Purchasing a helmet requires a lot of consideration, just like you would when buying a bike. Sadly, most motorcyclists, for lack of enough awareness, pick one up without putting enough thought. Motorcycle dealers are milking this lack of awareness to earn more than a buck by selling second-rate helmets. So how do you make out a good helmet from a sub-standard one? What are the things to look for in a good helmet?
Fit & Comfort: The fit is one of the most vital things to consider when buying a helmet. A good full-faced helmet should fit well at the top of the head, sides and jaw. A helmet should fit tightly enough for it to not move when you shake your head from side-to-side, front-to-back and up and down. How tight you ask? Well, just about enough for your cheeks to puff up slightly. Too loose a fitting and you run the risk of the helmet coming off upon impact; too tight and it will cause discomfort. Helmet comfort ranks alongside saddle comfort when it comes to making a long ride enjoyable. Ample of comfort padding (the soft foam that touches your head), a good seal around the ear and not on it, a neck roll that snuggles at the back of your neck and a thick enough padding for your cheeks are all major factors that influence comfort.
Retention: The retention capability of your helmet has a lot to do with the fit. A helmet that does not remain on your head during a fall will simply not protect the matter inside. A simple test will let you know if the helmet will stay on your head in case the worst is to happen. Fasten the strap around your neck securely and then try to lift the helmet from the rear to check if it rolls out from the front of your head. The helmet should not slide off under any circumstances. A one-finger gap between the strap and your neck is just enough for ideal comfort. Retention is often a problem in half-faced helmets and some modular helmets as well.
Visor: While riding a motorcycle, your vision from inside the helmet is of utmost importance. Although it might seem that a visor has no correlation in terms of safety it does play a vital role. A clear visor is the best friend of a safe helmet. Smoked and mercury tinted visors surely look good on a helmet but they cause hindrance in vision while riding in the night or under low-light conditions. Whilst clear visors are most definitely the best budget bet, an anti-fog and anti-scratch visor is an added feature that you won’t regret having. Visors need replacement very frequently depending on your usage, so make sure you buy a helmet for which the visors are readily available or stock them up while purchasing the helmet in the first place.
Coverage: Safety is directly proportional to the coverage a helmet offers. A full-faced helmet definitely provides more protection to your head than a half-faced or modular helmet. A good hard shell not only protects the head from major injuries but also absorbs shock during impact.
ISI or DOT Certification: An ISI (Indian Standards Institute), D.O.T. (U.S. Department of Transportation), ACU (Auto Cycle Union) or ECE 22.05 (UN Economic Commission of Europe) logo is a stamp of approval that your helmet meets the respective quality standards. Even then, these certifications may not be of much help if the helmet’s fit is not appropriate or if you use a half-faced or modular helmet, which offer only partial protection. Remember, certification does not guarantee safety; in the end, the aforementioned points make all the difference.
Look and design: The saying looks can be deceptive holds true even in case of helmets. A cool and funky helmet is alright but not at the cost of safety or comfort – you’ll value a snugly fitting helmet more than a fancy one. That said, it is also important to choose a helmet with a bright outer shell to make yourself easily visible in the dark. For the same reason, avoid dark coloured or black helmets. Motorcyclists love to make their own style statement with their helmets but the look and design should be secondary to the safety and comfort.
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