The Motorcycle Helmet is the most important piece of protective gear you can get. But with so many types and brands, it can be difficult to find the right helmet for you. To get you started, we've compiled this helpful buying guide to filter the jargon and explain what you should be looking for.
What makes a Motorcycle Helmet different from your jacket, trousers, leather suit or any other piece of motorcycle clothing, is a helmet is not a recommendation or a suggestion. A Motorcycle Helmet is a requirement. A motorcycle helmet won't stop you from crashing and it will not stop the danger that your fellow road users may pose, but it will protect your head, the most important part of your body, and reduce the chance of serious injury caused by a crash.
Not just that your motorcycle helmet will also help to protect you from the weather and help reduce fatigue while riding.
With your motorcycle helmet being the most important piece of gear, you can have, that means finding the one right for you is incredibly important too. Finding a helmet, you like the look of may seem pretty easy - but looks are not everything with helmets. You need a helmet that fits right and offers all the protection and performance that you need. And this is where we come in.
Infinity Motorcycles has spent the last 20 years helping customers find their perfect motorcycle helmet, and our staff have a huge range of knowledge to help you find that helmet. But we are also sharing our collective knowledge with this Ultimate Helmet Buying Guide.
HOW DO MOTORCYCLE HELMETS WORK?
A motorcycle helmet is made from a few different parts that all work together to provide you with the best protection possible, as well as performance and comfort.
Firstly, there is the Outer Shell of the helmet. The outer shell is designed to compress during the event of an impact – dispersing the energy from an impact over a greater space allowing to lessen the force before it reaches your head. Motorcycle helmet outer shells come in a range of different varieties from fibreglass and thermoplastic, some come with a mix of carbon fibre while some very premium helmet comes totally in carbon fibre. The best qualities of an outer shell are fantastic strength that comes with a light weight – this reduces strain on your neck especially useful if you are riding for longer periods.
Then comes the impact-absorbing liner, most commonly made from Expanded Polystyrene Foam, referred to as the EPS liner. What this layer does is act to cushion or crush on impact providing further protection to your head during a riding accident. Finally, there is the comfort padding, the layer closest to your head. The Comfort Padding is a soft layer that gives an extra level of comfort to your head but also keeps your head snug inside the helmet – this lack of wiggle room means there is far more cushioning that will act better to absorb an impact.
The purpose of the Retention Strap is pretty obvious – to keep the helmet on your head when riding and in the event of a crash. Every time you put your helmet on your head with the intention of riding you should make sure the strap is securely tightened. A motorcycle helmet retention straps come in a couple of choices. A Quick Release Ratchet style that works similar to how a car’s seat belt buckle works and allows for, as the name suggests, quick easy removal. Another common retention strap style is the old favourite the double D-Ring, arguably the safest closure type the only drawback is this strap is near impossible to operate when wearing your gloves – so be prepared to make a tradition of getting your strap perfect before putting on your gloves and getting on your bike.
HOW TO CHOOSE A MOTORCYCLE HELMET?
There may be a lot of things that you worry about before buying a helmet, do you like the look of it, etc. – but that is really not important to be honest, what is important is to find a helmet that fits right!
That is why for any first-time rider we recommend going into your local Infinity store and being sized up in person for a helmet. You can then try on multiple brands and find the exact one that fits you. And when you have found a helmet that fits you perfectly, then you can worry about finding one that looks good. But it is not just new riders that can benefit from going into their local Infinity store to be sized up – no matter if you’ve been riding for 10 years, if you are changing your helmet or moving into a different brand it is always best to try on in-store to be sized up so you know exactly what size to be looking for.
But there is no harm in taking a few minutes at home to give your head a measure to have a general idea of what size you are going to be looking for. How do you measure your head at home though?
The most important measurement you want to get is the circumference of your head from your forehead – then you need to measure your head at its widest point. A tape measure will come in handy. Also measure around your head above your ears, across the forehead and over the natural bump at the back of your head. Make sure while doing all this, that the tape measure is kept level. And make sure it feels firm but not too tight.
HOW IS A HELMET SUPPOSED TO FIT?
When wearing a full-face motorcycle helmet your cheeks will be right up against the inner padding of the helmet – and they should remain in contact with the padding as you turn your head from side to side. The cheek pads should push up against your cheeks but no so much you find yourself biting down the padding. The helmet should not push too much on the front or top of your head, and should not push down on your forehead causing pain. If this is the case the helmet is too small.
