Helmet Hints & Tips

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Helmet Fit

The best helmet for you is the one that fits you best. A good helmet should be snug but comfortable. This is one item which you may not want to buy online. It is recommended that you go to your local shop and try some on. When you find one that you like, wear it around the store for as long as you can. Make sure it doesn't push painfully anywhere on your head, or that there aren't any pressure points. Also, do the following tests: After you tighten the strap, pull on the helmet from side-to-side. Does it go easily down in the direction of your shoulders? Too big. Next, grab underneath the chin and pull it back and forth. Can you pull it up past your nose or eyes, or, worse yet, to your forehead? Time to try a different model or a smaller size. There is a good demonstration of these tests at the Scorpion helmet size page.

Only buy a helmet that you know you'll wear all the time. If it isn't comfortable, and you aren't wearing it, it won't protect you.

Helmet weight really isn't all that important, but helmet shape is. The webBikeWorld Helmet Weights Comparison Chart shows both the shapes and sizes of various helmets. This should give you an idea of which helmets have the same basic shape, and which are differently-shaped from others.

Don't forget to try on helmets that might be much larger or smaller than what you think you wear. In reality, they could fit the same because there are no standard helmet sizes. Everybody makes up their own size standards, and they don't even stick to their own rules. There is sometimes a good bit of difference between different models of the same brand. You have to just keep trying on different makes and models.

Helmet fit video from Jay Leno's garage.

Helmet Funk

It's no news to most people that the inside of a helmet will get just a bit stinky after a time. If you don't have removable cheekpads/liner (and many don't) Febreze is recommended to take away some of the smell and make you civilized again.

Next time you're in the market for a helmet, look for one with a removable, washable liner. Many are made that way nowadays.

One of our admins has had good luck with Motorex Helmet Care.

Another suggestion is to take a shower with your helmet. Well, not literally. Just turn the helmet upside down in the sink, fill it with lukewarm water, and add a squirt of shampoo (anti-bacterial is better). Press and release the foam padding, as the funky smell is sweat and oil in the foam and liner that is being decomposed by bacteria. Rinse thoroughly, again pressing the foam inside until all soapy residue is gone. Do not use hot water. Then drain, squeezing out excess water by pressing the foam with your hand. Wad up a towel and fist it around inside the helmet to absorb excess moisture. Set the helmet either on top of a fan, or in front of a fan, so cool air will blow directly through it. Let it sit overnight, and it should be sufficiently dried. Do not dry it with warm air, such as from a hairdryer. That can get warm enough to alter the energy absorption characteristics of the liner, which is basically foam rubber and styrofoam. Lukewarm washing and cool drying is the key.

Something else that works well is a big plastic "floor" fan that can be tilted from straight forward to straight up. You can regularly dump your helmet and gloves, or other riding gear, on top of this fan and turn it on for 30 minutes or so. This helps prevent it from getting funky in the first place.

For funk prevention, Dan Borgeson (link below) suggests putting wadded-up newspaper inside the helmet when it's sitting on the shelf between rides. (And no, the online NY Times won't work.)

For helmet cleaning and care instructions, go to HJC Helmet Care or the Scorpion Product Care site.

A word about the shield

The shield (visor) is an integral part of the safety features of your helmet. You should always ride with it down, and if it breaks or scratches badly, replace it. You may want to lift it a notch or two if it is fogging, especially at stoplights, but don't get in the habit of riding with it up. It will protect your face, along with keeping those bugs out of your eyes.

A good visor is another thing that makes a full-face helmet so much better than a hawg hat or scooter yarmulke.

Helmet1.jpg Crash044.jpg

Defogging inside the visor

If you have a problem with condensation building up inside your shield, see here.

Decreasing noise & cold air flow

The Windjammer II inserts around the bottom of your helmet and keeps unwanted noise and airflow out. Read the review at webBikeWorld.

How do I keep rain from building up on my visor?

If you're riding at a decent rate of speed, turning your head to the side will help clear the rain off your shield. This method doesn't always work at low speeds, or in conditions where road grime is present (which is most of the time). This is why we recommend the VeeWipe Squeegee from Aerostich. This is a wiper blade that attaches to one of the fingers of your glove. It includes three sizes and will fit on most gloves.

There are several other popular methods:

  • Rain-X makes a special formula for use on plastic. Reportedly, Rain-X standard glass formula is not good for plastic.
  • You can use Nu Finish (car wax like stuff) or Lemon Pledge. You have to reapply Pledge more often, but it gives your riding environment a nice, clean smell, especially handy in cow country. They both do the same thing - keep water vapor from collecting, and allow water to bead up and roll off more quickly. When you go faster than 50mph, and then turn your head sideways, all the water goes shooting off the side of the visor in a fraction of a second.
  • Use Novus plexiglass polish on your windscreen and face shields. It beads up pretty nicely. A turn of the head this way and that and the water rolls right off.

How much will a helmet cost?

Helmet prices are largely a 'you get what you pay for' proposition: The more expensive ones usually give you better protection, and are lighter, have better venting, offer removable padding (for cleaning), and so on. But a good full-face street helmet from a reputable company that has both DOT and Snell approval will still only cost you in the neighborhood of one to three hundred dollars, and will have enough features to keep most of us happy.

Dale Borgeson has some good helmet info at his touring website.

The webBikeWorld Motorcycle Helmets page is also a good source of information.