10 Tips for Selecting a Helmet
I have been wearing a modular Schuberth C3W helmet for almost a year and been extremely impressed with its quality and comfort. It fits like a glove, has good air flow and excellent aerodynamics. I’ve always worn high-quality helmets but really noticed the absence of buffeting. It fits so well there are no drafts. In fact, it feels cozy in cold weather (i.e. freezing) weather.
A big thank-you to Sarah Schilke, Marketing and PR Manager, Schuberth North America for sharing her expertise and contributing this article. Read Sarah’s bio below.
The helmet is a motorcyclist’s most important piece of safety equipment. It is all about function, not fashion or farkle. Here is a list of important tips for selecting a top-performing and best helmet for you.
- Understand how a motorcycle helmet works. It’s comprised of 4 main components:
- The hard outer shell – specially designed to absorb and disseminate the impact.
- The inner EPS (Styrofoam) protective lining to absorb and soften the impact of the head into the inside of the helmet – reducing the shock to the brain.
- The chin-strap (retention system) to ensure the helmet remains on the head.
- The soft fabric lining to ensure proper fit and fatigue-minimizing comfort.
- Choose a helmet certified with recognized safety standards and regulations. Novelty headwear does not constitute a helmet and offers no real protection to the head and especially not to the brain. Slapping a fake DOT sticker on the back of a “salad bowl” does not magically give it legal or protective qualities. The helmet is a motorcyclist’s most important piece of safety equipment. It is all about function, not fashion or farkle.The various testing agencies (DOT, ECE, Snell, BSI, etc) are certifying a helmet’s ability to protect your brain from trauma caused by your brain slamming against the inside of your skull in the event of sudden impact. Other tests are done on a it’s ability to disperse the impact force over the area of the hard outer shell and ensuring the chin strap will hold it in proper position and not allow it to rotate or come off.
- Choose a style – ½, ¾, full face, flip up. Some riders like the convenience of a 1/2 or 3/4 helmet and the feel of the wind on their faces. However, wherever the wind makes contact, the road will make contact in the event of a crash. Half and 3/4 helmets offer the least protection, not only from trauma, but also from the elements, bugs, road debris and noise. Being exposed to the elements can negatively affect a rider’s comfort leading to fatigue, hindered concentration, or hearing loss. Full face helmets offer the most protection and comfort. Since most are designed to offer the added benefit of aerodynamics, they also minimize rider fatigue. Many riders are now opting for a flip-up or modular helmet which offers the protection of a full face with the convenience of a 3/4 helmet. Not all modulars are created equal though. Some are tested and certified for full face protection with the shock absorbing EPS in the chin bar. Others only offer protection from the elements.
- Determine proper fit. A helmet should be snug. Or better explained, like a good handshake, comfortably firm without causing discomfort or pain. The helmet should make contact all over your head and face. Try sticking a pinky between your forehead and the helmet — you shouldn’t be able to get more than the very tip in. If you move it around, it should be tight enough that your skin moves with it. The best bet is to get properly fitted, have a dealer help you, starting with a head measurement. Good dealers have staff who are trained to properly fit helmets to heads. These experts help customers find the helmet type and size that best fits their heads and needs. Chose the helmet with best fit and comfort, spend the money to get the best protection, fit and comfort. If cared for properly, your motorcycle helmet should last up to 5 years.
- Replace a helmet that has been dropped or in a crash. Have you ever bitten into a Styrofoam cup and noticed that the impressions from your teeth stay and don’t fill back out? This is what happens to the protective EPS when it does its job absorbing a blow and why helmets are ‘single-use’ items. Often a helmet can be damaged without any visible signs, so don’t take any chances. Falling is an unfortunate outcome that is virtually impossible to predict or avoid. When your helmet has fulfilled it’s single-use duty, be sure to replace it right away with another high-quality certified helmet. Some manufacturers offer replacement programs and some insurance companies will also replace the helmet, so do some research before you make a purchase. Look for helmet replacement programs like Schuberth’s mobility program. A crashed pre-registered helmet can be replaced with a new one for 1/3 of the retail price.
- Note clarity of vision. It is just as critical to be able to see as it is to be seen, so select a helmet with a high-quality face shield. Some face shields are injection molded and basically optically perfect. Others are bent to the shape of the helmet which creates distortions. Additionally, note the amount of peripheral vision when the helmet is on and whether the face shield fogs up easily. Some come with an anti-fog coating and some come with a Pinlock® visor — an internal lens that completely eliminates fogging. Some helmets come with an internal sun visor which is handy. It means you won’t have to switch to a dark face shield when riding in bright light, or switch back to clear at night.
- Make sure the helmet has good ventilation. Getting airflow through the helmet isn’t just for comfort. It’s important also for diluting any toxic gasses from exhaust that can build up inside the helmet. A chin vent is a must along with top vents that push air around the head. A properly venting helmet will have holes in the EPS liner which line up with the vent holes in the shell. Also, ventilation channels in the help direct a higher volume of air around the head toward the exhaust ports.
- Choose a helmet with a removable liner. Washing a motorcycle helmet will help prolong its useful life. The comfort liner is key to a proper fit (the snugness). Sweat and hair products can cause it to break down faster.
- Consider communication. Some riders like to talk to fellow riders or listen to music and GPS instructions. There are many options for in-helmet speakers which use Bluetooth® technology to pair wirelessly to accessories. Many systems involve clipping a unit to the outside of the helmet which can cause added wind drag and noise. Other companies, like Schuberth, offer systems that can be fully integrated into the interior of the helmet.
- Never purchase a used helmet! Remember that a damaged helmet might not show any visible signs. You never know what you are getting with a used helmet. Saving a few bucks is not worth the risk of buying a helmet that won’t protect you when you need it.
Sarah Schilke, an avid street rider turned amateur off-road racer, has made a career out of her passion—riding motorcycles. Sarah has worked in the motorcycle industry for almost 20 years, currently as the Marketing & P.R. Manager for Schuberth, the German helmet manufacturer responsible for the award winning C3W helmet engineered specifically for women riders. Her background also includes positions with the International Motorcycle Shows, Hein Gericke motorcycle apparel, the American Motorcyclist Association and Electric Motorbike, Inc. Sarah is the first woman to serve on the Board of Directors of the U.S. Motorcycle Industry Council and is an expert member of the FIM Commission on Women in Motorcycling. She is also a lifetime member of the AMA.