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A beginner’s guide to the different types of motorcycle helmets

That open face helmet would never work with your Fireblade.


For motorcycle riders or even would-be motorcycle owners, the single most important safety equipment that one should own is without argument, the motorcycle helmet. Nowadays, buying a motorcycle is not as simple as it used to. With so many choices and so many types of helmets that are out in the market, you can’t just walk into a store and grab the first lid you see. You have to make sure that the item you purchase is made for the purpose of your riding style.

Generally, there are six types of helmets that are currently out in the market, and each type corresponds to a different style of riding and may function differently if not used for the way it was intended for. By choosing the right type of helmet, not only will it potentially save you from injuries during crashes, but it can also save you from the hassle of selling a helmet that you never really needed in the first place.

Full Face

Full Face

A full-face helmet is the type of helmet that provides the most protection and most coverage to your head. The most distinguishing feature of a full-face helmet is its chin bar. This forms part of the outer shell which protects your jaw. Studies have shown that among motorcycle accidents that happen, the chin encounters fifty percent of severe impacts during a crash. Most full-face helmets come with a beefy chin bar to provide the most protection. 

Full face helmets usually come with visors that protect your eyes from dust or debris, but also from drying up during high speeds, allowing you to always have a good vision over the road. Good full-face helmets usually come with ventilation channels to keep the visors from fogging up and have some soundproofing when being used at high speeds. 

A full-face helmet is the most protective of the bunch. It is the most common type of lid on the market, and it is almost always readily available. It is usually the most recommended type of helmet because it cuts no corners in the field of protecting your cranium from bumps and knocks in the event of an accident – provided you buy one that is of quality. 


Modular Helmet

Modular helmets usually look exactly the same as full-face helmets. However, its most distinctive feature is the ability to flip up the chin bar. The problem here is the structural integrity of the chin bar is compromised because of the rear hinges that make it pivot and flip upward. Because of this, they generally do not give as much protection as a full-face helmet does. Generally, riding while keeping the chin bar flipped up is possible, particularly at low speeds, but never recommended. It is a rather convenient feature during stops because it allows for more ventilation as compared to a flip-up visor. 

Modular helmets typically weigh more than full-face helmets because of the flip-up chin bar. They are the preferred helmets for tourers, cruisers and adventure riders. While modular helmets are typically not as safe as full-face helmets, they are still considered safer than open face or half-helmets. 


Dual Sport Helmets

Dual-sport helmets are typically a hybrid between off-road or motocross helmets and full-face helmets. Basically, they really are motocross helmets that have been redesigned for street use and higher speeds. Dual sport helmets generally have sun peaks similar to those of motocross helmets but are more aerodynamic to withstand higher speeds. Better sound insulation is also a feature of these helmets. They also typically have a wider field of vision as compared to full-face street helmets and their visors can be flipped up to accommodate goggles that are usually worn with motocross helmets for off-road rides. 

They are probably the most versatile types of helmets as it gives you the benefits of a wider field of view from off-road helmets, but at the same time, also soundproofed and ventilated similar to a full-face helmet. They also have a permanently integrated chin bar for better jaw protection. However, some dual-sport helmets have the option of having a removable chin bar like that provided for by Nolan Helmets. 

Dirt Bike Helmets

Dirt Bike Helmets

Dirt bike helmets or motocross helmets are designed for maximum ventilation to make sure that the rider can breathe easily as off-road rides can be really strenuous. For the same reason, off-road helmets are also typically lightweight and made of lighter composite materials. They’re not really built for high speeds as dirt or motocross riding deals more with torque rather than speed. As such, they don’t really include a visor and riders would have to typically wear goggles for eye protection especially when mud and rocks are being thrown towards them by other riders they’re trailing.

Off-road helmets typically have the least insulation inside compared to other helmets and usually come with large adjustable sun peaks that keep the glare of the sun from hitting your eyes especially when riding at extreme angles up and downhill runs. 

Open Face

Open Face Helmet

Open face or ¾ helmets are designed for lower speed bikes or scooters. Unlike the other helmets, they do not come with a chin bar to protect your jaw. They provide coverage for most of your head, but it leaves your face exposed to the elements. However, many open-face helmets can be used with removable bubble shields, face masks, or goggles for added protection from road debris, flying bugs or water. In addition, since it has an open face, it practically has the most airflow as you feel the breeze against your face. 

Riders who sport classic looking or vintage motorcycles prefer this type of helmet for its aesthetics and airy feel. It’s typically lighter than a full-face helmet because of the absence of the chin bar but the rest of the helmet provides just as much padding as you see in full-face helmets. 

Half Helmet

Half Helmet

The half helmet or otherwise known as “brain buckets” offers the least protection as compared to all the other helmets. Unlike an open face helmet which functions just as much as a full-face helmet, minus the chin bar, a half helmet would not have as much padding as helmets are supposed to. It’s shell normally wouldn’t cover your ears or the lower back of your head which makes it the lightest among all types of helmets. Because of this, it allows you to make use of most of your senses as it gives you an unobstructed view and makes you hear all the sounds, unlike any other helmet. Typically, these kinds of lids are bare, and not as common as the other types in this list because of their lack of coverage. 

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