When you’re riding a motorcycle, nothing is more important than your safety. Because of this, it’s now a law in most states for the rider to wear a helmet at all times. However, there are no restrictions in terms of what types of helmet you have to wear.
But if you’re new to riding, then you may be wondering what type of motorcycle helmet should I use? There are times when this will really boil down to personal preference, however, there are many factors that you will need to take into consideration that will help you to pinpoint which style will work for you based on how you ride when you ride, what time of year you ride, weather conditions, comfort, and more.
I’ve created this guide to show you the pros and cons of each type of helmet option out there so you can choose the best model based on where you’re headed and when.
How to Stay Safe
There’s no doubt that the motorcycle helmet is the most important piece of safety gear that you’ll wear when you’re riding your bike. Each year, motorcycle helmets will save an estimated 2000 cyclists, not to mention the 700 lives that could’ve been saved if the motorcyclist had been wearing a helmet at the time of an accident.
As I mentioned earlier, most states these days will require cyclists to wear a helmet at all times. However, this law does not apply to every state. But even if you live in a state that doesn’t require you to wear a helmet when you ride you still should. A helmet can save your life, can prevent serious injuries, and will keep you safe on the road.
With so many helmets to choose from, how can you choose the right one based on where you ride and when? What time of year do you ride? Or even a helmet that will be comfortable to wear depending on the weather? Below, you’ll find a list of the different styles to choose from, which should help you make an informed decision regarding the type of helmet you’ll need the next time you ride.
There are six main types of motorcycle helmets to date:
- Open face
However, there are many other different styles available that feature a combination of some of these styles.
Full-Face- Best Choice for Cross Country Travel
Let’s say you’re planning a trip this summer to ride across the country with your buddies, going through several states. During this time, you may encounter dust storms, high winds, rain, intense cold, and even intense heat.
It all really depends on where you’re going. You’ll also be prone to exhaustion since you’ll be riding your bike for several hours a day and you may even cover hundreds of miles at once without stopping.
If you’re looking for a safe helmet that you can rely on to provide this type of protection you need to get where you need to go safely, then there’s no better choice than the best full-face helmet. While some riders will argue that these helmets are not exactly the most comfortable, and some can cause you to sweat intensely in hot weather, these are the only helmets that will provide the type of protection you need in a serious accident.
These helmets offer the most coverage around the neck and head and are considered hands-down the safest type of motorcycle helmet you can buy, and one that will protect you from potential impact. The chin bar is the most distinguishing feature of this helmet and it’s what will keep you safe and it’s a feature that other helmets lack.
Additionally, this style of helmet is considered a very versatile choice and will work for most riders, especially those who ride daily or on long trips. The style of the full-face helmet tends to vary depending on the type of riding you normally do.
If you ride a sports bike then you’ll need to utilize a crouched riding position which means that you need a helmet that will not begin to lift off your head when you’re traveling at high speeds. Because of this, you’ll need a model that comes with both a visor and a chin bar.
The visor on these types of helmets are angled slightly forward toward the top. If you’re looking for a full-face helmet for long-distance travel then you need a helmet that will come equipped with a lower chin bar. This type of opening is more straightforward and direct.
Many of these helmets will come equipped with extensive ventilation systems found throughout the helmets in order to help reduce sweating and to prevent the visor from fogging up. They can also help to keep you cool while you’re riding, however, if you’re riding around in the summer months, then you may need to opt for a helmet that isn’t so bulky and heavy.
- Offers full protection
- Equipped with a chin bar
- Perfect for long trips
- Best choice for inclement weather
- Can cause excessive sweating
- Visor tends to fog u
Half Helmets-The Best Choice for Summer Riding
Obviously, even the best half helmet cannot provide nearly the same amount of protection that a full-face helmet can but if you’re riding around town, running errands, are going for a short joyride in the summer heat, then a half helmet can be the solution you need especially if you want to stay cool while you ride.
Unlike a full-face helmet, this style does not provide protection to the neck area since it lacks a chin bar. However, this style of helmet is very breathable in comparison to a full-face helmet so it will help to keep you cool while you’re riding around town.
Because these helmets only cover the top portion of your head and the area from your brows to your forehead, they provide minimal protection. There are some models on the market that will offer a little more coverage on the back of the neck or over the ears, still, these helmets still leave most of your face exposed.
While it’s true that these helmets provide better than average airflow, they offer significantly less protection compared to a 3/4 helmet or a full-face helmet, yet these helmets are DOT approved and street legal. Another issue is the fact that they don’t come equipped with a face shield or visor. This will require you to purchase a pair of riding goggles or glasses in order to protect the eyes from wind, rain, and flying dirt, and debris.
