When you look at a helmet, or even pick one up, it can be very difficult to actually see what you are getting. The purpose of this blog is to explain exactly what you should be looking for in a helmet to see if it is a quality product, to see if it has value and if you are getting what you want.
What to Look for in a Helmet
When you’re looking at a helmet there are a few things that you should be checking out but with so many brand names and marketing terms, it can be pretty hard to see the real value. So today this blog will run through the things that we look at to determine whether a helmet is worth the price but also whether a helmet has good quality. A low cost helmet can have the same value as a premium helmet though. This all relative and that is because a premium helmet made out of plastic might not be worth the money but a low costing helmet made out of plastic will be more likely to be worth the value. So everything is relative. Essentially though, better materials and features will cost more and that is a constant in life. So what we’ll go through here are the kind of things that we look for in a helmet to determine its value and quality. Make sure that you check our video on this topic as well if you want to see examples!
First of all we will start with the shell of the helmet. Essentially this can be broken down into 3 can be thermoplastic or polycarbonate and this is the least expensive material available. That is the biggest advantage of plastic helmets as well. Being made of plastic doesn’t necessarily limit or reduce your safety, though it may mean that more material has to be used and this can impact the overall weight. Plastic helmets will degrade over time though and should be replaced after 5 years. A bit of care should be taken in maintaining these helmets as well to ensure you get the longest life and best safety from the helmet.
The next material is fiberglass. Fiberglass is simply better and that is because it provides strength as well as a light weight. Fiberglass is tougher to produce and that is a major factor in upping the prices. These helmets are largely meant for the mid to premium range. These will also work to absorb impacts better than thermoplastic and because of this, less material is needed to achieve the same level of protection. Advanced fiberglass is going to be just a little better and lighter.
The final materials are carbon fiber, Kevlar and aramid. These materials are what you will find on the most premium of helmets and represents the best around. These materials are very strong and because of that, they require even less material to get the level of safety needed. They do cost a lot though and this is what makes them premium. Weight is the major consideration here though. Buying a thermoplastic helmet can be just as safe as a Carbon Fiber helmet but I guarantee that you will notice a difference in weight. A heavy helmet is not automatically a budget helmet though, there are other considerations that come into play here. You should know the type of helmet also influences the weight a lot. Modular helmets usually are heavier than full-face helmets, and obviously open-Face helmets use less material so they will be much lighter, in theory at least.
Aerodynamics testing is also a major consideration. When designing a helmet, figuring out the best way to cut through the air is pretty important. A more budget helmet might have been designed using computer designs and this is a relatively cheap method. The most premium testing methods are wind tunnels though and these come with some higher costs. They require test locations, physical templates and improvements to designs must be made and retested. This delivers the best results though for aerodynamics, noise isolation and ventilation. Obviously, a helmet without any aerodynamics testing is going to be the least expensive option but also the, likely, the least comfortable. Again the type of the helmet plays a role here. Sport bike helmets are made aerodynamic for a tucked position and modular helmets are optimalised for an upright position. So consider your bike when buying the best.
Ventilation should be something of importance when looking at what makes a helmet good as well. You really want good ventilation on all helmets and on full face and modular helmets especially. These will normally have a vent on the chin, on the brow and also exhaust vents on the back of the helmet to let hot air out. If you can, take your liner out and check the holes in the EPS as these are the actual vents in your helmet. Also check the channels in the EPS as they let air move around. The less channels and shallower they are, the less air circulation you can expect.
When it comes to helmets, we all know that there are different sizes. You have everything from XS to XXL and more. But the shell size does not always change with the helmet size. Producing multiple helmet shell sizes increases the cost of manufacturing, assembling and also can require more material. So a less expensive helmet will typically come in 2 shell sizes while 3 is pretty standard. 4 or more is very good and 1 is pretty terrible. Having the most appropriate shell size for your head will give you the most comfort and having something too big will feel bulky and uncomfortable. It is always best to get the smallest shell size for your comfort and having more options will increase your chance of this happening. The more shell sizes a helmet has, generally the better.
Next up we can take a look at the visor area. A good visor will be optically correct, have anti scratch and anti fog treatments. A low quality visor will not have these. A very low quality visor might even distort your vision. Look out for helmets with visors that are pinlock anti fog lens prepared and especially for those that come with a lens in the box. These are a great sign of value, especially on budget helmets.
Then we can have helmets with drop down sunvisors, though these will be most common on touring helmets. If you have a helmet with a sunvisor, you want it to be optically correct, UV resistant and the best ones will have the same ratings as high quality sunglasses. You will usually find these sunvisors on touring or sport-touring helmets, which you will typically need if you take trips. And riding during a setting sun can be extremely annoying if your helmet doesn’t have a sunvisor.
Something that really separates your budget from your premium helmets is the visor mechanism. If your visor feels weak or loose then you probably have a poor quality mechanism and this can impact your safety. The best will create a tight seal between the visor and the shell too. This will keep you dry and comfortable but also from going deaf due to wind noise. These systems are typically more advanced and therefore have higher production costs. A poor seal on your visor is not a good sign on your helmet.
The inner liner is a great place to see the quality of your helmet. Most liners these days are removable, washable and a lot will also be antibacterial or quick drying. Some liners, like those from AGV can be double sided meaning that one side will be cool and one will be warm. As the liner is the point of contact between your helmet and shell, this area is where your comfort will be most obvious. Check liners for obvious lumps or snaps in areas which you would feel with your head. Clips which will place below the ridge at the back of your skull are great but those that are too high can be very uncomfortable. When you take a liner out make sure that you look at exactly how it releases from the helmet. Do the clip points come off, does the liner stretch or break and look to see how it impacts your helmet.
Another area to look at is the underside of everything. A good finish in this area is a sign of quality and some of the cheaper brands and helmets will skip out here in order to save costs. This can mean that they have used bad quality glue which comes loose, left glue or string in areas it shouldn’t be. Look at how the sowing has been finished and check for damage. A liner that damages itself or the helmet when it is removed is not a sign of quality. Also an important aspect to consider can be the preparation of a communication kit. Especially if you consider riding with friends or in groups, you may want to choose a helmet that is prepared to hide a comm system so your helmet still looks clean and not bulky when you decide to buy a comm system later on.
When it comes to enclosure systems, it is important to make sure that you get something that fits your purpose. So there are 2 types of enclosure, micro ratchet and Double D ring. This is most important with track helmets though because tracks mostly require a helmet with a double D ring. The ring system is a tried and tested method and there is a sort of idea that they are safer. Now this isn’t super clear but you still need them on the track. When it comes to street, touring or cruising, you will see a lot of micro ratchets though because they are easier to use. Make sure that your enclosure system matches your intentions with a helmet.
No matter what helmet you are looking at, from whatever brand, something that will affect your price is going to be designs and graphics. Look at any helmet and you will see a price difference between a graphic and a glossy black design. This is especially the case with special designs like those from HJC which have licensed themes from Disney and Marvel. Other brands like AGV will often have replica designs based upon famous riders like Valentino Rossi. These can really add to the price and replica helmets will add a lot of price.
So these are the things that we look at for in helmets. At Champion Helmets we only get brands in that we know and trust so a lot of the things we look at are more to determine value. If you check for things like this, it might help you save some money, or make sure you buy a quality helmet. Thanks for reading everyone and remember to check out our video on YouTube