for anyone curious about the matter, and if anybody has any other experiences, suggestions, or comments, feel free to fire away.
Now, the longer version.
First of all, if you absolutely think that D-Rings are the safest and bestest thing a helmet can have, and the only thing you'd ever use, this isn't for you. Yes, I know, you can thread the D-Rings in seconds, and it isn't a big hassle, and all the racers have it. I definitely agree. But some people, me included, enjoy the commodity of the quick release for day to day use.
Now of course, I enjoy that ease, but I don't think that it should come as a safety compromise. Thankfully, a quick look at the market hints that is not an issue. Many European helmets have had a quick release as the stock option for years, including high end helmets like Schuberth. However, helmet manufacturers for the US market don't seem to be too fond of quick releases, and many people look down on them. Understandable given Europe's track record. Europe somehow made popular the one-eyed sportbike headlight look, and I definitely hate (really, really hate) that.
Now to the point, after installing one cheap sew-on Quick Release, I decided to test them to help decide if I was going to install one on my backup helmet. I just wanted some general insight and an idea of the strength. Don't consider this methodical, don't consider this conclusive.
I used a harness and a hoist to first test if it would hold my weight, and then test if it would hold the dynamic force of from me jumping from a step ladder. The helmet is to avoid having the hoist hook, the helmet buckles, or anything else bang into my head if and when the strap or the buckle snapped. Pictures were taken, however they were low quality since it wasn't until later that I decided to make this post.
The buckles were sewed on to cheap 1" nylon straps, the type a helmet strap is made out of. The lengths of the strap were about 20cm on both sides of the buckle, whose effect I'm not sure about since the strap does have certain elasticity, but in this case it wasn't decisive either way since the strap was certainly stronger than the buckles.
The biggest issue is that when strapped on, your chin is supposed to keep perpendicular tension on the buckle, which was probably a big deal with the d-ring and not as important with the Quick Release buckle. Regrettably, there was no way for me to mimic that since I wasn't about to hang myself and become the first Instructables martyr.
Now straight to the testing.
The Quick Release perfectly sustained my weight repeatedly, and sustained my weight when I jumped from about .75-1 ft. When I jumped from about 1.5-2 ft., it snapped. You can see the pictures attached. The plastic component held perfectly without damage, but the metal body was bent with the pin snapped. It wouldn't be hard to simply change the pin for a stronger bolt, but I'm not sure if I would be worth it anyway.
It was a let down, but it wasn't unexpected. 180lb falling from up to 2ft causes a lot of force. Specially when that force is concentrated onto a tiny pin. By the way, the quick release didn't slip before breaking (there were no marks on the teeth that would indicate that, and regardless, the way that it broke would have made it irrelevant. I didn't try breaking any more quick releases, since I don't really have any way to quantify how much force was being applied, nor if that force was a "good" or "bad" result.
Since the Quick Release failed, I tried a simple D-Ring setup. I expected it to hold as strong or stronger than the nylon strap. After all, D-Rings are the gold standard. Ironically, it didn't, but mostly due to the test setup. Actually, the strap would slip extremely easy. It would grab on, but any non-perfect loading of the buckle would lead the buckle to simply slip. I barely managed to load it with my weight once or twice before I quit, although I have absolutely no doubt it would hold the weight of my body perfectly in an ideal scenario. The strap would simply "unthread" itself and slip out of the buckle. As I loaded it with my weight, before it was fully loaded, I could feel it slipping. Once it was loaded, it wouldn't slip, but would try to slip as soon as I started to unload it. Even after threading the whole 20cm it would release (slip) before reliably testing it.
Honestly, the only thing made clear here is that Quick Releases are a bit more reliable in the sense that they will take loads without any special requirements, unlike D Rings. I have no doubt in my mind that D Rings are as strong or stronger than Quick Releases, but it does need to be loaded in a specific way to avoid the buckle simply sliding.
In hindsight, there would have only been one "good" answer, and that would be the strap breaking before either of the buckles. That would have pretty much proved that either is "good enough". Having the Quick Release break after a very strong and extremely localized impact doesn't really mean anything. And having the D-Ring slip just means that it's worthless for a non-constant "pulling apart" force like this, which isn't how it's used in a helmet.
However, I have a deep suspicion that non of this matters anyway.
What I mean is, who cares if the quick release would survive, if your neck would be broken. Both buckles easily supported my body-weight, and I'm not sure how well I could support someone trying to pull my head off with an equivalent weight of 180lbs. Much less 180lbs applied dynamically - or more precisely it's perfectly obvious what would happen. So basically, while both buckles failed, I'm not sure they would fail before "lethal or otherwise irreparable harm".
And this comes to the second point, I'm not really sure what type of forces a strap has to face in the first place. It surely has to stop the inertia of a 2-3lb helmet decelerating at whatever speed you have the fall at, but besides that, any impact is most likely going to try to compress the helmet on your head further (hitting your head against something), not rip it off (my guess). I really just can't imagine any non-lethal scenario where one would have the equivalent force of a grown man trying to hang off your head. Obviously this is pure speculation, I know nothing about the forces which take place during an accident, but it does seem like an educated guess. On the other hand, I can imagine a helmet and head bouncing on concrete, where the load is applied and released multiple times in a small interval, where I'm not sure the D-ring shines after this test.
Out of curiosity, I checked to see if there were online references to what the exact requirements are for certification, and apparently they are. Maybe it's worth testing down the road:
S7.3 Retention system test.
S7.3.1 The retention system test is conducted by applying a static tensile load to the retention assembly of a complete helmet, which is mounted, as described in S6.3, on a stationary test headform as shown in Figure 4, and by measuring the movement of the adjustable portion of the retention system test device under tension.
S7.3.2 The retention system test device consists of both an adjustable loading mechanism by which a static tensile load is applied to the helmet retention assembly and a means for holding the test headform and helmet stationary.
The retention assembly is fastened around two freely moving rollers, both of which have a 0.5 inch (1.3 cm) diameter and a 3-inch (7.6 cm) center-to-center separation, and which are mounted on the adjustable portion of the tensile loading device (Figure 4).
The helmet is fixed on the test headform as necessary to ensure that it does not move during the application of the test loads to the retention assembly.
S7.3.3 A 50-pound (22.7 kg) preliminary test load is applied to the retention assembly, normal to the basic plane of the test headform and symmetrical with respect to the center of the retention assembly for 30 seconds, and the maximum distance from the extremity of the adjustable portion of the retention system test device to the apex of the helmet is measured.
SS7.3.4 An additional 250-pound (113.4 kg) test load is applied to the retention assembly, in the same manner and at the same location as described in S7.3.3, for 120 seconds, and the maximum distance from the extremity of the adjustable portion of the retention system test device to the apex of the helmet is measured.