By Allen Brown
It goes without saying that a motorcycle helmet is an extremely important part of a motorcyclist’s attire. Alongside proper leathers, boots, and gloves, the helmet is vitally important in the protection of the body while riding a bike. In fact, many would argue the most important.
The difference between a little bump to the head and severe injury is very slight and a helmet is a key factor in reducing the risk of severe injury. So, what qualities should you be looking for in a motorcycle helmet? We’ve put together this guide to help you understand exactly what you should be after when it comes to your helmet choice and proper protection.
It’s worth noting that there are various styles of the helmet to be covered. From full-face to modular helmets to half helmets, there are plenty to choose from. They all have different qualities and safety features, so we are going to quickly discuss a few of them for you.
- Full-Face helmets are designed for road use. They cover the whole head and face with an openable visor. These are usually rated the safest helmets in tests and are the type of helmet most commonly seen when out on the roads.
- Modular or flip helmets can be both full-face and half helmets, as the chin guard can flip up and over the top of the skull. This offers more breathability but obviously less protection when used in this way. When used as a full-face helmet they often offer as much protection as standard full-face versions.
- Half helmets often referred to as a “shorty” or “pudding basin” helmet covers only the top of the head above the ears. These helmets are popular with retro-style bikers but have gone out of fashion for the most part. This is due to their incredibly poor safety record and protection level.
- Motocross helmets can be either full-face or modular but are usually more lightweight. They also do not usually have a visor, which means no debris protection for your eyes when traveling on the road. You will not see many visor-less helmets on the roads today.
When buying a helmet it’s best to check its safety status. Most helmets are accredited or certified by a federal or independent group before they hit the shelves. These certifications ensure they reach certain safety and protection standards. These certificates or seals of approval will often be marked on the helmet itself, so it is always worth checking before you buy. Any good salesperson will be able to tell you exactly how well each helmet you are interested in has done in independent safety tests. If they don’t know, do some research online yourself.
The materials used to make a helmet can be extremely important. Common materials used in the outer shell manufacturing are polycarbonates, fiberglass composites and carbon fiber. All of these materials behave differently when under stress or during an impact. Polycarbonate offers the least protection as it is prone to flexing on impact. Fiberglass composite offers better protection as it splits or shatters when compressed, meaning more of the impact energy is distributed. Carbon fiber, however, is the best. It is super light and strong while being extremely effective at distributing the energy of an impact away from your skull.
Behind this outer shell is an interior lining, usually made of very compact polystyrene which is great at absorbing shock from an impact or collision. The combination of the right materials making up the outer shell and a dense polystyrene inner layer will provide you with the best protection. Hopefully, you’ll never need it, but in this case, it’s far better to be safe than sorry!
A Good Visor
When buying a helmet with a visor – which we recommend – it’s important that it’s a good visor. When traveling at high speed, weaving through traffic, or riding in poor conditions, you need excellent visibility through your visor. Not being able to see certain areas of the road could be lethal. In the old days, visors were simply pieces of plastic bent into the shape of the helmet. This often caused visual distortion, which is not good. Opt for a visor that has been injection or laser molded to offer a clear view. And always, always try it out before you buy!
We hope this article has been helpful for you in the planning of purchasing your next motorcycle helmet. Remember, safety comes first, above looks or anything else! So, make sure your helmet fits and offers the best protection money can buy.