Advice on Buying a New Helmet

Thanks to my fellow blogger Greybeard I ended up writing an entire article in response to his request for advice on buying a helmet. I’m re-posting my reply as an article because it occurs to me there might be a lot of folks out there who cold use the info:

I loved my current HJC IS-Max at first, mainly for the features at a very affordable price. I wrote a review on it here, you may have read it already.

Problem is, it has developed an annoying loss of shape memory in the plastic inside shield on the chin guard that makes it impossible to flip the face up with one hand any more. Also, the pad flanges refuse to remain tucked under the rear edge. It is still very functional for its primary mission, though, and for the price those are annoyances and not good enough reasons to toss it out.

I can’t say it was a bad deal, you can’t expect the quality of a $700.00 Shoei in a $200.00 HJC.

The primary thing about helmets is to get something that is comfortable and that fits. The biggest key is to keep in mind that the foam is going to compress slightly over the first few hours of use until it reaches the point it’s slightly molded to your skull. This is also why you shouldn’t buy one that’s on the display shelf…make them give you one that’s still in the box after you decide on a winner (for that and many other reasons also stay away from used helmets, no matter how good a deal they seem). The display units may have been tried on any number of skulls and you have no idea how much of that precious “crush factor” has been depleted and robbed you of the helmet permanently conforming to the most optimal fit for your own cranium.

This equates to: Make sure it fits a little snug, it’s going to loosen up a tad over the first few uses. If you’re going with a full face or modular flip-up, when you’re trying them on have chewing gum in your mouth. If you can chew gum without biting the insides of your cheeks while it’s on go one size tighter.

If the sales guy doesn’t insist on measuring your head before selling you a helmet go to another store. Any MC accessory shop that deserves to operate in the market should know enough to make sure this most critical safety device is at least offered in the right size to their customer.

Make sure it’s minimum DOT certified, of course.

Beyond that it’s a matter of how much you want to pay for very small increments of quality and comfort.

Here’s a few suggestions to try on:

Can’t go wrong, but expensives $500.00 and up –
Nolan (probably the most innovative of the lot, check out their removable chin bar model)

Moderate prices, moderate quality $175.00 to $500.00 –
Vemar Jiano (equivalent to my old Caberg, probably my next purchase)
Bell (Careful, their low end is kinda shoddy, high end is good)

Junk / stay away! –
Anything under $150.00 is probably going to be a piece of crap

avatar Greybeard

Okay, now I AM confused.
I’m at work and I have time to poke around the ‘net and look for trouble. I found this article-

which seems to make sense but tears holes in logical thinking. Cutting to the chase so you don’t have to read all that garbage, it says the Snell tests don’t compare to real-world accidents most cyclists can expect to encounter, and in fact helmet manufacturers may be making their inner liners too hard in order to pass the Snell tests. The article actually recommends helmets that pass the D.O.T. code, but NOT the Snell!
Now what?

avatar Tim Frazier

Congratulations! I’m sure I’ll be seeing photos pop up on your blog soon. I highly recommend you get the “Ride Like a Pro” DVD and view it ASAP. I learned more about maneuvering a bike watching that video that all the experience I had in my previous decade of actual riding, and that’s not an exaggeration.

avatar Greybeard

Thanks for the advice, Tim.
In my business I see what is inside a skull all too often, (with terrible outcomes bein’ the norm), so I hope anyone reading here pays close attention to your comment about buying the best brain bucket you can buy.
At the time I bought the Bell Full-face mentioned in the comment at the preceding post, (1971 or so), the cost was $120 as I recall. That would probably equate to the $700 stuff you have listed, don’t ya think? I’m also realizing they’ve also made vast improvements in other protective stuff for riders… gloves, jackets, and something only racers wore back when I rode a lot… armor. I’ll be in the market for a bunch of this stuff soon.
At 0348 hours my time I’m still high bidder on a ’93 Moto Guzzi SPIII at EBay. I figured I’d buy a bike in the Fall/Winter… really had no intention to buy a bike right now. But in trying to get a feel for the market I saw a machine that’s just about perfect for me at what I consider to be a steal of a price.
I’ll let ya know how the auction goes.

avatar Tim Frazier

I just took a gander at that bike, very nice. I’ve always wondered how they rode. They have a great reputation and I love they way they designed those engines; but it’s hard to find places to test ride them, as you indicated in your latest blog post.

Nice luggage for long hauls on that baby, too. That stuff don’t come cheap.

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