Modular And Open-face Motorcycle Helmets Vs. Full Face Helmets: Are They Safe Enough?

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The purchase of a motorcycle helmet should be one of the first decisions you make after buying your motorcycle. Unfortunately, that decision is usually relegated to an afterthought, somewhere in between which leather jacket to purchase and whether you are going to risk the $1,000 ticket for popping a wheelie. However, motorcycle helmets are there for a reason: to save your life! However, as set forth below, not all motorcycle helmets are created equal. There are five basic types of motorcycle helmets to choose from. Take your time making this crucial decision and pick the motorcycle helmet to best meet your motorcycle safety needs.

Things You Will NeedAdvance preparation.
Step 1

Full Face Motorcycle Helmets. Covering your entire head and most of the face, a full face motorcycle helmet provides the most protection of all of the types of helmets. Designed to extend from just above your brow, over your head, and down to the base of your skull, the hard outer shell also extends around to protect your chin. To protect against wind, rain and dust, a clear (and sometimes tinted) acrylic visor covers the view port. Additionally, in response to complaints regarding how hot these helmets are, the newer models now include vents to increase airflow.

Step 2

Off-Road / Motocross Helmets. This helmet, known as both an off-road helmet and a motocross helmet, is essentially a light version of the full face motorcycle helmet, with two major differences. First, off road helmets have an elongated visor section designed to keep the sun out of your eyes when you go off jumps. Additionally, motocross helmets lack a visor and should be used with goggles.

Step 3

Modular / Flip-Up Helmets. The modular or “flip-up” motorcycle helmet is a mixture, a hybrid if you will, between a full face helmet and an open face helmet. These helmets resemble full face versions except that they have a chin bar to protect against impacts affecting the face. This chin bar may be moved upwards or even removed at will, affording the rider the ability to carry on a conversation, or even eat and drink, without being required to remove the helmet.

Step 4

Open Face / Three-Quarters Motorcycle Helmets. Similar to full-face helmets, the three-quarter shell motorcycle helmet does not wrap around the rider's face. The advantage to this helmet is that is lighter than the full face and motocross helmets and can be quickly removed without blocking the user's vision. These helmets are popular choices with police officers as clear communication is possible without having to remove the helmet.

Step 5

Half Helmets. Affording the minimum protection permitted by U.S. law, the half-helmet, also known as a "shorty", has a similar design as the open face motorcycle helmet with a raised back. Riders often augment their eye protection when wearing this helmet. Unfortunately, these helmets do not fair well during an accident, often shifting or even flying off of the users head.

Step 6

Make Sure You Inquire Into The Certification Before You Buy A Motorcycle Helmet. If you are purchasing a motorcycle helmet in order to comply with your state’s mandatory motorcycle helmet law, any helmet you purchase must meet the DOT standard, which is the minimum standard promulgated by the Department of Transportation. All motorcycle helmets which meet this standard will bear a DOT sticker.


However, keeping in mind the purpose of buying a motorcycle helmet (i.e., to save your life in the event of a crash), the helmet you buy should meet the SNELL standard. Providing the maximum level of protection available, SNELL standard motorcycle helmets surpass all other standards, including the DOT standard, the ANSI standard, the ASTM standard and the U. S. Consumer Products Safety Commission’s 16 C.F.R. Part 1203.


Keep in mind that there are different types of SNELL standards. First is the Snell SA Standard. This standard is designed for automobile racing. As such, it requires flammability and rollbar impact tests, as well as allowing a narrower visual field. The Snell M Standard was designed for motorbiking. This standard does not require flammability and rollbar impact tests.

Step 7

Make Sure You Buy A Motorcycle Helmet With A Strong Double D Ring. This step, while self-explanatory, is extremely important. In short, you need to make sure your motorcycle helmet cannot be removed while the strap is secured. If it can, buy a different helmet.

Step 8

ake Sure You Buy A Motorcycle Helmet That Increases Your Visibility On The Road. As with many things in life, the “coolest” does not always mean the “best.” The color of your motorcycle helmet is a perfect example. Black is by far the most popular motorcycle helmet color. Unfortunately, it also provides you with the least visibility, especially at night. White helmets have been statistically shown to reduce the risk of a collision because that risk is directly proportional to one thing: visibility. Luckily, however, motorcycle helmets come in a huge variety of colors. Just remember, the closer the color is to white, the safer it will be for you.

Step 9

Make Sure You Try On The Motorcycle Helmet Prior To Buying It. Selecting the correct size should also be a major concern when choosing which motorcycle helmet you want to buy. Unlike buying traditional clothing, properly fitting your motorcycle helmet is not as simple as picking one that matches your hat size. If possible, purchase your motorcycle helmet at a store that specializes in selling helmets so that you can take advantage of their expertise and knowledge.

Step 10

Finally, Wear Your Helmet When Operating Your Bike. Enough said!

Following these basic steps should help you on your journey to buying the best motorcycle helmets to meet your safety needs.

Tips & Warnings

* One disadvantage to full face motorcycle helmets is their weight. Being the heaviest of the available motorcycle helmets, the wind resistance can cause neck fatigue. Additionally, they are hot, very restrictive, and reduce hearing.


* If you choose the flip-up motorcycle helmet, make sure you ride with the visor fully assembled and closed. This is because the chin bar section protrudes further from the forehead and poses an increased risk of neck injury if involved in a crash.


* Follow the manufacturer’s care instruction for your motorcycle helmet to protect your investment.


* Treat your motorcycle helmet with care. Dropping it on hard surfaces will actually ruin your helmet and reduce the effectiveness of its primary function: to protect your head!