Basic differences between motorcycle helmets

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Basic differences between motorcycle helmets

Although wearing helmets is not mandatory all around the world, is widely accepted that using them can save your life.

If you are new to bikes, using the helmet may seem like a hassle and sadly there is no way around that.

It's a bulky item that in most cases we see ourselves forced to carry by hand when off the bike, they can be claustrophobic, warm beyond belief, and they may even remove some of the "wind in the face" freedom feeling we all search.

However, they may very well be the safety barrier that will save your life in case of a crash and allow you to survive to ride another day.

Being that we do not consider the use of the helmet a relevant discussion - as we all should just suck it up and use it - we can, however, discuss what is the best bucket for our needs.

For all newcomers and even seasoned riders, choosing a helmet can be very overwhelming.

Let's face it, there are helmets out there for all tastes, but more than that, there are helmets out there for all purposes!

Although all helmets are designed to save our heads from being turned into pulp, choosing the wrong helmet may prove itself equally as dangerous as not wearing one in the first place.

We do know that is a bold statement but bear with us.

Imagine yourself setting up on the starting line of a track day at your local speedway, and as you sit on your 600cc or 1000cc rocket, you are proudly wearing an off-road helmet.

The peak and lack of slick aerodynamics of that specific kind of helmet will force your head back with such violence, that you may end up losing control of the bike or just see yourself unable to enjoy the day.

On the same note, if you are out on an enduro or adventure bike, shredding some gnarly off-road sections, a half-helmet may be far from the perfect choice.

Although the airflow would be brilliant, your face would be open to loose debris, and on a sporting activity where falling is as part of it as riding, the lack of chin protection would be asking for trouble.

Taking these considerations into account, one can easily understand that although - and in a similar way to bike choices - one can have a "one helmet does it all", we will always be better served by using helmets - or bikes - designed for the specific task we want to use them in.

So what should you be looking for when choosing a helmet?

In one word, safety.



Start by deciding the kind of riding you will be doing.

Most brands will have specific helmets for specific uses, and its always good to go over the major brands and see what they are offering.



Make a short list!



We mentioned major brands, however, we don't mean that smaller or emerging brands will not have top of the line gear, nevertheless, it is not uncommon to see smaller brands not having their helmets approved by the best-standardized testing standards.

Even though for the most cases similar helmets vary in price based on marketing, graphics or just brand name, development and R&D consume a big part of any price tag. So when you see a helmet that "looks like the others" but it's relatively cheaper, check if it has a DOT, ECE or even SNELL certification, you might find it doesn't.

Learn more about helmet certification

To finish, never forget to check the fitting.

This step is many times overlooked, and its key not only for your comfort but also for your safety.

Fitting divides itself into 2 parts:

  • Head shape


Not all heads have the same shape, however, no manufacturer produces the same helmet is all head shapes.

Helmet by helmet, even within the same brand, may see changes in the head shape its intended too. Some will be more oval, some will be more round.

This is one of the main reasons to which questions like "I have this bike, what helmet should I use" makes no sense.

If the "best" helmet is for a round shaped head, and your head is more oval, you will never be comfortable using that specific bucket, neither will you be as safe as possible, as the contours of your skull will not be snug all around.


Sadly, brands tend not to widely spread this information, so don't be surprised if you walk into a store and you can't find this information anywhere.

Trial and error, an email to the brand, or finding a store that makes a deeper search into their products might be needed.

Reference: Picture from www.adventuremoto.com.au

 

  • Shell size


Some brands use 3 shell sizes. With the use of inside padding, they manage with those 3 shells to sell helmets from XS to XXL.

Some brands, use up to 5 shell sizes to cover the same size range.

As you can understand, if you are using a size L that is a shell size L, you will be wearing a much lighter and smaller helmet, than if you are using a size L that is actually an XL shell with more padding.

Although in weight the difference nowadays is less and less, the bulkiness of the overall helmet is not, and that should not be overlooked.

 

  • Example of the same helmet in 3 and 5 shell sizes:

Reference: Picture from www.ghostbikes.com

Reference: Picture from www.sportbiketrackgear.com

 

  • Types of fasteners


Different helmets will use different fasteners, and they do provide different types of safety, different types of easiness to use and even maintenance.

The most common fasteners used are the D-rings or Double D-rings, the micrometric, and ratchet fasteners.

Reference: Image of a D-ring fastener from www.motocard.com

Reference: Image of a micrometric fastener from billyscrashhelmets.com

Reference: Image from a quick release fastener from www.whitedogbikes.com



Graphics, brand names or sheer fashion statements are obviously things that one looks at, but at the end of the day, those will not carry much weight in your safety and comfort.

Always remember, your head is unique, and as such, protecting it the best way you can, can be the difference between being able to ride another day or seeing your life cut short.

Choose the right helmet for your head, and don't let yourself be influenced by marketing and fashion.

Ask the right questions, do some research, protect yourself!

 

Check out our infographic on this subject


Basic differences between motorcycle helmets and how to choose one


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