Buying a motorcycle
▲ Arai Freeway 2; Roof Desmo, Shoei XR-1100 and Biltwell Gringo S. Think long and hard before you put your head inside a new lid. What's right for the other guy isn't necessarily right for you. Choose wisely...
Helmet standards (September 2015)
Note: These are British and European standards, not world standards. Check your local regulations. These standards include visor performance whereby the visor is integral to the helmet design.
British Standard BS 6658:1985
(and carries the BSI Kitemark)
ECE 22.05J for open-faced helmets
ECE 22.05P for full-faced helmets
ECE 22.05NP open-face helmet with visor
Visor standard (September 2015)
Note: This is the British standard and not a world standard. You'll need to check your local regulations. We recommend that you buy only visors with a British standard or similar. Visors that fail to meet these standards could be dangerous (i.e. brittle). Buy from a reputable, or at least established, supplier.
British Standard BS4110ZA
The Sharp helmet rating scheme
Welcome to the Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme. Or S.H.A.R.P. It's backed by the British government and it allows you to check a crash helmet's rating from one star to five stars.
The scheme started in 2007 following a Department for Transport (DfT) claims that 50 lives each year could be saved if motorcyclists wore the safest lids available. We don't know if that claim is true, but we suspect that the DfT doesn't really know either. Most of these numbers are at best an educated guess plucked out of the ether.
All too often, government tests are really just demonstrations set-up to show you what might happen if you do this, or if you do that, or whatever. These demos are often no more scientific than water diving (apologies to all jobbing water diviners out there), but in the absence of truly independent investigation, you might want to take the DfT at face value.
So if it's important to you, you can check the rating of a specific helmet and factor that into your shopping trip.
Meanwhile, you might be comforted to know that with each helmet model that the boffins select (all purchased from retail outlets, we hear), they perform 32 tests across seven sizes. That's the story, anyway.
The scientists use lasers and some kind of brutal looking anvil device. They also check incoming data from around the world, and then they smash the lids to pieces (or whatever) and rate them for your edification and protection.
We shouldn't be so cynical. Undoubtedly these guys mean well. But in the modern world, it's hard to believe anything anymore. Then again, when was it any different?
While you're pondering that, you might want to go and check the website, then come back and see what else is on this page regarding buying a crash helmet. You can make up your own mind about the veracity of the Sharp programme.
Crash helmet manufacturers
These helmet manufacturers are listed in no particular order. We simply looked around to see who was still on the grid, and listed them accordingly.
We could probably spend a few weeks sorting it all out into which helmet has the best safety rating and safety record, etc. But the thing is, rider preference distorts the stats.
For example, Brand X might be the favoured choice of 10 percent of British riders. However, Brand X gets a high safety rating (five stars) but a poor safety record whereby 50 percent of the guys wearing these lids end up dead.
So what's going on?
Well, when you analyse the data, you understand that Brand X is the same brand as used by a top GP racer who recommends that model, implicitly or otherwise.
Meanwhile, thousands of fans buy the same lids and try to ride at the same, or similar, speeds. Except they can't. So they crash and burn, and that's why the accident figures for Brand X are over-represented.
Then "innocently", you come along looking for a lid for general commuting. You've never heard of Brand X, and you've never heard of the legendary GP racer who wears one. You simply like the look of the helmet, and you like the colour, so you buy it, ride off on your Suzuki Van Van or Piaggio at sensible speeds and are satisfied customer...
...until a month later when you learn that fifty percent of the guys/girls wearing Brand X lids have died in crashes. Suddenly you worry.
Perhaps all lids should carry a testosterone rating as well as other information. But they don't, so all we have are the stats that so often mislead.
What can you do? Just learn as much as you can about your choice of helmet, then ride as defensively as possibly, but without getting so paranoid that you end up pushing it down the street with a guy in front waving a red flag or something.
Just stay as balanced as possible.
Here's the list of helmet manufacturers.
Ruby (no longer trading)
So what does a motorcycle crash helmet weigh? And what difference does it make? Well, we put half a dozen or so lids on the kitchen scales and got the following information.
Typically a full-faced crash helmet weighs around three pounds (maybe 1.3 kilos). Yes, you might get one a little lighter, but probably not if it's manufactured from quality materials and comes with all the current must-have features.
