With limited helmet options available in the market, selecting a helmet was an “easy task” back then. But with so many helmet options and brands available in the market, it’s no more an easy task. Don’t worry, after reading this guide of ours, you’ll have a clear understanding of the different type of helmets, brands and will be able to select the best one for yourself.

This guide isn’t based on thoughts or beliefs of a single person, Our team spent more than 6 hours in deciding the things we should include in this guide. Besides our team, there were several members who’ve been a part of our community who added up a lot of things which they consider.

Motorcycle Helmet Buying Guide
Motorcycle Helmet Buying Guide © HelmetFinder

For those who are short on time, just look at the points and you’ll get an idea about product selection.

  • Make sure that the helmet fits your head and has a shape of your preference.
  • Make sure that the one you purchase fulfills the cause for which it was purchased.
  • Make sure that the helmet has safety ratings.
  • Make sure that the helmet matches the type of bike you ride.
  • Make sure it fits under your budget, there’s no point in buying an helmet which has so many features which you don’t need and costs a lot.

If the helmet you are looking at satisfies the above-mentioned criteria, then it definitely is the best choice. However, the above points are very broad and there’s a good chance that you might need a little more clarity on the same. Don’t worry, just continue reading this till you are clearly able to select the best one.

Helmet Size and Fitting

Would you ever like to wear a shirt which is very tight or very loose? No, right? Your head also doesn’t like a helmet which doesn’t fit properly.

Before making a purchase, make sure that it has the perfect fitting for your head. This fitting is subjective to people, some like it fit, some prefer it a little lose and some prefer it very tight. The one which feels comfortable on your head is the one you should be looking forward to buying. However, make note of the fact that Helmets which are better fits tend to be a little tight at first. They tend to shape themselves around your head better as you keep wearing them, not unlike leather products. So buy accordingly.

You can purchase a light helmet, or a heavy helmet. The weight of the helmet itself hardly matters as long as the quality of construction is good. The real factor in helmet weight lies in how snugly it can fit your head without crushing it. If you purchase a helmet that is too loose, it will feel heavier on your head seeing how it is properly aligned with the centre of gravity on your head. Purchase a helmet which is too tight, and it may feel lighter, but you’ll end up feeling crushed and suffocated at the same time.

Hence, you’re looking for something which is a little tighter than just right. That, way the helmet will shape itself around your head gradually to give you the most comfortable fit without feeling too heavy. Otherwise, your helmet will be a deadweight on your head which is ready to fly off the second you get into an accident.

After that, you need to consider the shape of your head. Helmets are usually manufactured in three different shapes:

  • The Long Oval Shape: The helmet is longer from front to back, than it is from side to side.
  • The Intermediate Oval Shape: This is overall circular with equal distance between front to back and side to side distances.
  • Round Oval Shape: This helmet is longer from one side to the other than it is from the front to the back.

A good helmet should make it difficult for you to slide your fingers inside with ease while not crushing your head at the same time. Always try wearing your helmet before you purchase it. Safety is no joke.

Finally, a good helmet should have a firm chin strap attached to it which snugly holds on to your chin and won’t slide off easily or open accidentally.

Testing a Proper Fitting

There are a few ways to test the fit of your helmet. You can do all of the following tests, or just a few. In any case, the helmet should pass at least three of these tests to qualify as a properly fitting one.

  • You should not be able to push your fingers into your helmet with ease.
  • The visor or the viewport should rest just above your eyebrows.
  • Your helmet should not move when you nod your head.
  • Your helmet should not rotate freely on your head.
  • The padding on your neck should not push it away from the back of your head.
  • The chin piece should not touch your chin or your nose.
  • If your helmet has cheek pads, they should be touching your cheeks, not squeezing into them.
  • The helmet should be firm against your skin but it shouldn’t press inwards. If your head feels sore in some places after you take your helmet off, it is too tight.

With that, we conclude the most important part of a helmet, the fitting. Even the best helmets will not provide protection if they don’t fit properly. If a helmet is too loose, it’ll slide off your head or cause your head to hit around inside the helmet during a crash, causing blunt force trauma. In contrast, a tighter helmet does more than applying undue pressure on your skull. In the event of a crash, it is going to distribute more force into your brain, which can cause concussions and other forms of brain damage.

