How to Choose a Motorcycle Helmet


If I could make a one sentence summary of this article it would be this: Do not rely on the brand or appearance to choose a helmet, but its technical features instead!

Why are some helmets more expensive than others?

Almost all brands offer several ranges, from entry-level to high-end. Apart from some high-end brands (BMW or Schuberth), all others offer full-face helmets from 150 or 200 euros or 200 to 250 dollars.

The brands are especially different on the outer design of the helmets and their inner shape. It is therefore imperative to try and wear them a little (10-15 minutes) to see if the foam goes well on the head or there is any significant discomfort

In the same market segment, the difference in price is mainly due to the novelty of the model. Good savings can be achieved by taking a model released a year or two ago.

Afterwords, it is the wealth of functions that plays the main role: with or without anti-fog treatment, with or without vents, closable or not, with or without sunscreen, foam removable or not, detachable screen or not, more or less easily, chin anti – noise …

Third element of price, quality of finish: assembly, resistance of the varnish and the paint, quality of the external plastic elements and inner foams.

Some sellers say that the fiberglass helmets would be more efficient than the polycarbonates (which would justify that they are more expensive).

But do not hesitate to take polycarbonate, as they all meet the same standards. On the other hand, the fiber helmets are lighter and therefore more comfortable on long journeys.

Security requirement

Wearing a helmet is a measure of common sense!

The state requires us to protect ourselves because the head is the most fragile and most exposed organ of our body. According to medical studies, the human skull can not withstand a shock beyond 10 mph without serious harm.

Let’s be honest: it’s not your little life that matters to the legislator. But any biker is also a citizen, therefore a taxpayer, a worker, a member of society… in short, a source and a depository of wealth. Every citizen who dies or injures himself is a cost and a financial loss for the entire community. Wearing a helmet is therefore a matter of civic responsibility and collective responsibility.

That said, at our level, all that matters to us is our health, our desire to live in good condition, surrounded by the love of our loved ones and especially a good beer.

Read more: Best Motorcycle Helmts Under $300: Tested Reviews! 

The different types of helmets

It is important to determine the type of helmet you want to wear on your motorcycle or scooter.

The different closure systems

The two straps that attach the helmet are called jugular, the whole forming the jugular which must ALWAYS be closed (and not too loose, you just have to slide two fingers underneath without being strangled).

Two systems clash: the mechanical closures, where it is a question of inserting a pin in a small box, a click coming to certify the good closing; and the classic “double-D” buckle, a little more tedious to install, but which has the advantage of always keeping an optimal tightening.

It’s the only system allowed in competition, which some people think is “better”. This is in my opinion no longer the case for a long time.
There are also closures called “rack”, with notches. Rather used on entry level headphones, but it has a practical side.

The composition of a helmet

A helmet is composed of an outer shell and an inner quill. The shell can be made of synthetic or composite material. Its main function is to avoid the penetration of a blunt object inside the helmet and be the first shock absorber.

Polycarbonate helmets

To make a polycarbonate helmet, plastic is injected into a mold. As a rule, helmets made with this technique are satisfied with only one size of cap.

Composite material helmets

Various fibers are used according to the manufacturers (fiberglass, carbon, Kevlar …), each having its advantages. Fiberglass is strong, but heavy, when the carbon is very light but can be weakened in case of extreme impact. Kevlar, by its reduced weight and good resistance to elongation (but not to compression) can be mixed with other fibers.

On a long highway, a heavy helmet can become painful for the cervical if it is poorly balanced, but paradoxically a very light helmet is not necessarily the guarantee of increased comfort. Lighter helmets usually ignore the sound insulation elements and the quality of foams to reduce weight.

Define your needs

First of all, your budget

The price of a helmet is very variable, ranging from $60 for an injected plastic product sold in supermarkets to $1500 for the BMW SportIntegral Carbon or similar models

Does the price of a helmet reflect its quality? After all, the cheapest helmets, if approved, will provide a decent level of protection. But its acoustic comfort, its equipment, its finish, its durability will not be able to compare with more advanced products.

In general, most bikers agree that a helmet for less than 150 dollars can not provide proper protection and comfort. From $200 one begins to speak of serious products. This means that it is quite possible to find a good helmet at $130 $150 if it is a model from the previous year or on a discount.

In any case, neither the price nor the brand is a guarantee of quality..

