A bikers essential guide to motorcycle helmets

Of all the bits and pieces that make up a bikers riding gear, it is safe to say there is no piece of equipment more vital than a biking helmet. There are many health and safety aspects to take into consideration when riding, but protecting a riders head is one of the most important.

Although battle and military helmets have existed for thousands of years, the concept of a crash helmet is a fairly contemporary one. The beginnings of the helmet in motorsports such as motorcycle and car racing came in the form of leather, not unlike the protective gear that aviators wear. These, however, offer little in the way of protection in the case of a serious impact.

Post-war innovation for the helmet

Innovation in helmet design came after the Second World War, when energy-absorption foam was utilised by manufacturers. The motorbike helmets we know today have retained the four basic components of the post-war design.

The four vital components

The first is the hard outer shell, which protects from impact and penetration and is usually made using lightweight plastic, fibreglass, Kevlar or carbon fibre. Secondly, you have the comfort lining, padded for a snug fit, and thirdly, the interior foam lining, which is one of the most important safety elements of the helmet. This foam lining is commonly made using a special type of expanded polystyrene that prevents potentially brain-damaging impact to the skull through absorption of energy. Fourthly and finally, the chin strap ensures that the helmet remains in place, should the rider be involved in an accident.

Full-faced helmet

The most protective helmet is arguably the full-faced helmet, providing total coverage of the front and back of the head. The benefit of these helmets is the eye protection, which can come in tinted forms for sun protection, as well as serving as a guard for dust and particles when riding. Other features include cheek pads for a better fit. If you wear prescription glasses of any kind, you should ensure that your helmet has space to accommodate them.

Open-faced helmets

As the name suggests, open-faced helmets are not the safest option for your face. They come in several forms, the basic ones being three-quarter, half and flip-up helmets. The open-faced helmet is for the rider who likes to feel the wind in his or her face. It is not recommended for riding in areas where dust and particles are likely to irritate the eyes.

The increasingly popular flip-up design allows riders to stop for a bite to eat or a drink, without having to remove the whole helmet. They are also useful for riders who want to stop off to take a few pictures.

When picking a motorcycle helmet suitable for you, ensure that the fit is correct. The sizes will vary depending on the manufacturer. Your helmet should be snug, without wiggling if you shake your head, and the interior liner should be in contact with your head. If, however, parts of your nose and chin are touching the shield of your helmet, it is probably too small. Helmets are like shoes – they should be snug, but not uncomfortable.

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