How to Purchase the Correct Motorcycle Helmet

By: John Daniele

Anyone riding a motorcycle, whether as driver or passenger needs to wear a helmet. This is mandated by law in most states, and by common sense everywhere. Look out for your safety, and that of your passengers.

When looking for a motorcycle helmet, here are some rules of thumb to apply - for instance, NEVER buy a damaged or used helmet, even if they look perfectly fine. We'll go more in depth on this later.

You'll want to be certain that your helmet meets or exceeds DOT standards.

The FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards) imposed by the DOT mandate that all motorcycle helmets sold in the U.S. be tested and certified by the DOT. Look for the DOT certification sticker on the back of the helmet, and for the DOT label inside the helmet. This label should also name the manufacturer of the helmet, date of production, size and component materials of the helmet. Without these labels being present, this is not a motorcycle helmet you want to purchase for riding.

Don't be a cheapskate!

A helmet can literally be a lifesaver; this is one piece of equipment you definitely don't want to skimp on. A well made helmet will provide you with greater protection than a poorly constructed one, and is well worth the higher cost. A good helmet should weigh in at about 3 pounds and have an inner liner of about an inches thickness. Have a look at the rivets and test the elasticity of the chin strap. Avoid spikes and other decorations as they detract from the safety of a helmet. Again, don't cut corners on a helmet to save a few dollars.

Make sure to buy a helmet that fits properly.

Always, always, always try on a helmet before purchasing it. An ill fitting helmet that is the wrong shape or size will not do a good job of protecting you in an accident. Make sure the helmet is snug, but not too tight. You should not be able to turn your head inside the helmet, the helmet should fit tightly enough to move with your head. To test the fit, try removing the helmet form the back, or twisting the helmet off with both hands. If you can do either of these things, put the helmet back on the shelf and try another. This helmet is not for you. Be sure to try several different models within a brand before either deciding on one or moving along to another brand of helmet.

Wear the chinstrap at all times!

A motorcycle helmet without the chinstrap is next to useless. In a crash, the helmet may go flying off without you if not secured by a chinstrap. If you're not using the strap, you may as well not be wearing a helmet at all.

Face Guards are Your Friend.

A helmet with a full-face guard is your best bet for protection while riding. Not only do they provide more protection in a crash, but keep away other hazards such as dust, insects and road debris from your face while riding.

If they can't see you....

Consider a brightly colored helmet. They make you more visible to motorists, and thus much less likely to be struck by an unaware driver. Reflective tape is an excellent idea to further increase your visibility to others on the road. The better you can be seen, the less likely you are to end up in a collision.

Never, EVER wear a used or damaged helmet.

You can never really know for sure where that used helmet at the shop has been. It may have been damaged in an accident, just not in a visible way. If the damage is not obvious, it may have been overlooked by the seller, or not mentioned (unscrupulous, yes, but it does happen). If you have had a fall or a collision with your helmet, buy a new helmet as soon as possible. Cracks that may not be readily visible to you can still compromise the integrity of your helmet - meaning you'll be less protected in the event of a crash. Used helmets may seem to be cheaper, but ask yourself whenever you are thinking about buying a motorcycle helmet, what is my life worth to me?

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