All “big” brands (Nolan, Shoei, Arai, HJC, Shark, AGV, Suomy, Caberg, Lazer, Vemar, Airoh, GPA, Uvex, Momo Design, Roof …) offer several ranges (or even sub-brands such as X -Lite for Nolan), with low-end, mid-range and high-end products that can look alike but are not equal.

On the other hand, some less popular brands are only low-end (Chinese brands, for example) and others only high-end (German brands like BMW and Schuberth).

In any case, your head has no price (at least for you), you only have one and it will be a little late to regret having chosen a shitty helmet when you have brains in slurry. If there is equipment for which you should not skimp on the price, it is the helmet.

Read more: Best Motorcycle Helmts Under $300: Tested Reviews! 

The specific helmets

More specific products for women and children are increasingly available on the market.

Women’s helmets

For a long time, motorcycle women had no choice but to buy men’s products in small sizes. Some brands are beginning to target this particular clientele, either by specific colors (pastels or “butterfly” deco), or by a new design.

Helmets for children

Obviously, the child must wear an approved helmet and its size. Children’s helmets are subject to the same licensing procedures as adult helmets, and their prices are often high: manufacturers use composite materials to limit their weight.

Add options

Your helmet is an object that can be personalized according to your needs.

A sunshade screen , integrated or added, removable or not, brings a real gain of comfort, provided that it is easily handled with gloves.

A pinlock can be an effective way of fighting fog.

An adaptable chin strap helps to reinforce the insulation and, in general, to lower the sound level.

The “tear-off” can be useful also. Composed of a succession of plastic films that cover the screen, they withdraw one by one with tongues.

An intercom equipment to communicate with your passenger. There are different systems, some being more sophisticated than others. Check that your headset can accept headsets under the foams.

Choose a helmet

Helmets obviously have different sizes, but some have shapes that are better suited to round heads, ovals and even intermediates.

We must aim for an impeccable fit that provides comfort, no matter what type of helmet. For your safety too, because discomfort can diminish your attention on the road.

Evaluate comfort

Because to be marketed, all helmets must meet the standards imposed, the buyer of a helmet should focus primarily on the comfort it provides.

Do not forget that you will wear it for hours, days, years … It is on this condition that we can judge whether the purchase was wise.

The helmet should be in firm contact on the top, the sides of the head; in the case of modular and integral helmets, firm contact should extend as close to the jaw, around the ears and on the cheeks. Take your time to “feel” the headphones.

If the helmet seems too tight, it’s normal . The trimmings are not yet packed or adapted to the morphology of your face. It usually takes a month to get comfortable with a new helmet.

The correct position of the helmet on the head

The helmet should be placed straight on the head, with the edge of the front one inch above the eyebrows. Many people tend to wear the helmet too tilted back.

Check that it does not hurt the skull

Always don a helmet before buying it. And not just ten seconds to see if the head returns. It should be kept five to ten minutes on the head, to see if the weight is well distributed, if the chinstrap does not irritate the skin, if the mosses do not tighten the forehead, the cheeks, the back of the head, the top of the skull.

In the case of a helmet too small, the pressure on certain points of the skull will make wearing painful. If on the contrary, the helmet is loose enough so that you do not perceive almost no pressure, it will be too big once on the road; and in this case of excessive sloshing, a chin strap too tight will put an uncomfortable pressure on the top of the head and on the jaw.

Check that it is not too big

To make sure the helmet is your size, put it on; immobilize the head; rotate the helmet with your hands. He should not slip anywhere on the head.

Have someone move the helmet back and forth: your head should not move in the helmet.

You should feel the skin being pulled through the lining of the helmet. You must not be able to pass a finger between the foam and your forehead. Some even say that for full-face helmets, the foams have to tighten their cheeks to the point that we bite them while talking …
On the contrary, the helmet must not tear your ears when you remove it.

If you are uncertain, put on a smaller size.

Reminder: Always fasten and adjust your chin strap to secure the helmet. When the chinstrap (closure strap) is properly tightened, you can not pass more than two fingers between the strap and the chin.

Do not wear a hat, do not gather your hair over the head when doing tests or wearing a helmet.

If you wear multiple frames of glasses, bring them during the purchase to make sure of their compatibility. If you wear lenses most of the time, but sometimes glasses, take your mount to try the headphones with it.

