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Buying cheap motorcycle helmets; a buying guide from a man who has had the sense knocked into him....

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Buying cheap motorcycle helmets that perform the way you need them to is easy...

... as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. If you are a new rider, (or maybe not so new) buying discount motorcycle helmets may be more difficult than choosing a bike.

Unless you have studied the subject of cheap motorcycle helmets, asked a lot of people for information, and done some window shopping, the matter may be an afterthought at the end of a bike sale or something that you have to rush to get done before riding the used bike you are buying. As a result, you may simply buy a cheap motorcycle helmet that looks like you want it to or one that the dealer suggests. If you do that, your riding experience will be much less enjoyable than if you get a helmet that fits your head like, well, like a motorcycle helmet should!

Don't believe all you read...

Let's stop and think about the claims that you are more likely to get in an accident if you are wearing a motorcycle helmet.

  • All the studies on this subject from U.S. and other places in the world show that riders who wear helmets crash less frequently and suffer fewer injuries and deaths if they do crash. They are less likely to suffer long-term or permanent disablement caused by head or neck injuries.
  • A helmet that meets the D.O.T. standard (or Snell, even better),even a cheap motorcycle helmet, offers serious levels of protection if you crash.
  • By cutting down on wind noise, helmets can actually help you hear other sounds better(not worse as some people believe). By reducing fatigue from the wind, they keep you more alert. By protecting your eyes from the wind, they allow you to see better.
  • A full-face helmet can keep you from being distracted when a large insect hits your face.
  • If you choose a bright-colored visible one, you will be more conspicuous in traffic, making it easier for other motorists to see and avoid you.
  • Another important point to remember is that most motorcycle accidents happen on short journeys, so even if you are just going down the road for some milk, put on your helmet. Don't become a statistic!

Even an open face helmet like this one will offer some measure of protection; and hey, it doesnt look so bad! The model is a Shoei St. Cruz helmet. motorcycle helmets

DOT Certification

Low cost motorcycle helmets are of no use if they don't provide protection, and that D.O.T. (U.S. Department of Transportation) sticker on the back is your assurance that when the day comes, the helmet will perform. The D.O.T. standard (officially designated Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard no. 218) requires, among other things, that a helmet soak up a significant amount of impact energy, prevent most penetration, and have a fastening system that will withstand significant force. The D.O.T. standard works like this. If the manufacturer certifies that its helmet passes the D.O.T standard, it can make and sell that helmet with a D.O.T. sticker. The division of the Department responsible for such things periodically buys helmets and sends them to independent labs for testing to assure that they actually do meet the standard. The D.O.T. posts the results on its website in a pass/fail form. A motorcycle helmet that fails can fail for performance (it allowed too much energy through in the impact testing or the chin strap failed), which the buyer should be concerned with or for labeling (which isn't likely to matter to the buyer). The results may be found at the NHTSA site

Snell Certification

You can make a strong case that it's worth looking for cheap motorcycle helmets that meets some of the other standards, notably those of the Snell Foundation. For one thing, when a manufacturer has gone the distance to meet both D.O.T. and Snell, it has usually made the effort to provide other features and benefits. However, the difference between the protection offered by a "novelty" helmet that does not meet any standards and a cheap D.O.T. motorcycle helmet is huge--the difference between life and death or the difference between animal and vegetable--while the difference between a D.O.T. helmet and a Snell helmet is comparably minor. The Snell Memorial Foundation has useful information for helmet buyers on its website. I am a big fan of the Snell certification system; the testing is completely comprehensive and you can be sure that no matter what the price a Snell certified helmet will perform. This has been verified in independent testing. So it is perfectly possible to buy cheap motorcycle helmets that will protect you as well as the most expensive styles currently available. The full list of Snell certified helmets can be found here , but performing a quick price check I can tell you that the cheap motorcycle helmets on the list are at $110 going up to $800 for the top of the range models. The list also includes information on sizes so you could use it to pick out a childrens helmets.

