Coming up to a year ago I got my motorcycle licence. Something which my wife loved….ok maybe not so much but that’s a different story. What this is about is me actually getting out there and buying a bike and the gear that goes with it.
Firstly I didn’t skimp on gear. I got the gear I wanted both visually and for safety reasons. I found the experience frustrating, awesome and painful all in one. What helped was to do homework, on the interweb and in store. Sales reps are out there to boost their figures and they are out there to let you know how good they are, 80% of the time they’re full of shit and just want to get a sale. I’ll try and give you a bit of knowledge that I picked up on the way, hope it helps.
Helmet – The thing that goes on your head! If you can’t figure that out….well let’s just say I think you’ll need it, and not just while riding the bike.
Like bikes….actually like everything on the planet, have a variation of price. Now with that variation of price comes a level of build quality with helmets. My thoughts are if I chanced to come off even at 10Kmh what would I want between my head and what ever I hit. I came up with a conclusion that I’d want something that would save my head. I know. Genius right!
Let’s start with style. This a lot depends on what type of riding you are going to do. If you are doing off road then you probably don’t want a full faced racing helmet, you’ll want an off road helmet. In this article I’ll focus on road bikes though.
Simply put. Full Face, Flip Face or Open Face. In their inherent order of safety, they all though have their advantages and disadvantages.
The most interesting out the 3 types, it gives the wearer the ability to have both a full face helmet or by flipping the chin guard up and over gives an open face helmet. Sounds awesome right. Yeah well it is. BUT! With having a hinge on the helmet gives both a point of weakness and something to go wrong with your helmet. That being said, I’m not one to ride with an open face so it’s pretty pointless for me. Like anything it’s about what you feel comfortable in.
examples – Nolan, Shoei, Bell & Shark
The safest. Pictured is my helmet. I love it. Super Comfy and well protected all round. Being a full faced, there is little to go wrong and apart from the visor and a couple of air vents there isn’t really much that can go wrong. Maybe I’m a bit biased because I own a full faced but if you ask me, and I suppose you are if you are reading this then a full faced is the way to go.
examples – Arai, Shoei & Bell
Again, depends on what style of riding you do would depend on what type of helmet. If you are riding an R1 then it’s doubtful you’ll go for an open faced helmet just based on pure styling. If you are riding a big fat Harley then there is a chance you’ll prefer an open faced helmet because it looks cooler. Notice. It looks cooler. Not safer. If it’s safety you are after then this is certainly not the helmet you’ll choose. That being said, all helmets even open faced are subject to the same tests.
examples – Sparx, M2R, Shoei & LS2
What they’re made of?
The shell is either plastic, kevlar, fibreglass or a mixture of them all or other materials mixed in. Cost wise goes some where around $50 to $1200+.
I’ll split the helmet into 2 levels with a rating from 1 to 5.
Abrasion resistance(AR), which is if you slide along the road then the helmet doesn’t wear away. Then there is Impact protection(IP), if you come off and you hit your head then helmets will have protection to save you from blunt force trauma to the head.
Plastic. You don’t have to be a scientist to figure out that the protection of a “plastic” helmet isn’t great, granted it’s not made of the same material that you get when getting a firemans helmet from a toy store but it’s not far off. Imagine getting hit in the head with a sledge hammer. What do you want to save you? Plastic? Yeeeeaah… No. AR – 1 IP – 1.
Let’s move on shall we?
Fibreglass. Better. High Impact Rating, meaning if you come off and hit your head on the road then this will protect you as it will spread the load of force over the helmet. It doesn’t have great abrasion rating though meaning if you slide down the road it will wear away, but better than nothing and better than plastic. AR – 2 IP – 4.
Kevlar. Great abrasion resistance, sliding down the road won’t wear it away but it doesn’t spread the load of force so your head will hurt. Probably a lot. Just sayin. AR – 4 IP – 2.
Composites. Meaning they may have a mixture of materials to protect you from danger. It’ll have Kevlar to protect you from sliding along the road, and fibreglass to spread the load of force throughout the helmet and a number of other products to bind them together and protect.
They can be expensive though. Brands like Arai or Shoei are Japanese and they’re handmade. Though, what’s the cost of saving you from brain damage or even saving your life. Reason I bought an Arai, is that it was comfortable and it was going to protect me while still being affordable.
Some helmets don’t have face shields and some do, a face shield is made of stuff you can see through and stuff that will save you from a rock through the eyeball simple as that. Think of a rock penetrating your ocular cavity then see if you can ride afterward.
Like the outside the inners can be made of different things too, usually styro with material covering. The big thing internally is shape and airflow. Airflow is needed when it’s either hot or cold, you don’t want to be all sweaty and gross on a hot day or sweaty and gross on a cold day.
Comfort. Your head shape is different to mine like it is different to your mates and everyone else. Obviously it’s costly to have a helmet made specifically for your head, so that’s most likely not an option. What is an option is trying helmets on. Wow. How smart am I! Ok I’m not that smart, someone told me when I was buying my helmet as I had my heart set on a Shoei. I had it on for 10 minutes in the store and it was uncomfortable, I then tried on an Arai and it fit like a glove. So my advice after over a thousand words is “Try it on!!” Wear it, wiggle it get advice from the store, get advice from multiple stores. What the sales rep tells you isn’t gospel, he wants to sell a helmet. You care about your head so care about your helmet. Spend a dollar, get a decent helmet.
I think that’s enough for now. There will be more posts in the future.
All to come…