Motorcycling - Gear/Equipment

Motorcycle Helmet Buying Guide: How to Select a Helmet

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Your helmet is as important as your motorcycle itself. A motorcycle is incomplete without a helmet. Choosing a motorcycle helmet specific to your needs goes a long way in ensuring your safety and comfort. To help you in your quest for the best motorcycle helmet, we have compiled this motorcycle helmet buying guide which gives an insight on the different helmet types, things to keep in mind while buying a motorcycle helmet, motorcycle helmet rating systems, and its maintenance.

Let’s get started with the types of helmets available in the market and their differences, this is the first step to learning which motorcycle helmet to buy.

Motorcycle Helmet Buying Guide: Different Types of Helmets

You should be aware of the different kinds of helmets that are available out there before you purchase one. Your choice should be based on how you will use your bike and what kind of terrain you will be riding in.

Full-face Helmets

These are the safest helmets as they feature a full wrap-around chin bar and a flip down visor. Full-face helmets protect your entire face, including the jaw, which is often exposed in other helmet types. The only disadvantage is that they are relatively heavy and can be hot during warm weather. Considering the safety it offers, this should be the ideal choice for most forms of riding.

helmets
Full face helmet

Open-face Helmets

These cover the crown and the back of the head and feature a flip-down shield same as that of a full-face helmet. These helmets offer you greater visibility but are not recommended as your full face is not protected. They are ideally worn when riding scooters and/or while low-speed riding within the city.

motorcycling helmet
Open face helmet.

Modular Helmets

These helmets combine the benefit of the previous two. They feature a flip up chin bar that allows the motorcycle rider to easily change between a full face and an open face helmet with the push of a button. You can keep a modular helmet on while talking, eating, or drinking. But the presence of a hinge weakens their structure and makes them less sturdy than full-face helmets when they suffer an impact.

These helmets are preferred by many riders while out for motorcycle touring and long rides where they provide the comfort of switching to open-face whenever needed. Selecting modular helmets should be a thoughtful decision considering they also need more maintenance compared to other helmets.

bike helmets
Modular helmet.

Half Helmets

These only cover the top end of the head, offering you the least amount of protection. If you are a safety-conscious biker, you should avoid these, and these are certainly not recommended for beginners. But even if you want to buy one, look for those with a sturdy chin strap. These are not recommended for any type of riding situation, their only appeal is the retro look which they offer.

motorcycling helmets
Half helmet.

Off-road or Motocross Helmets

These helmets can be recognized by their elongated chins and the sun peaks sticking out above the forehead. Some of these helmets feature visors on top to protect you from debris and the sun. Off-road helmets are specially designed for high-intensity sports biking. But we will not recommend these for highway driving as they lack good soundproofing or an aerodynamic shape.

helmets for riding
Motocross helmets.

Dual-sport Helmets

These helmets combine the qualities of off-road helmets and are a great option for adventure riders and highway riding. They are a preferred choice for riders who don’t intend to buy 2 separate specialized helmets and end up buying a hybrid. It’s debatable whether these are good or bad, however, an experienced rider would always go for a specialized helmet for the specific riding they want to do.

riding helmets
Dual sports helmets.

Another reason which influences your decision to buy a helmet is the weather. In summers, many riders prefer to buy the open-face or half-helmets. To those, we’d suggest buying the modular helmets as they offer features of both full-face and half-face while providing good safety.

Riding in summers can be difficult, here’s our complete guide for summer riding gear to keep you comfortable and safe.

Buying Guide: Things to Keep In Mind

Helmets are available in several shapes, sizes, and nearly infinite colors, decals, and designs. So, selecting the right helmet requires some forethought. Read on to learn about the different features offered by various brands and how to choose the best motorcycle helmet suitable for you.

Material and Build Quality of the Motorcycle Helmet

This is important to judge the protection offered by the helmet. Any motorcycle helmet will have 4 basic things in place that make up for their safety:

  • The Outer Shell: The shell is generally made from a fiber composite, consisting of fiberglass, or molded polycarbonate. Fiberglass is costlier than molded polycarbonates, which makes a fiberglass helmet an expensive buy. This material helps in absorbing most of the impact in case you were to incur a fall.
  • An Inner Liner: The inner liner is the 2 nd layer of protection. It continues to absorb the shock during an accident and is made from expanded polystyrene. When buying a helmet do check for the material of the inner liner and ensure that the seller mentions whether this is sweat/oil proof. Over time the liners do get damaged or worn-out.
  • Padding: The padding is important to ensure that helmet fits around your head properly while providing you the cushioning and comfort.
  • Chin strap : An important piece that will help keep the helmet tied on your head in case of a fall. What’s the use of a helmet if it topples of your head during a mid-fall. Chin straps are of various designs and mechanics, make sure the locking mechanism provided is good and sturdy.

It could be difficult for anyone to judge and know the quality of all each these things by themselves, that’s why there are minimum safety standards set by DOT and other authorities. Look for their certification so you can be sure they at least match the minimum quality standards. More on certifications later in this article.

Fitting of the Helmet

Having a well-fitted helmet is very important. If your helmet is too tight, it might give you a headache and if it is too loose then it will jostle around as you drive. Many manufacturers provide fitting charts and the size usually ranges from small to extra-large.