Types of Helmets

There are different types of helmet available on the market which offer different forms of protection, features, and comfort when using. Needless to say, different types of helmets are useful for different purposes. There is no use in investing in a helmet with features which you are not going to use. Furthermore, some helmets are meant for specialised purposes and are worse for others. So choosing a helmet with a purpose in mind will be of greater benefit. The different types of helmets are as follow:

Full Face Helmets

Full Face Helmets
Full Face Helmets | © HelmetFinder 2018

These kinds of Helmets, as the name suggests, cover the full face and head of the rider, from the chin, all the way to the back of the head. The front viewport of the helmet is covered with a visor which can usually be pushed up or dropped down. There is nothing exposed in this kind of helmet and as a result, this offers the most protection on road.

Advantages

  • Offers complete protection.
  • Isolates a lot of noise while riding.
  • Useful in the rain and during high speeds.
  • Can install additional commodities such as sunglasses, communication devices, etc.
  • Aerodynamic design helps keeping helmet fastened during high speed rides.

Disadvantages

  • Cannot access face while wearing for eating, drinking, etc.
  • Harder to communicate with others while wearing.
  • May suffocate wearer without proper ventilation.
  • Feels hot during hot weather.

Three Quarter Helmets

Three-Quarter Helmets or Half Face Helmets are marked by their absence of chin and face protection. In other words, they cover the three quarters of the head: the sides, the back, and the top. But they leave the most vulnerable part of the skull, the face, exposed. While this does have some advantages over a Full Face helmet, protection against crashing on your face far outweighs them. As a result, we recommend avoiding this type of helmet unless necessary. And if you do get it, always secure it by tightening your Chin strap as much as possible.

Advantages

  • Protects most areas of the skull.
  • Face accessible while wearing. Facilitates acts like eating, drinking etc. with the helmet on.
  • Easier to communicate with the helmet on.
  • No ventilation required.
  • Good levels of isolation.

Disadvantages

  • Leaves the face completely exposed.
  • Needs a visor to protect against rain and wind during high-speed rides. preferably one which can be flipped on an off.
  • Does not protect the wearer against harsh weather.
  • Might slip off the head in case chin strap is not as firm as possible.

Half Helmets

Half Helmets offer the most minimalist protection available. In fact, the protection is so minimal, that we recommend that you only use these if you’re riding a bicycle. Accordingly, keep away from these unless you’re riding a motorcycle at a very casual place in an area where damage to your head might not be a major concern. And always tighten your Chin Strap!

Advantages

  • The face is accessible while wearing.
  • No ventilation required.
  • Ease of communication.

Disadvantages

  • Least protection offered.
  • No protection from high speeds and rain without visor.
  • Helmet can easily slip off despite tightening the chin strap.
  • Leaves both the back of the head and the face unprotected. Both are the thinnest parts of the skull.
  • No noise isolation.

Modular Helmets

Modular Helmets are designed to provide complete protection to the head while featuring a removable face shield. This is essentially a mix of the Full Face and the Open Face Helmet. While this type does offer the best of both worlds, it does lack in a few areas of protection.

Advantages

  • Offers almost complete protection.
  • Face shield removable to access face.
  • Useful during rain and high speeds.
  • Not as bothersome during harsh weather.
  • Can be easy to communicate with Face Shield off.
  • Isolates a lot of noise.

Disadvantages

  • Relies on joints to manipulate Face Shield. These can act as weak points during a crash and be the first to break off, exposing the face.
  • All acts requiring access to face and communication may be easier, but riskier when driving as Face Shield has to be removed.
  • Ventilation is required as Face Shield is meant to be closed while riding.

Off-Road Helmets

Off-Road Helmets are made for Off-Road Biking and other Extreme Sports such as Motocross and Dirt Riding. These helmets are marked by the presence of sun shields on top of the helmets and an elongated chin area. These helmets are built with excessive ventilation as they’re meant for intense, rough rides and not for racing or riding on the highways.

Advantages

  • Provides sufficient protection.
  • Extra amounts of ventilation.
  • Helpful to shield against sunlight.
  • Useful during rains or high-speed rides.

