Among the most important pieces of safety equipment a motorcyclist should purchase is a helmet. When shopping for head protection for motorcycling, there are a number of different options available. There are a range of types, from smaller half helmets, or “brain buckets”, that protect only the top of the skull, to the full face helmet, which includes a protective chin bar and a shield which covers the face. The back of the full face style protects the occipital region of the skull as well, providing protection over more area than more abbreviated helmets in the event of an accident. Some riders dislike the effect of “helmet hair” caused by the the more enclosed helmet, but others think that such effects are off-set by the avoidance of major reconstructive surgery, or death, in the event of a crash.
The main benefit of the full face helmet is the additional facial protection the chin bar will provide in an accident, which it has been shown is the main area of impact in 35 percent of all motorcycle accidents. It also provides protection of the face and eyes from debris while riding. The full face helmet will reduce wind noise while riding, though some people dislike the general noise reduction and feeling of isolation that comes along with that. Higher end options can include intercoms for communication with passengers on longer rides. Many models will include air vents, though a full face helmet will still usually be a little hot inside. Again, the full face helmet will provide the best protection in an accident, which motivates many people to choose the full face type in spite of the minor discomforts associated with the extra coverage.
It’s important to try on the helmet to be sure of a good fit, not too tight, but with minimal slippage. It should fit snugly with the chin strap in place, and the chip strap must be used at all times for the helmet to be effective. It’s also important to check that the helmet has an acceptable DOT or Snell rating for impact absorption. DOT and Snell have different standards, but either is trustworthy in a crash. It is advisable not to bother to purchase a helmet does not conform at least one of these safety standards, unless the primary use of the helmet will be cosmetic. Different standards are used in European countries, but all will have a safety standard for motorcycle helmets.