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Motorcycle Helmet Buying Guide

 

Motorcycle Helmet Buying Guide

For a new rider or an experienced rider who is replacing the old helmet, choosing a helmet may be more confusing than buying a bike. Finding the right motorcycle helmet may be time-consuming, but it can be a rewarding experience.

Studies have shown and riders have reported that helmets not only save lives but can drastically reduce the amount of injuries suffered to the face, head and neck.

Some people claim that helmets restrict your vision, it's not true. Manufacturers design helmets to not obscure or block peripheral (side to side) vision. Others claim it reduces your hearing, it actually helps you hear over the engine.

Standards

DOT is the Federal Government’s Department of Transportation (DOT). DOT sets minimum standards that all helmets sold for motorcycling on public streets must meet. The standard is Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218 (FMVSS 218) and is known commonly as the DOT standard. The division of the Department responsible for such things periodically buys helmets and sends them to independent labs for testing to assure that they actually do meet the standard. A helmet that meets the DOT standard offers significant protection if you crash.


The Snell Memorial Foundation is a private not-for-profit organization that sets voluntary standards used primarily in the US for motorcycle helmets, bicycle helmets and auto racing helmets, as well as other kinds of protective headgear. Snell standards are the world’s toughest and demand quite a bit more protective capability in motorcycle helmets than anybody else on the planet.

Each organization has rigid procedures for testing motorcycle helmets:

  • Impact – the shock-absorbing capacity of the helmet.
  • Penetration – the helmet's ability to withstand a blow from a sharp object.
  • Retention – the chin strap's ability to stay fastened without stretching or breaking.
  • Peripheral vision – the helmet must provide a minimum vision of 105 degrees to each side. (Most people's usable peripheral vision is only about 90 degrees to each side.)

There is the European standard, called ECE 22-05, accepted by more than 50 countries. There's the BSI 6658 Type A standard from Britain. Just by looking at the published requirements for each standard, you would guess a DOT helmet would be designed to be the softest, with an ECE helmet very close, then a BSI helmet, and then a Snell helmet.

Novelty helmets may offer you the best comfort but it is not DOT or Snell approved and will not protect your head.

There are so many makes, models and styles. But which one?

Of course each type of helmet has it's benefits and disadvantages. It also has to do with the bike you ride and the type of person you are.

  • Half Helmets: They are also known as Shorty helmets or Beanie helmets and are the simplest form of a helmet. There is no side and chin protection. They look best when riding a cruiser or custom bike. Easy to put on and take off and can leave the helmet on in many cases.

 

  • Open Face Helmet or 3/4 Helmet: Protects the head, neck, ears, and eyes. If you use an open-face helmet, you should have a snap-on face shield in place when you ride, or buy a pair of goggles that can withstand the impact of a stone or other debris. Offers the third most protection over any other type of helmet (other than full face and flip-up full face).  Lifting off the face shield for a photo or taking off the helmet for a snack or drink is easier and more convenient. These helmets are aimed to protect the ears and the side of the face. However this kind of helmet doesn't have any chin protection.

 

 

  • Full Face Helmet: Protects the entire head, neck, ears, eyes, face and chin. Offers the most in protection over any other type of helmet. Also aids in keeping the rain, wind, bugs, rocks, dust and cold out due to its wrap around design. By cutting down ambient wind noise, helmets can actually help you hear other sounds better. By reducing fatigue from the wind, they keep you more alert. By protecting your eyes from the wind, they allow you to see better.

 

 

  • Flip-Up helmet or Modular Helmet: Protects the entire head, neck, ears, eyes, and face. Offers the most in protection over any other type of helmet. Also aids in keeping the rain, wind, bugs, rocks, dust and cold out due to its wrap around design. Eliminates many of the negatives that normal full face helmets have such as removal, taking it off to drink/eat and to put on/off glasses. May not be as good in a crash as a full face helmet because the chin can come open on impact.

 

  • Motor Cross helmets: These off-road helmets include a sun visor, an area to strap on your goggles, and graphics that give you some style.

Getting the right fit

A motorcycle helmet that is too loose may come off in a crash, and one that is too tight will be uncomfortable. Slightly snug is better than too loose, since the interior will tend to settle and compress a bit, molding to your head.

Determine the circumference of the widest part of your head by wrapping a flexible tape measure around it. Generally, the widest part of a person's head is the area one-inch above the eyes and ears.

Retention: An essential test before buying or using a helmet, is the roll-off test. With the strap securely fastened, grab the rear lip of the helmet and try to roll it forward off your head. Don't stop just because it hurts a bit. If it comes off, you need a different helmet.


Tips

The fact that you wear a Medium in one brand and model does not mean that another model will fit you best in the same size.

An extra faceshield (a tinted one to complement the standard clear) is a nice feature. You might want to buy one if it is not included. An extra shield and a quick-change faceshield mechanism are the best convenience features. A yellow tinted faceshield for cloudy and rainy days is also a good option.

If your helmet is a bright-colored visible one, you will be more conspicuous in traffic, making it easier for other motorists to see and avoid you.

Depending on the helmet manufacturer, it is recommended to replacing your helmet every 2-4 years. If your helmet is damaged or showing extreme wear it should be replaced. Replacing your helmet every few years is a good idea as its protection may deteriorate with time and wear. Also as newer materials and helmet designs become available, helmets become stronger, lighter, and more comfortable.

Never hang your helmet on the motorcycle's mirrors, turn signals, or backrest. The inner liner can easily be damaged from such handling.

Jafrum helmets available online are light enough that they do not bother your neck. But, the helmets constructed with Kevlar and/or carbon fiber are ultra light and feel extra comfortable on your head.