A flip-front will add maybe another half a pound (220 grams or so) thereby taking it up to 1.5 kilos. But there are heavier ones out there, and you probably don't really want much extra weight.
An open-faced lid typically weighs around two to two-and-a-half pounds (0.9 kilos to 1.1 kilos), once again, depending on the quality.
Lastly, a pudding basin weighs around 1.5 pounds (0.6 kilos).
Now factor that into the weight of a human head which is, on average, around ten to eleven pounds. Now you start to see why some people talk about helmet whiplash injuries following road accidents.
The weight of a lid therefore probably does contribute in some way to accident damage. But on balance, in most scenarios, you're better off lidded than unlidded.
The more immediate problem of heavy lids is perhaps just everyday riding fatigue. The wind blasting away at your noggin at 70mph puts a huge strain on your neck, and every time you brake or accelerate, your neck has to cope with the inertia of your head, plus the inertia of your lid.
Also, when you park up and go shopping or something, carrying a heavy crash helmet just adds to your donkey burden, especially when you're also carrying a heavy jacket, wearing padded leggings maybe, and stomping around in boots.
Is it any wonder that here at Sump we like to ride around naked these days? Try it. It's a liberating experience.
Crash helmet shell sizes
Have you noticed how some lids look huge on someone's head, and some look absurdly small? Of course you have. And there's a reason for it; a reason that doesn't always correlate to the size of the wearer's shoulders.
What happens is that some manufacturers, in an effort to save a few bob, tool-up for one shell size only. That shell has to fit the little heads and the big heads—and all the other heads in between. If the shell is the same size throughout the range, the only thing the manufacturers can do to ensure a suitable fit is pad the helmet with extra EPS foam, or lay in some thinner foam.
That's why you end up with a medium-sized crash helmet shell with more than adequate foam at the small end, and a veneer of padding at the big end.
Neither option is ideal, although (if the helmet carries the appropriate safety standards) you'll probably still end up with a reasonable amount of impact protection. You just might look a little odd, size-wise.
The more upmarket manufacturers know that the solution is to produce helmet shells in various sizes; usually three or four sizes actually. That's partly why such lids cost so much more. It's the extra tooling and sundry manufacturing costs associated with the extra shells.
When buying, ask the dealer about differing helmet shell sizes in the range. If he doesn't know the answer, he doesn't know his (or her) product, and you should move onto the next shop. If he (or she) gives you a lot of flannel that one size fits all, also move onto the next shop, or do your own research and/or move up-market.
So all helmets built around a single shell size are rubbish? Not necessarily. But as ever, what you get is usually what you pay for. And you might be lucky and have the ideal body shape and head size for that particular model's shell—and that budget helmet just might have other qualities that suit you well, not least the price.
Just be aware of this sizing issue when buying.
Measuring your head
There might come a day when you can buy a bespoke crash helmet, perhaps by deploying 3D printer technology and having every dimension perfectly crafted for your peculiar cranium. But as of September 2015, that day ain't here. So you'll have to do it the old-fashioned way.
Just measure your head about half an inch (12mm) or so above your eyebrows (unless, of course, your eyebrows are in a very unusual position). Use a tape measure or a piece of string. Better still, use an assistant.
Helmet sizes range from XS (extra small) to XL (extra large). You'll have to check with your dealer/seller for a list of corresponding sizes. Or check online. We can't give them all here. One manufacture's LARGE is another manufacturer's EXTRA LARGE. Beware.
If the circumference of your head falls between two sizes, opt for the larger. That's the general thinking, anyway. Helmet foam will, of course, compress a little. But being too tight is almost as bad as being too lose, and the larger lid will (if necessary) accommodate a bandana or skull cap which will help keep things fresher for longer.
But you have to be intelligent here and listen to your dealer's advice. He or she might recommend another size. However, if you feel that you're being forced into an uncomfortable size, ask if the dealer has the next one up and down and try them on. If the dealer can't oblige, you might wonder if a given size is being force on you because it's the last one in stock, or the last of the production line. It happens.
So what about Davida?
Davida is the brainchild of David Fiddaman (aka Fid the Lid). It's a British firm that takes a lot of pride in its hand-built products and heritage and thinks carefully about advertising and promotion. You can find the company on the Wirral, Merseyside.
Its most recognised product is, arguably, the Davida Jet (image immediately above). As of 2015, the Jet retails for around £260-£345 depending on the specifications/colours. And that ain't exactly giving it away.
