— California has a UTV helmet law, but most states don’t, and we see a lot of people in these states riding without any sort of head protection. As much as we love UTVs, accidents do happen, and a simple tip-over can cause injuries—sometimes serious ones.
Especially with OEM lap and shoulder belts, a slow-speed tipover can bang occupants’ heads against the roll cage, and I don’t know too many people with heads harder than steel. Four- and five-point harnesses hold a person in the seat better and more securely, but unforeseen circumstances, like a branch poking into the cab, can and do happen. Helmet painter and now manufacturer Troy Lee once took a fall off of his mountain bike and took a stick through his cheek, leading to full-face bicycle helmets from TLD.
Helmets are insurance against dental bills, as well as concussions, and we’ve reported on the new Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) that uses slip-plane technology to reduce rotational forces that can result from certain impacts. Bell Helmets was one of the first to utilize MIPS technology in its product line—from cycling helmets with MSRPs as low as $60 to its top-shelf racing helmets such as the MIPS Star street helmet ($469.95–$589.95).
Helmets are getting safer, lighter and better looking all the time, and Bell is also going to be distributing a couple of new innovations that will make our UTV helmets better still. The first is Mag-Lock, which is a magnetic system for attaching the cool-air hose to the helmet. It’s self-centering, so driver switches in long desert races will be much simpler. Magnets allow billet-aluminum sleeves to connect quickly and effortlessly, and they have 30 pounds of pull-apart pressure for security. Apply sideloads to the two magnetic sleeves, and they break apart with 10 pounds of pressure. Mag-Lock makes your clean-air system and hoses into high-end quick-connect components for $279, and Rugged Radios has come up with a new M3 (MAC3.2) clean-air pumper system that flows so much air no dust can get anywhere near the helmet.
Run those hoses through an ice chest, and you get cool, clean air inside your helmet, eliminating one of the knocks against full-face racing helmets.
Another innovation comes from Fluid Logic via Bell Helmets, and that involves perfect hydration via Fluid Logic’s Aqua-Com hydration system. Made entirely in America, the Fluid Logic Aqua-Com is a billet case smaller than a Nerf football that houses a computer, water pump, filter, speed controller and Mag-Lock connectors that actually run a 4-mil hydration hose through the center of the clean-air hose. The computer can be set to alert the driver that it’s time to hydrate every minute or lap in NASCAR, and it can be programmed by phone via Bluetooth. A light flashes, or an audible buzzer alerts ATV riders that it’s time to hydrate. Push a button, and the instant-on pump delivers the perfect amount of water to a mouthpiece that’s designed to work with radio mics. Ricky “RJ” Johnson has developed this system for SCORE Baja races, and a few NASCAR and F1 racers are also on the Fluid Logic program.
Perfect hydration means athletes don’t lose body weight during a long race, and they don’t suffer any of the effects of dehydration, such as thick blood, increasing heart rates or poor mental judgment (have you ever noticed how Dale Earnhardt Jr. tends to messes up his last pit stop?).
And, with Mag-Lock quick-connects, the Aqua-Com system has check valves at break points and instant priming. There is also a hydration-only system for those who don’t run clean-air pumps. One NASCAR great tested the Fluid Logic system at the hot Phoenix spring Monster Energy Cup race and was perfectly hydrated while drinking half as much water. That saves weight and space in a racing UTV, meaning that space can go to some other spare or tool. The Fluid Logic speed controller even compensates for our UTV’s 14-volt output and converts it to 12 volts. Rugged Radios and PCI are working with Fluid Logic on Mag-Lock radio connections.
So, thanks to new technology in hydration, our helmets can protect us from dehydration (and the mental errors that result from dehydration) and keep our heart rates lower during a race or long ride. MSRP will be around $1500, and the dirt bike/ATV version has a backpack with a large water bladder, brain unit and battery pack inside. PCI and Rugged Radios may come on board to distribute both Mag-Lock and the Fluid Logic Aqua-Com as well.