- Excellent airflow
- No chin bar
- Provides minimal protection
- No visor
¾ Helmet- Most Comfortable
Three-quarter helmets are a great choice if you’re looking for the most quiet and comfortable helmets you can wear for rides around town. Look for a helmet that comes equipped with a lightweight design and one that provides top-of-the-line breathability.
This type of helmet is also referred to as an open face helmet and they’re very popular among casual riders. These helmets are very recognizable since they lack a chin bar, however, this can significantly reduce the safety of the helmet, since it leaves your face fully exposed.
Yet, structurally speaking these helmets are considered equal to that of a face helmet in terms of the type of safety areas they can provide coverage to. These helmets are much lighter than full-face helmets because of the lack of the chin bar.
Additionally, since the face will be fully exposed the helmet will not provide any type of protection against the elements or flying debris. This can be very dangerous if you’re using this helmet to travel across the country.
Because of this, I do not recommend wearing a 3/4 helmet for anything other than casual rides around town, running errands, or a short joyride. However, if you are looking for the ultimate comfortable helmet then this style is a great option.
- Improved airflow
- Does not provide full protection in the event of an accident
- Does not protect the face from flying debris
Modular-Best Choice for the Daily Commuter
If you’re looking for a helmet that is a cross between a half helmet and a full-face helmet than a modular helmet is a great option. This model will be perfect for the daily commuter in need of a helmet that comes equipped with both a visor that can flip up to open the front of the helmet for improved visibility and breathability, and a chin bar which can provide ultimate protection upon impact.
The materials used for the modular helmet are very similar to that of the full-face helmet. These helmets include a second internal visor for protection from bright light conditions, in addition to a large visor for eye protection. These helmets tend to weigh a little more than a full-face helmet, so they’re not a great choice if you’re looking for a lightweight model that won’t cause user fatigue.
The extra weight is all due to the large hinge design that allows you to flip up the front portion of the helmet. Because of the large hinge design and visor, the safety isn’t quite as comparable to that of the full-face helmet, however, the ability to flip up the front portion of the helmet will keep you cooler when you’re stuck in traffic and need a breather. If you need to upgrade the visor on your modular helmet or purchase a different visor for day or night riding, click here to read my guide on how to select the right visor for your motorcycle helmet.
- Better breathability compared to full-face helmets
- Many styles to choose from
- Noise-cancelling design
- Very heavy
Dual Sport Helmets Offer the Most Style
If you’re simply looking for the coolest motorcycle helmet, then a dual sport helmet can fit the bill. This type of helmet is a mix between a full-face helmet and an off-road helmet. The exterior of the helmet and its style are similar to that of an off-road helmet and it comes equipped with a lower chin bar and a larger visor, however, it also comes with more interior padding, which makes it more comfortable than your standard full-face helmet. These helmets are meant to be a halfway point between each of these styles which is why they’re designed for both off-road and on-road use.
They also tend to provide more eye protection than the visor on a full-face helmet. However, this visor can also snap up and you can opt to use a pair of riding goggles instead. The visors on these helmets are considered very aerodynamic and because of this, it will not lift in the wind like an off-road helmet visor will.
Additionally, the chin tension bar does not protrude as much as the chin bar on an off-road helmet. Because of this, there is improved soundproofing, yet you won’t enjoy great airflow. However, if you often prefer to mix up the type of riding you do from day to day, then this type of helmet is a great option.
Have the visor placed in the down position when you’re riding on the street, then lift it up once it starts to get hot and don some riding goggles so you can enjoy the feel of wind on your face.
- Chin bar
- Can cause sweating in high temperatures
If you’ve been wondering “what type of motorcycle helmet should I use?” now you know how to choose a style based on the type of weather conditions you normally ride in, how far you ride in a day, the time of day and year you ride, and where you’re headed. There is a variety of helmets to choose from, and often, the choice will be heavily dependent on rider comfort.
However, safety should be the most important factor when it comes to determining which model will work the best for you and meet your riding needs. Remember, when you’re taking a longer trip, or riding across the country, safety should be your main priority.
If you’re looking for a helmet you can use daily, for commuting, then a modular helmet can be a great alternative. Many models of helmets on the market are DOT approved, which means they will have undergone testing to determine how safe or unsafe they are.
This will give you confidence the next time you’re shopping around for a new model and will allow you to choose a helmet that’s comfortable, breathable, and one that works for your riding style and personal preference.