It's certainly a stylish number built around an "ergonomically shaped" and "non-lift" fibre glass shell, and is leather-lined with quality materials. Davida also takes pride in the fact that it uses three shell sizes to "create 6 helmet sizes". And much thought has been put into keeping helmet noise to a minimum.
We've tried the Jet many times, and it's by no means our favourite lid. We think that it is in fact a little noisy, but when we mentioned this to Davida (some years back), they were genuinely puzzled by the comment. Since then, we've discovered ear plugs and use them all the time for any long distance trips. So the noise issue isn't so important. But if you try a Jet, tap around the shell and see if it suits you. And see if you can take one for a ride before you buy.
The build quality of the Jet is very high, and the artwork that we've seen is second to none. As a classic open faced helmet, you could do a lot worse. And it is British, if that's important to you. The Jet is ACU approved for UK racing, and the EC has approved it too (ECE R22-05).
Goggles, however, don't fit too well; not unless you wear them under the lid (which is awkward and uncomfortable). But open-faced lids rarely carry goggles well.
We've tried the Jet with many types and styles of goggles and never found one that suited us. But other guys we've spoken to tell us they're happy. Our advice is to try a Jet with goggles, but we'd advise that with any open face helmet. If you prefer shades (or similar) the goggles issue goes away. And you can order these lids with or without studs for peaks/visors.
If, however, you really hanker after the classic style, you might instead try Davida's Classic "low-dome" pudding basin. We've got one of these, and we've used it for years. And although it looks good, it's not at all comfortable and doesn't fit well. It wobbles around.
Specifically, there are old-fashioned adjustment strings inside that slowly cut into your scalp when you try to batten the lid down. Consequently, if you're thinning on top, you'll notice it. And even if you've got hair, it will steadily become uncomfortable. That's our experience, at least.
Also, the leather earflaps pucker up and don't hug your ears, and there's no adjustment for that. So you might want to wear a bandana or thin hat or a kippah if you're a Hebrew.
That said, the Classic is made from fibre glass (fiber glass for you Yanks) and is fitted with a leather interior (what little there is of an interior), and the tape stretched around the periphery adds a touch of authenticity.
It's also very light, is small, and is easy to carry when you're off the bike. And as we said, it looks ... well, classic. Also, you can strap a pair of goggles around them, and it all works. What we'd like is a Modern Classic with some foam inside, a removable liner and more adjustment. But would it look right? Who knows?
The Classic is not approved for UK roads, nor is it approved by the ACU, and it costs anything from £200 - £290. Again, that's not cheap.
If you're pottering around on your classic sidevalve or similar, this might suit you. But for anything involving the words "speed" or "distance", you might want to look higher up the food chain. Just keep in mind that it's an old style lid built in the old style way. It would be nice if Davida supplied a piece of foam padding or something. Even a few millimetres would help. Or would that ruin the authenticity?
Other Davida lids include the Speedster and the Ninety-Two.
Buying an expensive crash helmet will save your life, and buying a cheap crash helmet will kill you, right? Well not necessarily. The truth is that a lot of nonsense has been bandied around about wearing a lid and falling off a bike with/without one.
We're gonna try not to add to the nonsense, but it's an imperfect world. So keep in mind that everything we're about to tell you might be carved-in-stone-fact, or it might be garbage. As ever, you'll just have to believe whoever is most believable, then pay your money and take your chances. Just keep in mind that we've tried hard to get it absolutely right. But if you can show us where we've slipped up, send us an email message and we'll sort it out, pronto.
Expensive crash helmets
All things being equal, the world's most expensive crash helmets will, on balance, be better (stronger, more robust, more reliable, more ergonomically designed) than the cheap and nasty stuff that's flooded the market. Except that all things ain't equal and never were. Things are always different. Circumstances change. All accidents are unique incidents. Everything is a situation.
Cheap lids are usually polycarbonate shells wrapped around a wafer thin layer of polystyrene. They're generally fastened by a basic strap and a securing mechanism of some kind that may or may not do its job in extreme circumstances (note that, depending on whose numbers you believe, anything from 5 percent to 10 percent of motorcycle accidents involve a crash helmet that's come adrift).