With the helmet on and the strap tightened you should NOT be able to lift the helmet off your head. If the helmet moves or slips while on your head, the helmet is too large and you will need a different size.
Please remember helmet sizes come in lots of different varieties and can be different between styles, models and brands, so it is always best to try on a huge range of helmets to help you find one that is perfect for you.
Helmet Shape: Not everyone’s head is the same shape, some are rounded, some are oval while some are more squared. Most motorcycle helmets fit in one of the general shapes such as an ‘Oval’, ‘Round’ or ‘Neutral’ shape. Again, as the shape of the helmet can differ between models and brands it is a good idea to look around a variety of helmets to find a shape that works for you. And at the end of the day most helmet’s shape can be modified slightly by changing the cheek pads and/or crown liner.
To make sure your helmet is the right fit, follow these checks:
- Put the helmet on and secure the chinstrap so you can fit no more than two fingers between the helmet and your jaw
- With the helmet on and the chin strap fastened, hold the chin bar and try to move your head from side to side. If your head moves side to side freely in the helmet then the helmet is too big. The helmet lining and cheek pads should be in direct contact with your skin. While shaking your head, your skin should move with the helmet
- Place one hand on the back of the helmet and push forward. Open your visor fully and use your other hand to try to slip your little finger through the visor opening, between your forehead and the helmet lining. If there is room for more than just the tip of your finger, the helmet is too big
- Place one hand on the chin bar and push up (while the chin strap is secured). If the helmet comes off your head, it is too big. Next, place one hand on the back and push up again. If the helmet rolls off of your head, it is too big
- Lastly, try and sit in your helmet for at least 30 minutes or so to get a better understanding of how it will feel on for a longer period of time.
If you ordered your helmet online, Infinity allows you to return the helmet up to 90 days after purchase as long as the helmet has not been used on your bike. So, we recommend doing the Couch Test; When you first get your helmet put it on and spend a good hour watching TV in it so you can find out for definite that the helmet is the right fit for you.
If you plan on buying your helmet in-store you can exchange the helmet within 7 days of your purchase as long as it has not been used on the motorcycle, so you do have a chance to do the Couch Test at home. But please be aware you can ONLY EXCHANGE the helmet for example for a different size, and the helmet you return must be in an unused condition having not been used on your motorcycle, with the undamaged box, the manuals, helmet bag, visor and any other helmet stickers still intact.
Motorcycle Helmets & Noise:
There are many things that can cause helmet noise while you ride, including the motorcycle you ride, what the weather is like and the helmet you are wearing. Many helmets are designed to combat helmet noise providing the quietest ride the manufacturer can get, for example the Schuberth C3 Pro has often been touted as one of if not the quietest helmet on the market. But the many variables that can affect helmet noise means no helmet can ever be the quietest possible. That is why finding a fit perfect for your helmet is so important – a helmet that fits properly will also have a better-fit round your neck further reducing wind noise.
It may be getting boring now but we have to mention how important it is to have a properly fitting helmet as it means the weight of the helmet is distributed evenly around your head and shoulders. If it is distributed evenly it will feel like you are not really wearing a helmet. But if it is wrong the helmet will feel awkward, straining and tiring your neck.
The outer shell of a helmet can have a big effect on the weight of a helmet. Helmets with polycarbonate and plastic shells will often be denser and more on the heavy side. A good fibreglass shell will be lighter without being any less protective. On the premium end helmets made with a mix of carbon fibre or totally from carbon fibre will not just provide an ultra-lightweight but also super high protection – for a price though.
Motorcycle Helmet Ventilation:
The ventilation of a helmet is what can make a ride be a joyful experience or one more like torture. A good airflow system on a helmet will allow cool, clean air into the helmet and distribute it across your head – cooling your forehead, down the sides and back – leaving you refreshed and riding happy. A bad one will leave you sweating no matter the weather outside and running the risk of affecting your field of vision if your visor starts fogging up.
When looking for a helmet you should keep an eye out for Inlet and Outlet vents at the top, side and back of the helmet that is easily opened and closed. Most switches used to open and close vents on the helmet are designed for use when wearing bulky motorcycle gloves, but it is smart to check how easy it is for you to operate the helmet’s switches while wearing your gloves.
WHAT WILL YOU BE USING YOUR HELMET FOR?
When you have first started looking at helmets and thought about what sort of fit you need, you should start thinking about what you expect to use your helmet for.
Will you be:
Riding in the city or the countryside?
