Choosing The Right Helmet

Whether you are a motorcycle enthusiast, a snow mobiler or a dirt biker your helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment you will ever buy.  With all the cool options like interchangeable visors, built in Bluetooth and a plethora of cool graphics and colors choosing the right helmet might seem overwhelming. The most important feature– Protection!

Protection Features

All helmets should include four basic components that make up their protection features, including:

  • The outer shell – The outer-most layer of the helmet is usually made of fiber-reinforced composites, which allow the material to contract during a hard impact. This will help lessen the blow of the force before it reaches your head.
  • Impact-absorbing liner – Usually made of Styrofoam or similar material, this layer continues to absorb shock and deflect the power of a hard hit away from your head.
  • Comfort padding – This is the layer that touches your head. It helps for comfort, but also ensures the helmet fits snuggly on your head.
  • Retention system – Also known as a chin strap. This piece will ensure the helmet stays on your head in the event of a crash.

Ever wonder how motorcycle helmets are made? This video illustrates how motorcycle helmets are manufactured.

When choosing a helmet, make sure it meets minimum safety standards by looking for a DOT sticker or a Snell sticker, certifying that the helmets meet safety standards of United States Department of Transportation and the Snell Memorial Foundation, respectively. The ECE 22.05 is the European standard set by the Economic Commission for Europe.

These organizations set standards for:

  • Impact — the helmet’s shock absorbing capacity.
  • Penetration — How well the helmet withstands hitting a sharp object.
  • Retention — How well the chin strap can stay fastened without breaking.
  • Peripheral vision — to pass, a helmet must allow minimum side vision of 105 degrees on each side.

Gary Ilminen compiled tons of information about DOT, Snell & ECE 22.05 in Motorcycle Helmet Standards Explained

Comfort Features

Helmets come in several different general designs, including:

  • Full-face helmet – This design does what the name suggests, covering the full face and head. It typically includes a movable face shield or visor to protect the eyes, as well as a chin strap.
  • Three-quarter/open-face helmet – Similar to the full-face type, but does NOT include a movable face shield. It’s recommended to buy a snap-on face shield or goggles that can withstand hard impact if you purchase this helmet type.
  • “Shorty” half-helmet – Simply protects the top of your head. This type of helmet is not typically recommended for motorcycle riders.

To ensure comfort, try your helmet on before buying it and wear it for a period of time to identify any pressure points that may not be immediately noticeable but can become uncomfortable on longer rides. Getting the right fit will not only help with your comfort level, but also with your safety.

Choosing Helmet Sizes

Selecting the correct helmet size is more involved than guessing “Small,” “Medium,” or “Large.”

To find which size of helmet to start with, grab a tape measure and get the measurements for the largest circumference of your head, which should be about an inch above your eyebrows and above your ears.

Consult the manufacturer sizing chart to see which size helmets you should try on.

In general, a brand new helmet should feel slightly tight, coming into contact with most of your head and the sides of your face, but not putting too much pressure on any specific area.

Once you’ve worn it for a while, your helmet should be “broken in” and adjust to the specific shape of your head, but it should never become loose.

Trying on Your Helmet

To further ensure your helmet is the best fit possible, look for these things after trying it on:

  • Cheek pads — They should touch your face without pressing too hard.
  • Gaps — Make sure there aren’t any between your temples and the brow pads.
  • Neck roll — If the helmet has one, it should not push the helmet away from the back of your head.
  • Chin piece — with full-face helmets the chin piece should prevent your face shield from touching your nose or chin.

While wearing your helmet, you can also perform some simple preliminary tests to ensure your helmet will protect you, such as:

  • Moving your helmet from side to side – Do this while it is securely fastened. Your skin should move as the helmet is moved, with an even amount of pressure being placed on your entire head.
  • Try rolling the helmet forward off your head – Do this with your chin strap securely fastened. You should not be able to pull the helmet off.
  • Take your helmet off – See if your head feels sore anywhere and check for red spots on your forehead. These can indicate pressure points on the helmet that could become problematic after a long ride.

Whether you’re motorsport of choice is snow mobiling, motorcycling, or dirt biking enjoy it safely with the proper helmet.