Motorcycle Helmet Safety Tips

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What should a comfortable motorcycle helmit feel like?

It's All About Fit

When looking at motorcycle helmets you will see a wide array of sizes, colors, graphics and styles.

If you have done your homework, as you should do before going on a helmet buying spree, you will have an idea of what manufacturer you prefer as well as an idea of what style of helmet you prefer.

The first thing to do is try the helmet on before you make a commitment to buy it. Wear it for at least five minutes. Make sure to move your head up and down as well as sideways. If you feel any pressure on your head during this time or feel the helmet moving you need to choose a different size. A helmet, just like any other clothing, has to fit right or you will not want to wear it.

Additionally, if a helmet does not fit right, it will not protect your head properly.

If you are in doubt about the fit of the helmet, ask a sales associate, most of them have been trained to know how to properly fit a helmet. Remember too that motorcycle helmets come in a wide range of internal shapes so choose one that fits the shape of your head.

It really is best to purchase a helmet from a local shop rather than from an online vendor so you can make sure it fits and is comfortable that way you will not be distracted by problems with your helmet when you are riding.

What face coverage choices are there in motorcycle helmets?

Face Coverage Choices

When it comes to choosing a motorcycle helmet you there is a variety of face coverage options to pick from.

You can purchase a full-coverage open-face helmet, a shorty or half helmet as it is known or a full-face helmet which will come with a chinbar. The full-face helmet with chinbar has been found to give the most protection in various studies.

If you choose a helmet with a chinbar it should be covered with the same EPS liner that the inside of the helmet is covered in.

The EPS liner is a hard Styrofoam-type foam that is responsible for absorbing the energy of an impact. There are also helmets available with flip-up facial sections which are known as modular.

Once you decide on the helmet face coverage style you will then want to consider a faceshield which should have the certification information molded into it.

For a proper fit the shield needs to seal all the way around the edge of the helmet opening, be easy to operate and stay in position when it is raised.

You can also get anti-fog and anti-scratch coatings on the faceshield and you should choose one that has these options for best performance.

With so many styles to choose from, how do I decide which motorcycle helmet is best?

What's your Style?

Let's face it, if you do not like the helmet you choose, you are less likely to wear it and a helmet that is not on your head cannot help you out if you are in an accident.

There is a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors of helmets available. Some of them have graphics on them, some are plain. The one you choose should reflect your personal style as well as match your bike if you wish. Motorcycle helmets with graphics usually cost quite a bit more than their plain counterparts of the same quality, but again, the amount you wish to spend is up to you and you will certainly be more likely to wear it if you like it and if it fits properly.

Comfort and proper fit is another factor to consider when purchasing a helmet.

It can have the coolest graphics in the world but if it doesn't fit right, it will be useless to you in the event of an accident. You can always dress up a plain colored helmet yourself and save some money. Adding graphics, reflective tape or even painting a picture on a plain helmet are all possibilities.

Finally, once you do find the helmet you really like, try it on to insure a comfortable and proper fit.

What makes one motorcycle helmet safer than another one?

Educate Yourself

Some people will tell you a Snell approved helmet is best, some will tell you a DOT approved helmet is best and others will simply say it doesn't matter that any helmet will do.

The fact is it does matter.

DOT approved helmets are able to soak up a large amount of impact energy.

They are also known to prevent most types of penetration as well as have a fastening system that will hold up to significant force according to the standards for DOT certification. A DOT approved helmet will have a sticker on the back stating that it is approved. However, do not just take the sticker at face value, do your homework and make sure the manufacturer of the helmet is DOT approved.

Snell approved helmets are tested for roll-off capability, dynamic strength and penetration in addition to impact, anvil and shield testing.

Ultimately it is your decision which helmet to purchase.

Do your homework, understand what each test means and figure out which helmet is right for you. The helmet that will do the most for the rider in the event of an accident will protect the head, face and neck which is what they are expected to do.

What is the proper way to store a motorcycle helmet?

How to Store Your Helmet

When you are not wearing your helmet you will want to make sure you store it in the proper way to insure that it does not get damaged.

Most helmet manufacturers' include proper storage instructions with their helmets and you should take the time to read those.

Before putting your helmet into storage, even if it is just for the day, put it in a helmet bag.

This will help protect your helmet from scratches and dings that could damage the outer shell of your helmet.

Never store your helmet where there is excessive heat or cold.

The interior of your helmet will disintegrate easily if exposed to harsh conditions such as gasoline, exhaust fumes, chemicals, heat or cold.

Finally, store your helmet laying flat.

Do not hang your helmet from the side of your bike. Remember, accidents happens and keeping your helmet laying flat on a shelf will help insure that it does not easily get knocked off. The better care you take of your helmet, the longer life it will have. Cracked helmets are useless. The worst part is you might not see the crack until something happens and your helmet does not hold up.

Proper storage is as important as choosing the proper helmet.

How do I know if a motorcycle helmet fits me correctly?

The Perfect Fit

Before investing in a helmet, try several of them on.

When you find one you like, wear it for at least five minutes to make sure it is comfortable on you.

To make sure it is not too loose, try putting your hands behind your head, lean your head forward and try to pull it off.

If it falls off or moves, it is too loose. A loose helmet will not give you the protection one that fits you will.

A helmet should be snug enough that it remains stable when you move your head. While you have the helmet on try moving your head side to side as well as up and down. Shake your head and see if you notice any movement of the helmet.

You do not want to purchase a helmet that is too snug or it will quickly become uncomfortable. If in doubt, ask a salesperson. Most of them have been trained to help you figure out how snug is snug enough.

Finally, remember that just because you wear a medium in one brand of helmet does not mean you will wear a medium in all helmets.

Just like shoes, one size does not fit all.

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Guru Spotlight
Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.