Cheap lids, in some instances, might offer better peripheral vision than the latest high-tech, high-cost, brain buckets. Alternately, that cheap lid might instead be sending you out like a horse in blinkers/blinders. Additionally, that cheap lid might fit badly/loosely and thereby help keep you cool, which is good. Or it might be sloppy enough to also allow an insect (for instance) to fly up inside your helmet and distract you long enough for the vehicle in front to suddenly brake or pull some other legitimate, but unfortunately timed, manoeuvre.
Expensive crash helmets, meanwhile, are generally built from the latest in composite-shells wrapped around impact-absorbing materials. They're generally fastened by rigorously-tested straps and securing mechanisms designed to keep the helmet in place as you hurtle through the air twixt your bike and whatever obstacle awaits you, and they tend to have copious padding all round a rider's face. They also tend to have well-thought-through ventilation solutions.
However, that expensive lid might have this certificate and that certificate and be atom bomb proof. But all tests are ultimately merely laboratory tests, as opposed to real world tests. And note this too; you can slam a hammer into a crash helmet from a thousand angles, but still not replicate the one angle that kills you on the street. The only reliable tests are out there in the real world. And because lid design and materials technology is changing constantly, there will never be enough data to form a conclusion, and every road accident is different, anyway.
However, as a GENERAL rule, you should look at the high end of the market and buy from a well-established manufacturer and avoid everything at the lower end of the price spectrum. That sounds obvious, of course. But the obvious isn't always obvious enough, or to everyone. What that means is that at present prices (2015), you're unlikely to get a top-notch crash helmet for less than around £350-£500 unless they're on heavy discount.
So a £100 lid is inherently rubbish? Not necessarily. Just keep in mind this truth: The enemy of the best isn't the worst. The enemy of the best are those things that are good enough.
Now, consider the following ....
Crash helmet looks and design
It shouldn't be an issue, but it is. You simply want to look right (whatever that means to you). Some lids look like a beach ball on your shoulders. Others look more like a peanut. Some suit your body shape. Some don't. Some lids are ultra light because they've got no padding. Some are extra heavy because they're got the wrong padding. Or heavy fittings. Or over-thick shells. Etc.
It's perfectly legitimate to tell a dealer that you just don't like the look of a specific lid. Most dealers will nod sagely and understand that, but some of the more desperate types will crank up the sales machine and tell you that this helmet has been hit with this hammer and that hammer, etc. They'll tell you that in the latest atom bomb tests, this helmet blah, blah, blah. They'll tell you anything until you surrender your money.
However, if you get to this point, just look the dealer in the eye, grab him by the throat and say, "Look, I don't care. It's ugly." Then move on to the next lid.
Looking right help makes you feel right, and feeling right on a motorcycle is one of your assets. For some guys, feeling right means not wearing any kind of head protection whatsoever and relying upon skill and luck.
If that's your choice, so be it. We're all going to die sooner or later anyway. But if you're a lidman, we ain't finished with you yet...
Arguably, plain coloured lids are safest (and note that we say "arguably"). Why? Because multi-coloured lids with flashy graphics can allegedly help confuse drivers.
So if you've got half the Amazon on your head, or have a helmet decorated with more graffiti than a London tube train, motorists can't always tell at a glance which way you're headed, and/or which way you're looking. Think camouflage. There's a reason why the military use patterned fabrics. Same thing with bikes.
A multi-coloured lid worn above a multi-coloured jacket on a multicoloured bike in a multi-coloured street may or may not get you seen. But being seen isn't enough. Repeat: merely being seen isn't enough. You have to be "understood". Your velocity, distance and heading has to be factored into a complex and ever-changing motoring equation. And it has to be done in milliseconds.
On the racetrack it's different. On the track, you can wear whatever the hell you like. Competing riders are all young and fit. They're all headed in the same direction. They're pumped up with adrenalin. They have ultra quick reactions. They have better vision than most folk. They're getting it on.
But on the street, rival road users are increasingly old, and slow, and (apparently) more stupid. And they're not all headed in the same direction. And they may or not be half a sleep, or on the phone, or chastising the kids on the rear seat, or choking on a boiled sweet.
Look at it like this; there's a reason why British road signs display black silhouettes, albeit on a white background. At night, you might want to think about brighter colours for the dark. But you can't have it all ways. So think about camouflage when you next choose a lid. It could be relevant information.
