Monthly Archives: April 2010
I know there are times I want to just jump on my bike and go, but I am an “all the gear, all the time” kind of rider.
There is a minimum amount of safety equipment that makes me comfortable; and a whole lot of extras depending on the length of my trip that day.
Three Quarter Helmet
How to Choose the Best Helmet for You
There is a lot more to think about in terms of expense then the motorcycle and insurance. I have a budget like most people but I try not to scrimp (is that a word?) and save on safety equipment. Of course I look for sales and discounts wherever possible, but I won’t buy inferior products. Helmets have a minimum safety standard in order to be legally sold in Canada and to my understanding this applies in most countries. It is not within the scope of this article to go into detail about the various standards and testing that goes into the safety standard ratings but if you are interested, there are some helpful links at the end of this article that you may find of interest. If you buy your brand name helmet from a reputable dealer and the helmet displays safety approval stickers then you can be reasonably confident you are purchasing a piece of equipment that adheres to current government regulations for safety.
Do not buy a used helmet for a few reasons. First of all…ewwww, it’s a personal item and I just feel better with something new. Most important however is that once a helmet is dropped, even on the floor in the store, it is considered unsafe. They also expire as materials can degrade over time and become less safe. The helmet can be dropped and not show any external damage so take that into consideration.
Next you must decide what type of helmet will suit you best. Don’t rush finding the right one, you will be wearing it a lot and if you are comfortable then you will enjoy the ride and that’s why we do this after all. As I outlined above, each helmet style has its advantages and disadvantages, so try to find the one most comfortable with the best safety features. This is so very personal I will not recommend one way or the other. All I can tell you is that I will feel best with the full face modular. It also makes the people that care about me feel better about me riding and that is a consideration. If you ride with the attitude of safety in your equipment and riding habits, it does tend to put the nervous bunch at ease somewhat.
So now that you have tried some on and have a pretty good idea of the style you want and are assured they are safety rated you will find the hardest part (at least for me) is the fit. There is more to it then you might think.
It would be so much easier if we all had the same shaped head then we would just find the right size.. but we don’t. Not only do we have different sized heads, they also come in a lot of different shapes. Are you a Stewie a Charlie Brown, Conehead or Sponge Bob? There are egg shaped heads, narrow heads, round heads etc. Different manufacturers make different shaped helmets and you have to look at each one to find what works for you. (refer to the link at the bottom for more information) The inner padding might adjust slightly to your head but usually not enough to make the helmet comfortable for that reason alone. Riding for an hour with the helmet pushing relentlessly on one portion of your skull can drive you crazy, make you lose concentration and ..of course that’s exactly what you don’t want on a bike. Try on many helmets of different brands and models within the brand. When the helmet is on your head and properly fastened it should move with you and not rub when you move your head from side to side or up and down. It also should not be so tight you have a headache within minutes of pounding it down on your skull. I hold the chin straps and spread the helmet as I position it over my head to make it a bit easier. Walk around the store for at least a half hour. I know you look a bit silly but anyone that rides will understand. Try talking and opening and closing your mouth and clenching your teeth and see how it feels. Make sure the chin strap is wide enough and padded enough to fit comfortably. I know some people like the quick connectors but I have caught the skin on my neck a few times and I prefer the double ring type fasteners. Also the plastic and springs in the fast connect type can break and if you don't have a replacement handy, the helmet is pretty much useless.
Most helmets are vented so check and see what type of vents there are and how easy they are to open and close while you are wearing the helmet and with a gloved hand. Also check that the visor can be easily flipped up and down with gloves on. Make sure your peripheral vision is acceptable. Some full face helmets made me feel like I had lost most of my peripheral vision and that makes me uncomfortable. I looked until I found one that was designed in such away that the visor wrapped around more and gave me much better vision to the sides.
The shop where I bought my helmet told me I could take it home and wear it as long as I didn’t use it on the bike so I could have a better idea of fit. And I felt better sitting in my house with it on then walking around the store. Turns out I kept both so far and didn’t need to return them so ask your store if this is an option.
My helmet also has a removable liner that can be washed…yayyyy. Nice feature.
If you are in a bike shop go and sit on a bike similar to your own and see how it feels. Sport bikes have a different rider position for instance then a cruiser and so the depth of the visor might make a difference to you. Of course you can’t test wind and noise factors without riding and most places won’t accept a return that has been in the wind. So make some notes, take your time and find something you like. It was suggested to me that a light color is more noticeable especially at night and therefore safer. Again that is personal preference. I have a reflective stripe on the bottom of my black helmet that shows black and doesn’t interfere with the look and that is adequate for me for now.
So go shopping already and get out on the road. J Good luck.
For more information try the following links:
- NHTSA National Highway Traffic Safety Administration page on helmet compliance testing.
- Snell Memorial Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that, for over fifty years has been dedicated to research, education, testing and development of helmet safety standards. Since its founding in 1957, Snell has been a leader in helmet safety in the United States and around the world.
- SHARP (Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Program)