You’ll want one because flip-fronts, also known as ‘System’ helmets, allow communication, without which those tricky ‘combien s’il vous plait’ Péage moments will either be muffled affairs or take twice as long while you fumble for the D-ring strap in winter gloved hands.
Flip-fronts should give you the best of both worlds – the safety of a full-face, with the ability to communicate quickly and easily – while also giving you the option of that ‘wind-in-your-stubble’ feeling.
How do I pick one?
Choosing a system helmet should follow the same basic rules of any helmet and that is to ensure the thing fits you properly. Any helmet isn’t going to do its safety job properly if it doesn’t fit you. So that means do be wary of buying a helmet from the internet, as you can’t try before you buy and fitting is as important (if not more so) than choosing a new pair of shoes.
Firstly, measure your head with a tape measure above your ears, with the tape going diagonally up to the forehead. In the UK lids are measured in centimetres, with sizes starting at XXS (51-52cm) up to XXL (63-64cm), but the majority stocked will be from XS to XL.
Just measuring your head doesn’t give you the perfect fit. Each manufacturer has a different feel on your head, with some being more roomy than others. Also, while you may be a large in an Arai, you may find you’re a different size in an AGV. Put the helmet on and do up the strap. Most straps will be the standard D-ring variety, but some use either a ratchet system or a car-seat-belt style fastener.
With the helmet on, make sure it fits across the entire head. You should be able to fit one or two fingers under the neck strap. Get someone to try and move the helmet left and right – your cheeks should fit snugly in the helmet and move with the helmet, which should be secure on your head and not rotate. Now do the same with a back and forward motion to ensure the helmet doesn’t come off.
If you worry about fitting yourself out with a flip-top lid, then ask for help at your local dealership. Many top brands have invested in training for staff at motorcycle dealers, while some – notably Shoei and Arai – have even got hand-picked selected retailers as their flagship dealers, where you can expect expert help on getting the right fit and lid for you.
Do realise that flip-front helmets will feel different on your head to a conventional full-face. Like a convertible compared to a normal car, strength for the shell itself has to come from other areas, so the fit may be tighter than you are used to in certain places, such as around your ears. Also, some flip lids will feature integral sun visors, so make sure they work and are in your line of sight and therefore doing their job.
A few words to the wise, while many manufacturers do a flip-lid, there is one famous brand that refuses to: Arai Helmets. The Japanese manufacturer stubbornly refuses to produce a flip-front on the grounds that it only wants to make the safest helmets and that flip fronts don’t offer that. It feels that safety is compromised, as many people wear these system helmets in the open position for much of the time, making them ineffective as a protective item – make them open face or full-face, says the Japanese firm.
Also, Arai feels the hinge systems can have potential design flaws. To our knowledge, the only flip-front manufacturer that has tested the lid in both open and closed positions is ROOF, as the chin-bar swings all the way to the rear of the helmet rather than staying on top of the head.
Despite these concerns, the Government’s SHARP helmet surveys do now test flip-front lids for their star-rating system, the latest results of which are available on www.direct.gov.uk/sharp. Again, buyer beware: there is much argument about whether or not the SHARP ratings are relevant, due to alleged flaws in the testing procedures. A government-backed initiative, SHARP was created to give consumers more information about buying lids over and above the baseline ECE 22.05 standard, producing a five-star rating system.
The UK importers for Arai are the most vocal when it comes to complaining against SHARP and the test procedures, as are some other manufacturers, so, you pays your money and takes your choice, but remember a perfectly fitted one-star lid will do the job better than an ill-fitting five-star one.