Deciding on a motorcycle helmet is tough.
With a huge array of brands, ranges inside those brands, prices, ratings etc, it’s very difficult to find something that you can confidently say will offer you the protection you need, at a price point that doesn’t have you on the phone crying to your bank manager.
In truth we can only really go by the limited experience and knowledge we have of the helmets themselves and what trusted sources are telling us.
Here I wanted to offer up a motorcycle helmet buyers guide to give you a little more confidence going into the purchase of your next motorcycle crash helmet for track days.
Do You Need to Spent Multiple Hundreds?
In my opinion, no. Like with most things in retail brand recognition can put a fair chunk of change on a price tag, and with motorcycle helmets there’s no exception.
For outright protection, a £450 helmet won’t necessarily offer you three times the protection of a £150 one.
What you will tend to find with more expensive helmets are things like a lighter construction, better ventilation, better materials, sound protection and general comfort improvements.
This isn’t always the case, with some brand names alone pushing the price tag up, but generally across the board the more you spend, the better quality product you’re going to get in terms of fit and finish.
Racier Helmets Cost More
You’ll find that race derived helmets tend to push the price up too.
Partly because those are the ones the ‘top boys’ are wearing, but they do tend to have improvements in terms of ventilation, vision, weight, overall construction and even aero tweaks (not that I think it really makes much difference in the real track day world).
However, because they’re going for lighter weight you’ll probably find they tend to be nosier too. Though on a track with decent earplugs I’m not sure how much difference this really makes to riders.
Replicas Cost More Too
A popular race replica paint scheme can put as much as £200 on the price of a helmet.
If you’re being conscious of the amount you’re spending, consider how much you’re willing to fork out to show your allegiance for a given rider.
Consider Looking at the SHARP Ratings
If you don’t know what Sharp is, it’s the Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme set up in 2007 by the UK government as an extra measure to help motorcycle riders discern what helmets have the best protection.
It’s worth mentioning that every helmet sold in the UK and many other parts of the world must meet a UN ECE standard (in other countries there are DOT and Snell ratings instead) but Sharp’s 32 point inspection aims to be a truer test for real world use compared to ECE.
While it came under some criticism early in its inception, it has since received international awards from the likes of the PMIRS and FIM for contribution to road safety.
They may not be perfect in there testing (as Arai owners would probably argue), but really they’re about as good an indicator as you’re going get for how safe these helmets are, simply because the information really isn’t available anywhere else.
Personally, at the very least I think it’s worth considering what they have to say.
Ratings can be found at – http://sharp.direct.gov.uk
It Absolutely Has to Fit
Perhaps an obvious one, but a top safety rated helmet is worth a lot less to you if it doesn’t fit. All the hard work that’s gone into the carefully designed impact zones would be for naught if it spins around your head.
A new helmet should feel just a hair tight initially, as the pads will give over time, but it shouldn’t be to the point of being uncomfortable.
If you can shake you head from left to right and you can feel the helmet moving, it’s too big. If it’s physically uncomfortable to wear and you feel unpleasant pressure in one or a few areas, it’s too small (or the shape may not be for you).
Pass up that bargain price if it means you buying a helmet that doesn’t actually fit your head.
Some Have Different Shapes
There are certain brands that I just do not buy because they don’t fit my head shape as nicely as other brands.
In truth the best way to be sure is to get down to a local dealer and try them on. Believe me when I say you’ll begin to begrudge your new flashy lid if it doesn’t fit correctly to the point of getting regular headaches and ear trauma from poor fitment.
If you want to buy online it’s worth looking out for companies that offer free returns so you can send back a helmet if it doesn’t fit. Sports Bike Shop is one such company.
Use Common Sense
If you’re buying a helmet from a completely unknown brand at a bargain basement price, how much thought and design know-how went into the creation of this thing that’s literally supposed to save your life.
Again, you don’t need to spend multiple hundreds to get good protection, but I would always recommend buying from a manufacturer whose entire reputation rests on the quality and safety of their product.
Stick with the well known brands and you won’t go too far wrong.