Helmets

Difference Between Helmet Types

While color, design and price may be a part of your decision about which helmet to buy, think first about protection and comfort. There are three basic motorcycle helmet types:

FULL FACE HELMET

A full-face helmet gives the most protection since it covers more of your face. It usually has a moveable face shield that protects the eyes when it is closed. Racers prefer full-face helmets for the added protection and comfort.

THREE-QUARTER OPEN FACE HELMET

A three-quarter, open-face helmet is also a choice of some riders. It is constructed with the same basic components, but doesn’t offer the face and chin protection of full-face helmets. If you use an open-face helmet, you should have a snap-on face shield in place when you ride,or buy a pair of goggles that can withstand the impact of a stone or other debris. Prescription eyeglasses or sunglasses are not sufficient protection, and they might move or fly off.

SHORTY HALF HELMET

A “shorty” half-helmet protects even less of your head. It is more likely to come off your head upon impact. Therefore, “shorty,” half-shell helmets are not recommended.

More Helmet Resources

Choose Your Helmet By Your Riding Style

Street
Adventure/Dual Sport
Sport/Track
Dirt Bike / ATV / ROV
Adventure (ADV)/Dual Sport Helmets

Adventure helmets are designed to perform both on and off-road duty, and so they incorporate many features normally found on off-road helmets like extended sun-visors and extra-wide eyeports to accommodate protective goggles.

 

