How to Choose a Motorcycle Helmet That’s Safe and Comfortable

Mar 3, 2022

Motorcycle rider getting ready to ride.

Riding a motorcycle is an incredible experience. Not only do street bikes get you to where you need to be but it allows you to connect with Mother Nature in a way traditional automobiles can’t match. However, there is a flip side: you’re more exposed on a bike. So it’s important to wear a motorcycle helmet every time you ride. Read the Motorcycle Helmet Laws by State article to learn what U.S. states require motorcycle helmets.

Safest Motorcycle Helmet Type

There are different types of helmets on the market: half-face helmets, off-road helmets, dual-sport helmets, and more racy full-face options.

Generally, the safest motorcycle helmet is a full-face model. It provides the greatest coverage, protecting your neck, covering your face, and protecting the top and back of your head, too. The chin bar is especially important as it will protect you from an injury in this area, which is one of the most common ones in the case of a street bike accident.

The Importance of Helmet Construction

It has been estimated that full-face helmets lower the risk of brain injury by 69%. The majority of helmets are made out of plastic, but this is not the most ideal construction. Fiberglass, carbon fiber, or a blend of the two materials are among the safest helmet materials that have been developed so far.

The interior is equally important. It’s usually made of polystyrene. This allows for greater comfort as well as a cushion between the outer hard shell and your head. The good thing about expandable polystyrene is that it absorbs energy during an impact, diffusing energy and protecting your delicate noggin.

Ideally, the inner lining should be removable, so you can wash it, or customize fit, with thicker or thinner pads. Also, if the helmet comes with speakers, or, you’re going to want to have them installed, make sure they fit comfortably. Some helmets don’t have space for this and they might push the speakers into your ears in an uncomfortable fashion.

Helmets Should Meet the Federal Safety Standard

Throughout the years, different organizations have made recommendations regarding the use of bike helmets, including the World Health Organization. More specifically, the Department of Transportation (DOT). Usually, you can see a label or sticker inside the helmet which states if it complies with this standard. Some things you should examine include the weight, the inner lining, the chin straps, and any external accessories, including vents, drop-down shield, etc.

If the helmet is very light, then it’s likely that it doesn’t comply with the DOT standard. The average weight of compliant helmets is three pounds. Furthermore, if the inner lining is very thin, this is another red flag. Inner linings should be at least one-inch thick.

Another characteristic that needs to be considered is the presence of chin straps. These are a requirement according to safety standards. Lastly, if the helmet has any addons or accessories on its outer shell that measure more than two-tenths of an inch, then this helmet doesn’t comply with regulations.

Choosing the Right Size and Shape

You may have a helmet that complies with all the DOT safety standards, but these will all be moot if the helmet is the wrong size or shape. The best way to make sure a helmet fits is by trying it on. 

To determine the shape of your head, first, you need to know that there are three types: Round-oval, long-oval, and intermediate. You can determine the shape of your head by looking in a mirror and focusing not on your face but on your head as a whole. Another option is sitting down and having someone look at your head from the top.

When it comes to sizing, the process is very simple. You can use a measuring tape—preferably one made of cloth. Measure the circumference that goes from right above your eyebrows to the very back of your head, at the thickest part.

Once you’ve got your helmet, you should wear it for around half an hour. You can call this the final test trial. If it still feels comfortable, then you know you’ve made the right choice.

How Much Should You Spend?

Investing in a good motorcycle helmet is a smart decision; however, this doesn’t mean you need to break the bank. While a cheap option is unlikely to meet the basic safety standards, the most expensive alternatives sometimes offer additional things you might not be interested in.

More expensive helmets tend to be more customizable and have great ventilation. However, if you are not interested in getting a personalized design and are ok with decent ventilation, you don’t need to make this expense.

What you should make sure of is that the helmet meets DOT standards. From there, every other characteristic that might add to the price of the helmet is going to have to do with your preferences and needs.

Something you should never do is buy a second-hand helmet. While it might be from a great brand and appear to be in great condition, you can never truly tell what’s happened to it. Furthermore, the interior lining of the helmet is likely to be indented to fit the head of its previous user, meaning it won’t feel as comfortable to you.

How Do I Choose the Right Helmet?

Selecting the right helmet might be a difficult endeavor considering the large number of options available. The first thing you should think about is what you use your bike for. If you participate in any specific category, then you should go for models that are specially designed for that, such as the dual-sport model.

However, if you prioritize your safety over all things, then a full-face helmet is the best option. You should always make sure the option you go for is compliant with federal regulations and that it fits you perfectly. There’s no need to be uncomfortable during your ride due to an ill-fitting helmet.

Something to look for is the seal between the visor and the helmet. The last thing you want is a leaky helmet that lets water in while riding. Sometimes, these leaks can be fixed by properly adjusting the visor.

Also, with so many options, it might be difficult to know which brand to go for. You could use other people’s experience to get a sense of the overall performance of the brand. Search for online reviews regarding the specific helmet model, the brand, and the store you are going to buy it from. You want to make sure you are buying from a legitimate seller and that no issues will appear once you are on the road.

Modern helmets offer additional options such as internal Bluetooth speakers or double visors to protect against the sun. Also, some helmets have a triple outer shell, making them more durable and even safer than regular helmets. While these might be a larger investment, it might be worth it if you spend a lot of time on the road.

Something to keep in mind is that once you have your helmet, you should learn how to take care of it. Aside from washing the inner lining, you should never leave the helmet on top of the fuel tank. Gasoline vapors will damage the inner lining. Also, avoid hanging it from the side mirror because it will create an indentation and dirty your helmet.

At the end of the day, choosing the right helmet is going to depend on your needs and the characteristics you want it to have. If you go for long rides, then an additional investment in items like speakers might be worth it. Also, if you live in a humid region, you’ll want to make sure you have the best ventilation possible. However, if you only ride once a week, then you might benefit from a simpler model, as long as it meets the aforementioned safety standards.

The material of the helmet will also determine how customizable it is, something you should keep in mind if you want a personalized design. Whatever you do, remember to ride safe and enjoy your time on the road.