What you need to know before buying an Adventure-Style Helmet

Martin Brown, Director at motorcycle clothing and accessories store Bike Stop in Stevenage answers your questions about helmets in general…

Martin Brown, Director at motorcycle clothing and accessories store Bike Stop in Stevenage answers your questions about helmets in general…

Martin Brown
Martin Brown of Bike Stop

Q. Is it true that you get what you pay for with helmets and if they all pass safety standards isn’t a £60 lid going to be just as effective as a £300 one when the time comes for it to do its job?

A: Some helmets will pass the European EC22.05 standard by just a ‘whisker’ and others will far exceed it. There’s also the government-run ‘SHARP’ test which assesses helmets and rates them on a scale of 1-5 stars (www.sharp.direct.gov.uk). The US standard is Snell and some top-level lids will pass both EU and US standards.

Other factors that affect the price will be the quality of the components used, the additional features such as drop-down sun-visors, the ability to change/remove cheek and crown padding and the inclusion of an anti-fog visor.

The materials used to make the shell will also play a large part in the final price, plastic will be the most basic, then fibreglass/composites and as you move up the price range there’s the addition of Kevlar or even helmets made of pure carbon. It really is the most important piece of kit that you buy and should be a significant part of your budget and there’s certainly some truth in the saying you get what you pay for.

Q. What are the main things I should look for when buying a helmet?

A: The first thing you should look for is the EC22.05 approval! It’s also strongly recommended that you never buy a used helmet as you don’t know its history. It is also worth noting that some lids are designed to fit the standard head shape of the region that they’re sold in (US, Europe or Asia) so it’s important to make sure that you’re buying from an authorised dealer. Then getting a comfortable and correct fit is crucial.

Even the most expensive product will not be effective in the event of an accident if it does not fit correctly. Not all lids have the same internal shape and all heads are shaped differently so the key is to try a number of different ones on to ensure both the size and fit are correct. Some helmets have removable cheek and crown padding allowing thinner/thicker ones to be fitted to get the best fit possible. Finally, once you’ve decided on the one for you, it’s important to leave it on for at least 10 minutes to make sure its comfortable for a longer period of time.

Q. If I drop my helmet is that game over? Do I need to buy a new one?

Getting the right size is crucial

A: This is a tricky question that we often get asked. The bottom line is, as we have already said, a helmet is your most important piece of safety equipment. You’ve invested significant money into it – do you want to compromise that protection in any way? We can check it to see just how much damage has been done to the shell and the liner but it’s often then subjective and ultimately has to be your decision. Most manufacturers say that any impact renders the helmet unusable. In more severe cases, like an actual accident when the impact is harder, it is normally easier to see damage to the EPS (expanded polystyrene) liner as it’s normally painted black and any damage shows as white.

Q. Is there anywhere I can get my helmet checked over to make sure it’s still going to do its job right?

A: Yes, we (Bike Stop) are trained by all the suppliers of helmets that we sell (for example we are a ‘Arai DNA Centre’ and ‘Shoei Assured Dealer’) and happy to help. Some manufacturers offer a specific service period where a customer can return the helmet to us for up to 5 years for regular inspection and/or maintenance. To try and help we also carry a large stock of spare parts and if we don’t have it in we’re able to order quickly from the suppliers.

Q. What’s the average lifetime of a helmet? When should I buy a new one?

A: The key factor is the life of the EPS (expanded polystyrene) liner which deteriorates between 2-4% a year, so after 5 years that could be as much as 20%! The linings, cheek pads and straps can also become worn or worn out and clearly with high mileage users this will happen more quickly. Most manufacturers say the life is 5 years and many will come with a 5-year warranty, but it can range down to around 2 years. As we have said, in some helmets, the linings can be replaced and we can do that in-store, but with straps in particular these would have to be returned to the supplier for replacement.

Q. When I’m in the shop deciding on a helmet, how do I ensure that I’m getting the helmet that fits my head best? Is there a procedure I can do to check the fit of the helmet?

And the right fit

A: We are trained to help but even before you ask us, the fit wants to be ‘snug’ but comfortable. The cheek pads should be pressing firmly on your cheeks and there should be no discomfort anywhere. The padding is all brand new and will only bed in overtime so it’s important to be right from the start. We always then ask our customers to hold their heads still and we try and firmly rotate the lid left/right, up/down to make sure that only very minimal movement of the helmet is possible with the head staying still.

Q. What are the benefits of a peak on an adventure helmet, especially if the helmet has an integral sun visor?

A: The benefit of the peak is to try and give shade to the eyes versus the sun-visor, which works more like a traditional pair of sunglasses. We have met customers that appear to be particularly light-sensitive and they need this additional help. There’s also a certain style to these adventure helmets though and that’s then down to personal choice!

Q. Are there any differences in women’s helmets, or are they just smaller shells?

A: There are actually only a very limited number of helmets designed specifically for ladies. Our example is Schuberth where they account for what they call, a ‘slightly smaller, narrower facial structure’, anti-bacterial microfibre interior prevents staining from make-up and a size range down to XXS.

Bike Stop has over 30 years of experience in the world of motorcycle clothing and accessories. With a wide range of helmets in stock and regularly trained and knowledgeable staff on standby it’s an excellent place to visit if you’re looking to buy a new lid. For more information visit www.bikestop.co.uk/ask