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. The risk of head injury to motorcycle riders needs to be mitigated.
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 in conjunction with our motorcylce helmet reviews, helping you to get it right first time and assisting you in choosing the best motorcycle helmets for your needs.
The Motorcycle Helmet 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 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 helmet manufacturer will recommend a specific head shape for each model they produce so bear this is mind. Some lids such as a half helmet will also offer a little more flexibility in terms of fitment.
Pick Your Style Of Motorbike Helmet
We all ride different types of motorcycles and for different purposes. Some of us ride our bikes 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 sport helmet, usually worn on sportsbikes. Fullface helmets will always offer the best protection so bear this in mind.
Likewise, those who commute to work in all weather may feel far more comfortable in a modular flip helmet rather than a full face helmet due to their flexibility in use. A modular helmet is essentially a good compromise between the two and is far more practical. Whether a full-face racing helmet or an offroad helmet, make sure that you use a sun visor (face shield) and a sun shield if required.
Motorbike 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 fiber 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 models will also include cut outs for speakers (speaker pockets) and Bluetooth headsets that can be placed internally. If you’re a motovlogger then make sure you buy the right head protection. A popular choice for motovloggers is the Shoei RF-1200 or NXR (as it’s known in Europe). Arai helmets are also very popular.
Another very important aspect is to ensure the presence of adequate ventilation systems. These usually take the form of a set of air vents which can be opened and closed at will. Sufficient airflow is important so don’t overlook the importance of your helmet’s ventilation system.
Once you’ve decided, it’s time to put together a shortlist of 5-10 models that you’re going to try on. Remember to make note of the internal head shape recommended for each individual model. Check out our motorcycle helmet review guide to see if we have reviewed it.
Motorcycle Helmet Safety Ratings
One of the most important factors to consider when choosing the perfect motorcycle helmet is to ensure that they have been independently crash tested. Some models will pass these tests with flying colors but some will score poorly.
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 standards. 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 model you want is there. A 4 or 5 star rating is the one to aim for and will possess the most safety features.
The Motorcycle Helmet Fitment Process
Once you’ve found your local motorbike gear and accessories shop, locate each model 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 around the neck, chin and cheeks 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 heead 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 can also look into changing the cheek pads for a better fit and a more comfortable helmet.
Rider comfort is paramount so make sure to get this part right.
Helmet Wind Noise
Most motorcycle riders will be all too aware of just how loud some helmets can be when it comes to wind noise. This wind noise is present for several reasons but usually due to a combination of helmet design and fitment.
If you purchase a loud helmet, be sure to wear earplugs to protect your hearing.
Best Motorcycle Helmet Brands
Some motorcyclists spend far too much time on this factor when choosing their new head protection. As long as you’re buying a reputable brand, there will be little difference in terms of safety.
What you will find is that some brands include a greater level of options with their products which are otherwise missing on cheaper models.
Removable cheek pads are one example as is the latest in bluetooth compatible technology.
We’re a big fan of Shoei helmets, but if you prefer AGV, Bell or Arai helmets, that is fine by us.
The Importance Of Buying The Safest Motorcycle Helmet
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 headgear should be replaced immediately in the event of a crash.
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to improve your knowledge about motorcycling by reading our motorcycle glove guide; choosing a pair of motorcycle gloves as well as our guide to motorycle dollies and trolleys; buying a high quality motorcycle dolly.