Motorcycle Clothing & Helmets or Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is what separates the Motorcycle rider from all the hard and sharp objects if things go pear shaped. We buy it in the hope that we’ll never need it.
Of all the parts of your body to damage, a head injury is the most serious. Even a minor bump to the head can cause brain damage. And even a minor amount of brain damage can change your life for ever.
There’s a saying that’s bandied about by a lot of instructors giving motorcycle lessons – if you have a €20 head then buy a €20 helmet. Buy good and trusted brands, Shoei, Arai, AVG, Shark, BMW to name just a few. Spend what you can afford but don’t think that price is a good guide to quality it’s not. A multi-coloured race replica helmet will cost you €100 more than it’s plain coloured version. Both will behave the exact same in a crash.
Do your research. There are several organisations testing helmets to assess their safety ratings. SHARP is funded by the UK government and Snell are US based orgainisation. Both perform rigorous tests on helmets – SHARP gives a more detailed report where as Snell off a simple pass or fail result.
There are three types of helmets that we introduce our students to at IBT Training courses are as follows
The Open Face Helmet
Usually a favorite among cruiser riders. The upside – you get to feel the wind on your face, you look cool with dark glasses and if you happen to be in an accident where your traveling backwards it will do it’s job.
The downside… you get the wind in your face, you get bugs in your face and if you get into an accident traveling forward you’ll probably get your handlebars or the ground in the face too.
You can tell I’m not a fan. The problem with head injuries is that generally impacts occur in the chin area, the forehead area and the back of the head. This helmet will offer you little or no protection against both of those facial injuries.
The Flip or System Helmet
Favored amounts tourers and couriers the system helmet allows the rider the safety aspects of a full face helmet yet the flexibility of being able to walk into a bank without been thrown to the floor by an over enthusiastic security guard.
There are some downsides however to the flip helmet – additional weight can be tiring if worn for long durations. If worn with the chin guard up the rider will loose the protection from facial injuries but in addition could increase the possibility of neck injuries due to increasing the weight at the top of the helmet and the leverage that it would apply to the neck area in an accident.
There is another downside to the flip helmet even when closed is that the chin guard often breaks away in an accident. Very few helmets stay intact in 100% of accidents.
The Full Face Helmet
Popular with sports bike riders and racers. The full face helmet is the safest option. The one piece structure withstands impacts better than the flip and gives protection to chin and forehead areas missed by the open face. It’s lighter in weight than the flip but heavier than the open face.
There are some disadvantages of a full face – some riders find it claustrophobic, on a hot day you’ll feel it. They don’t look as good as an open face helmet with a paid of sunglasses.
Finding the helmet that works for you can often take time – not all head shapes are the same and not all helmet manufactures design to the same shape head so a large Arai for one rider won’t necessarily be the same as a large Shoei helmet. Use the manufacturer’s guidelines is a good place to start and buy a helmet that feels snug – it will wear in in time. You don’t want a helmet that is too loose and always do up the strap as in a large percentage of accidents where a rider has experience head injury is because the helmet has come off.
Which ever helmet you choose make sure you buy one that offers you the best protection in an accident. Research the safety aspects of the helmet along with the sizes.