Tale #3 - Helmets

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Riding season is in full force around here and it’s time to think about your helmet!

Helmets come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and sometimes it’s hard to choose just the right one for your needs. There seem to be more options than ever and spending your dollars wisely is critical because, well, what could be more important than protecting your head?

We put together a guide for you here, spotlighting what we think are some of the most crucial points to consider when picking your next helmet. Please feel free to share it with your rider community and refer to it often! It’s packed with tips about selecting just the right helmet to fit your needs and preferences and keep you riding in safety and style.

AGE: No, not your age! The age of your current helmet is something not a lot of us consider. Do you remember when you bought it? For many of us, we can’t even remember how long ago we purchased our current helmet. Most manufacturers recommend a helmet should be replaced 5 years after its purchase date or after 45,000 miles of road travel, whichever comes first. This is because the EPS foam inside the helmet hardens and breaks down with time and use and this affects its ability to absorb impact. Helmets with worn-out pads are at least one to two sizes larger than helmets in new condition!  A poorly fitted helmet makes it more likely that the helmet will shift too much or even come off the head during a crash impact. Plus, helmet technology keeps improving, which means higher visibility, better comfort, and increased safety. For these reasons, Sully’s recommends replacing the helmet after five years of normal use. So, if you think it’s been five years or more since you bought your helmet, or if you’ve ridden more than 45,000 miles with it, it’s time to go shopping!

FIT: A properly fitting helmet is essential for a safe ride. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a helmet that is too loose will move around or will not sit down completely on your head. A correctly sized helmet will be a little tight, providing even pressure around your head without uncomfortable pressure points. It should not move when you shake your head. The pads inside the helmet should squeeze your cheeks slightly. 

Most of us have what is called a Medium Oval (aka intermediate oval) shaped head. But, there are also Round Oval and Long Oval head shapes. It is important to try on several different helmet shapes and sizes to determine which one feels best on your unique head. The most comfortable helmet is the one most likely to be worn on every ride, keeping you safe year after year.

STYLE: Choosing your helmet should be a fun process! Choose a retailer who has lots of styles and colors to find one that suits your individual style. Here are a few of the styles we carry at Sully’s Ride Shop:

     Open Face Helmet: This is also sometimes called a ¾ Face Helmet. Provides good protection for the top, sides, and back of head, but no protection for the face. Look for a model that offers a chin strap and option to snap on a visor or full shield for added eye protection. This style helmet is popular with moped riders and motorcycle riders who tend to stay around town at lower speeds. This type of helmet is also frequently paired with goggles. If you think an Open Face Helmet is the choice for you, Sully’s recommends the Torc T-50.

     Supermoto Helmet: Easily the most versatile style on this list, supermoto riders have a demanding set of qualifications for a helmet. A relatively recent trend in racing, supermoto combines dirt and pavement into a highly technical, fast paced, and entertaining experience. Thus, you can often find these helmets also listed under the “dual sport” category. The safety standards therefore require adequate protection for each arena. All of this is accomplished while being lighter than your average street helmet. Our favorite example, the Torc T-3, comes loaded with all of the features and benefits mentioned here while providing a clean, classic style which seems to be in short supply for this category. 

Note: A motocross helmet should not be confused with a supermoto. Motocross is reserved for the dirt and does not offer the same safety specifications for the street that can be found in a supermoto.

     If you are an adventurous spirit who doesn't know what backstreet or winding trail you’ll happen to get lost on, this style of helmet will accommodate almost any situation.

     Full Face Helmet: Full face helmets are aerodynamic, great for noise reduction, and usually have ventilation systems built-in so the rider can choose how much air travels through. As the name suggests, these helmets protect the entire head and face and offer great safety for the chin and jaw as well.  A few additional benefits we think are worth mentioning: full face helmets reduce wind noise and wind blasts to the face and eyes, deflect bugs and other hard objects flying through the air, and provide protection from the weather like harsh sun or driving rain.

A favorite at Sully’s, the Torc T-9, is a classically styled, full face beauty that combines a sweat-wicking faux suede liner with multi-density EPS and a padded chin strap for extra comfort. It’s great looking, has ample airflow, and is relatively lightweight compared to some other helmets in this class. If you love the idea of a full face helmet, but prefer a retro, eye-catching look similar to the old “bubble helmets”, we suggest the Torc T-1. It’s sure to make a statement that you’re a rider with style!

RATINGS: When you shop for a helmet, you’re going to see a lot of certifications on the boxes and on the helmets themselves. The most common of these in the U.S. will be DOT, ECE, and Snell.

DOT is the sticker you will want to look for first. The U.S. uses the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 218 to measure helmets. Any helmet that passes gets a Department of Transportation approval sticker: DOT. The DOT rating favors a shock-absorbent helmet and research indicates that shock absorption is the best strategy for motorcycle safety. Additionally, DOT is the standard for the 18 states that require motorcyclists to wear a helmet. 

ECE is the most widely used helmet rating system in the world. Helmets approved by the Economic Commission for Europe are put through more thorough tests than DOT rated helmets and it’s the minimum standard in European countries for street motorcycle helmets. The rider's field of vision, shell strength and crash impact tests at fixed points on the helmet are all tested on different shaped dummy heads. 

Snell is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to research, education, and testing of helmets. Their testing extends to bicycle, skiing, equestrian and automotive racing helmets as well. Participation for helmet manufacturers is voluntary. Snell publishes a certified helmet list of all helmets that have been submitted for testing and passed. 

Our opinion is to look for a helmet with at least two of these three certifications. That will ensure you are buying a helmet that has been thoroughly tested using several different methodologies. 

PRICE: So, how much should a motorcycle helmet cost? A lot of factors weigh into this answer.  Just as different bikes will have wildly varying prices, helmets can range in price a lot. Top-of-the-line motorcycle helmets can be priced over $1000, while bargain brands can sometimes be found for about $100. On average, a motorcycle helmet will run you around $150 to $500. 

Many folks choose to try out a more affordable helmet as their first, and then move up in price range as they decide what type of rider they are, and what features are most important to them. For some people, comfort is key, for others perhaps ventilation or weight, and let’s be honest…it’s gotta make you feel a little bit cooler when you put it on.

FINAL THOUGHTS:The second you need a helmet, you will be thankful for every penny you spent on buying a properly certified, well-fitting, high quality one. The bottom line, a good helmet is an investment, but it’s protecting your most valuable asset!

We’re hopeful this guide will assist you with picking out your next helmet or helping your loved one do some shopping for theirs. Please feel free to stop in the shop and try on some of ours, we love helping people find their match! Or, check out our selection online and feel free to message us with any questions.

Ride Safe,

The Team at Sully’s 

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