Riding a motorcycle is an exhilarating experience, but it comes with its fair share of risks. As a responsible motorcyclist, your safety should always be a top priority. One of the most crucial pieces of safety equipment for any rider is a high-quality motorcycle helmet. However, not all helmets are created equal. In this comprehensive guide, Motorcycle Trader US will explore the world of motorcycle helmets, discussing the importance of certifications and reviewing the top helmets available in the market.
Why Helmets Matter
Before we delve into the specifics of certifications and the best helmets, let’s understand why helmets are so essential for motorcyclists.
Motorcycle accidents can result in severe head injuries. Helmets are designed to mitigate these injuries by absorbing and dispersing the force of an impact. They provide a protective barrier that can prevent head trauma, which is often life-threatening.
In many regions, wearing a helmet is a legal requirement. Violating helmet laws can result in fines or even suspension of your riding privileges. So, wearing a helmet not only protects you but also keeps you on the right side of the law.
Wind and Debris
Helmets also shield your face and eyes from wind, debris, and insects, enhancing your comfort and overall riding experience.
Helmet Certifications: The Key to Safety
When shopping for a motorcycle helmet, it’s vital to look for the appropriate certifications. These certifications ensure that the helmet meets safety standards and will provide adequate protection in case of an accident. Here are some of the most common certifications and what they mean:
1. DOT (Department of Transportation)
The DOT certification is the most widely recognized helmet standard in the United States. To earn this certification, helmets must meet specific impact absorption and retention system requirements. Helmets that meet the DOT standard bear a DOT sticker on the back, indicating their compliance.
2. ECE (Economic Commission for Europe)
The ECE certification is common in Europe and many other countries. Helmets with the ECE certification have met rigorous safety standards, including tests for shock absorption, penetration resistance, and field of vision. Look for an ECE sticker or label on the helmet.
3. Snell Memorial Foundation
The Snell Foundation is a non-profit organization that sets voluntary standards for helmet safety. Helmets certified by Snell are subjected to additional tests beyond DOT or ECE standards. They are often considered the gold standard for helmet safety in the United States. Helmets certified by Snell will have a Snell sticker on the inside.
4. Sharp (Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme)
Sharp is a UK-based helmet safety program that provides ratings based on a series of impact tests. It’s a valuable resource for those seeking detailed information on helmet safety. While not a certification, the Sharp rating system can help you make an informed decision.
5. JIS (Japanese Industrial Standard)
In Japan, motorcycle helmets are often certified under the JIS standard. This standard is specific to Japan and may not be recognized in other regions.
6. AS/NZS (Australia and New Zealand)
If you’re riding in Australia or New Zealand, look for helmets certified under the AS/NZS standard. These helmets meet the safety requirements established by the respective government agencies.
Before purchasing a helmet, always check for the appropriate certification. It’s a clear indicator that the helmet has been rigorously tested and meets the safety standards of the region it’s intended for.
Types of Motorcycle Helmets
Now that we understand the importance of certifications, let’s explore the various types of motorcycle helmets. Each type serves a different purpose and offers distinct features.
1. Full-Face Helmets
Full-face helmets provide the most comprehensive protection. They cover the entire head, including the face and chin. These helmets often come with a face shield that provides wind and debris protection. They are popular among sportbike riders and offer excellent aerodynamics.
2. Modular Helmets
Modular helmets combine features of both full-face and open-face helmets. They have a hinged chin bar that can be lifted, allowing riders to easily eat, drink, or converse without removing the helmet entirely. These helmets are versatile but may not provide the same level of protection as full-face options when the chin bar is raised.
3. Open-Face Helmets
Open-face helmets, also known as 3/4 helmets, cover the top and sides of the head but leave the face exposed. They are lightweight and provide excellent visibility. However, they offer less protection to the face and chin compared to full-face helmets.
4. Half Helmets
Half helmets, also called “beanies” or “brain buckets,” are the most minimalist option. They cover only the top of the head, leaving the face entirely exposed. While they offer limited protection, they are favored by riders who prioritize style and minimalism.
5. Off-Road Helmets
Off-road helmets are designed for use in dirt biking and motocross. They are characterized by a pronounced chin bar, a sun peak, and large openings for goggles. These helmets prioritize ventilation and visibility for off-road riders.
6. Dual-Sport Helmets
Dual-sport helmets are versatile options that can be used on both the road and off-road. They typically have a visor and offer a balance between protection and ventilation.
7. Adventure Helmets
Adventure helmets are designed for long-distance riding and touring. They often have a peak visor and additional features like integrated communication systems, making them suitable for extended journeys.
8. Specialty Helmets
In addition to the standard types mentioned, there are specialty helmets for niche riding styles. These include racing helmets, vintage-style helmets, and even novelty helmets with unique designs. When choosing a specialty helmet, be sure it meets the necessary safety certifications.
Top Motorcycle Helmets for Every Rider
Now that we’ve covered the importance of certifications and the various helmet types, let’s explore some of the top motorcycle helmets available in the market. These helmets have been selected based on their quality, safety features, and user reviews.
1. Shoei RF-1400 (Full-Face)
The Shoei RF-1400 is a premium full-face helmet known for its exceptional build quality and safety features. It is both DOT and Snell certified and offers excellent ventilation, a wide field of vision, and a comfortable fit.
2. Arai XD-4 (Dual-Sport)
For riders who enjoy a mix of on-road and off-road adventures, the Arai XD-4 is a top choice. This helmet is ECE certified and offers impressive durability, ventilation, and a removable peak visor.
3. AGV K3 SV (Full-Face)
The AGV K3 SV is a budget-friendly full-face helmet with a DOT certification. It offers a great balance of safety and comfort, with a sun visor and multiple graphics options.
