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Are you shopping for a new helmet? Are you also looking to keep your noggin fog-free and not spinning after an impact? Check out our tips before purchasing your next helmet, because there's much more that goes into that decision than just the graphics and the price tag.
Helmets are sized based on the circumference of a rider's head. Companies generally classify their sizes between extra-small, small, medium, large and extra-large, with a measurement in inches or centimeters indicating the appropriate head circumference for each size. For example, a size medium helmet is usually for riders with a head circumference of 57-58cm, or 22 1/2" to 22 3/4". However, not all heads are shaped the same, nor are all helmets built on the headform, so trying a helmet on in person is the best way to guarantee adequate fit.
Helmets are available with plastic, composite, or carbon fiber outer shells. These different shells materials will affect the helmet's overall strength along with the weight. Also, most models use at least two different foam densities, or multi-stage densities inside to absorb and disperse impacts. The different densities of foam are meant to take on different levels of forces during impacts, along with being different for forces taken from the outside of the helmet versus the ones made by your head pushing against the inside of the helmet.
The most important thing in a full-face helmet is proper fit. Most helmet manufacturers use a different headform when making their helmets, so some models may fit some heads better than others. Physically trying on a helmet at your local shop is the best way to ensure optimum fit, however, most online retailers provide detailed sizing information to help find the model best suited to a rider's head.
Next, look at the available safety features. Helmet technology has come a long way recently, and many helmets use cutting edge safety technology. In the motocross world for instance, rotational energy dispersion has become the latest push. This has brought about the use of MIPS, 6D's Omni-Directional system, and Bell's FLEX technology, all with the goal of lessening the forces placed on the head during a rotational impact.
Another thing to consider is the safety standards of the helmet. DOT (Department of Transportation) certification is the most common safety standard, which signifies a helmet passes the federal government's standards for a motorcycle helmet. On the higher end of the scale is Snell certification, which is based off higher impact forces and other more stringent tests. In recent years however, some companies and advocates have pointed out that the Snell tests are based around the higher speeds and forces involved in street bike crashes. Because of this, more companies are adopting Europe's ECE certification. Although it's also a street-based test, many feel as if the wider range of testing and the versions of the tests better suit the rigors that motocross riders will face.
Other features, such as cheek pad and liner removal, replacement visors, goggle fitment area, and ventilation are things to consider when making a decision.
Full-face helmets range in price from $100 to $750.
In the $100-$200 range there are many models available which use either plastic or composite shells and generally have two types of foam inside.
Moving up to helmets in the $200-$450 range, many composite models become available from most brands. This range incorporates superior safety and comfort technologies, as well as more refined paint schemes and advanced shell designs that make them well worth the extra money.
The $450 and above range of helmets mostly use carbon fiber shells to reduce weight. They also include the most cutting-edge safety features such as multiple densities of foam, higher quality liners, quick removal systems, and even some sort of rotational-energy dispersion system. These are the best-of-the-best, so they command the highest price tag. Although, you shouldn't just buy the most expensive helmets because of its features if it doesn't fit your head right.
Before buying, be sure to do your research and read product reviews. Reviews are a great way to find out specifics about a particular model, user impressions, and things to watch out for. After you've purchased a product and had enough time to thoroughly test it, we encourage you to leave a review for other people to see when they are researching bikes and parts on the web.
We hope you've found this information to be helpful. If you have a question that isn't answered in this guide, the Vital MX Forum is a great place to get advice from knowledgeable riders.