I received the following question via email
“Can you give me any advice on full-faced helmets? How much should I spend on it? This is my first bike and I do not know if I’m going to like this new experience. It’s used and I got it from a family member. However, the helmet is questionable and old.< I've researched Snell and DOT. Shoei and HJC were recommended by my local bike shop. Which motorcycle helmet should I buy?"
Here’s my response
That’s a great question, I should make a podcast on how to select a helmet.
But, here’s the short answer to your specific question.
If you’re not sure motorcycles will be your thing, I think you are correct making price a factor.
Any DOT full faced helmet will work fine. Some say the additional SNELL rating matters, but I think it’s far more critical to find a helmet that fits your head. Sure, the more expensive helmets will be lighter, provide better ventilation and have extra features like removable pads (for washing)… but even cheaper ($80 DOT) helmets will do their most important job just fine.
You are on the right track… buying your helmet locally so you can try them on! It’s difficult and time consuming to find a helmet that fits. I always recommend buying locally so you can try several manufactures and models on for size.
Here’s the most important question: What shape is your head?
Sounds crazy, but certain manufactures make helmets more for people with either a long oval shape, an intermediate oval shape, or a round oval shape. Even if I wanted a Shoei helmet my head just doesn’t work inside of one. A good helmet dealer will tell you this. If they don’t, you’ll have to figure out which companies you ‘fit best’ inside.
My head is more round, so HJC helmets fit better. Shoei helmets hurt me, but my riding friend ONLY buys Shoei helmets. It all depends on the shape of your head.
The secret is to try on as many helmets as you can. I know, boring… but it won’t take long to find one that feels SO much better than other ones. And don’t let a low priced helmet scare you away from selecting one that fits. I selected a mid-level HJC because if felt better. I wanted a more expensive one that was quieter, but that particular HJC just fit my head. So that’s the one I still have.
Another thing, the cheek pads can be changed out to fit your face, but they generally start rather snug around your cheeks. No worries, they will relax some over time. The pads on top aren’t as easy to change, if at all. So focus your attention on getting one that fits right up there. That’s why getting one that is made for your head shape is so important.
Hope this helps.
First, I agree with what David has suggested. I’d like to go a little further on a few topics to maybe help you have a great first helmet-buying experience.
Certainly buy a helmet locally, and I’d say, work with someone at the store / dealership who knows really helmets and how they should fit, someone who’s had specific training. Maybe even to the point of first selecting the person to work with first, then going on to the actual products. My personal experience has been best at BMW dealers, as they seem to provide an evenly high level of education to their parts / accessories employees.
Given a DOT rating, I think the most important topic in helmet choice is fit. As David said, he chose a mid-range helmet over a more expensive (and presumably nicer in detail) model because it felt best on his head. Exactly right. A helmet that doesn’t fit well will be a distraction, taking some of your “attention budget” away from all the new things you’re learning.
When you get to the point of deciding that motorcycling is for you long-term, I’d recommend getting the “best” helmet you can afford. By “best”, I mean the one which has the best fit, and also the following:
– Has the most ability to be adjusted for different conditions and circumstances. For example, models with internal sun shields that can be quickly deployed and put away allow for things like unexpected dark (going through a tunnel?, heavy rain?, riding later into the day than you expected?). Ventilation is also an area that’s quite important, particularly if you ride in hot weather. You gotta keep your noodle comfortable. 😉
– Is quiet. If you ride for long periods of time, a noisy helmet will raise you fatigue level. Even though you wear ear plugs (and you really should *always* wear ear plugs when riding at anything more than city streets speed), a quieter helmet will leave you more alert and responsive toward the end of your ride.
– Has a pinlock-capable visor available. This is a system that adds an air-tight layer of visor to the portion of the face shield you look through. It’s very effective at keeping your visor from fogging up in rain and on cold days.
– Is lighter. If you ride for a long distance, a heavier helmet may tire you out sooner.
That’s what comes to mind immediately. I hope your riding time is long and happy.
PS. My helmet is a Schuberth C3. Fits my head well, is lightweight, flows amazing air, quiet and very adjustable.
Great tips! I’m working on a podcast on this exact subject. I’m going to use some of your advice!
Snell has been testing Modular Helmets for some time now.
It is just that not very many helmets have passed there testing, so not very many companies summit helmets for this testing. Why pay to have a helmet fail the testing.
@ Randy, thanks for the update. I have contacted SNELL directly for clarification.
Quote from SNELL website:
“Why won’t Snell certify some types of helmets like flip up front designs?
Snell does not dismiss out of hand any helmet design that strays from the conventional. Snell does not point out any design specifications other than general requirements in its standards. We are, however, always concerned with innovations and new designs that may effect helmet’s ability to protect the wearer, or in some cases helmet’s potential to cause injury. At present the Foundation has not had the opportunity to test any of the flip up front type helmets for certification. We do not find any fault with these designs as long as they are used according to the manufacturers instructions and meet all of the requirements of the standard. We will also certify any size of helmet as long as it meets the same requirements as any other Snell certified helmet.”
This is very strange I heard a interview with a Snell PR person where when asked about Modular Helmets they pointed out LS2 FF394 Epic Modular Helmet as one they certified. So I went a looked it up and found the Cycle World article about it. Plus Snell list the Helmet on there web site –
Just type in LS2 for Manufacturer and click Lookup. Or select Modular for type and two Helmets come up one from LS2 and the other from Zeus. So I do not know why they would say what they said.
I contacted SNELL directly for clarification. This is their response:
Thank you for your question. We do accept modular (flip-up) helmets for
certification and have even certified a few modular configurations.
Unfortunately, no manufacturer, as yet, has managed to qualify a complete
size range of modular helmets meeting the standard. And, so far, those
manufacturers with the most well-known modular helmet lines have chosen not
to seek Snell certification for any of their modular helmets.
Our requirements for modular helmets are the same as for standard full face
configurations with the added requirement that the chin bar closure be
reasonably secure so as not to open inadvertently during a crash impact.
Thanks for your interest.
Good to know.
Thank you for all your advice. I decided on a Shoei RF-1200. It was the most comfortable of all the helmets I tried.
It’s great to know that you had gone for Shoei RF-1200. It was the best full-face helmet but now I think HJC RPHA 70 ST is the best in the market. It is resistant to shock, provides the ultimate comfort, and enhances comfort by making the Helmet tighter’s grip on the head.
Of course, while safety is extremely important, you can’t lose interest in style. There are many colors, finishes, and graphics to choose from, when picking the ideal motorcycle helmet for everyone. If you’re focused on a less cheesy look, try an important matte finish. If flashy is usually the goal, metallic wraps up are eye landing. And there are many stripes, flames, and other personalized graphics you could choose.
Great reading. Helmet is very useful thing while we are riding. For our safety we should change this in proper time as well as choose the best and secure one. However what should we consider before buying helmets? For protection and safety, a helmet is the first gear that you will need while riding. Not every time you will get a crash, but the safety must be assured. Studies and researches say that the riders wearing helmets are less likely face crashes. I don’t need to mention that the properly constructed motorcycle helmets will save you from serious head and neck injury.
I’m a rider myself and I did not know most of the information you shared here. Thanks for this extremely useful article, David. Keep it up!