4. Bell Custom 500 (Open-Face)
The Bell Custom 500 is a classic open-face helmet with a DOT certification. It’s perfect for riders who prefer the timeless look and feel of an open-face design.
5. Scorpion EXO-AT950 (Adventure)
For adventure riders, the Scorpion EXO-AT950 is a versatile choice. It’s both DOT and ECE certified, providing safety and adaptability for long-distance journeys.
6. HJC CL-17 (Full-Face)
The HJC CL-17 is a budget-friendly full-face helmet with a DOT certification. It offers excellent value for money, with a snug fit and a pinlock-ready face shield.
7. Bell MX-9 (Off-Road)
Off-road enthusiasts will appreciate the Bell MX-9, which is DOT and ECE certified. It comes with an adjustable peak visor, making it ideal for dirt biking and motocross.
8. Shark Spartan GT (Modular)
The Shark Spartan GT is a premium modular helmet with both ECE and DOT certifications. It offers a combination of safety and convenience, with a drop-down sun visor and a streamlined design.
9. LS2 Strobe (Dual-Sport)
The LS2 Strobe is a budget-friendly dual-sport helmet with DOT and ECE certifications. It features a removable peak visor and a built-in sun shield.
10. Schuberth C4 Pro (Modular)
The Schuberth C4 Pro is a high-end modular helmet with ECE certification. It’s known for its noise reduction technology, comfortable interior, and aerodynamic design.
Remember that the best helmet for you depends on your riding style, preferences, and budget. Always ensure that the helmet you choose is certified for your region and fits you properly.
Helmet Sizing and Fit
Selecting the right size and achieving a proper fit is crucial for your helmet to provide maximum protection. Here’s how to measure your head for a helmet and ensure a secure fit:
- Measure Your Head: Use a flexible tape measure or a piece of string to measure the circumference of your head just above your eyebrows. Make sure the tape is snug but not too tight.
- Consult the Sizing Chart: Each helmet manufacturer provides a sizing chart that correlates head circumference to helmet size. Refer to the chart to find your size.
- Try It On: When you have your helmet, try it on to ensure it fits snugly but comfortably. The helmet should sit level on your head, and the cheek pads should be in contact with your cheeks without excessive pressure.
- Secure the Chin Strap: Fasten the chin strap securely. You should be able to fit one or two fingers between your chin and the strap.
- Test the Fit: Gently move the helmet up and down, side to side. It should remain in place without excessive movement. Open your mouth wide; the helmet should press against your cheeks when you do.
- Wear It for a While: If possible, wear the helmet for several minutes to ensure it doesn’t cause discomfort or pressure points.
Always follow the manufacturer’s sizing recommendations for the specific helmet you choose. If you have any doubts about the fit, consult with a professional in a motorcycle gear store.
Apart from certifications, helmet type, and fit, here are some additional factors to consider when selecting a motorcycle helmet:
1. Helmet Material
Most modern helmets are made from a combination of materials, including polycarbonate, fiberglass, and carbon fiber. Lighter materials often come with a higher price tag but offer improved comfort during long rides.
A well-ventilated helmet can make a significant difference in comfort, especially in hot weather. Look for helmets with adjustable vents that allow you to control airflow.
The weight of a helmet can affect your comfort, especially during extended rides. Lighter helmets are generally more comfortable for long journeys.
4. Face Shield
Consider the quality and ease of use of the face shield or visor. Features like anti-fog coatings, quick-release mechanisms, and UV protection can enhance your riding experience.
5. Noise Reduction
Some helmets are designed to reduce wind and road noise, which can make a significant difference during long rides. Consider a helmet with noise-reduction features if you’re planning extended trips.
6. Additional Safety Features
Some helmets come with extra safety features like emergency quick-release systems or integrated communication devices. These can enhance your safety and convenience on the road.
Determine your budget before shopping for a helmet. While safety should be a top priority, there are helmets available at various price points to suit different budgets.
8. Brand and Reputation
Reputable brands with a history of producing high-quality helmets are often a safer choice. Look for user reviews and expert opinions to gauge a brand’s reputation.
Proper Helmet Care and Maintenance
Once you’ve chosen the perfect helmet, it’s essential to take good care of it to ensure it remains safe and comfortable throughout its lifespan. Here are some tips for helmet care and maintenance:
Regularly clean the outer shell and face shield with mild soap and water. Avoid abrasive materials that could scratch the visor.
2. Interior Cleaning
Many helmets have removable and washable interior padding. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and maintenance.
Inspect your helmet for any signs of damage, such as cracks, dents, or loose components. If you notice any damage, consider replacing the helmet immediately.
4. Sun Exposure
Avoid leaving your helmet in direct sunlight for extended periods, as UV rays can degrade materials over time.
Store your helmet in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, extreme temperatures, and chemical fumes.
Helmets have a finite lifespan and should be replaced every five years, even if they haven’t been involved in an accident. If your helmet sustains an impact in a crash, replace it immediately, as it may no longer provide adequate protection.
Selecting the right motorcycle helmet is a crucial decision for any rider. It’s not just a matter of personal style but a choice that can significantly impact your safety on the road. By understanding the importance of certifications, considering different helmet types, and factoring in key features, you can make an informed choice.
Remember that your helmet should always meet the safety standards relevant to your region and provide a secure and comfortable fit. Whether you’re a sportbike enthusiast, an adventure rider, or a cruiser aficionado, there’s a helmet that suits your needs and preferences. Prioritize safety, choose the best helmet you can afford, and enjoy the open road with confidence. Your helmet is your best defense against the unexpected, and it’s an investment in your well-being as a motorcyclist.