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The Ultimate Helmet Buying Guide

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

Paving the way into the world of motorcycle riding comes with an essential companion: the helmet. It's not merely an accessory; it's your guardian angel on two wheels. While a helmet won't prevent accidents, it's your fortress against the unexpected. Moreover, it shields you from the elements, dirt, bugs, and the relentless wind that accompanies your ride. In the UK, wearing a helmet that meets British safety standards is a legal requirement for motorcycle and moped riders.

Selecting the right helmet isn't just about aesthetics; it's a critical decision that requires careful consideration. With a myriad of options flooding the market, this guide breaks down every aspect you need to know to help you find your perfect lid.

Understanding How Helmets Work

Before diving into the selection process, let's demystify helmet construction. Helmets typically consist of four key elements: the outer shell, an impact-absorbing liner, comfort padding, and a retention system. The outer shell, often crafted from durable materials like fibre-reinforced composites or thermoplastics, compresses upon impact, dispersing energy and reducing the force that reaches your head. The impact-absorbing liner, made from thick expanded polystyrene, absorbs the shock of an impact.

Comfort padding, those soft, cushy layers against your face and head, ensures a snug fit. Most manufacturers offer replacement pads in various sizes to fine-tune your helmet's comfort. Lastly, the retention system, commonly known as the chin strap, plays a vital role in keeping your helmet securely fastened during a crash. Remember, always buckle up your chin strap whenever you wear your helmet.

Prioritizing Safety

Safety is paramount, and in the UK, helmets must meet the minimum requirements of the European standard ECE22.05 for on-road use. Approved helmets bear a marking indicating their adherence to this standard, often located on the chin strap. Check for this marking or ask in-store if you're unsure.

When selecting a helmet, choose a bright, easily visible color to enhance your safety on the road. Avoid gimmicky helmets with extravagant designs like the Predator from Alien vs. Predator, helmets with Mohawks, or cat ears, as they often compromise protection and obstruct your field of vision.

For an informed decision, consider exploring the SHARP Helmet Safety Scheme, a valuable resource that rates helmets on a scale from one to five stars based on various impact tests. While SHARP ratings aren't mandatory in the UK, they offer valuable insights to narrow down your choices.

Never entertain the idea of purchasing a used helmet. Helmets are single-use items; any impact, even a minor drop, could damage the internal impact-absorbing liner, compromising its protective capabilities. Remember investing in your safety should always take precedence over saving a few quid.

Choosing the Right Fit

When it comes to helmets, size matters. Even the most top-rated helmet won't protect you if it doesn't fit correctly. Determining the right fit can be a bit tricky, akin to finding that perfect pair of jeans. Heads come in various shapes and sizes, so getting it just right is crucial.

Start by measuring your heads' circumference in centimeters, wrapping a cloth tape measure around the widest part of your head, above the ears, across the forehead, and over the natural bump at the back of your head. Keep it snug but not overly tight.

Next, determine your head's shape. Ask someone to help you take a couple of pictures of the top of your head while tilting it 90 degrees forward. Draw an outline around your head's perimeter in the photos. Is it more circular, oval, or somewhere in between?

Most helmets are categorized as 'oval,' 'intermediate oval,' or 'round' in shape. You can explore online reviews to find helmets better suited to your head shape. Keep in mind that many helmets can be adjusted with different cheek pads or inner liners for a customized fit.

Ensuring a Perfect Fit

Recognizing a well-fitting helmet might take some practice, especially if you're new to it. Avoiding common pitfalls is crucial:

  • The helmet's opening may initially seem too small, but it's normal. Gently pull the chin straps apart to easily slide your head in.

  • Ensure the cheek pads are snug but not overly tight; you should have 'chipmunk cheeks' while still being able to talk comfortably.

  • Eliminate gaps between your forehead and brow pads.

  • If the helmet features a neck roll, it shouldn't push the helmet away from your neck.

  • Press the chin piece; the helmet or visor should not touch your nose or chin, as wind pressure at speed can cause discomfort.

  • When in doubt between sizes, opt for the smaller one and replace inner padding if necessary.

  • Your ears might fold over when putting on the helmet, but they should easily return to their normal position without discomfort.

To test the fit, fasten the chin strap and move the helmet from side to side and up and down with your hands. If it fits correctly, your skin should move with the helmet. With the chin strap fastened and your head straight, try to roll the helmet forward off your head; it shouldn't come off easily.

Lastly, wear the helmet for at least 30 minutes if possible, to ensure long-term comfort. Keep your receipt in case you need to exchange it.

In conclusion, remember that your safety should always be the top priority. While helmets come in a plethora of styles, never compromise protection for aesthetics. The market offers a wide array of options that allow you to ride safely without sacrificing your style. If you have any questions, suggestions, or concerns, feel free to leave a comment below.

Ride safe! Jennie x

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