There are many features that manufacturers try to implement into their products. However, in our opinion, an ideal helmet needs only 5 characteristics.
The main purpose of a helmet is to protect your head from impact. A good helmet uses four main elements to accomplish this: the exterior shell, the impact-absorbing liner, the comfort padding and the retention system.
The outer shell is made from a rigid material, such as thermoplastic or fiber-reinforced materials. However, it is designed to absorb impact forces and to disperse them throughout the next layers found underneath.
Under the shell, an impact-absorbing liner, usually made of styrofoam, also known as expanded polystyrene further cushions the shocks when the helmet comes to a complete stop and the inertia still keeps your head moving.
If a helmet’s exterior shell cracks after an impact it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is of poor quality. It means that it has absorbed the impact force. It’s worth mentioning that even if there is no visible damage on a helmet after an impact, it should still be replaced as the styrofoam may have deformed inside and no longer possesses its force absorbing properties.
The comfort padding comes in contact with your head and provides a proper fit. On some models, it can be removed for washing.
The retention system is located under the chin and most of the times is made of a strap that connects to the exterior shell in two points. It has an important role as it keeps the helmet snug on your head. To wear the helmet without fastening the chin strap is almost like not wearing the helmet at all.
Ventilation is often overlooked by people who are buying a new helmet. They try it on to see how it fits, if they are in the shop, or read reviews about the protection levels, but forget to inquire about how well the air circulates through the product.
A good helmet must feature vents that allow cool air to enter and maintain the temperature of your head at comfortable levels even during long hours of riding under the merciless summer sun. Besides the comfort levels, a good ventilation design prevents the inner lining of the helmet to absorb much sweat, therefore it will not smell bad and will require less washing in time.
The front vents also prevent the fogging of your visor. Mist particles forming on the visor are extremely dangerous on the road and in heavy traffic as they greatly reduce visibility. The more versatile helmets feature vents that can be opened and closed by the rider as he/she wishes.
When you are done riding, you would prefer to remove your helmet quickly and easily. At that point you may feel tired, you may run out of patience and the last thing you want is to fidget with your hands beneath your chin to unstrap or undo the buckles or whatever securing system your helmet has.
An ideal helmet should have quick release buckles that facilitate fast removal even with your gloves on. After a long ride your hands may be a little tense or shivering and surely your dexterity is not great. Such mechanisms complete the riding experience and make it much more enjoyable.
Another case when your helmet must be removed with minimum forces exerted on your head and spine is after you have had an accident. Doctors shouldn’t have much difficulty in removing your helmet, especially if your life depends on them accessing your airways or neck region with their medical equipment.
Some helmet models are designed with exactly these scenarios in mind and can be opened like a seashell into two hemispheres by simply pressing a button. The front half of the helmet opens by pivoting back and grants access to the victim’s face while the back half supports the head and the neck in a stable position.
Integrated communication gear has recently gained a lot of popularity. Riding experiences are now enhanced as you can talk to your biker friends without having to wait for them at a red light or shout at them through your full face helmet.
As long as your helmet is large enough to support some electronics on the inside you can communicate with your fellow riders without having to distract their attention.
Besides the communication gear, it is now common to attach video cameras to the exterior shell of your helmet. Full HD and 4K video caption are now possible with extremely small cameras such as the GoPro or other similar products. These devices even come with fitting mechanisms specially designed for motorcycle helmets.
Although they could cost you some money, filming your rides has many advantages. If you are driving on great scenic or dangerous roads, you’ll always be able to review the footage and by replaying it you may even notice details you missed the first time around.
Another advantage of filming while riding is that you may capture footage of traffic misconduct. This can be of use to you or somebody else when you capture accidents on camera. The file becomes evidence that police can later use to solve the case.
One important feature that guarantees the helmet’s quality is its certification. As this piece of equipment must protect you from injuries it is vital that rigorous tests are performed before the item is put on sale. There are national and international standards and laws to which any motorcycle helmet must adhere.
Organizations such as the Snell Memorial Foundation subject helmets to many types of impact and temperature tests to determine how safe each and every component that makes up this piece of equipment is.
Avoid acquiring cheap helmets if they don’t possess these certificates. Even if the certified helmets are more expensive, they might save your life.