Features to Look For
  • Certification Standards – ADV helmets, since they are designed to operate both on and off the street, must also comply with the same DOT standards as street helmets. Some may also meet the Snell standard, though not all. Be sure to check these ratings when shopping for a helmet.
  • Fit – Helmet shapes can vary wildly from one brand to another, and even between models from the same brand. A properly fitted helmet will be snug, but not so tight that it creates pressure points or “hot spots” on the rider’s head. Be sure to also take cheek padding into account on full-face helmets. Some full-face helmets offer swappable cheek pads to customize a helmet’s fit to the rider’s face. Propper fitting is also vital to the impact performance of any helmet during a crash.
  • Aerodynamics – With the addition of the off-road peak visors, aerodynamic performance is usually sacrificed with an ADV style helmet. Take this into account when choosing a helmet that will fit your needs.
  • Ventilation – Proper ventilation is even more important in an ADV helmet than a normal street helmet. Off-road motorcycling is extremely physically demanding. The last thing you want is a helmet with poor ventilation reducing your airflow.
  • Accessories – ADV helmets frequently suffer greater abuse than normal helmets, so replacement components like shields, peaks and liners are vital to extending the life of your helmet.
Street Helmets
The centerpiece of any rider’s gear, the helmet protects the rider’s brain and face
Helmet Styles
Full-Face
Because they completely encompass the rider’s head, a full-face helmet typically offers the strongest protection of any helmet type. The full-face design also offers better aerodynamic performance than other helmet types, reducing the effects of wind buffetting and noise at speed.
Modular
A modular helmet offers many of the benefits of a full-face helmet, but includes a hinged chin-bar that can be flipped up and out of the way. Modular helmets have become extremely popular among long-distance touring riders for their flexibility and convenience.
Three-Quarter Helmet
A three-quarter helmet protects the rider’s head, but leaves the face exposed. Because the helmet lacks any eye protection, riders will need to have separate eye protection, like a snap on face shield or pair of goggles. Some three-quarter helmets are available with an attached face-shield.
Half-Helmet
Half-helmets offer the bare minimum head protection for the rider and no face protection. Like a three-quarter helmet, the rider will need separate eye protection if wearing a half-helmet.
Features to Look For
  • Certification Standards – Since 1974, all motorcycle helmets sold in the U.S. must meet DOT safety standards. Helmet dealers and distributors must ensure that all the helmets they sell bear the DOT sticker. Whatever your helmet choice, be sure it has this certification. You don’t want an inferior helmet or one designed for another purpose. Snell has been testing helmets since the 1950s. The use of Snell standards by helmet manufacturers is voluntary. Snell testing is revised (most recently in 2010) as helmet design and technology improve.
  • Fit – Helmet shapes can vary wildly from one brand to another, and even between models from the same brand. A properly fitted helmet will be snug, but not so tight that it creates pressure points or “hot spots” on the rider’s head. Be sure to also take cheek padding into account on full-face helmets. Some full-face helmets offer swappable cheek pads to customize a helmet’s fit to the rider’s face. Propper fitting is also vital to the impact performance of any helmet during a crash.
  • Aerodynamics – The aerodynamic performance of a helmet plays a key role in rider comfort
  • Ventilation – Good helmet ventilation is critical to rider comfort. Most street helmets feature forward-facing vents along the rider’s forehead and chin area, with exhaust vents in the rear to allow hot air inside the helmet to escape.
  • Accessories – Many helmet manufacturers offer accessories like tinted visors, padded storage bags and replacement parts to extend the performance and service life of a helmet. When preparing to make a helmet purchase, be sure to look for what accessories are available for the model you are interested in.
Track helmets
Track-oriented helmets often skip the convenience features found on street helmets in an effort to keep weight as low as possible. The outer shells frequently incorporate elaborate spoilers and diffusers to shape the flow of air around the helmet in the wind, improving the helmet’s stability. Nearly all racing series specify that a full-face helmet must be used to compete, and many include more specific requirements for things like closure-systems and safety certifications.
Features to Look For
  • Certification Standards – When shopping for a racing helmet, be sure to check that the helmet you are purchasing meets the standards required by the tracks or series you will be racing.
  • Fit – Race helmets tend to fit tighter than a standard street helmet, especially around the face, to minimize the chance of the helmet shifting during impact. It should also be noted that most race helmets are designed to be used in an aggressive forward riding position.
  • Aerodynamics – Track-oriented helmets are the most likely to be on the cutting edge of aerodynamic performance, and frequently undergo extensive wind-tunnel testing to maximize stability and reduce drag.
  • Materials – Racing helmets are often constructed using high-tech materials to reduce their weight without sacrificing strength. High-end models often feature multiple layers of impact absorbing foam, kevlar and carbon fibers, and composite shells.
Off-Road Helmets
A dirt bike helmet looks different from a street bike helmet; it has extra chin protection, and a sun visor, or peak. Full face protection avoids injuries from rocks and branches. Additionally, dirt bike helmets utilize more ventilation to keep the rider cooler. Goggles protect your eyes and should fit comfortably under your helmet. Goggles have different lenses for dark and light conditions and tear-offs for rain and mud conditions.
Features to Look For
  • Certification Standards – Dirt bike helmets must comply with the DOT standards. Some may also meet the Snell standard, though not all. Be sure to check when shopping for a helmet.
  • Fit – Helmet shapes can vary wildly from one brand to another, and even between models from the same brand. A properly fitted helmet will be snug, but not so tight that it creates pressure points or “hot spots” on the rider’s head. Be sure to also take cheek padding into account on full-face helmets. Some full-face helmets offer swappable cheek pads to customize a helmet’s fit to the rider’s face. Proper fitting is also vital to the impact performance of any helmet during a crash.
  • Weight – Helmets typically range in weight between three and four pounds. The key to weight is a properly fitting helmet. Weight should be distributed evenly around your head.
  • Liners – Look for removable, washable cheek pads and liners, others contain antimicrobial and antibacterial material. The physical exertion of off-road riding means a lot more sweat. Being able to toss a liner into the washing machine is definite plus.
  • Ventilation – Proper ventilation is important since off-road riding is often physically demanding and a well-ventilated helmet increases rider comfort.
  • Accessories – Off-road helmets are likely to encounter minor damage from tree branches, kicked-up rocks or roost. Look for scratch-resistant, replaceable parts. Replaceable visors and nose pieces are a bonus.