Modular Motorcycle Helmets - Types of Helmets, Part 3

Alright folks, it’s time for a quick post about Modular Motorcycle Helmets.  Modular Helmets are also known as flip up helmets, or hybrid helmets. Given that it’s Turkey Day I’m thinking a lot of you may have a long weekend to do some good riding, and if you’re looking for a new motorcycle helmet, you may find that a modular helmet is exactly what you’re looking for.  

Flip Up aka modular helmets are a relatively recent invention in the motorcycle helmet world.  These hybrid helmets first came onto the scene as an answer to the problem of riders wanting the protection of a full face helmet but the convenience of an open face helmet.  For this reason you’ll often see a lot of motorcycle cops wearing modular helmets.  It gives them the ability to lift up the face of their helmet to talk to their victims, ahem, motorists, when they pull someone over.

 The pros and cons of modular helmets are actually a great combo.  With a flip up helmet you do indeed get most of the protection of a full face helmet.  And on the “flip” side (ba dum, ching!) you get some of the pros of a half helmet (though not all of them).  Due to their relatively recent emergence onto the motorcycle scene, there aren’t a lot of crash statistics yet as to how, precisely, modular motorcycle helmets compare to their “official” full face cousins.  However, they do generally seem to offer most of the protection of their non flip-up kin.

Most of the major manufacturers now offer hybrid helmets in their product line. Shoei, hjc, and gmax all offer modular helmets, just to name a few. And, naturally (because it’s now the law), these are all DOT motorcycle helmets, safety approved.

The major downside of a modular helmet is what you would expect: price.  Flip up helmets are generally more expensive than normal full face helmets, so the convenience needs to be worth it to you.  However, if you are willing to shell out a few extra bucks, a modular motorcycle helmet may be a great way to get some of the best of both worlds.

Motorcycle Half Helmets | Types of Helmets - Part 2

Alright folks, today we’re gonna talk about motorcycle half helmets, especially the pros and cons.  I’ve gotta run out the door, so today’s entry is gonna be a short one.

By the way, the image shown is an hjc motorcycle helmet, the model is the CL-21 Reign Half Helmet.

- Style.  Lots of riders like the look of motorcycle half helmets, and there’s a lot of truth to this.  When you’re cruising along the highway, there are few helmets that have as cool a “low rider” feel to them as half helmets.

- Visibility.  A half helmet doesn’t obstruct your peripheral vision as much as a full face helmet.  There have been a lot of advances in full face helmets with respect to visibility.  I know my Gmax helmet has great peripheral vision.  Nevertheless, a half helmet doesn’t have any material around your eyes, so again, you’ve got that real sense of unobstructed vision.

- Experience.  Riding a motorcycle is a lot about the experience of getting onto that bike and feeling connected with the road and the world around you.  A motorcycle half helmet lets you get that wind in your face without completely sacrificing safety and protection.

- Ease of putting it on.  Sometimes when you’re hopping on your bike for a quick ride, it can feel like a hassle to pull on a full face motorcycle helmet, even it is that pretty little Shoei helmet sitting on your table.


- Safety.  This is the obvious number one con.  A half helmet simply doesn’t afford you nearly as much protection when you get on your motorcycle as a full face helmet does.  A huge percentage of motorcycle crashes involve impacts to the chin and mouth area, and a half helmet provides exactly zero protection.  So, not to be too graphic or anything, but if you’re unlucky enough to be involved in such a crash, you’re pretty much gonna get your mouth and jaw bashed in.  On the other hand, there are always risks to getting onto a motorcycle.  We should all know that and accept it.  So for many people, the risks involved in wearing a half helmet are simply an extension of the risks we all accept when we get onto that bike and ride away.

- Bugs and rocks.  There are few things as unpleasant as getting a fat ol’ bug in the mouth or eye when you’re cruising down the highway.  Unlike a full face helmet, a motorcycle half helmet ain’t gonna do a thing to stop this from happening.  The same can be said for rocks.  Broken cheek bones are not unheard of when a rider comes up beside a semi and gets a flung rock in the face.

- Cold weather.  Trust me on this one, if you live in a cold weather state, you do *not* want to wear a motorcycle half helmet during the winter months!!  It’s cold, and you can get frostbite in about two seconds flat.  (On the other hand, if you live in a hot climate, a half helmet may be a welcome relief from the sometimes stifling heat of a full face helmet).

Well folks, there ya have it.  The short and sweet overview of motorcycle half helmets.

