Supermoto riders typically favour wearing motocross helmets as they are light and have large eye ports that allow goggles to comfortably fit in. A crash helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment you will buy and yet I would bet that most riders won’t have the correct fitting helmet. It’s so important that you don’t buy a helmet on looks or marketing hype. A £100 helmet could be better suited to your shaped head than a £500 one. The best thing you can do is to try as many different makes and models as possible and it’s only after you have tried many that you can decide which fits you the best.
Types of Helmet
There are 3 types of crash helmet, the full face, open face and flip front. The full face currently offers the greatest amount of protection. The open face is popular with scooter riders where speed isn’t much of an issue also classic bike riders seem to waver towards them. The flip front does have a few obvious advantages especially if you wear glasses, they do however tend to be heavier and louder than full face helmets and interestingly Snell haven’t certified any flip ups to date.
When buying a helmet for the European market you need to look for one that complies with the UN/ECE Regulation 22.05, it will be marked with a UN 'E' mark - the first two digits of the approval number will be '05'.
In America helmets have to meet the DOT standard (Department of Transportation) to obtain the right to place the ‘DOT’ sticker on the back of the helmet. The manufacturers must meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) known as FMVSS 218. FMVSS 218 describes in great detail the requirements for ‘DOT’ certification of all helmets sold in the United States for use by motorcyclists. Any helmet that doesn’t meet the ‘DOT’ standard cannot legally be sold in the U.S.A.
In addition to the DOT standard the Snell Memorial Foundation (a not-for-profit organization) has been dedicated exclusively to head protection through scientific and medical research, standards development, helmet testing, and public education. Snell maintains independence from helmet manufacturers but allows them to meet the ‘Snell approval’ if they wish to be tested. Helmets that are sold in the U.S.A are not required to meet the Snell standards. Snell publishes a list of motorcycle helmets that are Snell certified on their website.
Most riders will get a colour that either goes well with their bike or their leathers, it's all down to personal choice, however as the helmet is the highest point on your motorcycle it tends to be what other motorists see first. So you really want a highly visible colour to maximise your safety. Think very carefully if you're considering a black / grey or camouflage patterned helmet as it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense really.
There isn’t a universally recognised standard for describing head shape, only Aria seem to have a standard for this, their 3 standards are:-
The traditional Arai fit - the “Long Oval”
In which the head length is distinctly narrow side-to-side, combined with a longer front to back measurement. Arai’s Long Oval shell shape is currently available in the Signet, Renegade and Tracker GT series.
The transitional fit - the “Round Oval”
In which the head is distinctly rounder, length and width being almost even. These shapes are typically very easy to see when you are looking at the consumer face-to-face, from eye to eye, as well as from the profile. Arai’s Round Oval shell shape is currently available in the Quantum series. (The RX-7 series has a “relaxed” Round Oval shell shape, which is not quite as pronounced as the Quantum’s.)
The bridge fit - the “Intermediate Oval”
A round shape, but with considerably more forehead length in it. This shape “bridges” the gap between the two previous shapes. Arai’s Intermediate Oval shell shape is currently available in the Astral series.
Your best option will always be to go to a dealer who knows his products, let him measure your head size and advise what helmets to try on first, the key though is to try on as many as possible, never feel rushed by the dealer and never buy if you're not happy with the fit.
Download Arai's 'Head Shape' PDF. >download<
Liners vary in material, designs and comfort, the latter being the most important one. If it doesn’t feel comfy when you first try it on you will have problems later. You need to ensure there are no pressure points around your cheeks, temples and forehead. Make sure there’s enough front to back room and that your chin isn’t pressing against the inside of the chin bar.
Even if the helmet feels comfortable in the shop once you’re out riding you may have a headache after 15 minutes, so it’s always best if you can go out for a quick spin and try it out. Only when you're out on the bike with wind pressure and noise will you be able to judge if the helmet is the right fit.
If you can’t go for a ride then you should keep the helmet on for at least 30 minutes whilst in the shop, doesn’t matter if you feel self conscious, only after this amount of time will you be able to judge whether the helmet suits your shaped head. There should be no excessive movement from left to right or up and down.
A popular accessory is a skull cap, these are designed for wearing under the crash helmet and help keep the liner clean and improve comfort. Silk liners are the best material and aren’t too expensive. Some manufactures have now made their linings removable for washing which is a really good idea.
If you wear glasses look for designs that have removable pads at the side, this makes it a lot more comfortable when wearing glasses. Try to avoid putting your gloves inside the helmet even though it’s a convenient place for them as you never know what they have been in contact with.
The chin strap should have smooth padding that feels comfortable and won’t rub on the neck. There are two ways to fasten the strap, the D-Ring attachment or a snap-in quick release system. You can’t really go far wrong with the tried and trusted D-Ring, it’s fully adjustable, very reliable and doesn’t have any springs or plastic parts that can wear out or break. Quick release systems can be fiddly so make sure you’re happy how it works or it will become annoying very quickly.
Look for a strap that has Velcro or a button where the remainder of the strap can be secured up as having excess strap dangling at speed can end up whipping your neck.
IMPORTANT:- Always carry your helmet using the fastened strap or a helmet bag, carrying the helmet by the chin bar will eventually deform the internal padding and cause drafts.
Different designed helmets will have wider or deeper visors than others. Some Superbike owners prefer having wider visors as they crouch behind their handlebars, so how you ride is a factor on what visor will suit you best. Once again a visor that seems fine in the shop may fog up very quickly when you’re out on the road. It’s important to be able to easily lift up the visor to quickly remove any fog. There are plenty of anti-fog coating applications out there which can help if you’re having this problem.
Legally you can have lightly tinted visors to help with sun glare but they must have a CE mark. Any dark / iridium visors are illegal and you can be fined for wearing them so beware. Legal visors will be marked BS 4110 or UN ECE 22.05 which both ensure a level of scratch resistance and permit over 50% light transmittance (classed as a light tint). Any other visors without either are illegal.
The sound of wind rushing over your helmet and in bad fitting cases howling around gaps near your ears will damage your hearing over time; it’s always recommended that you wear earplugs on every ride, especially on long trips. Some helmet designs let in more noise than others so it’s very important you get the right fit.
Helmet vents come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, having air flow through your helmet is now considered an important part of the design. Common places for vents are on the chin bar, above the visor and exhaust vents on the rear of the helmet. How effective these vents actually are can only be judged when you’re out riding. The vents want to be easily shut off or opened whilst wearing your gloves and you want to be able to feel the air flow being directed onto your face.
When to replace it?
There is no set time for this; some manufacturers will do a free inspection of your helmet which is worth taking advantage of. A general consensus would be to replace your helmet every 4 to 5 years, this of course depends on usage and how carefully you have maintained it.
If you have dropped it or if there’s any chips or cracks showing on the outside then you really should consider getting a new one. The most important part though is the liner, if this is getting loose and starting to move around you should consider a new one. If the expanded polystyrene (EPS) gets compressed, damaged or feels loose it’s definitely worth investing in a new one.
Don’t leave your helmet in direct sunlight, never clean it with any household cleaning products as they have aggressive additives. Always clean it with warm water and a soft cloth and never buy a second hand one.
We would greatly appreciate your opinion on what helmet you wear on the Forum, the pros, cons and any suggestions of what helmet you would purchase next.