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Choosing Your First Motorcycle Helmet - Buyers Guide

We all had to start somewhere… and if you’re starting out in the world of riding motorbikes you’ll probably be asking a lot of the questions we’re about to answer in this article (aslong as those questions are about choosing a helmet). At LDMotorcycles.co.uk we hear from a lot of beginner riders on our contact channels asking all sorts of question about helmets so we decided to put together a guide to help you choose your first helmet and bring you up to speed on the topic of helmets, so whether you’re getting your first 50/125 or going straight for a bigger machine then read on and get clued up on helmets before you spend out.

Safety First

First things first – Safety – If you didn’t already know (you probably should though), a helmet is the only piece of kit you legally have to wear while riding a motorcycle on the public highway although just because we like to do things differently that doesn’t mean we promote riding butt naked with nothing but a helmet. This doesn’t mean you can grab any old lid and hit the roads because not all helmets are approved for road use, and in the UK the way to check is to look for a little sticker on the back of the helmet or inside the liner that says ECE 22.05 approved/or just ECE 22.05

NOTE: even though more and more motocross helmets are now ECE 22.05 approved the majority of off road helmets are not suitable for road use since the difference in crashes that occur on road and off road so always double check if you’re looking at getting an off road helmet to use on road.

Without going in to tonnes of detail about what ECE 22.05 is and means, it is basically a standard that was created in Europe to make sure manufacturers build helmets that meet a safety standard specified for on road helmets. (This won’t change with Brexit if you were wondering)

Now just because the ECE 22.05 standard exists and all road helmets have to meet it, it doesn’t mean all these helmets are equal in terms of safety and the protection they offer your head in a crash which we know might be obvious but with this post we want to make everything clear for all beginner riders. Legal requirements for road use helmets vary for different countries around the world using other approval systems and marks but we’ll focus on the UK for now.

You might have noticed the SHARP rating mentioned while browsing through helmets at LDMotorcycles.co.uk. SHARP (the Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme) is an independent helmet safety test funded and run by the UK government that puts ECE 22.05 certified helmets through extra rigorous testing to give us riders a better idea of the levels of safety different helmets can offer in ‘real world’ accidents. They test every helmet in the same way publishing the results on their website, and ever since they started they’ve come up with some pretty interesting results in terms of how safe some helmets actually are. Now you know the basics of what to look for and what could be helpful when you choose your first motorbike helmet, we can get in to the stuff that really helps you choose the perfect first helmet.

Riding Styles

Not everyone’s first bike is an S1000-RR track beast – so not everyones first helmet needs to be a track ready carbon fibre lid costing over £400. Seems obvious right? To explain this bit better we’ll break it down to two types of rider who might be starting out. 50s & 125s and Full Licence

50s & 125s

For all the riders reading this who’re about to join #bikelife on a 50 or a 125 then there a couple of popular helmet styles to choose from that you might be interested in (along with the standard full face helmet):

Flip Up

You might have seen them before, they look like a normal full face lid but you can press a button and pull the front of the helmet up so your face is out in the open. They’re a useful helmet since you can flip them up and go in to the shops without taking it off and because you won’t be going at high speed for long stretches of time e.g the motorway you can have it flipped up while you ride if the weather warms.

Adventure/Motocross

Since there’s a lot of supermoto 50s & 125s to choose from then getting a helmet to suit the bike can look good, and adventure helmets are the best crossover style of helmet for supermoto riders. They’ve got the aggressive shape of a motocross helmet along with a peak but also have a normal visor like a full face helmet so you don’t have to wear goggles. If you like the idea of getting a motocross helmet for the road then make sure to check since not all motocross helmets are ECE 22.05 certified. (TIP – always ride with goggles cause you never know what could hit in the eye while your riding around town)

Full Licence

If your first two wheels are going to be sat underneath a 600cc sports engine or even something a bit smaller or bigger then there’s some helmets that might suit your needs a bit better than others:

Full Face

You know what these are; a normal helmet that covers your head, face and chin generally offering the most protection from everything on the road along with wind noise, which is something that will affect you once you open your bike up and hit higher speeds.

Flip Up

Just like we mentioned for 50 & 125 riders the flip up helmet is a great style that can be pretty useful to riders, especially on bigger bikes when you might need a helmet that’s good for long high speed runs on the motorways and comfortable around town. If you’re thinking about doing a bit of touring then you may sometimes want to flip the front up to cool down or take in more of the view as you ride.
These are just a few of the options available that we reckon match what young beginners bikers need from their first helmet.

Selecting the right shell

When you’re looking at helmets it’s good to keep in mind that although there’s a lot of different graphics to choose from, each manufacturer will only use a few different shells in each style of helmet but this does depend on the size of the brand and what types of helmets they specialize in. Another thing that can help you choose the right helmet for you is the number of shell sizes available in the model you are looking at.

Every size of helmet doesn’t have it’s own shell size with most helmet models having about 2 shell sizes with a smaller on going from XS-M and a slightly bigger shell for sizes L-2XL. We recommend if your head is either an XS or a 2XL helmet size you should go for a model that has atleast 2 shell sizes since this means the overall shell will be closer to the size of your head and not over filled with padding liner to make up for the extra space or liners are minimized for the same reason, which could affect how well the helmet performs in a crash.


The Fit

The more expensive is it, the safer it is – That’s what most of us would think when looking at motorbike helmets but believe it or not that’s not always the way. Take a look through the SHARP helmet ratings and you’ll see the Viper RS-V9 scoring 4 out of 5 stars which is impressive for a £64.99 helmet. Out of the 403 helmets SHARP have tested 110 of them are minimum 4 stars and cost less than £150.

