A motorcycle helmet is the most important accessory as a motorcycle rider. Yet, many don’t know how to pick one. Follow our Motorcycle Helmet Guide for help.
Before delving into the motorcycle helmet buying process, let’s first understand how it works. Patented by Professor C.F. “Red” Lomboard in 1953, the motorcycle helmet’s job (in simplistic terms) is to protect your cranium upon impact, reducing injuries by up to 70%. It is made with expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam that evenly distributes force throughout the outer shell. While on the inside, EPS liners absorb any additional impact.
The 3 Types of Helmets
Now that you know the True Hollywood Story of The Motorcycle Helmet, let’s take a look at the different types of helmets there are. They are full-face, open-face, and off-road.
Full-face—As the name implies, full-face helmets cover your entire face. They come with washable liners, several cheek pads, venting systems, a chin strap and enough room for you to wear glasses or shades.
Open-face—Open-face helmets, for the claustrophobic, leaves your face open but still protects your skull. It comes in 3 designs. Those designs are the three-quarter, flip-up and the half-helmets. The chin straps are more prominent with these helmets, and eye-protection is needed.
Off-road—Off-road helmets are in essence a combination of both the full-face and open-face helmets. It has a visor and chin protection with an opening where your face is located. It also has washable and removable cheek pads and liners. In addition, it’s scratch-resistant and comes with replaceable parts.
Your Head Shape
The most important part of picking a motorcycle helmet is making sure it fits. Your helmet should fit your head size and head shape for a comfortable and safe fit. Essentially, all head shapes fit within the spectrum of round and oval.
The first thing you need to do is measure the circumference of your head by wrapping a measuring tape around your forehead. Follow the below chart for motorcycle helmet sizes.
Although they may appear to be the same, helmets are actually shaped different internally to match your head. Unless you have an abnormal octagon-shaped head, most of us humans head shapes fall into 3 categories—oval, round and egg. Keep this in mind. While two helmets may be the same size, they can feel vastly different, depending on your shape.
(Excuse our drawing skills. Someone's a lefty.)
The Perfect Fit
There are 4 parts to consider when purchasing a motorcycle helmet: the outer shell, the interior foam lining, the comfort lining and the chin strap.
Outer Shell: The outer shell is the most recognizable part of your helmet, largely because it can be customized (to some extent). You’ll find motorcycle helmets designs ranging from comic-book to body parts.
Underneath the designs, most motorcycle helmets are made out of lightweight plastic or fiberglass with vents on top to help airflow. DMV.org suggests purchasing helmets with bright colors, making it easier for other drivers to identify you.
Interior Foam & Comfort Lining: Comfort will not come immediately from a brand new helmet. Although helmets do require a certain “break-in” period, this doesn’t mean you should probe through eBay for deals on used helmets. Used helmets are dangerous. They’re ineffective at being a perfect fit for YOUR noggin. Instead, wear the helmet for 30 to 45 minutes to determine pressure points. From there, you should be able to compare helmets accordingly. In addition, there are some motorcycle helmets that come with replaceable interior pads of different sizes, air pump inflated cheek pads, and washable liners.
Furthermore, tightness around your crown and cheeks are normal. You should feel the liners touch both the top and front of your head with slight pressure but not so much that it causes pain. However, for the ultimate balance between comfort and safety, we encourage you to customize your helmet’s interior foaming and lining.
Chin Strap: The interior lining for most motorcycle helmets should lock in your cheeks and chin. But the chin strap provides extra support, making sure that during impact, your helmet stays put. Your helmet alone should be easily pulled back and forth. In fact, your skin should move with the helmet as you move it around.
Helmet Standards (DOT & Snell)
There are two certifications for motorcycle helmets—one from the Snell Memorial Foundation and another from the Federal Government’s Department of Transportation (DOT). A sticker will be placed on each motorcycle helmet to confirm certification.
What’s the difference between a DOT & Snell certification? At a basic testing level, both Snell and Dot evaluate how a helmet stops while accelerating. But for Snell certification, motorcycle helmets have to pass more strenuous testing. According to their website, Snell tests helmets against steel edges and against stronger impacts than the DOT.
Of course, for many, the most important part of purchasing a helmet is price. But remember that you’re not just paying for a federal certified helmet. But you’re also paying for safety. With that in mind, the price for a helmet can range from $100 to $500. Now, there are a lot factors to consider with this price range. Obviously, a $500 motorcycle helmet would be considered the Neiman Marcus of motorcycle helmets. So, anything that falls in the middle of that range is sufficient to invoke both style and safety. Again, remember that you’re paying to protect your brain.
Choosing a motorcycle helmet has to be the most important aspect of purchasing a motorcycle. It’s not only an extension of your personality, but it also protects your most important jewel, your brain. Therefore, use your brain when purchasing your next motorcycle helmet. Here are key things to remember:
- There are 3 types of motorcycle helmets and 3 head shapes. Choose accordingly.
- Your helmet should be snug and move with her skin when wiggled.
- Look for certification from Snell and/or the DOT.
- Don’t let price deter you from choosing a quality helmet.