How To Pick the Right Motorcycle Helmet
Welcome to one of life's greatest adventures. Whether you ride a motorcycle as a pleasure seeker or commuter, riding on two wheels is a phenomenal experience designed to give you years of enjoyment and satisfaction.
Before you fight traffic with cars or plan that weekend excursion on backcountry roads you'll need to invest in some very important equipment - namely riding gear. Body protection is a must when riding your motorcycle and nothing could be more important than a helmet. You likely did some research before deciding on a motorcycle so you're going to want to do the same before grabbing any 'ole helmet.
You'll notice a motorcycle helmet looks much different from a dirt bike or motocross helmet. Helmets designed for motorcycles are more round without the extended chin protection needed for dirt bike riding. Plus, you have a variety of choices depending on your preference:
Whether you are a seasoned rider looking to replace or upgrade an existing helmet or you're just starting off - MotoSport's Motorcycle Helmet Buying Guide is designed to take some of the heavy lifting out of finding the right helmet for you. In this guide we cover the following:
- What Will The Helmet Be Used For?
- What Features Do You Want?
- Safety Ratings
- What Type of Bike Do You Ride?
- Helmet Size and Head Shape
Besides, if you're busy doing research that means you're not on your bike enjoying the freedom of an open road and beautiful countryside.
What will the helmet be used for?
- Do you plan to ride a lot or commute to work?
If riding is your everyday transportation or you take weekly road trips, higher end helmets may prove to be more comfortable and offer better dynamics and reduced wind noise. Versatility and comfort is important for touring, traveling long distance or riding for extended periods of time.
- Are you riding with a group?
Many bikers join riding groups and if you haven't already done so eventually you'll pal around with others and find group riding enhances the overall experience. One key element to group riding is communication and you'll want a helmet with built in communication provisions. You can install most blue tooth systems in just about any helmet with a few exceptions.
- Riding Track or Racing?
High performance helmets usually have to be Snell rated for tracks. These helmets offer additional features like tear off posts and aggressive venting for riders in the "tucked position."
What Features Do You Want?
- Helmet Shell Material
What the helmet is made of influences a number of factors including weight, comfort and safety rating. Polycarbonate, Fiberglass composite and Carbon Fiber compose most helmets with a layer of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam.
- Polycarbonate - flexes as it absorbs energy (less expensive material)
- Fiberglass composite - flexes, crushes and splits as it absorbs energy (more expensive)
- Carbon fiber - distributes energy upon impact (most expensive and lightest)
- EPS - foam material densely compressed into a shock absorbing inner shell
- Helmet Weight
Helmets typically range in weight from 1400 to 1800 grams. The key to weight is a properly fitting helmet so the weight is distributed evenly around your head and shoulders. If the center of gravity is off a lighter helmet can feel heavier and strain your neck. Modular helmets often weigh more than a Full Face because of the apparatus installed to flip up the visor.
- Comfort features
Today's helmets offer numerous technological advances. Features like integrated sunshade, wind reduction measures and communication provisions all serve to enhance the riding experience.
- Additional Safety Features
Technology has moved motorcycle helmets into the 21st century with innovative safety features like the emergency cheek pad system or similar system that allows access to an injured rider's head by making helmet removal safer and easier for medical personnel.
New to the scene but gaining fast traction with manufacturers is the Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS), which is an innovative slip-plane technology inside the helmet designed to reduce rotational forces that can result from certain impacts.
Consider Helmet Safety Ratings
- DOT - The United States Department of Transportation sets a minimum standard level of protection for helmets.
- ECE22.05 - The U.N. Economic Commission for Europe sets a standard level of protection for helmets in Europe.
- Snell (M2020D) - A non-profit in the United States founded after the death of Pete Snell, a sports car racer who died from head injuries.
You can find myriad of articles debating the merits of Snell's stringent standards over the government's guidelines and whether or not a helmet with Snell certification is better than DOT or ECE. The bottom line is every helmet MotoSport sells meets or exceeds the standards set by DOT. We also carry helmets certified by ECE as well as helmets manufactured to meet Snell Standards.
Helmets manufacturers sometimes list additional certification ratings for use in Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
Helmet Size and Head Shape
How to Measure Your Helmet Size
A properly fitted helmet can play a major role in the outcome of an accident. The first step in finding a motorcycle helmet is determining your head size. A helmet that is too big will not protect your head as well as a properly fitted helmet. Follow these steps:
- Wrap a soft measuring tape around your head about a half inch above your eyebrows, above your ears and around the back of your head at the largest point. It's best to have assistance when measuring.
- Compare your head size with the specific motorcycle helmet manufacture's size to find a match. Each motorcycle helmet manufacture provides different sizing charts for their helmets so you will need to compare your helmet size to each brand's sizing.
- Try the helmet on before using it. The helmet should sit squarely on your head with the top of the helmet's eye port just above your eyebrows. A properly fitted motorcycle helmet will not go on easy at first but loosen slightly as it is broken in.
- If the helmet moves or your fingers fit easily between your head and the helmet you'll likely need a smaller size.The helmet should fit snug around your head and face with no pressure points. If desired, the cheek pads can then be adjusted for better fitting.
Additionally, you MUST determine your head shape. A perfectly sized helmet may fit snug on one rider but loose or uncomfortable on another. Head shape is just as important as head size. Some manufacturers factor in the following shapes when making their helmets:
- Long Oval - This shape resembles a more oblong head that is longer front to back and narrow side-to-side
- Intermediate Oval - This shape closely resembles a round head with a shorter front-to-back and wider side-to-side than the Long Oval. Most companies make their helmets Intermediate Oval.
- Round Oval - This shape resembles an oblong head that is longer side-to-side rather than front-to-back like the Long Oval.
Helmet shape contributes to overall comfort and safety. A correctly-sized helmet that doesn't fit right is cumbersome and does not offer the same protection as a correctly sized and fitted helmet.
*MotoSport's return policy is easy and hassle free. Click here for instructions on all returns and exchanges.
When to replace a helmet?
Replace a motorcycle helmet after five years or if damaged in a crash or even dropped.
Price is often reflected in the materials used and the number of features. In short, a more expensive helmet generally offers better protection, comfort and technology but that doesn't mean you can't find a quality helmet for a reasonable price.
For more information on motorcycle helmets or if you're looking for dirt bike helmets check out:
- Motorcycle Helmet Size Guide - How To Measure & Fit The Right Helmet
- Dirt Bike Helmet Buying Guide
- The Big List of DOT, Snell & ECE Approved Motocross Helmets