Motorcycle Helmets

Motorcycle helmets are required by law in some states and are not required in others.  My personal opinion is that laws should not require them, but I can not over emphasize the importance of wearing one.  A well-fitting helmet of good quality will reduce the risk of serious permanent physical injury.  Dying is easy.  Inconveniencing your loved ones the rest of your life is harder. 

This helmet served me well.
This helmet protected me well
during an ugly launch at the drag strip.

A helmet will make your riding more comfortable and you will be a better rider.  Helmets keep the sun from baking your brains and protect your hearing, especially when worn with earplugs, which I highly recommend.  The face shield protects your face and eyes from bugs and grit.  You can hear and see better, concentrate more, be more comfortable and ride better.  If speed is important to you, you will ride faster with a good-fitting, full-coverage helmet.

Helmets are available in a wide range of prices in many styles and colors.  Some riders think that open-faced 3/4 helmets or half helmets are cooler in the summer, or they like to smoke while they ride or they just like the way they look.  In my case, a full coverage helmet makes me more handsome.

It does not get much hotter or more humid than my hometown of Houston, Texas.  I have commuted daily in all seasons for more than six years, gone on weekend group rides and long solo trips covering most of the United States and rung up 67,000 miles on my V-Max.  In my experience, a full-coverage helmet provides the most comfort and all around utility no matter what the weather.  When it comes to safety, open-face designs are not even close.

Like most riders my age, I started with an open-faced 3/4 helmet.  It came as a great surprise when I discovered that a full coverage helmet was cooler in the summer with the shield down than to have it open and have hot air blasting me in the face.  An amber tinted shield provided some shade in sunny weather, but still allowed seeing into long shadows and at dusk. 

Most helmets are available with vents that can be opened and closed.  The ones on my Shoei worked well.  Shoei helmets have a provision to hold a faceplate open about a quarter of an inch for extra ventilation and to de-fog the face shield.  This was a feature I used a lot. 

Some helmets have removable liners so you can wash them.  Other head covers such as bandannas, Do-Wraps, Do-Rags and Sliks can be used the same way.

My helmet was ubiquitous white.  I think white has to be cooler than a black helmet on a sunny day and I have a theory that it increases a rider's conspicuity, too.  There is just something about the universal white motorcycle helmet. It is so easy to spot a white dot down the road and it automatically lets the observer know that a motorcyclist must be under it.  Fancy helmets with wild paint jobs are pretty, but in the mean streets they become urban camouflage and the rider disappears in the background clutter of city traffic.

Fitting a Helmet

There are two basic shapes of helmets: round and oval.  The first thing to do is determine if your head is round or oval shaped.  If you are not sure about your size, visit a motorcycle dealer and try on some helmets.  The helmet should fit snugly without giving you a headache and should not slide around on your head.  You may discover that you can wear one size smaller helmet with an oval shaped helmet.

Arai makes helmets for round heads, although in recent years they have added a line of oval shaped helmets.  Shoei makes helmets for oval shaped heads.  There are many good quality, lower priced helmet manufacturers out there.  For example, HJC makes a good helmet designed much like a Shoei.  Check around.

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