Before I tell you the best places to buy cheap motorcycle helmets on the Net, let me tell you exactly how they work.

motorcycle helmets range

Anatomy of a motorcycle helmet

There are many differences between phony cheap motorcycle helmets and the real deal D.O.T. types, but one of the most important is the use of an expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam liner (which resembles Styrofoam) inside a real helmet. It is the EPS that actually absorbs the energy of an impact.

In a crash, the polystyrene is permanently crushed, so if you hit your head with your motorcycle helmet on, the helmet is no more use to you than a baseball cap. The helmet may look just fine externally, perhaps just a small scratch, but it probably no longer has impact-absorption in that area. The important points that a motorcycle helmet should protect, according to the Snell institute, are the crown of your head, your temples particularly right behind your eye socket, and your jaw. Unfortunately, the best temple protection results in compromised peripheral vision and proper jaw protection requires a full-face motorcycle helmet. Jaw protection is not just to protect your chin: as any boxer worth his salt knows, the fastest way to give someone a concussion is with a good upper cut. Eye socket protection is critical in an impact. There are some schools of thought that believe that the new flip-open style have compromised eye socket protection due to the hinge mechanism. However, several European police forces have begun to use these (notably the British police) because they think it offers greater protection than an open face helmet, and it allows them to keep their helmet on while addressing their victims (sorry I meant members of the public). They just flip up the front to speak to someone. One point is not in doubt however, full face helmets offer more protection than any other, and you can definitely get cheap motorcycle helmets in this style from plenty of outlets.

Whether you manage to get your hands on cheap motorcycle helmets or not, your helmet should be replaced every 5 years if you are a road user. Speaking as someone who works in the plastic industry, this makes sense when you understand that plastic foams do break down over time, just from exposure to sunlight. So make sure you replace you helmet on that timescale and more frequently if you are racing.

Buying cheap motorcycle helmets

Now for the bad news. Are you sitting comfortable because what I have to tell you may upset you. Price is NOT the best reason for buying a motorcycle helmet. The first question you have to answer is "Will it protect me?" In other words is it DOT or Snell certified? The next question you have to answer is "Is it comfortable to wear?" When the answer to these two questions is "yes", then and only then you ask "Can I afford it?" Or, if you live in a family like mine they will ask "How can I get Mike to buy me this helmet?” That doesn't mean you can't get some great deals, especially online, but make sure you are comfortable with the helmet you are buying first. Current prices online for the Snell certified helmets range from $110 up to $700 and more for certain Arai helmets. The larger online stores have a fast turnover of stock and also some great closeout deals. Be wary though, if a motorcycle helmet is on sale that probably means it is slow moving stock. The helmet will deteriorate just as easily on the retailer’s shelves as it will in your closet at home, so if you buy a closeout deal, try and find out what the helmet life is likely to be.

Good reliable brands to look out for are (in no particular order) Arai, AGV, Gmax, HJC, Icon, KBC, Nolan, M2R, Shoei, Suomy, THH and about 90 other manufacturers. So there is plenty of choice, but and this is a big BUT, whatever you buy, make sure it is DOT or Snell certified.

If you want to take a look at some of the better outlets on the Net, here are my top 3 for cheap motorcycle helmets...

Click Hereto see the great range of motorcycle helmets at Bike Bandit

J&P Cycles has a great reputation for cruiser parts and accessories but has introduced a large range of motorcycle helmets as well, they are definitely up there with the best.

The motorcycle helmets range at Motorcycle Superstore is almot too good to be true, a huge number of helmets, great pictures and some unbelievable closeout deals!
ranging from cheap motorcycle helmets to the top of the range models.

For more background on motorcycle helmet makes and models, check out these articles...
Background to AGV helmets
Background to AFX motorcycle helmets
Background to Arai motorcycle helmets
Background on Bell motorcycle helmets
Background on Fulmer motorcycle helmets
Impartial advice on selecting kids motorcycle helmets
Background to Shoei motorcycle helmets
Background to HJC motorcycle helmets
Background to Nolan motorcycle helmets
Background to Vega motorcycle helmets

Motorcycle helmets standards explained

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The larger online stores have a fast turnover of stock and also some great closeout deals...

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