If when buying your previous helmet, a model of a brand did not suit you, do not exclude this brand from the outset because manufacturers change their range frequently. Likewise, do not trust blindly in any brand or official size as the design of the helmet can make it different in terms of comfort.

Some brands (Shoei, among others) sell cushions of different sizes for their inner lining. It is the end of the end in terms of adjustment; ask them.

Attention to the quality of the lining

Some caps are attached to the helmet, others are removable and washable, some are Coolmax ™ that facilitates the evacuation of perspiration. The more expensive models offer the most comfort amenities in terms of ventilation, but are not necessarily safer.

Choose your screen

With a full-face helmet that covers the jaw, the lift screen protects the eyes from air drying, road projectiles and insects.

On these headphones, make sure the screen is free from visual distortion. To do this check, wear the headset, lower the screen. Attach an object with straight lines. Swivel your head to both sides, then up and down. The lines should stay straight. Be sure to check the sides of the screen because distortion can distort perceptions of your peripheral view.

On some models, it is possible to adjust the screen so that it rests evenly on the lip of the seal of the opening and that it closes tightly. In this case, it is for the rain, but also for the air swirls. The screen will be quieter and the helmet will be more pleasant during long trips.

The screens are either clear, or more or less dark for sunny days, even in orange tint giving a better definition in cloudy or rainy weather. Choose them according to your needs. A screen just slightly tinted you will avoid having to change on the side of the road if you have to move at night.

Special case of so-called “iridium” screens, opaque and reflective.

Highly prized by sports riders, these competition screens are forbidden for road use because they filter the light too much.

These visors are extremely dangerous, especially at night. The refractive quality (property of refracting the light) of an iridium visor, particularly in the case of a “mirror” visor, is valid for the exterior as for the interior (as for a mirror without a one-way mirror). At night, depending on the angle, the headlights of the vehicles can be reflected in and dazzle the driver (flash syndrome).

Open helmets

If you choose an open jet helmet and you wear glasses, you must choose a model that includes a screen, to prevent the impact of gravel or pebbles on your glasses. Or choose impact-resistant goggles designed for motorcycles, not safety glasses for work. An alternative however: laboratory safety goggles.

In general, even if you do not wear glasses, always take a helmet with a screen . The day you get a gravel in the eye, a big bug in the cheek or a pebble in the face, all with the speed of the bike that increases the force of the impact, you will understand why.

Even if you do not drive in the city, remember that sometimes there are also insects, gravel, dust, diesel particles, exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke, etc. Keeping good vision at all times is too vital for a motorcycle to take a risk in the name of a vague reasons like comfort or aesthetics!

Read more: Best Motorcycle Helmts Under $300: Tested Reviews! 

Buying online requires caution!

First, be sure to order the right size . If you make a mistake, returning the helmet and waiting for another can be problematic and expensive in shipping costs.

Then inspect the package well on arrival . A helmet is sensitive to shock and it may have taken a hit during transport. Look carefully at the carton and refuse the package if it is damaged. After accepting it, take out the helmet right away and examine it well. At the slightest doubt, send a message immediately proposing to return it immediately to have another one.

The noise

If bikers were asked what they think of noise, most people would think that they want to talk about the exhaust or the mechanics, and not the noise of the air around their helmets.

Andrew McCombe, an English doctor, published a study showing that above 40 mph, the air noise reaches 90 decibels. In a workplace, this level would require the employer to provide hearing protection. At 80 mph, the sound level reaches 100 dB. Even brief exposure to levels above 90 dB may cause temporary loss of hearing and ringing ears.

The danger however is not the same for all motorcyclists. The rider who goes to his place of work not far from his home will not be exposed as much as the one who travels thousands of miles on his bike in a year.
There is no headset on the market that is soundproof enough to protect hearing. There are certainly quieter headphones than others, but the only effective solution for the moment are the ear plugs.

Final Word: How to Choose a Motorcycle Helmet

Safety, comfort, noise protection and additional elements such as bluetooth are all important when choosing a helmet. So is your budget of course. Take these features into consideration when buying a helmet and you’ll have a much easier time finding one that fits you in every possible way.

Read more: Best Motorcycle Helmts Under $300: Tested Reviews! 

Luka Barron

Motorcycle mechanic, writer and Heineken lover. A bit like Hank Moody on a Suzuki.

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