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Buying a helmet? Look here first!!

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Looking for your first helmet, or buying one to replace your old or damaged helmet? Read through this to give yourself some ideas of what you want and need from a helmet.



Wearing a helmet is the only legal requirement in the UK for protective clothing while riding therefore we all have to buy one.


All helmets go through the same tests which they must pass to be legal to wear on the road in the UK. There are two helmet approval standards in use - BS 6658:1985 and UN ECE Regulation 22.05. Both of these standards ensure that all helmets on sale in the UK offer at least a minimum level of protection to the wearer in the event of an accident. However, there will always be some products that exceed these minimum requirements.


Below is what to look for when buying a helmet which proves it has passed these tests.


By law, you must wear a safety helmet when riding a motorcycle on the road. All helmets sold in the UK must

* Carry a BSI kitemark

* Comply with British Standard BS 6658 or the newer UN ECE 22.05 mark of approval


Helmets sold in the UK must have the UN ECE 22.05 mark of approval (or the BS 6658 1985 kitemark ) on the helmet or strap. Try and select one which also has an ACU gold sticker on it. (This means the helmet is good enough for racing on metalled surfaces)


The person selling you the helmet should be able to point out these marks for you.


Date Of Birth


All helmets have a date of birth. The average life span of a helmet is between 3 and 5 years. This was largely because of the effects of UV light in the (glass fibre) shells of older helmets -- today's polycarbonate technologies stand up to UV light much better; however, it still makes sense to buy as 'young' a helmet as possible. Although the helmet may never have been taken out of its box who knows what damage may have been caused with it rattling around in some stock room somewhere.




Seeing one you like and recognizing a well known name is not important at this stage. How well it fits you is what matters. Everyone has slightly different shaped heads and everyone requires and wants different things from their helmet.


It’s not worth wanting to emulate Valentino Rossi and buying a £500 race replica if no matter what size you try on your head it does not fit properly. This is no good and could cause more problems for you in an accident than solve. Accept it. You don’t have a head that is the right shape for that helmet.


I don’t have brand loyalty when it comes to choosing a helmet, but I wear a Shoei. The reason is that when I was looking for this helmet (My first one) I tried on 3 different makes. The first was an Arai. No matter which one I tried they all felt tight around my forehead and face yet had a lot of room at the back of my head. The 2nd was a Shark helmet. This one squeezed my head at the top but felt very loose at the bottom. After that I tried a Medium sized Shoei. It gripped everywhere but felt loose all round. I tried on a size Small and it felt perfect. It didn’t move on my head and didn’t feel loose at any part.


Once you know you have a helmet that fits your head then it’s down to which size to choose. A lose fitting helmet is no good. This could be dangerous in an accident and while riding. A helmet should be a tight fit (To the extent that it feels a size too small for you) round your whole head. Mine leaves lines on my face when I remove it… Not such a bad thing.


Even though this will help you when buying your helmet, if you are buying your first helmet please go somewhere where the shop assistant wants to find the right helmet for you and is not just trying to sell you one. If they are not willing to make sure it fits correctly, walk away. They are not interested in your safety and don’t deserve your money.


Which Style


Helmets come in different styles. Full Face, Flip Front and Open Face are the most popular.


Full Face, as the name suggests covers all your face and head, Flip Front helmets allow for the Chin guard and normally visor to fully lift, but when closed still cover your whole face and head. Open face as suggests have no chin guard and sometimes no visor.


It is widely regarded that full face helmets provide the best protection, not only in a crash, but also against, wind, weather and road debris that may be thrown up.


Thanks to technology advancing flip front helmets give crash protection sometimes just as well as full face helmets nowadays, but due to the extra hinge, and obvious gaps wind noise is increased.


Open face helmets will not protect against wind, weather, or debris. They are also not as effective in the event of a crash. Should you come down on your front then you stand a good chance of suffering serious facial injuries.




Again these have to be legal. The law states that only clear visors and lightly tinted visors should be used. I am sure you have seen loads of bikers with very dark and iridium (Mirror like) visors though. Yes these are illegal. Yes a policeman could give you a fine, but a bit of common sense, not being caught doing very silly things on your bike and politeness to the plod and you are likely to be let off with a warning at worst.


Common sense means don’t use a dark or iridium visor during darkness or poor light. If you know you are going to be riding home in the dark or you know it might get very dull or rain then have a clear one with you. In fact I would recommend you always keep a clear visor with you anyway.


Ride like an idiot and / or give a policeman grief then you give them a reason to use it against you will probably get you a fine for it. Ride safe and be polite when pulled and most won’t care…. Of course some police will have you for it no matter what!!




A lot of people buy a helmet and think nothing more of their head. After a week of riding I purchased ear plugs (No helmet stops all wind noise and wind noise will affect your hearing with prolonged exposure), a balaclava for winter (and later one for summer), and eventually I started using a pinlock on the inside of my visor after erm…. well… a minor mistake while fitting…. Read the instructions!!


At the end of the day it’s up to you which helmet, visor and extras you buy. What matters is that it fits well, is comfortable and is road legal.




Firstly never buy 2nd hand unless you really know and 100% trust the person you are buying from. Even then I would not recommend it. Once a helmet is dropped or damaged in an accident it needs replacing as a weak point will be in the helmet therefore making it dangerous to use. Even if you can’t see damage, it may be in there, so it is recommended not to buy a helmet if you don’t know its history 100%.


Go somewhere that wants to fit a helmet to you and not just sell you one. They should be interested in your safety and not just getting cash in the till. If they don’t care then walk away.


Never purchase a helmet you have not tried on…. As said above, if it does not fit right, it’s no good.


The Little Things


So you have found a road legal helmet, which fits your head perfectly. Check the little things before you buy though.


Is the visor easy to lift up with a gloved hand?

Is the visor easy to remove and put back on?

Can you easily fasten the strap and unfasten it. Until you get use to a Double D system it can be awkward to do and you can’t see what you are doing with it.

Has it got enough vents to keep you cool in summer?

Can you easily operate the vents with a gloved hand?

Does it have a pinlock or anti fogging system?




Helmets don’t take too much looking after. Obviously they get dirty and need to be cleaned. I would recommend you clean your lid and visor at the end of the day when you have used it. Fresh dead flies are easier to clean off than 24 hour old dead flies!!


Shops and some people will tell you that to clean dead flies and dirt off your lid you will need some clever cloth and spray, but a wet kitchen towels, a bit of elbow grease followed by drying it all off will work just as well.


A lot of helmets have removable liners nowadays which can be hand cleaned as well. Always read the instructions on cleaning though and make sure you know how to put it all back together again!!


Lastly I would not recommend leaving your helmet in direct sunlight when not in use... This will affect the strength and lifespan of it.



Please note this is only a guide and you should consult people who have a lot of experience and/or training in this matter.


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