You might be wondering why the whole ‘higher price more safety’ rule doesn’t work in helmets and there are a couple of answers for this, like the fact that most of the higher priced helmets are designed for racing or tracks and the high speed crashes that come with tracks, which means the shells are more ridged and liners are denser to protect your head in a high speed crash although at lower ‘road’ speeds they can be too solid causing the shock to be transferred to your head and not through the layers of the helmet like they’re designed to. A lot of this is decided in the shell material that is used with some being more rigid than others.

(See our helmet shell materials post for more info).


When you slide you’re head into your new helmet the first check to do is how tight the helmet fits as they will usually be a bit uncomfortable at first and feel slightly tight but this is something that will wear in and get more comfortable. A good check to do for size fitting is to move the helmet left and right with your hand and ensure that the
front cheek pads touch your face and move the skin with the helmet, if the helmet moves freely from your face then you should go for a smaller size (which is easy with our free exchanges).


Finally when it comes to getting the right size and shape of helmet to keep you safe then this rule should always be kept in mind… Good Fit over Price 

No matter what the price of a helmet or even other people reviews; if it doesn’t fit your head shape closely all the way around or causes small pressure points then it’s not right for you. (Then you can take advantage of our free exchanges and pick another one)


Pricing

So just like when you see your dream bike at the dealership and you’ve made your decision… ‘let’s talk numbers’ Everyone has their own budget when they start riding (and if you don’t then you are one lucky rider) and since a lot of this budget’s usually swallowed up by the bike, insurance, tax etc it can leave you short when it’s time to get your helmet. But this definitely doesn’t mean you can’t find a good helmet that you like within your budget. Without repeating the whole price doesn’t equal safety stuff from above it’s good to know that if you do find a good value helmet that you like then you can either check if it has been SHARP tested yet and if not you can trust in the ECE 22.05 certification that it will keep you safe.

Like with everything in the world and motorbikes especially, the more features the higher the price which means if you are looking for a helmet with a couple extra creature comforts like a ratchet strap system or flip up front then you can expect to pay slightly more.

Another thing to consider if your budget is tight for your first helmet is whether you want a plain colour shell or one with a graphic design on it because this can generally add 10-20% to the price of a plain gloss or matt finished shell. With that in mind we wanted to point out what a lot of instructors will mention to first time bikers, which is that helmets with different colours and striking designs can help break up the scenery for other drivers and help them to see you from further away – Something to keep in mind.

At LDMotorcycles.co.uk we have a huge range of helmets from very reasonably priced brands who offer helmets with features and prices that suit new riders perfectly such as the Duchinni D705 Full Face that starts at £49.99 for a solid finish or £59.99 for the Synchro two-tone design. Another brand that’s gotten a lot of attention from first time buyers are 3Go helmets who are a value branch of Viper helmets, bringing simply designed and well priced helmets to the learner/first time rider market.

Features

Now that we’ve pretty much covered off all the important stuff you need to know on your search for your first helmet we thought it would be useful to give you some advice on some features of motorcycle helmets that come in handy for road riding. Some features are superior to others and some just depend on the type of riding you’ll be doing most as you start out as a biker so take a look at the list below and check them out:

Micrometric/Quick Release buckles

These helmet fasteners work a lot like a re-useable cable tie, you slot the toothed slide in to the buckle and it clicks in to each tooth until you reach the desired level of tightness then all you do is pull the buckle tab to release the other half and take your lid off. A huge plus of this feature is that it means you can fasten and un-fasten your
helmet with your gloves still on your hands unlike the double d-ring fastening which can be really fiddly if you want to get your helmet on and off more frequently.

Removable cheek pads

This isn’t the sexiest feature you can find on a motorbike lid and probably won’t excite you enough to choose one based on whether they have it or not, but give it a a few months of constant use and you’ll start to see why removable & washable cheek pads and liners can come in handy. Being able to remove the liners and wash them is a pretty standard feature in modern helmets but is a really useful on for when bad smells build up and you’ve got nowhere to escape them while you ride.

Integrated Sun Visors

After starting out as a feature on flip up helmets since the rider needs protection when the helmet is open you can now find drop down sun visors in most road helmets above the price of £70. They work using a small button or lever usually on the underside of the shell that when pressed deploys a tinted visor that covers your eyes only a lot like sunglasses, and is designed to stop the sun glare getting to your eyes and distorting your vision. A massive perk of this feature is that it means you won’t need to invest in a tinted outer visor for those sunny days and won’t need to carry a tinted and clear visor if you know you’ll be out riding as the sun sets and the roads get darker, which if you still have your tinted visor installed can make it super hard to see the road ahead.

Bluetooth/Stereo Ready

Although rare in the lower priced products there are some lids which offer modern features like Bluetooth ready systems pre-installed in the liner which can connect to your phone and allow you to listen to music or talk on the phone while you ride. A step down from Bluetooth ready are pre-installed Stereo speakers that can connect to any audio device using a jack lead letting you listen to music or navigation directions whilst you ride without any need for spending on an extra kit or using earbuds. Viper helmets are currently the only range at LDMotorcycles.co.uk that offer these features in their helmets, and you’ll be pleased to hear that they don’t break the bank either!

The Round-Up

Hopefully that past 2000+ words has given you as a first time rider some useful tips and advice that will come in handy when looking for your first motorcycle helmet. At LDMotorcycles.co.uk we are committed to not only pushing out high value products to older more experienced riders, but helping the younger learner or first time riders get a grip on what they should know about clothing and making sure that our range serves you products that fit in budget and look in trend. It’s impossible for us to answer every question in one post which is why we make it extra easy to get in contact with us and ask questions either over the phone, on WhatsApp or just by clicking the ‘Ask us a question’ button underneath the Add to Cart button on every product page.

 


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