Motorcycle Helmet Components and Fit
We have previously discussed the six different types of helmets you can buy for you your motorcycle, depending on what kind of riding you are doing. However, not all helmets are created equal. Some helmets are safer than others, and there are proper standards that most motorcycle helmets are held to. It is important that you understand how your helmet is put together and how to wear it properly, so you can make an informed decision as to what is the best helmet option for you for fit, comfort, and safety.
The Components of a Motorcycle Helmet
As time goes on, motorcycle helmet technology continues to evolve and get better and safer. You do not have to have to absolute newest model of a helmet, but if it has been quite a while since you have replaced yours, you may want to consider upgrading to a more recent version. You should replace your equipment and gear at regular intervals, anyway.
These days, many helmets are designed to be a lot more comfortable than they were in the past. Lighter materials will reduce strain on your neck and shoulders, and extra internal padding will ensure a snug fit that will not slide around and plenty of cushioned comfort. Some more substantial helmets also include Bluetooth speakers that can connect to your smartphone for hands-free calling, navigation, and music.
Despite all these advanced improvements, the main components of a helmet have not changed drastically over time. There are four vital main components to a motorcycle helmet, as well as some other auxiliary parts. The minimum important components are the outer shell, an impact-absorbing liner, a padded comfort layer, and the chin strap or retention system. Each one serves a different purpose for keeping you safe, so make sure that any helmet you buy is well-made in all of these areas.
- Outer Shell: The out shell of the helmet is hard, rigid outside surface that is visible. This outer layer is usually made of Kevlar, carbon fiber, molded plastics, polycarbonate, or some combination of these hardy materials. The main functions of this shell are to provide protection to your head during impact and from abrasion against rough surfaces and to prevent projectiles, such as rocks or bugs, from making contact or causing injury.
- Impact-Absorbing Liner: Just underneath the outer shell is the impact-absorbing liner. The main job of this liner is act as a shock absorber during a collision and displace energy to lessen the force of impact. Whereas the outer shell prevents foreign objects or uneven surfaces from penetrating into the helmet, this second layer prevents the energy of the impact from transmitting into your head and causing a more serious brain injury. This layer is typically made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam. Some helmets may be made with a single-density foam, while other models may have a dual-density foam, which is two layers combined, for even greater displacement of energy during an impact. A good helmet will also have EPS foam in the lower area to protect the jaw and cheeks.
- Padded Comfort Layer: The innermost layer is the padded comfort layer, which is the area that is in direct contact with your head. This layer often gets confused with the impact-absorbing liner, but this cushioned layer is the part that molds to your head and keep your helmet fitting snugly and comfortably. It is usually made of an open-cell foam and is covered in an additional cloth material that is there to wick away sweat and keep you cool and ventilated while riding. In most helmets, you can remove this layer to clean and sanitize it and the helmet. It is also typically designed to be interchangeable, so the foam can be swapped out and the helmet can fit a variety of head shapes and sizes. If your helmet seems to fit well in every other way and you can’t size up or down comfortably, try a different comfort layer and see if that solves the fit issue.
- Chin Strap or Retention System: The helmet retention system, which is also more commonly referred to as the chin strap, is a component that is secured underneath your chin, in order to keep the helmet in place while you ride or in the event of an accident. The chin strap is usually made from a woven material with a fastener system, typically two D-rings with a double-back mechanism and a snap. A properly fitted and fastened chin strap should only have room for two fingers of space between the strap and your chin. On many helmets, the strap is at least partially covered with a material similar to the cloth liner of the padded comfort layer, for a better, non-abrasive feel against your skin and sweat wicking.
- Vents: A good helmet needs to be breathable, not only for comfort, but for safety, as well. The ventilation system is designed to keep the rider’s head cool and dry. This component is most often found on full-face and ¾ helmets that have less airflow. You can usually open and close the vents for varying weather conditions.
- Face Shield or Visor: This part is designed to keep bugs and debris away from your face and eyes. They are typically removable for cleaning or swapping out with a different face shield. They come in different colors and tints, so you may want to have multiple versions for different riding conditions, environments, and times of day.
- Cheek Pads: Another component of full-face and ¾ helmets are removable cheek pads. These function similarly to the padded comfort liner and provide support and a secure fit. They are also removable and customizable.
How to Fit Your Helmet
Every helmet will fit differently. It is important that you try on different helmets to see what fit your head shape best. Keep in mind that sizing can also vary across brands, so if you are a medium in one helmet, do not assume you will be the same size in every other helmet you try. Customizing the internal padding can also help create a more secure fit.
Remember that the comfort liner is not a protective component, and you need to make sure the EPS liner is what fits securely. You can take a measurement from just above your eyebrows to the furthest point at the back of the head, as well as circumference. Once you have tightened the chin strap so only two fingers can fit underneath it, wiggle the helmet and try to move it. There should be no gaps at the top, front, back or sides, but it should not be so tight that it is painful. If the helmets moves around when you rotate it, the fit is not good. To test the strap, you should also look towards your chest and see if the back can be pushed up
Comfort should not be an afterthought. You will ride safer and more alert if you are not sweating and distracted. Sound level is also a factor, as you need to be able to hear other vehicles while blocking wind and noise to prevent hearing damage.
Accidents happen, even when you take the best of precautions. The single best thing you can do for yourself to protect yourself on the road is to wear an effective helmet. A helmet could mean the difference between a bad accident and a fatal one. If you have been involved in a recent motorcycle accident and think you could be entitled to compensation, contact the Law Offices of Kirshner, Groff, and Diaz. All initial consultations are free from obligation to continue with our services. You will be put in touch directly with an experienced attorney.