A helmet is designed to save your head from impacts that would otherwise be life threatening or altering. brainer… err…. a brainer? Whatever.
Nothing is worse than a life altering head injury that could have been prevented with one piece of protective equipment, especially for those in your life who depend on you. Rock the Gear has guidelines to help you choose the right helmet, make sure it will do what it promises, and that it fits just right. Click any of the hyperlinks to learn more about the technical elements we mention.
How to identify a great helmet: A proper helmet is made of four equally important parts: outer shell, foam liner, comfort padding and retention system. All of these parts work together to protect your skull and brain from injury, so skipping even one component would be a bad move.
1. Outer shell– designed to protect your head from abrasion and penetrating injuries. It can be made of many materials, including a polymer or even composite materials. No matter what the outer shell of your helmet is made of, you can make sure it is trustworthy if you find a DOT FMVSS 218* approval marked somewhere on the helmet itself.
2. Foam liner – designed to protect your head from the forces of an impact. MAKE SURE your helmet has a layer of EPS foam underneath the shell. It serves to absorb and disperse the energy from an impact around your head without passing too much of it to your brain (causing concussions or worse). If there is no foam, you might as well wear a plastic bucket from the kitchen and hope for the best.
3. Comfort padding – designed to conform to the intricate shape of your head and ensure a snug fit. The comfort liner is designed differently (materials, shape, removal system, etc.) in every brand and model of helmet. There is one thing that stays the same among the lot; it will change over time. With this in mind, generally all motorcycle helmets get more comfortable as you continue to wear them. Always make sure you start with a tight fit (see below) to ensure that the helmet never gets too loose. Usually, these pads can be removed for washing, which usually helps them “perk” back up a little as well.
4. Retention system – designed to keep your helmet in its place. The last piece to check for is a chin strap. Make sure it is strong, well secured to the shell, and straps tight enough under your chin so the helmet won’t come off even if you pull extremely hard on it.
IN A NUTSHELL (no pun intended) you want something that is going to prevent head injury, be comfortable every time you ride, and look good (in that order), so take your time when choosing the right helmet.
How to make sure you have a good fit: A perfect fit is just as important as what the helmet is made of, because the fit can affect the way the helmet performs during that crucial moment. The first step is knowing your head shape and matching it to the internal shape of the helmet. Did you know there are three general head shapes, and each helmet model corresponds to one of those three shapes? Learn how to find your head shape HERE. The second step is to measure your head for a baseline measurement. Each manufacturer uses slightly different methods for sizing, so knowing your measurement can help more than knowing your general size.
Tips when trying on a helmet: If you can remove the helmet with the chin strap buckled tightly, if the helmet can move easily and independently while it is on your head, if your ears are not touching the internal comfort padding, or if it falls down over your eyes, then the helmet is too big. If you can significantly bite the inside of your cheeks when you open and close your mouth while the helmet is on, if you feel extreme pressure on your temples, if your chin sticks out from under the chin bar or if it gives you a “hot spot” on your forehead, then the helmet is either too small or the wrong shape.
Important to remember: No matter how well the helmet fits, it’s not going to protect your head if it is strapped to the backseat of your bike…. don’t be “that rider.”
*SHARP (UK ), ECE 22-05 (EUROPE), SAI AS1698 (AUSTRALIA) & SG (JAPAN) SAFETY AND TESTING STANDARDS are also highly regarded certifications and standards from outside the USA… so look for those ratings on imported helmets.