If you’re riding in the city, a helmet with a big wide-open visor will give you the extra periphery vision that can help you navigate city streets. In these cases, an open-face helmet may be best for you, helmets like the Shoei J-Cruise or Schuberth M1 Pro – have big wide visor apertures that give you extra field of vision.
Undertaking weeks-long tours or only riding in short half-hour bursts?
If you think you’ll be riding for long hours you will need a helmet that is both lightweight and quiet – this will save yourself a lot of neck and ear pain in the long run.
You will also want a helmet with a good ventilation system that allows cool air into the helmet cooling down your head. You may be worried that the airflow will make you cold but most helmets will feature switches to open and close vents even when wearing gloves.
Commuting, or riding for pleasure?
If you’re riding only for pleasure and partial to take your motorcycle out on track days, a full-face sport style helmet is what you’re after. Full-face helmets are the only ones regularly ACU Approved for track day use – so if you want to do a track day on your bike you NEED to have a full-face helmet.
Riding during the day only or also at night?
If you expect that you’ll be riding later at night in poorer visibility conditions that are the time to think about the colour of your helmet. Bright, contrasting colours will help visibility but you can also find yourself helmet accessories like the Cosmo Moto Light which will fit any helmet and give you an extra bit of brightness to inspire some added awareness to your fellow road users.
Riding, no matter, the weather or keeping yourself in during rain, snow, etc.?
If you’re expecting to be riding in bad weather, especially rain, a full-face or flip-up helmet that provides as much coverage from the elements is the best choice.
You must always consider the situation that you will be riding in when thinking about what helmet you require.
WHAT STYLE OF HELMET DO YOU WANT?
Motorcycle helmets come in a range of different styles that are designed for a range of riding styles. It is best to pick the style that you think suits your needs.
FULL FACE HELMETS
A full-face is the standard and most common motorcycle helmet style on the market – and for good reason, they offer the highest level of protection. Any motorcycle helmet with a sports riding focus will be a full-face and they are the only helmet regularly ACU Approved. That means if you fancy taking your bike on a track day, you need a full-face helmet.
Why choose a full-face helmet:
- Shield you against the weather
- Reduced wind noise
- Best level of protection
- Best aerodynamic performance
Full-face motorcycle helmets are some of the most popular helmets on the market and you can always find a high-level full-face from the best brands. Shoei helmets are some of the best quality helmets you can get, and Shoei’s brand new for 2019 GT-Air 2 is a top-of-the-line full-face helmet built for long tour riding. That means it is very lightweight, and has, uncommon for some full-face helmets, a built-in integrated sun visor. It also is designed for easy install of the Sena SRL2 Intercom kit.
If you’re looking for a full-face with a sportier, race-style Shoei also has the NXR, unlike the GT-Air 2 there is no internal sun visor but the NXR has a more sports-focused design and when you buy from Infinity Motorcycles you can get a huge range of NXR graphics with huge savings. Another full-face option is the Arai Debut. Arai is a big name in providing premium racing style helmets, the Debut is crafted with all of Arai’s protection and performance technology, but for a more mid-range price. And our final full-face recommendation is the AGV K3-SV, the Italian brand is always race-focused and the K3-SV is the result of wanting the best protection and performance without going crazy. And the whole range of AGV K3-SV is 25% off at Infinity Motorcycles.
Flip-up helmets are becoming increasingly popular because they provide the closest protection level compared to full-face helmets. But, have the added convenience of being able to pop the face shield up when you’re off the motorcycle. So, no need to keep taking your helmet off and on when going about your day. Some new flip-up helmets are also approved to be used while riding as an open-face helmet with the face shield fully up. But these helmets will clearly state that they are approved for this use.
Why choose a Flip-up helmet:
- Protection level closest to full-face
- Can still protect you from the weather
- The flip-up face shield is convenient for use off your motorcycle
The convenience that you get from a flip-up means it has become increasingly popular amongst commuting riders. The Schuberth C3 Pro has been one of the highest benchmarks for any flip-up helmet since its introduction. The C3 Pro was designed to combat one of the main issues of flip-up helmets, wind noise, and with it Schuberth has produced one of the quietest helmets on the market. Shoei’s Neotec 2 is built on the success of their previous flip-up the Neotec and improves the ventilation system, shell structure and even the flip-up mechanism itself for an even more reliable, protective and comfortable flip-up motorcycle helmet.
Infinity’s final recommendation for a flip-up helmet is the AGV Sports Modular, a world’s first sports-focused flip-up helmet the Sports Modular is the only flip-up helmet ACU Approved for track day use. So, you don’t just get the comfort and ease of use of a flip-up, you get sports performance.