Disadvantages

  • Not as protective as full face helmets due to extra ventilation.
  • Doesn’t isolate much noise due to extra ventilation.
  • Difficult to communicate.
  • Face inaccessible.
  • Sun shield and elongated chin causes problems with an aerodynamic design.

Dual-Sport Helmets

Dual-Sport Helmets are designed keeping in mind the necessities of both Full Face Helmets and Off-Road Helmets. While they are ideal for those who wish to purchase two helmets for both Off-Road Biking and Highway Riding, they are more of a jack of both trades than kings of either.

Advantages

  • Almost Full Face Helmet level protection.
  • Extra ventilation, but not as much as Off-Road helmets.
  • Can be easily used on the highway as well as the dirt track.

Disadvantages

  • Ventilation gives comparatively weaker protection.
  • While it is more aerodynamic as compared to the Off-Road Helmet, it is not as aerodynamic as the Full Face Helmet.
  • An off-road helmet has sufficient ventilation to suit dirt riding. This has a little less than sufficient.
  • The face remains inaccessible.
  • Doesn’t isolate much noise.
  • Difficult to communicate.

This is the list of all the types of helmets which you will find for riding on a bike. Make sure you go through the list as many times as is necessary to give you a better understanding of which helmets you wish to purchase. We always recommend that protection should be the first priority. However, there is no call to spend more than necessary on something that you do not want. Hopefully, this will guide you in making a better and more informed choice.

Layers of Protection

When it comes to the construction of a Helmet, the important part would be the materials used for the construction and the layers of protection it provides. Typically, a good helmet has three layers, two of which are designed to protect you, while the last and innermost layer is designed to provide you with comfort. The three layers of protection are:

  • The hard outer shell.
  • The dense Inner shock absorbing layer.
  • The Comfort Padding.

Now let’s look at each layer in detail.

Outer Shell

The outer layer of the helmet is supposed to be made of fabric reinforced plastic composites. This not only keeps the helmet lighter but also harder. The primary goal of the outer layer is the deal with the brunt of the impact and help save the rest of the layers against friction. The hardness of this layer also helps the helmet protect against sharp penetrating objects in case the wearer falls on something of such nature. The major factor in handling sharp forcing, however, is the roundness of the helmet which deflects sharp surfaces away unless they hit head-on. There are commonly three kinds of materials used for this layer:

  • Polycarbonate
  • Fibreglass Composites
  • Carbon Fibre

1. Polycarbonate

A Polycarbonate outer shell is the most fragile of all. While it is really hard, it is also quite brittle. During a crash, this material generally flexes upon impact before breaking up and shattering quite like glass. While this sort of an outer layer, does break up quite easily, it still protects the head of the wearer. It is quite weak against sharp forces and does not provide much protection against friction.

2. Fibreglass Composites

Fibreglass Composites are generally more flexible and expensive as compared to Polycarbonate materials. They are also lighter. This material generally Flexes inwards, crushes and dents, and occasionally splits during a crash. This sort of material also distributes quite a reasonable amount of shock over its surface, protecting the wearer. This material is comparatively more durable against friction and breaks with greater difficulty when subject to sharper forces.

3. Carbon Fibre

Carbon Fibre materials are the hardest and lightest material to construct a helmet with. This material is extremely flexible and dispenses a surprising amount of shock around the entire surface of the helmet. The best part about this material is that it is especially difficult to break given its flexibility. This material is great against all three kinds of trauma which you helmet can suffer: blunt force, sharp force, and friction.

Inner Foam

The Inner layer of the helmet should be composed of Expanded Polystyrene (ESP) foam. The special attribute of this foam is that it is quite soft, even though you won’t realise it as it is quite densely packed together. The dense, but soft nature of the foam acts as a very slow moving fluid and distributes the impact faced with your helmet all over it, giving you extended protection against the sheer blunt force of a crash.

This is where a proper fit is desired. If the helmet is too tight, it will simply distribute the blunt force into your skull and directly into your brain, which can cause a lot of brain damage.

Comfort Layer

The comfort layer is designed to keep you comfortable, but not too comfortable. This layer can be made using many softer materials, but the point is to make sure that it does not feel like a rock against your head. It should have a firm enough grip on your head that it’s very difficult to move your helmet without moving your head, but not so firm that it practically presses against your face, giving you bruisers and overall facial soreness.

