Aug 15, 2011

8 Guide: How to Choose a Good Helmet in India

Useful tips on how to choose a motorcycle helmet.. in India

It’s not possible to distinguish between a good, bad and excellent helmet unless you have used a good quality helmet..

Till about 7-8 years back there were not many helmet options available in the market. But with the booming 2 wheeler sales, these days there are quite many available out there. And believe me most of them are of the “avoidable” type.

When I bought my first (Steelbird-Bieffe GP One) helmet, I did not know how to select a good helmet. In fact it was only after getting my second (Daijya) helmet that I learnt more about helmets. Sharing with you are some tips which I have learnt over the years on how to select the right Motorcycle Helmet in India.

    Tip 01. Choosing the Type of Helmet
    Tip 02. Choosing the Color
    Tip 03. Choosing the Right Size
    Tip 04. Checking for Safety Standards
    Tip 05. Checking the Outer Shell & Inner EPS foam
    Tip 06. Checking the Padding
    Tip 07. Checking the Straps
    Tip 08. Checking for Correct Fit of the Helmet
    Tip 09. Checking the Face Shield
    Tip 10. Choosing the Type of Face Shield
    Tip 11. Replacing the Helmet

Tip 01. Choosing the Type of Helmet

Even if our "desi" motorcycles are still basically commuters, there are a few which at least mimic some specialized types of motorcycles with some degree of honestly. For example motorcycle like Yamaha R15, Ninja 250R mimic "Super Sports" motorcycles, Honda CBR250R, Karizma ZMR mimics "Sports Tourers", Bajaj Avenger mimics "Cruisers", and models like Bajaj Pulsar and Yamaha FZ call themselves as "Street Fighters". So depending on the type of motorcycle that one owns, one can now also match the type of Helmet.

Read about the different types of helmet here..

Tip 02. Choosing the Color

Bright colors and graphics are always the best choice as they stand out on the road. This is not just to show off but important from the safety point of view as well. Accidents usually take place when the biker is not properly visible to the drivers driving a car/4 wheeler.

Bright Vs Matt Black Color on Helmet

Colors like black (matt black) might look great and menacing but not the best when it comes to being visible to the car driver. A helmet with colors like white, yellow etc. improves the chances greatly of getting noticed by a car/4 wheeler driver.

Tip 03. Choosing the Right Size

Do you wear a jacket which is two sizes larger? No, right. In the same way getting the right size helmet is also very important. Apart from looking odd (stupid), a large size helmet would wobble/move around on your head. This is not a great thing as it could distract you from the ride. Also you don’t want the helmet to move around the head during a crash.

Never get a motorcycle helmet without making sure you have a proper snug fit (not too tight, and not too loose - just right). A smaller size would be uncomfortable to wear and a large size would not sit firmly over the head.

Good brands have sizes ranging from XS (extra small) to (extra extra large) XXL. When it comes to sizing, different brands can be slightly different; therefore do not shy away from trying out different sizes before settling for the right size.

Tip 04. Checking for adherence to Safety Standards

ISI Mark on Helmet

Motorcycle helmets are checked for its crash worthiness by agencies (like ISI in India). Motorcycle helmets manufactured in India have to get ISI certification; Americans have DOT and European have ECE 22.05 as the safety standards.

The ISI, DOT or ECE 22.05 mark is displayed at the back of the helmet. I would not advice to get a helmet that does not have any of these safety marks.

[P.S: I have seen motorcycle helmets which have some “ISO 9001” mark written at the back. I don’t think that ISO 9001 is a certification for motorcycle helmets at all]

Tip 05. Checking the Outer Shell & Inner EPS foam

Outer shell: The hard outer shell of the helmet takes the impact in cases of a crash. Therefore it’s paramount that the outer shell is sturdy in construction. A helmet might have the ISI, DOT or ECE 22.05 mark, but I still like to carry out my own simple test to check how sturdy the outer shell of the helmet is.

I hold the helmet with both hands from the sides and try to press/deform the helmet. If the shape of the out shell can be deformed by just the pressure of my bare hands; the helmet feels flimsy to me and does not give the confidence. I am not sure is this is a right way to check the sturdiness of a helmet shell but I do this all the time with any new helmet.

Let me tell you that even helmets with ISI mark have felt quite flimsy at times.

Inner EPS foam: The outer shell takes the impact during an impact, but it is the EPS “Expanded Polystyrene foam” which cushions the rider’s skull from the impact. The density and the thickness of the EPS is designed to cushion or crush on impact to help prevent head injuries.

If one removes the inner liner and cushion pads, the EPS form becomes visible. It is not easy to determine how good the inner EPS foam is without taking apart the helmet. Therefore it makes sense to spend some money on to get the best possible brand as cheaper brands will mostly cut costs by putting inferior/thinner inner EPS foam.

Tip 06. Checking the Padding (Comfort liner and Cheek pads)

The outer shell of the helmet takes the impact in terms of a crash, the inner EPS foam cushions the impact but it is the padding (Comfort liner and the Cheek Pads) which will keep you comfortable and provide a snug fit. The comfort liner is made out of synthetic fiber and sits over your head. The cheek pads do just i.e. that they provide padding to the cheeks.