Great for retro-style cruiser riders, scooter riders or anyone who find a full-face motorcycle helmet too cramped, an open-face helmet is an awesome choice for any city rider. They offer incredible freedom and vision at the expense of protection and weather protection. But the ease of use and convenience that comes with an open-face make them ideal for some riders.
Why choose an Open-face helmet:
- Incredible clear and open vision
- Improved periphery vision
- Convenience and ease of use
- Does not feel cramped as other helmet styles
Most of the biggest helmet brands will have an open-face helmet option available and one of our first open-face recommendations is the Schuberth M1 Pro, a redesign of the previous M1 model that builds and improves on many of the features. The M1 Pro still has the big, wide-open visor aperture to give you an awesome field of vision and the ultra-hard Direct Fibre Processed shell. But it now comes with easy integration of the SC1 Bluetooth Intercom to get you connected straight away. The SC1 Intercom is sold separately. Another option for open-face but with a much more retro style is the Shoei J.O – built with a strong organic and multi-composite fibre shell that offers awesome protection and a cool design that harks back to the retro style of a bygone era.
Our final Open-face recommendation is the Scorpion EXO-220, that has a more modern style to the J.O, and features a fantastic city riding focused design. The thermo-resin plastic shell is hardy and durable and the Scorpion comes with both a 5-year warranty and a fantastic price.
The perfect helmet style for when you want to ride a little more outrageously, adventure helmets are designed to tackle off-road. But most modern Adventure helmets will have all the mod-cons that make them comfortable and protective on the road as well.
Why choose an Adventure Helmet?
- You plan on going off-road
- You need a helmet that priorities performance
Adventure helmets are the best choice if you are expecting to find yourself riding on a little more uneven terrain. Almost all adventure style helmets will feature a peak or at least the capability to fit one. The Scorpion ADX-1 shows off an adventure style peak and is a great choice if this is the style of helmet you are after. It also has a super lightweight shell construction and a wide-open visor aperture that gives you a great field of vision.
Another adventure helmet option is the Tour-X 4 from Arai, one of the top helmet brands, who have used all their knowhow to develop a high performing helmet with a focus on adventure riding. The Tour-X 4 has Arai’s Hyper Ridge that reinforces the bottom of the shell for extra protection.
MOTORCYCLE HELMET SAFETY STANDARDS
The minimum safety requirement for motorcycle helmets on the market in the UK and Europe, is the ECE22.05 that covers both the motorcycle helmet and the visor.
Testing is done on impact absorption, involving a drop test from a fixed height, with a head-form fitted inside the helmet to measure the energy transmitted of the impact. The retention strap and chin strap buckle system, are also tested to make sure displacement and slippage is not an issue.
Helmets approved by ECE22.05 will normally have a marking on the helmet stating that they are approved to this standard, usually found on the strap of the helmet.
How much should you spend on a motorcycle helmet?
The most difficult question to answer. It depends entirely on you – and helmet prices can range wildly from £50 to £2,499. There are obviously hundreds of helmets in between those two prices to choose from.
The motorcycle helmet is the most important piece of gear you can own and that is why you should never cut cost on a helmet. Remember this is the piece of gear that will most likely save your life in the event of an accident.
We know that investing in a helmet can be a big financial commitment that is why Infinity offers 0% Finance on any order of £280 and over, a brilliant chance to spread the cost and find a helmet best for you.
What are the best helmet brands?
The one that fits you best!
But Infinity Motorcycles only stocks reputable brands that we trust and love ourselves. Some of the most popular and well-known helmet brands at Infinity include: Arai, AGV, HJC, Schuberth, Shoei, Caberg, LS2, Scorpion, and even more that you can check out here.
Wearing glasses with your helmet?
If you plan on wearing glasses under your helmet you need to try some on whilst wearing them. But many glasses-wearers find flip-up and open-face helmets more comfortable as they have a bit of extra space around the visor.
Do you need to break a motorcycle helmet in?
Yes! All new helmets will have a breaking in period of around 2-3 weeks if you’re wearing it every day.
How often should you replace a motorcycle helmet?
Helmets should be replaced every 5 years. You should replace your helmet immediately after any kind of crash, as the structure of the helmet can be compromised.
It can get pretty sweaty when riding and that means your motorcycle helmet can start getting pretty smelly. There are many options to combat this, reliable cleaning brands like Motul, Shift-It and Liqui Moly, all have maintenance kits designed specifically for cleaning your helmet interior. The Motul Helmet Care Kit is a great choice as it provides a cleaner for the interior along with an exterior helmet cleaner – so you can get your whole helmet looking brand new.
