The Most Critical Piece
1ST ARMORED DIVISION
Fort Bliss, Texas
A helmet is the most critical piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) a rider wears. According to Army policy, riders are required to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle (ATV). It only makes sense if you want to prevent traumatic and fatal head injuries.
Army policy also states that for personnel riding motorcycles and ATVs in the United States, helmets shall be certified to meet Department of Transportation Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 218, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Standard 22-05, British Standard 6658 or Snell Standard M2005 in accordance with DODI 6055.04, Change 2, 23 January 2013, references (v), (w), (x) and (y). In addition, helmets will be properly fastened under the chin.
There are three defining factors when choosing a helmet — fit, function and fashion. The fashion part is easy. Pick a helmet based on looks and styling that will fit your bike and personality. Generally, features such as graphics, shape and color are the key factors when choosing by fashion. The function of the helmet is rarely effected by the style unless you add on non-safety-related parts such as mohawks, spikes or other adornments. Be aware that these add-ons can cause severe injury in a crash, as they can ruin the protective shape and ability of the helmet. Also, you should never drill or glue anything to a motorcycle helmet.
Function is a more utilitarian approach to helmet selection. Look for a helmet that works for your needs. Airflow, weight, visibility and purpose are the main factors when choosing a helmet. With the advent of modern helmets, a rider has more options than ever to have the most functional helmet they can purchase. Modular face shields, lightweight carbon fiber composites and interchangeable face shields are just a few of the helmet options.
Keep in mind that certain riding styles will dictate that a specific helmet is worn. Dirt bike riders, flat trackers and endurance riders will generally look for a specific style of helmet to meet the demands of their sports. Sport bike riders will look for an entirely different style to meet the demands of high speeds and aerodynamics. Determining the function of the helmet is critical because you need one that meets the standards for your sport and riding style. Helmet retailers and websites can be very helpful when choosing the type that best fits your riding style and functional needs.
The most overlooked — yet critical — component when selecting a helmet is fit. Even the most-expensive, best-protecting, highest-rated helmet is useless if it doesn’t fit your head shape and dimensions. Many riders just guess at fit. They base head measurements on their hat size, find the helmet they think they need and ride with it. This kind of selection will only work about 25 percent of the time. Head and face shapes are unique to each rider. What fits one rider might not fit the next.
It’s imperative riders try on a helmet before purchasing it. New helmets should fit snugly around the face and top of the head. For full-face helmets, try them on without the cheek pads to get a proper feel for the fit at the crown, temples, forehead and back of the head. Once the cheek pads are inserted, the helmet will get tighter in the face. Don’t worry; they break in quickly and will be more comfortable. All major manufacturers have several product lines of helmets designed to fit different-shaped heads. The rider should do research on the helmet fit from the company to see for which head shape each is designed.
So those are the basic guidelines for choosing the helmet. Some riders may have other factors to take into consideration before finding the best helmet for themselves. Remember, though, that price has absolutely nothing to do with the ability of a helmet to protect the rider from injury. Some helmet manufacturers are better than others. Diligent research will help riders understand the specifics of a helmet. Always ride smart and always ride safe!