Certification

When you look for a mark of quality in something, you often refer to different brands for reliance. The same goes with helmets. While brands do offer an assurance of the quality of their products, there are companies present out there that test helmets and certify them for you so that you can rest assured about the promised safety that they provide.

These testing organisations try out all models of helmets and put them through various practical tests to see what they can withstand and what makes them crack. After rigorous testing, these helmets are provided with a rating and a certification from these companies which guarantees their quality on behalf of the company which performs the testing.

Apart from companies which test motorcycle helmets, there are also Governmental guidelines for every State which are recommended for the design of a helmet. Since these regulations and guidelines differ from country to country, we recommend that you go through your local Governmental guidelines to get an idea of what they demand. Helmets don’t necessarily need to conform to these guidelines, but any helmet which does conform, will be market at compliant.

While we recommend that you go for professionally tested and rated equipment, if you can’t find any within your budget, we recommend that you simply go for one which is compliant to local guidelines at the very least. The following are a few examples of the various helmet testing and rating brands and local guidelines around the world:

  • DOT: The standard for helmet safety as set by the United States Department of Defence.
  • ECE22.05:The standard for Helmet Safety as set in Europe by the United Nations Economic Commission.
  • Snell: The Snell rating was found after the death of a sports car racer, Pete Snell. It approves of helmets it thinks are safe enough to race in.
  • SHARP: SHARP tests and rates helmets out of five stars based on various parameters, with four stars or above being safe for racing purposes.
  • ISO: The standard of safety as set by the International Standards Organisation. While the rest of these ratings might not be available to the world, the ISO has a worldwide reach.

Additional Features

While additional safety features don’t necessarily work to help improve rider safety, they do aid the rider in multiple other aspects of their ride, including communications, recording, breathing, and a wide variety of other factors. Some even go as far as helping Emergency Medical Teams save lives easier. With the benefits that they offer, we highly recommend that you take a look at what is being offered as they greatly help increase the comfort of wearing a helmet. They can also help by being a riding utility. The following are a few common features found in motorcycle helmets around the world.

Visor

This is one thing which any helmet should have. This greatly helps during rainy weather by keeping water away from the wearer’s eyes and during high speeds by keeping the wind out of the rider’s face. It is a simple shield which can be flipped up and down in front of the face. While most helmets come with a visor attached, they are some that don’t and it is a more than recommended addition to your helmet.

Ventilation

Ventilation is all letting air in and out. While there is no need for ventilation in Open Face and Half Helmets, ventilation is a must have in full face helmets. Otherwise, the build up of Carbon Dioxide inside the helmet while wearing it can easily lead to greater problems in the long run. Furthermore, it can also cause dizziness, nausea, or even unconsciousness during longer rides, and will definitely lead to suffocation.

Quick Release Chin Strap

While a quick release retention system like a buckled chin strap might make the helmet’s strap a little more slippery, companies today make sure to make them tight enough to make the helmets safe. In contrast to the traditional threading systems like D Rings, these greatly improve the ease with which a helmet can be strapped and unstrapped even with gloves on.

Sun Visors

These are like sunglasses inside the helmet. They can drop down if required to protect you from bright sunlight when required. This can prove to be especially useful if you don’t like putting on your helmet while using aviators, or constantly need to adjust your sunglasses inside the helmet, but can’t do the same. With these installed, you can simply flip them down when required, and flip them back up when they’re not. Furthermore, they are also designed to accommodate spectacles and prescription glasses.

Tinted/Reflective Visors

There are various kinds of coating available for your visors which would help you see better under harsh sunlight. These are primarily available in three variants.

  • Tinted Visor: A thin translucent film is added on top on your visor.
  • Photochromatic Visor: These visors are made of a Photochromatic material or have a similar coating on top which makes the visor turn darker as more light shines on it and normal under lower light.
  • Reflective Visor: These visors have a thin coating of reflective film on them, which reflects all light.

