How do you choose the one that is right for you?
Your helmet is the most important piece of your safety equipment, but don't spend your whole safety budget on a helmet. Any helmet that complies with a recognised standard, fits well and is securely fastened should provide as much protection as can be expected in a crash. Take your time in choosing a helmet that will suit you and your riding needs.
Does it meet the Australian Standard (AS 1698)?
Whatever helmet you buy, it must display a sticker stating that it complies with the Australian Standard AS 1698.
Full Face, Open Face or Flip Front?
The style of helmet is a personal choice, often influenced by the type of motorcycle or scooter you ride. In making your choice, it is important to consider all the issues.
A full face helmet with visor will protect your face from flying stones and insects while riding, as well as reducing the risk of facial injury in a crash. The majority of crash impacts are to the front or sides of a helmet, so a full face helmet does provide the most comprehensive protection in a crash.
An open face helmet will provide similar protection from brain injury but leaves the face and chin more at risk. Some research also suggests that open face helmets are more likely to come off in a crash.
If you choose an open face helmet, it is essential to also protect your eyes with an approved visor or motorcycle goggles.
Flip face helmets may be a good compromise between the convenience of an open face and the protection of a full face helmet, however there is a trade-off in weight and impact strength. The current Australian Standard does not require tests of helmet chin bars, so their performance is not tested.
Different brands and models will fit different shaped heads
The most essential factor is fit. Don't start with a brand in mind. Try on a range of different make helmets so that you can discover how they vary in fitting your head.
How to test the fit
A helmet should cover your forehead and brow. Looking up, you should just be able to see the edge of the brim. The helmet shouldn't move around on your head or put pressure on your forehead.
Ask someone to try to pull the helmet off your head, by lifting it from the back of your neck up and over your forehead. If it comes off or slips over your eyes, adjust your straps and try again. If it still moves, do not buy that helmet, it could come off in a crash. Try a different brand.
Does it restrict your vision?
Check your peripheral vision. Is the eye port wide enough for you? Turn your head to check how far round you could see, while keeping your hands on the handle bars.
Things to check if you wear glasses
Does the helmet cause pressure points on your glasses? Can you take your glasses on and off while wearing the helmet?
Is it comfortable to wear?
Comfort is an important safety issue. Wear the helmet in the shop for 5 or 10 minutes to check that it is comfortable before you buy.
Is it ventilated?
A lot of your body heat is released from your head, which can make wearing a helmet very uncomfortable in hot weather. Vents can substantially reduce the temperature inside a helmet, but they may increase noise.
Will it be noisy?
Many helmets are noisy due to the way air flows around and inside the helmet and visor. Noise can be distracting and fatiguing and may cause permanent hearing loss. It is difficult to advise how to choose a quiet helmet. Before you buy, read helmet product reviews and talk to other riders. It is also wise to protect your hearing by wearing earplugs.
When to replace a helmet
A helmet is designed to absorb the impact of a crash, but it can only do it once. You may not be able to see any sign of damage, because the force is absorbed by the liner, not the shell.
This does not mean that you have to replace your helmet after just a little drop. But the difficulty is in knowing how much a single drop or succession of little drops, will affect the liner's ability to protect you in a crash.
Use commonsense - if a fall would have hurt your unprotected head, then you might assume it would have damaged your helmet.
Never buy a second hand helmet and don't give them to your pillion passengers
You cannot know the history of a second hand helmet, so it is just not worth the risk of using one.
Visor or goggles
Do they comply with the Australian Standard (AS 1609-1981)? It is essential to protect your eyes with a visor or motorcycle designed goggles. Regular sunglasses will not do the job. Your eye protection must display a sticker stating that it complies with the Australian Standard 1609-1981.
Helmet crash test information available
For independent advice on the best helmet protection available, view the latest research here http://www.crash.org.au
Spokes offers information on protective motorcycle helmets for motorbikes and scooters including AS 1698. Does your protective clothing meet the standard?