And yes, your dealer might disagree. He or she knows that flashy graphics help sell stock. He or she might tell you that maybe/theoretically/possibly plain lids are better (ideally plain white). But a dealer's first role is to sell you a crash helmet. A little denial here and there is part of the sales mix.
On a more practical note, you'll generally pay more for graphics on a lid. Why wouldn't you? At the top end of the market, someone has to create and execute the designs. And at the other end, someone has to affix the nasty stickers (and, on general principle, the manufacturer will usually ramp up the charge for any "extras").
The bottom line? Multicoloured graphics will cost you, and possibly more than mere money. Think conspicuity.
It sounds obvious, but getting comfortable inside a lid is important, and it's trickier than you might think. However, the first thing to remember is that there's a pretty good chance that whatever you buy, you'll simply adapt to it. Yes, you might be very unlucky and buy a lid that's totally unsuitable, but you can minimise the risk of that by listening carefully. Here are some points:
1. Put the lid on your head. It should fit firmly and snugly, but without obvious discomfort. You might even need to pry open the helmet a little to squeeze it on. Ideally, you'll have padding all around your cheeks and jaw, and when you swivel your head the helmet should move with you. If the helmet is full-face or flip-front, make sure that the chin bar doesn't touch your nose. If it does, get another nose, or look for a more suitable model. Despite design aerodynamics, wind blast will put a lot of pressure on a lid. and that wind will push it into your face, and that will quickly become a nuisance if not an outright pain. So think hard about that.
2. Now raise and lower your head and check for snugness. If the lid doesn't move with you, reject it. But assuming it's still on your noggin, grab the lid and gently twist it side to side and up and down. Don't rush this. A lid can take a while to settle. So can your hair (if you have any). And if you're anything like us, you might well have your face screwed up in general discomfort/displeasure caused by modelling items of clothing/riding gear.
3. Check the strap and secure it. Is it comfortable? Is it adjustable? Does it cut into your jaw. If it does, reject the lid. If the strap is uncomfortable in the shop, it will be torture 50 miles down the road. And here's a point; can you release the strap one-handed. Some riders don't care much about that. But some do. And if you find yourself lying in a ditch some day with a broken arm, releasing your lid to make an emergency call might be a major issue. Sounds grim, but let's stay real here.
4. Next, stand still with the lid securely on your head. Just relax and feel how it sits. Now shake your head, and double-check all the previous points in this section. You'll look pretty stupid doing this shaking business, but it's necessary. Then keep still and give your peripheral vision a workout. How? By extending your arms either side with your fingers pointing away from your head, then holding your palms up and bringing your hands back into your field of view. Alternately, just use some other convenient reference points (girls in the shop work for us).
This is important too. If you find your peripheral vision seriously compromised, reject the lid. But what does "seriously compromised" mean? You tell us. Naturally, if means different things to different riders. Just remember that cars shooting out of side streets or whizzing round a roundabout are the biggest dangers on the road. Of course you should be constantly scanning all compass points, but that's unrealistic, and you still need that peripheral vision. Don't underestimate it.
The current EC standard (actually ECE: Economic Commission for Europe standard) requires that a crash helmet has 105-degree of visibility as measured from the centre line. And that's 105-degrees either side, making 210 degrees overall.
5. Now try the lid with your riding jacket on. If you didn't bring it, try and take one off the shop rack and experiment with that. You need to know how that lid feels when you're properly kitted up. Then you need to try looking over your shoulder.
If you ride a sports bike, you should sit down and lean forward into a riding crouch. Then you can try looking over your shoulders. If, instead of a chair, you can sit on your bike, or on a similar bike and try that for size, so much the better. But standing up and having a comfortable lid might be okay for bank robberies, but on a motorcycle, there are certain positional requirements.
6. Now tap the side of your helmet adjacent to your ears. How does it sound? Echoey? Solid? Full? Dull? Crispy? Crackly? Irritating? Neutral? You want padding around the ears, but not immediately over the ears.
We've rejected lids many times because of the way they sound. Different ears are sensitive in different ways. So experiment. Snap your fingers. Or bring out an orchestra. If you're going to pay maybe hundreds of pounds for a helmet, you want to know exactly what tones and tunes you're likely to get.
Fit your earplugs too if you have any. Or fit your intercom if you can. Just think about the sound that lid makes.
