BioFor over 30 years I've been on two wheels - both for pleasure and for work. In the average year I'll put up 30K miles and take around 100 new riders out onto the road for the first time, I'll put around 60 through the motorcycle driving test and I'll possibly train around 30 or so riders in the black arts of advanced motorcycle riding. Motorcycle Training
The Motorcycle Helmet
Motorcycle Helmets is what separates the Motorcycle rider from all the hard and sharp objects if things go pear shaped.
With over 30 years experience on two wheels running my own motorcycle training business I've experienced the downsides of riders wearing the wrong helmets. Of all the parts of your body to damage a head injury is the most serious. Even a minor bump to the head can cause brain damage. And even a minor amount of brain damage can change your life for ever.
There's a saying that's bandied about - if you have a $20 head then buy a $20 helmet. Buying good and trusted brands like Shoei, Arai, AVG, BMW to name a few is a good place to start. Spend what you can afford but don't think that price is the only guide to quality, it's not.
A multicolored race replica helmet will cost you $100 more than it's plain colored version. Both are built to the exact same specification and will behave the exactly same in a crash.
Do your research. There are several organizations testing helmets to assess their safety ratings. SHARP is funded by the UK government and Snell are US based organization. Both perform rigorous tests on helmets - SHARP gives a more detailed report where as Snell off a simple pass or fail result.
Types of helmet...
There are three types of helmets available.
The Open face helmet
Usually a favorite among cruiser riders. The upside - they're light weight, cool in the summer, you get to feel the wind on your face, you look like The Terminator with dark glasses and if you happen to be in an accident where your traveling backwards it will do it's job.
The downside... you get the wind in your face, you get bugs in your face and if you get into an accident traveling forward you'll probably get your handlebars or the ground in the face too.
You can tell I'm not a fan. The problem with head injuries is that generally impacts occur in the chin area, the forehead area and the back of the head. This helmet will offer you little or no protection against both of those facial injuries.
The System Helmet (aka The Flip)
Favored among tourers and couriers the flip helmet allows the rider the safety aspects of a full face helmet yet the flexibility of being able to lift the chin guard allowing the rider to walk into a bank without been thrown to the floor by an over enthusiastic security guard.
There are some downsides however to the flip helmet - additional weight can be tiring if worn for long durations. If worn with the chin guard up the rider will loose the protection from facial injuries but in addition could increase the possibility of neck injuries due to increasing the weight at the top of the helmet and the leverage that it would apply to the neck area in an accident.
There is another downside to the flip helmet, even when closed, the chin guard often breaks away in an accident leaving the rider unprotected. Very few flip helmets stay intact in 100% of accidents.
The Full Face
Popular with sports bike riders and racers. The full face helmet is the safest option. The one piece structure withstands impacts better than the flip and gives protection to chin and forehead areas missed by the open face. It's lighter in weight than the flip but heavier than the open face.
There are some disadvantages of a full face - some riders find it claustrophobic, on a hot day you'll over head at the traffic lights. And lets face it they don't look as good as an open face helmet with a paid of sunglasses.
Size is everything...
Finding the helmet that works for you can often take time - not all head shapes are the same and not all helmet manufactures design to the same shape head so a large Arai for one rider won't necessarily be the same as a large Shoei helmet. Use the manufacturers guidelines is a good place to start and buy a helmet that feels snug - it will wear in in time - it usually takes about a month for me to break in a new helmet. If the helmet is too loose it will move about in an accident and could possibly come off. Which leads me to the most important aspect of helmet safety... always do up the strap! A large percentage of accidents where a rider has experience head injury is because the helmet has come off. Motorcycle Training
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