Helmet Padding

By checking out the padding one can differentiate between an ordinary helmet from a good one. Only after my Daijya helmet, I realized what good padding is all about. The cheek pads of the my Daijya helmet provided such a sung fit that it was a little bit difficult to even speak with the helmet on..!! Go for the helmet which has a padding which gives the best possible snug fit.

Check if the helmet comes with removable inner liner/padding. Removable inner padding is a good thing to have. It is hygienic as one can wash the padding when it becomes dirty. Good quality helmets use moisture wicking material for the cheek pads. This helps to keep the rider comfortable inside the helmet during hot weather.

Tip 07. Checking for Chin Straps

There are 2 types of chin straps/retention system available.

[1] Quick release type (Shown on the left)
[2] Double D Ring type (Shown on the right)

The benefit of the "quick release" type is that it is easy to put on and release the straps. The negative of this system would be that getting the fit right takes time and its not easy to change the fit. Also the quick release buckle can sometimes touch the adam's apple on the neck of the rider.

The "double D ring" type is very flexible in terms of fit and the rider can adjust the fit according to his/her wish when putting on the straps. The only issue with the "double D ring" type is that it is a bit cumbersome to put the strap on and also to remove it, especially when wearing riding gloves.

Tip 08. Checking for Correct Fit of the Helmet

Ok so you have checked out different helmet sizes and also checked the inner padding for a snug fit. But how can you be sure that it is the correct fit?

Checking for the Right Fit

Put on the helmet and secure the strap. Now try to move the helmet by holding it with your hands and trying to move it from left and right. If the helmet moves easily around your head, then the fit is not snug enough. But if it is not easy to move the helmet without stretching the skin of the cheeks, it means that you have a proper fitting helmet..!!

A Helmet with a Snug Fit

It’s better to have a slightly tight fitting helmet because it will loosen up with time and also in case of a crash you don’t want the helmet to move around your head.

Tip 09. Checking the Face Shield

The transparent face shield should provide a clear and distortion free vision. Try putting on the face shield and check for distortion especially at the edges. Go for one which provides a clear distortion free view.

You will be moving the face shield up and down thousands of times whenever you use the helmet. Therefore having a good face shield mechanism is very important. A flimsy mechanism will not hold the face shield securely at place.

Face Shield Mechanism

Try moving the face shield up and down, the mechanism should feel positive, sturdy and long lasting.

Tip 10. Choosing the Type of Face Shield

There are different kinds of face shields available in the market to choose from. A dark tinted face shield looks cool and is good to ride in the sun, but it’s difficult to ride in the dark. A clear face shield provides a clear view even in the dark.

Helmet FAce Shield

Nowadays there are helmets which have inbuilt dark tinted goggles (Eg: “Vega Boolean” and “Daijya G-Fit”) that can be dropped and also retracted back inside the helmet. They also have a clear face shield. One can drop down the goggles while riding in the sun and in the evening can retract it back and ride with just the clear visor.

Tip 11. Replacing the Helmet

A helmet is not something which you can pass on to your children. It has also got a shelf life. A helmet should be replaced under two circumstances.

[1] After the first impact
[2] 5 years after the date of purchase

A helmet might not look damaged after being involved in a crash. But it’s prudent to replace it after the impact as the structure of the helmet might have been weakened or the damage to the helmet might be internal. This is also applicable when the helmet has been dropped from some height (which is almost equivalent of an impact due to a crash).

A helmet should ideally be replaced after 5 years of its purchase date, regardless of whether it has been involved in a crash or not or even if it still is in brand new condition.

Just remember: It’s not possible to distinguish between a good, bad and excellent helmet unless you have used a good quality helmet. Therefore do not try to save money on the helmet and always go for the best possible helmet that you can afford. After all you have got just one life to live and ride.

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This is to remind that the Views or Opinions in the blog are entirely mine unless explicitly stated. The Views and Opinions published in this blog should in no way be related to any other person or organization associated -- directly or indirectly -- with me.


sambit said...

awesome and comprehensive info. great stuff

Aamir J said...

Very well written and pretty informative. Thanks Payeng sir :)

Sam said...

Couple of tips:

One, when trying on a helmet, buckle the strap snugly and then reach to the back of the helmet and try to pull it off your head. If you can get it off, even if it's difficult, then the same can happen in a crash. Make sure the helmet fits so it squeezes your face.

Also, helmets should not be just a fashion statement or something you only wear to get by the police. The television commercial that shows the guy wearing a watermelon shell to get past a police blockade is horribly irresponsible. Buy the most expensive helmet you can afford; it's still cheaper than a new head.

Anonymous said...

Really informaive material here...thanks vm.

Pothi Kalimuthu said...

Very clear and up to the point. Great post. What do you think of buying a helmet online? I don't have a local store that sells good quality helmets. I'm planning to buy one online, but hesitate to buy as it might not be the best one I have in mind, after reading your post. :).

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the information.. The article solved a lot of my doubts..

Anonymous said...

Good one! Thank you

Anonymous said...


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