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A Beginners Guide To Motorcycle Helmets – 17 Answers To The Most FAQ

Your motorcycle helmet will be the most important bit of safety gear you purchase. If you have taken any kind of motorcycle safety course you will be aware of the acronym ATGATT and that the helmet is the most important part of ‘All The Gear, All The Time.’

Here’s 17 common questions and their answers to help you choose, maintain and get the most out of your motorcycle helmet.

Can you put stickers on a motorcycle helmet?

Some helmet manufacturers recommend you do not plaster your new helmet in stickers while others don’t consider it worth a mention.

When I started riding back in the 1980’s the consensus was that the glue on stickers could break down the material used in the manufacturing of helmets so it wasn’t a wise thing to do.

Nowadays, regardless of what the helmet is made of, it comes with a clear coating on to protect it from UV and the other elements so I don’t see stickers being a problem.

Definitely read through all the leaflets that come with your new lid though to check.

You can also purchase ‘helmet safe’ stickers if you want to err on the side of caution.

The majority of legal helmets come with stickers on anyway in the form of DOT, SNELL or ECE notices. That doesn’t mean the vinyls, decals or stickers you’ve seen on Ebay are safe for your lid though, as the accreditation notices could use a different type of glue that’s designed specifically for helmets.

If you do put stickers on your helmet, be sure you do not cover up the accreditation and safety stickers.

Why does my motorcycle helmet hurt my head?

I’ve had this a few times and it can be a bummer. Your new lid arrives, you go out for a ride and quickly realise the helmet is applying pressure to your head causing pain.

If you suffer from headaches already or you know wearing head wear can bring one on it would be best to purchase your helmet from a physical store so you can try a few on. They will also be able to advise you on which helmets are best suited for your particular head shape.

Whenever it has happened to me, the pressure has always been on the sides of the temple. Each time though, I’ve persevered and after wearing it several times it does ease off which brings us nicely to the next question.

Do motorcycle helmets break in?

A new helmet should be a tight fit as the inner padding will loosen by as much as 20% after just 20 hours of wear. After that, a tight lid will become a comfortable fit.

After the initial 20 hours it will settle down although over time it will gradually become looser as the friction from pulling your lid on and off will take effect. Most quality brands sell replacement inner linings for this reason.

What to wear under a motorcycle helmet?

A motorcycle helmet can get hot in the summer so a bandana can come in handy to soak up the sweat.

In the winter months a balaclava is your best friend. It keeps the biting wind off much of your face, ears and neck and helps keep you warm.

Is it illegal to mount a GoPro on a motorcycle helmet?

While I can’t vouch for where you live, the majority of the western world laws seem to agree that doing anything that damages the integrity of a helmet is illegal and anything that doesn’t, is not.

So, drilling holes into your helmet to mount an action camera would find you on the wrong side of the law, using a clamp to attach the camera to the side or a suction cup to fix it on the top is absolutely fine.

I would have thought a lot of police forces would encourage GoPro action cameras on motorcycle helmets as they provide solid evidence in the event of an accident but I couldn’t find any cases of this happening anywhere.

Check your local state and county laws to double check the rules where you live.

Do motorcycle helmets go bad?

Yes they do, motorcycle helmets expire over time and should be replaced 5 years after the date of purchase or within 7 years of the manufacturers date, whichever is first.

You should also replace your helmet after an accident or if it is dropped on the floor.

Can you use acrylic paint on motorcycle helmets?

Most helmet manufacturers recommend you do not use any types of paint or solvents on their helmets claiming doing so can lessen its protective capabilities.

Check the manufacturers website, most have a FAQ page. If you can’t find anything, contact them for clarification.

How much should I pay for a motorcycle helmet?

The sales people will say you should buy the best helmet you can afford but for me it depends on what you are riding.

After all, if you’re 17 years old and have just purchased your first 125cc motorbike to get around town on, you are going to look a bit silly riding around wearing a MotoGP inspired racing helmet that cost more than your bike (see below)!

Arai RX-7V RC - Carbon Fibre
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Arai RX-7V RC - Carbon Fibre
$4,850

Some helmets, like this limited edition Aria can cost more than a motorcycle.

The Arai RX-7V RC is made from carbon fibre making it both extremely light and strong. It is aimed at the high powered sports bike owner, track day riders, privateers and pro racers.


  • Five year Arai warranty
  • Strongest PB-SNC2 R75 shell construction
  • Variable Axis System
  • Max Vison Pinlock insert included
  • Smaller side pods, more shell surface area
  • Increased field of vision, taller and wider visor
  • Adjustable skull cap, forward, backwards and removable padding
  • Fully removable and washable Eco Pure interior and cheekpads


You should buy the best helmet you can afford that’s suitable for your particular motorcycle. If you are buying the latest Honda Fireblade or some other track weapon then for sure something like the above helmet may well be under consideration.