The interior padding of most motorcycle helmets can be removed and that means you can give it a wash if you don’t expect to use it for a day or two, but always hand wash the padding and allow it to air dry.
For cleaning the rest of your helmet, we strongly recommend looking at the helmet specific cleaning options. Some regular cleaning products such as strong detergents can actually damage the protective coating of your helmet, potentially compromising the structure of the helmet and making it weaker. Using the wrong cleaner can leave your helmet totally useless, so always be careful with what you choose to use to clean your helmet, and take a look at any cleaners recommended by your helmet’s brand.
How should you clean your helmet? Start by removing the interior liner, the cheek pads, breath guard and visor, and so on. Then hand wash with cool, clean water, very mild soap or your chosen specialist helmet cleaner. Never leave a wet helmet to sit – always pat dry to avoid water damage on either your helmet or the paint. Leave your helmet in a cool, dry place, to air-dry. Never use heat to dry your helmet as the heat can melt any glue and even compromise the structure of the helmet.
Other Maintenance Advice:
- Never put stickers on your helmet as the glue can damage some thermoplastic and polycarbonate shells
- NEVER Store your helmet near fuel, cleaning fluids or excessive heat – this can damage the structure of the helmet
- Always carry your helmet by the chin strap like a handbag, never by the chin bar
- Don’t hang your helmet from your bike mirrors, from a fence post or anything that can damage the interior padding
- Don’t keep your gloves in your helmet – your gloves are always out in the open and can get dirty, you can then move that dirt by keeping them in your helmet
Do you plan on riding with friends or a pillion and want to have the option of still being connected? An intercom is ideal for you then. Different intercoms will work on different levels, with premium comms kits allowing you to speak to up to 5 other riders while on your bike, while lower-cost kits can keep you connected to just a pillion. A lot of brand-new helmets will feature easy installation of an intercoms kit and a few brands come with their own specific comms kit. For example, Shoei have the Sena SRL kits, Schuberth have their own SC1 Intercoms kits and AGV have the Ark Intercom.
But there are also many universal intercom kits available on the market, designed to fit any helmet. As they are universal this means they are not as low profile as the ones designed specifically for a specific helmet but they will still do the job that you need. The Cardo Freecom range is a fantastic choice for universal fitting intercom kits, and they have a large wide range of price options.
It can be cold on a motorcycle, who would have thought when speeding down the open road with the wind beating down on you. Motorcycle gear is designed to give you some warmth but occasionally you will need a little extra. A balaclava is a fantastic choice to give yourself a little extra warmth under your helmet.
It is always a smart idea to have a back-up or spare visor ready in case you need one. Visors are brand and model-specific so make sure you know what visor you need for your helmet. Check out our range of visors here.
Where would we be without Pinlocks? Many motorcyclists seem to rarely have an issue with their visor fogging up – but for just as many riders Pinlocks will be the answer. Specifically designed to reduce the effect of fog on your visor giving you an even clearer ride. Pinlocks are usually visor model-specific so again make sure you are looking at the right one for the job for you. Have a look here.
A lid locker is a great choice for a little security when you are off your motorcycle. If you have a double D ring the lid locker will thread through the rings, locking the strap. Other style lid lockers will go through the visor aperture and lock round the chin bar. Check out Lid Lockers here.
Whether you just want a little extra security or you are a film buff looking to relive your riding experiences an action camera is a great choice. A lot of action cameras will come with fit kits that allow you to fit the camera to your helmet.
If you expect to be riding at night frequently a helmet light may be a great choice for giving you some extra visibility. For example, the Cosmo Moto Light has a waterproof magnetic fitting that has a bright highly visible design. The Cosmo Light also has the capability to flash and to light up when decelerating.
WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH YOUR OLD HELMET?
Found the helmet right for you and now wondering what to with your old lid? You can donate your old motorcycle helmet to your local St John’s Ambulance, local fire station, ambulance service or police station to be used for motorcycle accident and RTC Training.
If you are going to bin your old helmet make sure you cut the chin strap off first.
Now you know everything you need to start shopping for your perfect first helmet, or ideal upgrade. Take a look at our Helmet section to begin your search. Or drop into your local Infinity store to get fitted and even more expert advice.
This article was written by Aaron Thomson, images & graphics designed by Lewis Hooper and edited by Jonah Son.