Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Motorcycle Helmet Reviews and Buying Guide


Sport bike riders have some of the most colorful and varied choices in motorcycle helmets. Your sport is technical, on the edge and fast. With high speed comes increased risk (just ask your insurance agent ;-). Maximum protection is essential. You don't just want a fast bike, you want a motorcycle helmet that looks fast too.
The best choice here is a Full Face Helmet for a couple of reasons. You get the increased protection of the chinbar and cool tinted face shields are available to customize the look.
Consider the ventilation system on a full face helmet. High quality helmets have close fitting shields and snug padding around the bottom to minimize wind noise. The tradeoff to that is that it promotes fogging. Manufacturers attempt to avoid this by installing breath deflectors at the top of the chin bar.
The best ventilation systems incorporate air ducts in the styrofoam safety liner to pull hot air away from your scalp.
If you can, get a face shield system that has a handy tool free design. Most of the mid to high end helmets have this feature.

Examples of SportBike Helmets

High End: Shoei RF-1000 Strife Helmet - Legendary for quality and fit. This Shoei is an example of just how extreme some of the graphics can get at this price point. Expect to pay $350 - $550 for an RF1000, but there are even more expensive lids from Shoei, Arai, Suomy and others.
Shoei RF-1000 Strife Helmet
Shoei RF-1000 Strife Helmet
Mid Range: HJC CL-15 Mutant Helmet - Extremely popular, lightweight and the BEST shield change mechanism make this one of the best street helmet values on the market in my opinion. Expect to pay $150-$300 for a helmet in this range.
HJC CL-15 Mutant Helmet
HJC CL-15 Mutant Helmet
Entry Level: KBC Tarmac Hammerhead Helmet - There are plenty of fine quality and good looking helmets if you're on a budget. Consider the KBC Tarmac for example. For UNDER $150 retail you get a DOT and Snell certified helmet with way-cool graphics. KBC did something really smart when they designed the Tarmac. They carried over the shield and ratchet system from the VR-2 race helmt. To me that makes the KBC Tarmac a really smart choice. Speaking of KBC, if you wear a KBC you may want to check out my KBC Helmet Visors page.
KBC Tarmac Hammerhead Helmet
KBC Tarmac Hammerhead Helmet
At all price points in street helmets, look for closeouts . With ever-changing graphics, distributors have to clear out last year's inventory to make room for the new stuff.
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Touring and Commuting

For touring duty you need above all long lasting comfort in your motorcycle helmet. A full face design is not necessary, especially if you're sitting comfortably behind the screen of a Honda Gold Wing or Harley Electra Glide.
Besides, that chinbar will be in the way when you get ready for a drink of your favorite beverage that's probably sitting in your cup holder. :D
An open face helmet works great for touring and they are available in Snell certified models. The open face design makes it easier to install speakers and microphones for communication and entertainment.
I might go either way in choosing a motorcycle helmet for commuting. If you're a hardcore commuter you'll be out in all kinds of weather and in that case a full face helmet is in order. The open face would make it practical to take in that cup of coffee on the way to work though. Daily wear demands comfort and no nonsense design in either case.
There is an alternative to both the full face and open face motorcycle helmets. The modular or flip-up helmet combines the safety of a full face helmet and the convenience of an open face. Modular helmets are not eligible for Snell certification, so no matter what you pay you'll be getting DOT certification only.

Examples of Touring Motorcycle Helmets

Modular: HJC Sy-Max II Modular Helmet - HJC always comes to mind when I think of touring helmets. The Symax II is their version of a flip-up lid. It's in the mid price range at about $200 - $275.
HJC Sy-Max II Modular Helmet
Open Face: HJC AC-3 Carbon Helmet - A classic design in an open face helmet. Around $150 (the carbon fiber model shown is actually $250+) but you can usually find it on sale for $135.
HJC AC-3 Carbon Helmet
HJC AC-3 Carbon Helmet
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Cruisers and Customs

There's definitely nothing wrong with wearing any of the previously discussed motorcycle helmet designs while riding your cruiser or custom styled bike. As a matter of fact I do it all the time. I don't however, claim to exhibit the most cutting edge style either. :0
For cruising, most of you will be looking for a minimal lid, just enough to get by the sharp eye of Mr. State Trooper. A lot of cruisers will resort to wearing a novelty or beanie helmets, but please don't. My brain is worth more than $20 to me, is yours?
Cruiser helmets give up protection for the ears and cheeks and represent the minimum protection in a motorcycle helmet. Some do come with a zip off neck curtain to cut down on wind noise and help keep your ears warm.

Examples of Cruiser Motorcycle Helmets

The smallest, lowest profile helmet to meet DOT certifications that I know of is the Skid Lid Original Helmet .
Skid Lid Original Helmet
Skid Lid Original Helmet with Flames
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Dirt Bikes

Distinctive styling and single purpose design sets dirt bike helmets apart from the rest. Instead of having a face shield, these lids usually have a place for goggle straps. Almost all have a baseball cap type visor.
Colors and graphics are almost unlimited in Motocross helmets. Look for replicas of your favorite racer's helmet, but expect to pay more for the trick look.

Examples of Dirt Bike Helmets

High End: - Arai VX-Pro III Milsap Replica Helmet features a Hypershark II peak with adjustable forced-air intakes and fully removable/replaceable Dry-Cool� liner. At around $450, this is for the serious racers only. But this thing definately looks HOT!
Arai VX-Pro III Milsap Replica Helmet
Arai VX-Pro III Milsap Replica Helmet
Mid Range: - Get great bang for the buck in the mid range in dirt bike helmets. Fox Racing doesn't cut corners on their gear and the helmets are no exception. They have a very affordable and killer looking line called the V-1. Fox Racing V-1 Razor Helmet is pictured below. It's right smack in the middle of the mid-range at about $160 retail.
Fox Racing V-1 Razor Helmet
Fox Racing V-1 Razor Helmet
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