Motorcycle riding is one of life’s underrated pleasures. Cross-country riders and motorcycle commuters alike can appreciate the freeing feeling that it offers.
Prior to heading out on a ride though, it’s crucial that you protect yourself. The most important component of motorcycle safety gear is a helmet.
Not all helmets are alike. Just from appearance, you can tell the difference between a dirt bike helmet and a motorcycle helmet. Motorcycle helmets tend to be rounder without the chin protection that is so important on extreme biking helmets.
Even within the category of motorcycle helmets, there is a ton of variety. Quite a few considerations have to be made. Intended use, head size, and style are three such factors that you will consider in the process of purchasing a helmet. The most important factor, however, is safety.
Whether you’re replacing an old helmet or getting a new one to go with your new bike, this guide will be useful in making your motorcycle helmet buying process stress-free!
Without further ado, let’s begin.
What is my intended use?
The first question you need to ask yourself when purchasing a motorcycle helmet is what you intend to use it for. If you will be riding everyday, you may be wanting something more durable and comfortable. Perhaps you want to reduce wind noise. There are helmets for that too.
If you ride with a group, you may want to consider a helmet with a built-in communication system. This feature can be added on to many helmets, so if you find one you really like that doesn’t have this feature yet, ask the shop attendant whether it can be added.
If you ride on a track or race, you’ll definitely need a strong helmet, and not just any one. Look for a Snell rated helmet that is created to keep you safe on tracks. There are additional features like vents and tear-off posts that won’t be found on normal helmets.
What material would I prefer?
The material a helmet is made of has an impact on quite a few things: the helmet’s weight, comfort, and safety. Here are some popular helmet materials and their features:
Polycarbonate - flexes and absorbs energy on impact
Fiberglass composite - flexes, crushes, and splits on impact
Carbon fiber - distributes energy on impact
EPS - foam layer absorbs energy on impact
The price of these materials vary, with polycarbonate being the cheapest and carbon fiber being the most expensive. Weight will also vary - helmets usually weigh anywhere between 1.4 to 1.8 kilograms. You will want a helmet that your neck can support comfortably, without weight being distributed unevenly.
What comfort features do I want?
Some people choose to get helmets with features like an integrated sunshade, technology to reduce wind, and communication features that can improve your helmet experience.
What safety features do I need?
Recent technological advancements have resulted in quite a few safety features being added to helmets. An emergency cheek pad system, for instance, makes it easier to remove the helmet in the case of an injury so that medical professionals can easily access your head.
Another incredible safety feature growing in popularity is the Multi-directional Impact Protection System, also known as MIPS. It is technology that reduces rotational forces so that in the case of an accident, your head will be better protected.
How can I choose a helmet that fits me well?
It’s crucial that you choose a motorcycle helmet that fits your head size. Otherwise, it could be just as bad as not wearing a helmet at all. Here are a couple steps to choose a helmet that fits:
Use a measuring tape to measure the circumference of your head around half an inch higher than your eyebrows.
Look for helmets with the closest size. There should be a sizing chart that you can use to compare sizes between brands.
Put the helmet on your head, and assess how it feels. It should be sitting comfortably on your head, just above your eyebrows. It should not feel heavy on either side. It should not slip on and off too easily, as the shape will be broken in later on.
Check whether the helmet moves or is too loose around your head. If you can easily fit a couple fingers in between your head and the helmet, you may need to size down. See if adjusting the cheek pads helps.
Make sure the helmet fits your head shape. See which of the following categories you fit into:
Long Oval - Your head is narrow and longer from front to back.
Intermediate oval - Your head is slightly rounder than a long oval-shaped head, and you have a shorter front to back.
Round oval - Your head has a wide side width and a short front to back.
The shape of your head will play a part in determining which motorcycle helmet will fit you safely and comfortably. One that is the right size but the wrong shape won’t feel comfortable and won’t be as safe as one that is both the right size and shape.