What is it you look for when buying a motorcycle helmet? The colour and style? The latest technology and innovations? Its safety rating? In this guide we cover some of the key things that you need to know about buying a full-face style of motorbike helmet for road use.
Without stating the obvious, a motorcycle helmet is designed to do one main thing – protect your head in the event of an accident. When buying a motorcycle helmet this should always be your first concern and, as a guide, you can check the SHARP rating of a helmet. SHARP is an independent, government backed programme that tests helmets and gives them a safety rating of out of five stars, with one being the lowest and five being the highest. You can find a helmet’s SHARP rating at https://sharp.dft.gov.uk/ along with some other useful helmet related advice.
Once you have found a helmet you like and it meets the safety rating you desire, you can look into more detail of fitting. Ideally, get yourself measured as this will prevent trying on a plethora of sizes that are wrong and once done you can focus on actually trying on some helmets.
Are you comfortable? This is also an extremely important question, because if you don’t have enough pressure in some places or indeed too much in others it may hinder your riding and not perform the job you have bought it for. When you get down to your local bike shop and start trying on new helmets, be you a seasoned biker or a new rider, you must make sure you try on as many helmets as you can. This is because different brands have different fitments and shapes, for example: Arai generally come with bigger cheek pads than other brands. This means that some people will pick an Arai over a Shoei, or vice versa. Women will find this useful because of their smaller jaw lines, but we all come in different shapes and sizes so it is a good idea to try on helmets from many different brands. When trying a helmet on it should feel comfortable. Do up the chinstrap and if it’s a ratchet type then adjust it if you need to. When you can get two fingers between the strap and your jaw the helmet is fastened correctly, if you’re wearing a full face helmet, at this point you will notice pressure on certain points of your head and face. You may have cheeks like a hamster stocking up for winter but you should not be able to feel pain at the pressure points, nor should it leave any red marks. At this point try rotating the helmet left to right and back again, your cheeks should follow where the helmet goes. If the helmet slips or your cheeks lose contact with the cheek pads then you need a smaller size. Another test you can and should perform is seeing if the helmet can be pulled off. If needs be, ask the shop staff and they will more than likely be happy to oblige. If they can pull the helmet off while you’re stood in a shop it will most definitely come off in an accident, rendering it useless.
Now that you will have hopefully found a helmet in the correct size and a brand that is comfortable for you, it’s time to start looking at features. Almost every helmet on the market has a visor and these will come in a variety of colours, ultimately the visor’s job is to protect your eyes. Many helmets come with a drop down sun visor with a switch located on the side of the helmet, If you are planning on riding in all weather conditions and varying light conditions the integral sun visor really will come into its own extremely useful feature. These will prevent you from needing to stop and change from a clear to a tinted visor, or to put sunglasses on under the helmet. You shouldn’t ride at night with a tinted visor, so this can be a really practical addition to a helmet for riders spending long days in the saddle.
Most helmets have air vents but you’ll usually find that the most expensive the lid, the more sophisticated the vents. These provide air circulation to keep your head cool and the visor demisted. Some vents can make a helmet noisy, however.
Pinlock is another feature, which is essentially a separate piece of plastic that is fitted to the inside of the visor and forms a seal, like double glazing. This prevents the visor misting up in cold weather and is highly regarded. Noise is also something else to consider when buying a helmet. Riding at speed generates a lot of wind noise, which is generally above the levels considered to be safe in the work place. Just 15 minutes riding at 70mph could create enough noise to cause irreparable damage to your ears and while a quieter helmet is definitely beneficial, it is always advisable to wear earplugs if you are planning to ride above 50mph. Filtered plugs, such as the ones made by Auritech, block out wind noise while allowing the ambient sounds, such as engine note and sirens through.
Some new helmets like the Shark Skwal and Skwal 2 come with integrated LED lights that can be on solid or flashing to increase your visibility, while if you plan on using an intercom system, some helmets can be purchased ready to receive all technology. These may simply have recesses into which speakers can be placed, or it may be that these are built in and that the helmet is ready to connect immediately to your Bluetooth device, as is the case with some Schuberth helmets.
Colourschemes are also an important feature of the full-faced crash helmet. Whether you want a replica livery of your favourite racer, a bright or even fluorescent livery to help you be better seen by other road users, or simply a design that matches your bike or the rest of your riding gear, it’s important that you get a helmet you like the look of.
Helmets are such a valuable piece of riding gear that it’s important to get it right. While it may be tempting to buy second hand, it would be unwise to pick up safety equipment for which the provenance cannot be confirmed. A helmet should last for around five years before being replaced, so it is well worth taking some time to find the right one for you. A good helmet can definitely enhance your riding experience, just as a bad one can prove awkward and uncomfortable, while keeping your valuable head safe at the same time.