Novelty Motorcycle Helmets

Novelty Motorcycle Helmets are hard to find these days. But if you’re determined to find one, you can. I suppose the first question to ask then, is what, exactly, is a novelty motorcycle helmet? The most basic way to look at it is that a novelty motorcycle helmet is one that hasn’t been tested by certifying organization such as DOT or SNELL, and isn’t made by any of the major motorcycle helmet manufacturers such as Shoei, Arai, Bell, KBC, HJC, etc etc.  More fundamentally, however, novelty motorcycle helmets tend to be sought after by people looking for weird, cool designs, whether it’s a police helmet knock-off, german motorcycle helmet style, or whatever. A lot of vintage motorcycle helmet designs, for example, can now only be found in the form of novelty helmets. This is because a lot of those vintage designs are incapable of passing the rigorous safety requirements of DOT or SNELL. And that really brings us to an important point: if you buy a novelty motorcycle helmet, you need to understand that it literally might not be protecting your head at all.

The Department of Transportation has really cracked down on novelty motorcycle helmets in recent years for this very reason. Unlike certified, full-face helmets (or even certified half or open face motorcycle helmets), novelty motorcycle helmets have absolutely no regulation whatsoever, and are often constructed with cheap, shoddy materials and little to no protective foam.

And hey, if you’re cool with that, then no worries.

Just understand what you’re buying. Novelty motorcycle helmets, whether used or new, for sale online or in a retail store (though good luck finding one there) exist for one purpose, and one purpose only: to look cool and add a bit of flair to your motorcycle gear. So if you’re a rider who’s comfortable sacrificing safety for the cool-factor, then a novelty motorcycle helmet may work just fine for you.

Okay okay, so now that I’m ranting about DOT and SNELL regulations, where can you actually find novelty motorcycle helmets? Well, where are you now? No, not literally, you twit. Virtually (dramatic music). Yes, you guessed it, the internet. If you want to find novelty motorcycle helmets, then buying online is virtually your only remaining hope. Even the stores that sell discount motorcycle helmets don’t tend to carry novelty helmets any more. They don’t wanna get penalized by DOT I suppose.

The sky is pretty much the limit online. There are any number of novelty motorcycle helmet retailers that can be found by pawing around on the web. And make no mistake, the designs do get creative. Whether we’re talking the good ol’ german motorcycle helmet designs, or even wilder stuff than that, if you crawl around long enough, you can probably find it. So if novelty motorcycle helmets are what you’re looking for, don’t let me stop you!

Shoei Helmets

Many people tend to think of Shoei helmets as the best of the best.  To understand why, it’s important to explain a bit of the background of these motorcycle helmets.  Shoei is a small, quality Japanese helmet manufacturer that’s been making their helmets since 1958.  So the first thing Shoei helmets have going for them is a decently long-standing legacy.  Even more than history, however, is that fact that Shoei helmets have a reputation as being at the leading edge of motorcycle helmet innovation.

The main driving force behind the technological innovations you’ll often find in Shoei helmets is the fact that the company history is firmly rooted in motorcycle racing.  As is typically the case, intersections between the commercial and racing industries tend to trickle down to the consumer market in the form of highly advanced, over-engineered motorcycle helmets.  In other words, because most Shoei helmets were first designed for motorcycle racing, their features, shape, weight, etc all tend to be substantially more than what’s needed by most riders.

And, naturally, that’s exactly what many riders want.  And make no mistake: Shoei helmets are great helmets.  Hands down.  This little company makes a top-notch line of motorcycle helmets that can be a true joy to wear and behold.  The thing is, this isn’t without its price.  And the price is, well: price!  If you want a Shoei helmet, you’re gonna pay.  Shoei helmets often cost three, four, even five times as much as more economic alternatives.  If you’re one of those lucky people for whom price is no issue, then by all means, spend to your heart’s content.  

But for the rest of us mere mortals, there’s a critical point here you need to understand: just because Shoei helmets are more expensive doesn’t mean you’re getting better protection for your head.  These days, there is such an abundance of less-expensive, quality motorcycle helmets on the market that you simply don’t need to spend all that money on Shoei helmets if you don’t want to.  And it’s more than just competition too.  As I’ve discussed in other posts, and will continue to discuss in the future, finding the best motorcycle helmet for you isn’t a question of finding the most popular brand.  Rather, it’s a question of learning the unique characteristics of your own head, and then matching those to your own particular “best motorcycle helmet”.

So, yes, it’s true that Shoei helmets are great.  And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t drool over them sometimes.  But the simple fact of the matter is that as long as you’re dealing with DOT or SNELL approved motorcycle helmets, you’re not going to be getting much (or any) additional safety by simply buying a more expensive helmet.  In fact, if you spend more money but get a motorcycle helmet that’s ill-suited for your head, you may actually get *worse* protection than if you’d bought a less-expensive, better-fitting alternative.  So, for those of you who don’t have money to burn, I leave you with this.  Next time you’re at the store, walk right on by those pretty little Shoei helmets and find something uniquely best for you.