We would recommend that you always go for the Photochromatic Visors if available within your budget. They behave like sunglasses under bright light by turning darker, while they remain normal under low light, constantly adapting themselves. In contrast, the Reflective Visor may block more light, and the Tinted Visor may block just as much light as the Photochromatic variant, if not lesser, they constantly block all light, making using the visor quite dangerous in low lighting conditions.

Emergency Removal Systems

These are newer improvements to helmets which make the job a lot easier for Emergency Medical Teams to save drivers who have recently met with an accident. While helmets are supposed to be snug fit, they can pretty difficult to remove, especially by others and that too when the rider is unconscious and non-compliant. Hence, these helmets have come up with ways to safely remove or eject the helmet from the outside when worn by a rider. This allows Medical Teams to quickly and safely remove the helmet from a rider who would otherwise be suffocated by the lack of oxygen within the helmet. This also helps prevent further injuries to the victim of a crash.

Communications Gear

Communications Gear are greatly appreciated when travelling long distances or in speed. Especially if you’re wearing a Full Face Helmet. You simply cannot talk with those helmets on. That’s where Bluetooth based Communications devices can be really helpful. Specifically when you’re riding in groups. These devices are designed to fit inside your helmet without the need of additional space, so you can rest assured about having to find the extra space to accommodate them. Alternatively they can also be used to listen to some music, even though we highly discourage that for obvious safety reasons.

Mounted Cameras

There are many action cameras like the GoPro which can be mounted on top of your helmet during a ride to record the entire journey. These can also double up to add as security in case you get into minor accidents, or someone tries to threaten or rob you. The greatest appeal of these, however, is their use during sports like Races or Off-Road Biking where you can capture the thrill of your ride perfectly.

Breath Deflectors

Breath deflectors are designed to force your breath down and out of the holes present near the chin piece of your helmet. These are especially useful during rainy or cold weather where the moisture in your breath can easily fog up the visor. It is a device which comes in various sizes and shapes and greatly improves the quality of a ride. While this is of no use in Half Helmets and Quarter Face Helmets, These come highly recommended with any Full Face Helmets. Specifically so if you’re living in areas which can turn cold, or have a high possibility of rain. Or even if you’re planning to ride to someplace similar.

Anti-fog Coatings

Anti-Fog Coatings are quite similar to Breath Deflectors in the aspect that they both seek to achieve similar things. Both of these aim to keep your visor clear of any fog or frost build-up. However, while the Breath Deflector focuses on getting rid of the fog from your breath, it does not quite get rid of fog from natural sources. As temperatures get lower, or the weather gets more and more humid, chances are, even the release of gasses or heat from your mere skin can be enough to cause fogging on your visor.

While this is certainly not a replacement for the Breath Deflector, this is a much-needed addition to all kinds of helmets, full face or not. This works in conjunction with a breath deflector to keep your visor completely clear of any kind of fog. This is especially useful if you’re into riding longer distances on your bike.

Now these were all the available options you could go for. However, you do not need all of them crammed into one helmet. Wisely pick the ones which you would require in your helmet and those which you would not. There is no call to spend more on features which you may want, but wouldn’t have any use of.

Final Piece of Advice

While all of the aforementioned features can save your head when you get into an accident, the choice really depends upon you. We are merely putting forth our own recommendations about what we think is the safest choice, and that may not be the most appealing to for various reasons which can include your personal preferences, styles, phobias, or simply a feeling of suffocation or vulnerability on certain types of helmets. And that’s completely fine.

They all work to protect your head to different degrees. Some just protect your head better than others, but it’s no use keeping your entire head protected if you’re claustrophobic and can have a heart attack inside of a full face helmet. However, there is one fact which you must accept, and it is that no matter how expensive your helmet, or how loaded out it may be, or even how safe it has been rater and certified, your safety does not depend upon the helmet first. Your safety first depends upon you and the choices which you make while riding.

Even a five star rated helmet can be crushed and broken and can easily result in the loss of a life if the rider was being careless. Hence, it is upon you to ride safely, keep your ego under check on the road, make smart decisions, and not do anything stupid when you know that it carries risk and may not end well for you.

With that being said, we hope that this guide could help you out just a little by letting you know more about the available options and pointing you in the right direction. Ride safe, be smart, and don’t take stupid risks. Life is not a toy to be tossed around.

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