Do you wear spectacles? Or sunglasses? This is more "obvious" stuff, but people get it wrong all the time. You absolutely have to try your new helmet with whatever eyewear you favour. If you left your specs or monocle at home, go home and get 'em. Come back some other time.
Do your glasses hurt your ears inside the lid? Does the chin bar or any nose covering inside the helmet interfere or obstruct in the way? Do your glasses mist up when you're wearing the lid (hard to test that one if it's summer, so just think intelligent thoughts and do what you can)?
If it's a full-faced lid, check the visor operation with your glasses on. Does the visor pivot freely? And while we're there, does the visor move up incrementally with convenient stops? Or does it work loose, or move too freely?
A tricky visor is a dead loss. It has to stay exactly where you want it to stay. And it has to be replaceable. So ask your dealer about that, and check the price and fitting details of a replacement visor.
Cleaning visors & visor optics
Cleaning visors inevitably means wiping a cloth or squeegee across the surface, and that will sooner or later causes scratches, which you definitely don't want.
Many visors are coated with a protective film that's often just microns thick. It doesn't sound like much, but these techy-films can do their job for a long time if treated right. So never use any cleaning force on a visor.
Never use solvents either or polishes or waxes unless the manufacturer specifies it. Ideally, use only lukewarm soapy water and a microfibre cloth. In other words, try and find the same type of material that you might use to clean a pair of glasses or a camera lens.
Caked-on dirt should first be softened with water and then "picked-up" where possible using a damp cloth. A grimy or scratched visor can ruin your riding fun. And it can heliograph distracting light flashes. But don't obsess over it. Plenty of times we've spent ages cleaning and agonising over the cleanliness and spotlessness of a visor only to go out riding and promptly forget all about it.
Just do your best and be cautious, but sensible.
Many visors (especially at the upper end of the market) are manufactured to absorb moisture. There are various trademarks associated with these products. Ask your dealer.
Features such as these are a significant selling point, so your dealer will in any case probably want to make you acquainted with them. Nevertheless, you need to actually ask about the type of visor/visors being offered and check exactly what the deal is.
Ask too about visor optics. There are various coatings involved here too, and quality visors are designed to provide a clear field of view at all angles and in all light conditions.
Not important? Wait until you're riding down a wet road with fretful traffic, a low sun in your face and a lot (or even a little) spray in the air. Find yourself in that situation and you'll be glad you opted for Brand No 1 rather than Brand X.
Next, check your peripheral vision with the visor (or visors) down and/or with glasses on. Can you see okay? Or is the world a blur at the margins? And if the lid has an inner, tinted visor, ask if it's polarised, and see if it irritates your nose or has sufficient clearance.
Sunglasses are different, note. Sunglasses rest on your snout, and usually comfortably, and securely. But an inner visor has more movement. That can be a real nuisance as if tickles you every time you raise an eyebrow at something on the street, or when you simply turn your head.
Heavily tinted visors are pretty much a non-no in any conditions, and potentially lethal both day and night. The law requires that visors have no more than a 50 percent tint, and there are numerous stories of the police stopping motorcyclists at the roadside and de-visoring then (de-visoring isn't actually a word, but it ought to be). But some police authorities feel it's safer to let a rider go on his or her way with a warning and with a visor attached rather than leave their eyes exposed to dirt and road grit.
In practice, you can't tell at a glance how much light is being stopped by a given visor. You have to rely upon what the dealer is telling you, or what it says on the side of the box. So you'll just have to use your own judgment.
And you'll want to check that the visor complies with, or exceeds, the current UK standard. And what is that standard? Check the column on the left (near the top of the page). There's some information there about current standards that might help.
Meanwhile, you'll just have to ask pertinent questions in the shop. Once again, a good dealer will know. If you've got your doubt, check out a few lids in the shop and see what standards apply. The top lids will invariably be right up there. Use that as a guide.
And when buying a new helmet, that inner (tinted) visor could be a major consideration.
You have to have a well-vented lid. It's the law; the law according to Sump. Even on a cold day, you can get pretty warm inside there. And on a hot day, you can easily fry your temper, and that could kill you.
Quality lids will have quality ventilation. Ask the dealer for the inside dope, then check for yourself. And while you're at it, ask about replacing vents or vent meshes.
