A full-face helmet can be the best value in motorcycling if you ever need the protection it’s designed to provide. Before you select a helmet as part of your overall motorcycle safety plan, it’s important to consider how helmets are constructed.
There are four main components to a motorcycle helmet:
- Outer shell: This is a strong, relatively thin shell composed of one or more layers of plastic or fiberglass. High performance helmets often include layers of special fibers such as carbon fiber, Kevlar, or proprietary materials. The goal is to make a strong—but light—shell that provides protection by:
- Absorbing impacts and distributing that energy over a larger area of the shell
- Preventing penetration by sharp objects
- Protecting the rider’s head and the helmet’s impact-absorbing inner liner from abrasion
- Impact-absorbing liner: Often made from expanded polystyrene foam, this thick inner lining is lightweight and rigid, yet crushable. It’s designed to absorb energy by crushing, while increasing the time and distance for the head to decelerate to a complete stop. It also lessens impact forces to the head by absorbing and diffusing energy from external impacts to the helmet.
- Comfort liner and padding: These reduce rider fatigue and discomfort and provide a snug fit that holds the helmet in place at speed. The helmet needs to be properly fitted to the rider’s head for the outer shell and impact-absorbing liner to provide the maximum protection. Some helmets come with adjustable padding components and removable, washable liners to optimize fit and comfort.
- Retention system: The retention system is more than the visible chinstrap that is secured by a pair of D-rings. The chinstrap has multiple attachment points to the helmet that are designed to prevent the helmet from rotating off the head in case of impact.
Care and maintenance
When it comes to caring for your helmet, the most important thing is to avoid dropping it. Each small impact deteriorates the protective systems. Also, helmets should be considered a single-use item. After an accident, replace it with a new one.
Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for cleaning removable liner components and face shields. Don’t let gasoline, oil, or solvents come in contact with your helmet since they can cause the safety materials to deteriorate.
Helmets don’t last forever. Many manufacturers recommend replacing a helmet five years after the date of its manufacture, since the safety materials deteriorate over time. You should be able to find the month and year of manufacture somewhere inside the helmet. It’s also wise to check the date before buying a new helmet to make sure there’s plenty of life left in it.
Till next time, ride safe!
If you enjoyed this piece on caring for your helmet, you might also enjoy other motorcycle safety tips we have featured in our Safety section.
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