Motorcycling is a fun activity and can be addictive for many people. At times the very act of hopping on a motorcycle and riding down roads unknown is a powerful means to rejuvenate oneself and keep the juices flowing. While it certainly is good to ride the unending streets it is also important to gear up properly and ride safe. A helmet is the first safety precaution that any rider worth their salt will swear by. However, not many people know how to choose the perfect helmet and as a result end up buying poorly fitted or inferior quality helmets purely on the basis of looks and price alone. Here then, are top 5 tips to help you find the perfect helmet for you.
Tip #1: Know thy helmet
Did you know that the brain can actually get injured in the event of a collision simply by slamming against the internal skull wall? Helmets have one specific purpose, to cushion your head in the event of a fall or a crash and prevent damage and injury to your brain.
Any helmet is composed of 4 basic parts – the rigid outer shell that takes a majority of the impact and spreads it across the entire surface of the helmet and also prevents blunt force trauma, the internal foam or EPS lining that ends up cushioning your head and also acts as an intermediary between the outer shell and the next component which is the fabric lining in your helmet and finally, the chin strap that holds the helmet in place and keeps it in place during impact thus protecting your head. A removable and washable fabric liner is preferable since it will ensure that the helmet also stays sweat, odour and bacteria free.
Tip #2: Know thyself
Helmets come in a variety of sizes ranging from extra small to XXXL and various shapes ranging from long oval, intermediate oval to round oval. Everyone has a different head size and shape. Try to understand how your head is shaped and understand what your hatsize is. This will help you make a better informed decision when choosing your helmet. Helmets need to fit you snug but at the same time not be tight and cramped. That can cause a lot of pressure on your head and temple area and can even give you a headache in most extreme cases. If the helmet is too round it can put pressure on your forehead and on the sides of your head if it is too oval. You can find out what your head shape is by trying to see it in a mirror or you might want to take a selfie of your head. Incidentally most people have and intermediate oval shape to the head. Hat size can be determined by using a tailoring tape. Start at the centre of your forehead, around an inch above your ears and eyebrows since this is where you would wear a hat normally. Wrap the tape around your head and bring it all the way around to the point you started from. The corresponding measurement will help you understand the sizing charts provided by most manufacturers.
Tip #3 Know thy varieties of helmets
Helmets come in a number of types viz: half face, full face and the modular or flip-up variety. Each of which has its own share of pros and cons. While a lot of people prefer half face or flip up types since they offer that wind-in-the-face feeling, sadly enough these cannot offer full protection due to the lack of a proper chin bar. While modular helmets do have a chin bar, the structure is not as rigid as that of a full face helmet and protection can be reduced in case of faulty hinge mechanisms. A properly fitting full face helmet can offer better weather sealing and impact protection. Drag and wind noise on a helmet at high speeds can cause rider fatigue and full face helmets tend to be better insulated than their other counterparts too.
The face shield on a helmet is also equally important since it offers protection from the elements while ensuring that vision is unimpeded and the rider can continue to ride regardless of the weather. Scratch free and fog free face shields are preferable since they will ensure that vision does not get blurred or distorted. Dark shields are a strict no-no in case of night riding.
Good quality reliable helmets always carry some sort of safety standard certification implying that they have undergone rigorous testing and thus are up to the task of protecting your head. While in India, we have mandatory ISI marking for helmets there are also international standards like DOT, ECE, Snell, BSI and the like. Always ensure that this standard is adhered to.
Tip # 4 Keep thy cool
Ventilation plays an important part in staying cool and eventually staying focused on the road ahead, more so in our hot climate. Helmets can get pretty hot inside and can end up affecting your riding immensely. It is very important to keep your head and your brain stem cool to ensure that you also stay cool and do not succumb to heat stroke or road rage. Research has shown that emotional responses can be affected by the physical environment one is surrounded by and changes to light, humidity and temperature levels can drastically affect your emotional state. Hence vented helmets are better since they allow adequate ventilation inside the helmet and help keep your head cool. Well designed ventilation and exhaust ports should ensure maximum airflow around your head and carry away hot air.
Tip # 5 Covet not that which is fallen
Helmets are one time use accessories which are rendered useless once they have done their job of protecting your head from injury. The styrofoam lining in a helmet warps during impact and thus is not suitable for re-use. Same thing also applies to the outer shell. It is designed to take a majority of the impact and shatter once it has done that. Always make it a point to immediately discard a helmet that has taken an impact and has ended up saving your head. It has done its job and completed its purpose. It is now time to replace it with a new one. Also it is recommended that one change their helmet every 3 years since the material in a helmet is also prone to fatigue and wear and tear. While this might seem a tad costly, it is a preventive measure that is best taken rather than paying the cost unnecessarily. After all- ‘Marzi hai aapki, Sir hai aapka’.