Even though we call ourselves MANIACS, we wear motorcycle helmets when riding our bikes and quads. As the saying goes, "we might be crazy, be we aren't stupid!" There are so many motorcycle helmets to choose from today, that we thought it might be helpful to devote an entire page to motorcycle helmet safety in an effort to aid in your selection.
There's really a debate within the motorcycle helmet industry on how strong and stiff a helmet should be to protect your brain. The stiffer a helmet is, the less able it may be to prevent a head injury in the kinds of crashes you're most likely to have. If the motorcycle helmets are too soft, it may not protect you in a high energy type crash. So what type of motorcycle helmet is just right? Great question! Tell us what kind of accident you're most likely to be involved in, and the answer will be much easier.
Motorcycle helmets have two main parts: the outer shell and the energy absorbing inner liner. The motorcycle helmet's inner lining is made of expanded polystyrene or EPS. This is the same material that is used to make coolers, foam coffee cups, and other packing material. Outer shells are made of two basic materials: fiberglass, carbon fiber and Kevlar or material such as ABS or polycarbonate which is the same material used in face shields and F-16 canopies.
The motorcycle helmet shell is supposed to protect against objects attempting to penetrate the EPS and also protects against abrasion or otherwise known as "road rash". The outer shell is what many of us pay most attention to since it is painted in numerous colors and graphics. The inner liner is the most important safety component however.
What to look for when buying a motorcycle helmet
So what safety components should you look for when buying a helmet? There are several safety rating services available for motorcycle helmets. There are actually at least four standards a street motorcycle helmet can meet. The safety entry point in the U.S. is DOT standard motorcycle helmets that every helmet sold here is legally required to pass. There is also the European standard which is accepted by more than 50 countries. There's the BSI 6658 Type A standard from Britain. And finally the Snell standard, which is a voluntary standard primarily used here in the U.S. The Snell standard is the most difficult standard to achieve for motorcycle helmet manufacturers.
So what does all of this mean for you? Rest assured Maniacs, all motorcycle helmets sold here in the U.S. have to at least pass the DOT standard in order for it to be legally sold. There is little debate over the fact that Snell rated helmets, must meet more rigorous "stiffness" testing in comparison to DOT ratings only. Again, there is a lot of debate in the industry on whether stiff motorcycle helmets are better in some types of crashes however.
In the end, wearing any DOT standard motorcycle helmet is much better than riding without. Full face motorcycle helmets are obviously much more protective as well than half motorcycle helmets, but in the end, you must decide which style is right for you!