The helmet is the #1 piece of safety gear you should invest in if you’re getting into the motorcycle lifestyle. In the old days, you could get away with wearing just any old shell, but now it’s not so easy, and it’s for your own good. According to Republic Act No. 10054, “All motorcycle riders, including drivers and back riders, shall at all times wear standard protective motorcycle helmets while driving, whether long or short drives, in any type of road and highway.” As cool as it may look to ride without a helmet a la Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible: Fallout, the truth is that you’ll never be as cool as Tom and the real world isn’t Hollywood. If you crash without a helmet, you will either die or be grievously injured.
Fortunately, modern helmets are very stylish and come packed with features. Far from the flimsy, leather head covers of the old days, today’s helmets are comfortable, increasingly safe, and come in all sorts of styles to suit your preference.
Choose Your Style
Choosing your first helmet is an important part of getting into the biker lifestyle. There are several styles to choose from, each of which goes well with a particular kind of rider.
- Full face : the safest kind since it has a chin bar to protect your mouth from impacts, a clear or tinted face shield, and may also include a smaller, flip down sun visor.
- Open : airier and looks good to match the cruiser and café racer lifestyle, but doesn’t provide protection from dust, wind blast, insects, and stone chips. Not recommended for highway riding, but quite practical for short errands.
- Half: a fearless, devil-may-care statement favored by cruiser riders, but it offers the least head protection.
- Modular: when you can’t decide between a full face or a half. With detachable chin bars and shields, you can setup your helmet for the demands of your ride.
- Dual Sport: ideal for adventure/tourers. A built-up, full face with a removable peak visor.
- Enduro/MX: designed to be worn with goggles, this features a peak visor to protect your eyes from glare while you ride through the trails.
Check the Safety Stickers
Style statement aside, you should pay close attention to the safety certification stickers at the back, because these will tell you exactly how safe these are.
The 3 main certification stickers are:
- DOT : Set by the US Department of Transportation, the DOT rating is the federal standard FMVSS 218. This is the most “basic” of standards and tests a helmet’s retention system, field of vision, penetration resistance, and impact test. A DOT sticker is the minimum standard you should look for in a helmet.
- ECE: Standards set by the Economic Commission for Europe, more than 50 countries in Europe use this multinational standard. The current standard is ECE 22.05, in which an independent lab must actually test every helmet model before it is certified. ECE-certified helmets must withstand penetration testing with a peak acceleration of 275 Gs, as well as allowing for abrasion resistance. When you crash at high speed, you want the surface of the helmet to give a bit and attenuate the kinetic energy rather than stay rock solid and transfer the forces to your head and neck. ECE testing also measures helmet deformation under progressive load, while the retention system and attachment points are tested to resist failure up to a certain point. Straps and quick releases are tested for durability.
- SNELL: SNELL-certified helmet underdo the most rigorous testing and are favored by racers and track riders. Named after William “Pete” Snell, a sports car driver who died of head injuries when his helmet failed to protect his head, the Snell Memorial Foundation conducts independent testing for high performance helmets. Snell subjects each helmet to a battery of tests that simulate high speed crashes, including drop heights of 3.06 and 2.3 meters, five anvil shapes, and various velocities. Snell also conducts penetration testing on both helmet shells and visors
How much do these things cost?
In this day and age, you can get a decent, DOT/ECE-certified helmet for anywhere for less than P7,000.
The Bell Qualifier (P6,350) features excellent padding and aerodynamic shaping for smoother airflow and is designed to be an all-around, everyday helmet.
Moving up the range, you can expect better insulation and more premium padding over the budget brands. The Bell Bullitt (P24,200), for example, sports retro style and a plush micro-suede interior fabric with leather trim. For those who like the café racer/cruiser lifestyle, open face and half helmets will help you capture that devil-may-care look, but don’t go too fast because there’s nothing to protect your mouth in a high speed impact. The Bell Rogue (P15,150) is a modular helmet with a removable chin bar for some protection.
On the other hand, the Bell MX9 Adventure MIPS (P13,350) is an excellent helmet for longer rides with its wide field of view, removable peak visor, and excellent padding.
When sizing your helmet, it should be snug but not constrictive. Some helmet shapes can feel tighter than others, so don’t take their S, M, L, and XL sizing at face value. Go to the store and actually wear the helmet to see if you’re comfortable, particularly around the ear area. If you’re going to attach a Bluetooth device like a Sena, check that there’s enough clearance for the unit. Put the visor down and check for distortion; the view should be clear! Inspect the retention system and gently tug to see if it’s wiggling where it shouldn’t. Finally, check the internal padding for any loose stitching or panels.
A helmet for every mood
It’s a good idea to have more than one helmet if you ride a lot. Switching helmets every other day gives them a chance to air out and minimize that icky, funky smell. You can also mix and match helmets with your bike(s) to fit your mood.
Words: Andy Leuterio
Photo: Nica Vasquez