When you try on a helmet, it should be snug and comfortable. Make sure that the cheek, temple, and the brow pads rest on your face without pressing down on it. Also, move your helmet from side-to-side to check that it’s not too tight.

motorcycle helmet buying guide
Helmet fitting should be proper. Source

Check for these things when trying your helmet:

  • Cheekpads are touching your face equally and are not too hard. They should feel tight (because of newness) but comfortable.
  • The helmet sits above your eyebrows and doesn’t cover them.
  • Make sure you don’t feel any gaps on your forehead and back of your head. It should be a perfect fit on your head. Moving your head from side-to-side and front and back should help you notice this.
  • The when trying full-face or modular helmets, ensure that your nose or chin do not touch with the helmet. There should be some free space between the helmet and your nose/chin.

Now that you’ve understood the different types of the helmet and their fitting, let’s get to the part where you learn how to select a helmet for yourself.

Buying Guide: How to Select Which Helmet to Buy

The Kind of Bike You Ride

To best understand what elements are necessary for your helmet you must consider the type of riding you will be doing. A few questions to ponder; “How long will you be riding the bike?” Will you be riding all the year-round or only for a specific time-period?” and “What roads and terrain will you be riding most frequently?” By understanding your needs as a rider, you can accurately take the steps towards finding your match.

helmets
Harley Davidson Helmet.

For adventure touring you should prefer modular helmets that will allow you to raise the face shield. If you are more interested in casual riding then go for a half-shell helmet. If you ride a sports bike then full-face helmets are for you with a solid chin bar and flip-up shield. Additionally, you can also check helmets with removable and washable liners, locking shields, sun shields, and Bluetooth compatibility.

Price

It is one of the first things you’ll consider while buying a helmet, especially if you are a beginner. Nowadays there’s a big price range for motorcycle helmets, and the most expensive ones can cost over $1000 and the cheapest can be found for under $100. Price generally depends on the features of the helmets. A helmet having a removable liner with a Snell rating and carbon shell will likely be more expensive than one without these features.

An Open Face helmet having a face shield option costs more as compared with an Open Face without a shield option and so on. If you are new to the world of motorcycle riding then it’s best to start with something simple for your first purchase and go for expensive ones when you’ve gained a better understanding of your needs.

Other Optional Features

While shopping for your helmet you will encounter many options ranging from very good to totally useless, depending on what appears unique to you. For example, some full-face helmets consist of chin skirts to keep you warm in cold weather.

Some feature electronic bells and whistles which can be excellent to have if you want them but aren’t necessary. You need to look carefully at every feature and then decide if you’re going to use it or not. There’s certainly no need to pay extra for something you don’t need.

Helmet Replacement

Unfortunately, helmets don’t last forever and even the best of them eventually need to be retired with time. A helmet is designed for only one crash and wearing a bad helmet is no better than wearing nothing at all. But you see, surviving one crash is a big deal, so investing in a good helmet becomes important even if it is your 1 st helmet.

If you drop your helmet by mistake, you don’t necessarily need a new one, but make sure that it hasn’t been damaged and still fits correctly before putting it on. If you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid any accidents then in that case also replace your helmet at least once every five years. In short: Invest in a good helmet, if you don’t crash this one will last really long.

Helmet Maintenance

To get the most out of your safety investment, you need to take good care of it. You should consider buying a new helmet if your current helmet is damaged because of an accident or if it’s old and worn-out. Once you have your helmet make sure to follow the manufacturer’s care instructions. You can use a mild soap like a baby shampoo or a mild laundry detergent to clean the liner.

Use microfiber towels to clean your helmet. Use cotton swabs to clean the vents and joints. You may apply automotive wax to prevent water spots, guts, and grime from sticking. Avoid using glass cleaner or any ammonia-based cleaner on the visor. Never put your helmet liner in the dryer.

Wear a skullcap under your helmet to prevent sweat and body oils from permeating your helmet’s liner. You should consider buying skullcap along with your helmet if you are out to buy one. Try on the helmet along with skullcap for fitting.

Over the time with good usage, the liners don’t give the same fitting as they were new. Similarly, the visors also wear out and eventually get scratches on them. Some good helmet brands also offer these as replaceable parts of the helmet. If your helmet is just old and not broken, you can consider changing the liner and visor and your helmet will be as good as new.

Helmet Safety Rating Systems

Safety standard certifications are very important for your helmet. Generally, there are three primary certifications that you will see on most helmets:

DOT (Department of Transportation)

These standards are developed by the guidelines set by the American National Standards Institute and it is mandatory that all helmets sold in the US should meet standards issued by the US Department of Transportation (DOT). DOT helmets will include a certification sticker which ensures that the helmet will withstand significant impact and have a secure fastening system.

Snell M2015

This certification is issued by the non-profit organization Snell and is updated every five years. It is considered more stringent than DOT standards. Although the Snell approval is not required on motorbike helmets, it ensures that the manufacturer is following the best safety practices available for helmets.

motorcycle helmets
Snell DoT Source

ECE22.05 (Economic Commission for Europe)

It is similar to the DOT rating and considered the most intensive as it involves a wider variety of test drops and even test chin strap strength.

helmet
ECE22.05 Sticker. Source

It doesn’t matter that whether you are a seasoned rider or a motorcycle enthusiast looking to replace or upgrade an existing helmet or you’re just starting off; this motorcycle helmet buyer guide will help you in finding the right helmet for you to enjoy the freedom of an open road.

You just need to focus on few things like the features that you want in your motorbike helmet, its safety ratings, and its design to suit your style so that you can make an informed purchase. Do invest in a good helmet as it is the most important riding gear/equipment that you will buy.

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