What's the price? What's the complication? What's the financial damage? And for how long will the lid be supported by the manufacturer? If you're buying cheap, you should be replacing a crash helmet every couple of years or, with a premium brand, every five years (maximum). There's some flexibility there. But overall, treat the lid as a disposable item. Just try not to handle it such. Treat it with care.
Removable helmet liners
Ideally, you want a removable liner. Lids get pretty ... well, let's not go there. Just ask about removable liners and washability, etc. A non-removable liner might not be a deal breaker, but keeping the lid clean and fresh should be a major consideration.
You might want to ask about the type of fabric used inside your helmet. Does it have anti-bacterial properties? Does it irritate? Does it have peculiarly strong chemical smells? Has it been tested on humans (as opposed to mere rats)?
That's a particular bugbear of ours. You don't really want anything "chemical" or toxic close to your scalp, or close to any other part of your body. We've handled some budget lids that smelled like an ICI factory. Just steer clear of that.
There are helmet refresher/cleaning sprays and products. But sprays usually just mask problems. And anyway, you don't need any extra chemicals in your life (notwithstanding the nuclear fallout and biological carcinogens they put in washing powder these days).
Once more thing. If you wear a bandana or some other item of headwear to cover your baldness or keep your lid cleaner for longer, make sure you wear it when you try the lid.
That's another "obvious" tip. But it needs mentioning.
EPS helmet foam
EPS stands for Expanded PolyStyrene. That's the white foam substance inside the shell of a crash helmet. Being expanded, the foam's function is to very literally ccccccccrush on impact and absorb energy. That means you don't have to take all the shock on your skull. But when the foam crushes, it stays crushed and no longer offers the same kind of impact protection it once offered.
Yes, the post-accident helmet shell will continue to offer some protection during a small bump or a slide. But if you fall off a second time and land on the same part of your lid with the same force, it will hurt more (if, that is, it doesn't kill you).
So either make sure you land on the other side of the helmet, or change the lid. And don't just change it; cut it in half so that no one else can use it. Treat it like an old fridge.
There are all kinds of statistics flying around about how much difference this particular lid makes compared to that particular lid. Or whether one type of shell (fibre glass, carbon fibre, Lexan (or some other polycarbonate) is better than another. Or whether this colour is safer than that colour. But the statistical numbers are invariably misleading and represent only general expectations and outcomes, and not specific events. In every situation, each ride is unique. And riders aren't statistics until the statisticians make 'em so. Riders are people and are apt to behave in odd, random, people-shaped ways.
So don't be misled by the "facts".
The facts are not necessarily the truth.
But okay, if it suits you to buy a lid because this guy said the numbers went this way, or that way, or because seasonally adjusted, and all things considered, the chances of this happening is less or greater than the chances of that happening, then go ahead and live by the numbers.
But as ever, the important thing is to focus on the road ahead and work at the business of not coming off.
Once again, if all things were equal, you might simply consider buying the "best" helmet you can from whoever you feel is the best manufacturer. Amongst them are Bell, Shoei, Arai, Schuberth, AGV, and HJC (not necessarily in this order). We're not endorsing any of these guys per se. These firms are simply considered by most riders as being among the best. See elsewhere on this page for a list of helmet manufacturers.
Buying a helmet online
Being traditionalists (whatever that is anymore) we prefer to buy our stuff face-to-face wherever possible, but you might feel differently. Your lifestyle and residential location might prompt you to buy online, and that's cool if it works for you.
But what we care passionately about is good service, and if a motorcycle dealer has spent time and energy advising you on a helmet purchase, we think you should be executed and eaten if you then waltz off and buy cheaper online.
Don't get us wrong. Buy online if you prefer. Just don't waste a motorcycle dealer's time. It ain't fair. It ain't nice. And what comes around, goes around.
Billy's Crash Helmets
Lastly, if you do want to buy online, here's a useful site with lots of interesting stuff, and lots of helpful information. We don't know these guys and have no connection with them. But we've got no reason not to post their link here on Sump.
BEEZA GEEZA T-shirt
from £11.99 plus P&P
BAD-ASS BIKER T-shirt
Isn't it time you bought a new crash helmet?
At Sump we don't just talk about lids. We sell 'em too. Check the helmet selection below and get set to buy a cool 70s style lid to help recreate a little of that old magic. We wear what we sell, and we'll take your lid back if you don't like it. Just return it in as-new condition in the original packaging and we'll refund without quibbling.
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