Choosing the correct type of helmet
Most sources will tell you to buy the most expensive helmet you can afford. This is true up to a point i.e. certainly do not spend less than R1500-00 (150 USD) and make sure that the helmet is safety approved for your country e.g. DOT. However the main difference between a helmet costing R1800-00 and one costing R3500-00 is that of weight. The more expensive one offers similar protection, but with less weight and, perhaps more comfort and, maybe less wind noise.
• Full face and Motorcross helmets protect the facial region as well as the head, in particular the jaw.
• Three quarters, Motorcross and cruiser helmets leave the face area open and thus a pair of goggles is needed to keep dust out of the eyes.
• A Flip up helmet is a full face where the chin guard can be pushed right up exposing the face.
At maximum speeds a fixed, full face helmet is the only option. Beside the obvious protection they offer, they keep icy wind out and prevent flying bugs, bees etc from entering the helmet. When travelling in excess of 100kph, flying insects can only be described mini scud missiles.
One of the major advantages of the flip-up design is for people who wear glasses - a flip up is just a lot easier. It also offers convenience when stopping briefly e.g. for petrol. You can get some fresh air and can communicate without having to take the whole helmet off. (This is important when talking to traffic officers!). The disadvantages are an increase in price, weight and wind noise level. They are also not as watertight during a downpour and the hinges are prone to wear.
Choose a helmet that offers a variety of ways to ventilate your head and face - you need it on hot, summer days.
Zany-wacky coloured helmets are very cool but not half as visible as a pure white one. (Most accidents happen when a driver does not see the motorcyclist.)
Is is common to see riders who use a cruiser helmet (generally the Harley crowd) wearing a bandanna over the face to give some measure of protection against insects and sunburn. Most cruiser owners who sport a cruiser helmet on Sundays have a full face helmet as well for the longer rides.
If you own a helmet where your face is exposed you must use sun block during the summer months.
Finding the correct size of helmet
A correctly fitting new helmet will have the following attributes once on.
1) As you initially pull it on it will feel much too small. Use the chin straps to pull the sides of the helmet apart as you pull (not slip!) it on.
2) Once on, it will still feel a bit too small. People new to biking will naturally want to choose a helmet one size too big as they are unaccustomed to the closed-in sensation. This sensation will go away!!
3) Once on, grasp the helmet with both hands and try to move it side to side and up and down. Your skin should move with the helmet.
4) A correctly fitted helmet will start directly above the eyebrows.
5) Secure the chin strap. Leave the helmet on for a least 5 minutes in order to feel for excessive pressure at particular points. A well fitting helmet should place even pressure throughout. In the shop you may feel claustrophobic doing this. Don’t worry! this sensation will probably vanish once you are on the road.
6) The soft inner of the helmet will mould to your head and face over time - this is why it is important to choose a snug fit when you purchase it.
7) Try on a number of different makes as each have their own particular idiosyncrasies - just like the shape of your head. There are basic dimension differences between European, American and Japanese heads - there are reasons for this but we won’t go there!!
Examples Of Helmets
Bell full face helmet (Fixed)
Note the very smooth lines. This type of helmet is the only choice for high speed bikers.
Bell Motorcross (MX)
Helmet. Note the very aggressive jaw protection. Choose this type only if most of your travelling is less than 120kph on dirt roads.
Bell cruiser helmet (beanie helmet) This attitude cruiser helmet is usually only used for short distances.
Shoei Flip up full face helmet