Choosing The Best Motorcycle Helmet
The best motorcycle helmet is the one that fits you properly. Absolutely nothing else matters as much, including the price of the helmet or the materials it is made from.
And when you consider what a motorcycle crash helmet is designed to do, it makes perfect sense. Whilst on your head, your helmet effectively acts as a suspended cushion, keeping your head near to but not directly touching the outer shell.
Now imagine what would happen if your head were able to move around inside your helmet or if it was that tight your head was constantly in contact with the shell.
It is often said that most people buy a helmet that is at least one size too large for them and we would tend to agree. For this reason, we’ve put together this guide, helping you to get it right first time and assisting you in choosing the best motorcycle helmet for you.
The Measuring Process
The first step is to find a flexible tape measure that you have lying around the house. It only needs to be around 30 inches in length for this task.
Next, you want to measure the circumference of your head at its widest point, making sure you include any areas that stick out a little.
The tape should be flat against your head and sit roughly an inch above your eyebrows. This measurement in either centimetres or inches is going to form the basis of your helmet buying decision.
What you’re also going to want to figure out is the shape of your head. The three most common shapes are;
Round – As the name suggests, round heads are as wide as they are long.
Intermediate Oval – The most common head shape in North American and Europe. An intermediate oval head is slightly longer than it is wide.
Long Oval – An extension of the intermediate oval. Significantly longer front to back.
Each Manufacturer will recommend a specific head shape for each helmet they produce so bear this is mind.
Pick Your Style
We all ride different types of motorcycles and for different purposes. Some of us ride for pleasure and some of us ride out of necessity.
This means that those riding off-road on the weekend would be far better suited to a motocross helmet rather than a MotoGP race replica, usually worn on sportsbikes.
Likewise, those who commute to work in all weather may feel far more comfortable in a modular flip helmet due to their flexibility in use.
Helmet Material, Construction and Weight
Most helmets are made out of a polycarbonate, fibreglass composite or carbon fibre material. There is no right or wrong choice here but a carbon fibre helmet will likely be much more expensive than a basic polycarbonate one.
It will also be much lighter which can be worthwhile if you ride for long periods of time at speed. The difference between the heaviest and lightest helmets can be up to 700g or just under 2 lbs so choose wisely.
Some helmets will also include cut outs for speakers and Bluetooth headsets that can be placed internally. If you’re a motovlogger then make sure you buy the right helmet. A popular choice for motovloggers is the Shoei RF-1200 or NXR (as it’s known in Europe).
Once you’ve decided, it’s time to put together a shortlist of 5-10 helmets that you’re going to try on. Remember to make note of the internal head shape recommended for each helmet. Feel free to check out our motorcycle helmet review guide to see if we have reviewed it.
Helmet Safety Ratings
Depending on where you live, you’re going to want to buy a helmet that is legal in your country or state. The three most common safety certifications are;
DOT – United States Department of Transportation. The bare minimum required for use in North America.
Snell – Snell are a charitable non-profit organisation who were founded to raise awareness of motorcycle safety. The current rating is M2015 and means your helmet has passed a greater level of testing that the DOT certification.
ECE 22.05 – The Economic Commission for Europe. Every helmet sold there needs to meet this standard to be road legal.
The UK is also home to another independent agency which is known as SHARP. Some say that SHARP test helmets far more vigorously than even Snell with their test procedures being far more representative of a motorcycle crash.
SHARP have tested most models of helmet so check out their website to see if the one you want is there. A 4 or 5 star rating is the one to aim for.
The Fitment Process
Once you’ve found your local motorcycle gear and accessories shop, locate each helmet you shortlisted and try them on. Make sure to remember your head’s circumference measurement and start with the size that best corresponds. For example, a 59-60cm measurement usually equates to a size L in a Shoei helmet. If you are between sizes, always size down.
Each helmet should take some effort to slide over your head and once on, should feel snug and tight but still comfortable. Wear each helmet for a few minutes to make sure no uncomfortable hotspots develop.
You can also try the tilt and rotate test. Physically attempt to remove the helmet from your helmet by rotating it up and down and from left to right. If it is able to move at all then it’s too big so try the next size down.
You should now have chosen the helmet that is best for you. Once you’ve got it home and start using it, don’t be surprised if the internal liner loosens up a little. This is completely normal and another reason why it needs to be tight in the store.
With the right care and maintenance, your new helmet should last you for years to come with the recommended lifespan before replacement being around 5 years. This will of course vary with usage patterns but do remember that all helmets should be replaced immediately in the event of a crash.