6 Tips For Buying A Motorcycle Helmet

motorcycle helmet

Photo by Konrad Samsel via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Let’s look at a few tips for buying a motorcycle helmet.

1. Why Are You Taking This Ride?

Once upon a time, buying a motorcycle helmet meant buying a single type. It was a modified cereal bowl (with a visor if you were lucky), that wasn’t particularly good at protecting the head and neck. Now when purchasing a helmet, you’re confronted with a variety of choices.

This isn’t to make up for the lack of previous helmet variety. All these choices are now here because the only thing safer than wearing a helmet when bike riding is wearing a helmet that is specifically geared to that particular type of motorcycle pursuit. So don’t just resign yourself to the fact that you will be buying just one helmet. Resign yourself to the fact that you will be purchasing at a minimum at least two helmets of probably distinctly different styles.

So because of this, start your helmet shopping by considering all of the ways in which you’ll be using your motorcycle.

2. Helmet Choices

Are you going to be riding that bike on a thirty mile commute most days? Or just on little ten minute excursions? In both cases where helmet laws are enforced, you may be required to wear a DOT certified one. However, there are different degrees of DOT certification (and of course, prices), and how far, how long, and where you’re taking that motorcycle may affect the type of helmet you’re required to wear.

If you’re going to be riding at night, then you’ll need a high visibility helmet, either with neon colors or reflective designs. And a “high viz” helmet isn’t a bad idea either for daytime street riding. The cagers don’t need any more excuses to claim that they can’t see you.

Are you going to be track or course riding? Many venues now won’t even allow you on those tracks unless you’re wearing a Snell certified helmet.

And while it’s not a mandatory requirement, group riding (especially over long distances) is considerably safer if “the pack” are wearing Bluetooth enabled helmets.

3. Labels Do Matter.

You’re looking for a helmet (or helmets) that meet certain certification standards, generally DOT or Snell ones. See: http://www.smf.org/docs/articles/dot

DOT (Department of Transportation) certified helmets are ones that have been approved by the Federal government for various types of over-the-road motorcycle use. While state motorcycle laws can vary, where helmet laws apply, DOT approved helmets are generally acceptable. Be aware that while some popular helmet styles like the “half-helmet” or “jockey” meet minimum DOT requirements, they can now be legally worn only under certain conditions, such as limited street riding. And that “Viking” helmet? Well, at least you’ll be getting to meet a lot of cops.

A Snell certified helmet is the safest motorcycle helmet one can wear, even exceeding DOT “full helmet” standards. This is why the Snell is the preferred (often mandatory) helmet for racing.

4. The Fit Is It

Motorcycle helmets come in a variety of sizes. An ill-fitting one is horribly uncomfortable and dangerously distracting. Many motorcycle helmet brands on the market fit differently. Rather than guessing, get professional fitting help at the bike shop. The helmet should not be down over the eyes, and it should fit snugly. A good test is to strap it on and try to pull the rear of it up.

5. Ventilation

You actually have a lot of selection choices concerning this. Again, how and where are you going to be using this helmet, as it can affect how you want to vent it. Will you be using a Bluetooth? That could affect how you vent the helmet too, as can weather.

6. Face Shield

Your vision should be completely normal and unobstructed when wearing it, even with tinted, anti-fog, and UV-protected ones.