If you are looking for a helmet for your first big motorcycle though, something like a Ducati Scrambler Sixty2 or perhaps an entry level Harley Davidson then you might want to look at a helmet in the $100 to $300 price range which will get you a good quality lid from one of the better helmet manufacturer brands – see below.

Are more expensive motorcycle helmets safer?

A good chunk of the cost of a motorcycle helmet goes towards the cost of research and development so yes, the more expensive helmets tend to be better designed, more comfortable, more aerodynamic and somewhat safer.

What are the best motorcycle helmet brands?

There are plenty of top motorcycle helmet manufacturers and they each have their loyal fans who will swear by their products. If you buy your helmet from one of these industry recognised brands then you are buying a motorcycle helmet from a trusted source.

That’s because most of the manufacturers featured in the list below only make helmets. They don’t do jackets, jeans, boots or anything else, all their research time and development budget is spent on perfecting motorcycle helmets for their loyal customers.

When you are buying off these companies you are getting a helmet that has been rigorously tested, has met and in almost all cases surpassed all the requirements needed to be approved by your particular Government.

I have listed these motorcycle helmet brands alphabetically, rather than in any sort of order of merit. They all provide quality helmets and I would have no problem owning one from any of these companies – I do actually own helmets from 2 of them.

  1. AGV Helmets
  2. AGV Helmets
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    From $113 to $1,950

    The Italian made AGV helmets are legendary in the motorcycling community. Started in 1947, they have been worn by such icons as Barry Sheene, Kenny Roberts, Agostini and Rossi.

    Although AGV made their reputation on the track, today they make helmets for all bikers, from scooter rider to retro biker.

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  3. Arai Helmets
  4. Arai Helmets
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    From $327 to $4,850

    This family owned company have been designing and making motorcycle helmets since 1937. Arai are heavily involved in all types of motorcycle racing including MotoGP and WSB and constantly use what's learnt on the track in their helmet development.

    Regarded as the best motorcycle crash helmets in the world, all Arai lids come with a hefty price tag - stunning helmets though when only the best will do

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  5. Bell Helmets
  6. Bell Helmets
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    From $147 to $1050

    Bell Helmets is an American company formed in 1954. They are one of the most popular helmet makers in the world, thanks mainly to their broad range of styles and their competitive prices.

    In the last few years Bell has become a major player in the retro helmet market with some great looking designs.


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  7. Caberg Motorcycle Helmets
  8. Caberg Motorcycle Helmets
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    From $108 to $560

    Caberg have been producing motorcycle helmets for over 20 years. They're known for producing light, comfortable and stylish helmets that tend to be bang on trend.

    Innovative design ideas such as the integral sun visor make them popular with retro riders. I own 2 Caberg helmets and they are both extremely light and comfortable.

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  9. Duchinni Helmets
  10. Duchinni Helmets
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    From $81 to $260

    Duchinni Helmets are an Italian company who have carved themselves a reputation in Europe for producing great value lids.

    Helmets for all styles of motorcycles - sports, cruiser, retro, adventure or naked, they're all in the Duchinni range and at very reasonable prices

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  11. Hedon Helmets
  12. Hedon Helmets
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    From $498 to $1050

    Hedon was started by Lindsay and Reginald in England back in 2011. Both had plenty of experience in helmet design and build and set about coming up with helmets that blended old school looks with modern safety.

    Fantastic looking lids with features such as hand stitched leather trims.

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  13. HJC Helmets
  14. HJC Helmets
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    From $124 to $1,250

    The worlds biggest motorcycle helmet brand and the no.1 seller in America since the 1990's.

    HJC have been making motorcycle helmets since the early 1970s. They produce comfortable, high quality lids that are exceptional value for money.

    I own the FG-70S and love it.

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  15. Premier Helmets
  16. Premier Helmets
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    From $125 to $500

    Premier Helmets started out making skateboards with matching helmets in 1950's California.

    They quickly moved on to motorcycle helmets and were one of the pioneers in the early days of the full faced lid.

    In the 1980's the company moved to Italy under new owners but you can tell they have a keen sense of their California heritage with the amazing helmet graphics they produce.

    Retro riders will want to check out the Premier Trophy and Vintage helmets in particular.

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  17. Scorpion Exo Helmets
  18. Scorpion Exo Helmets
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    From $130 to $755

    Scorpion Exo are based in Strasbourg, France and although a relative newcomer to the party they have been responsible for some major developments in motorcycle helmets over the last decade.

    Copies of the original Scorpion Airlift pump system for example can be found in the helmets of several manufacturers featured on this list. They also developed the KwikWick liner system.

    Most of the Scorpion Exo helmets have an aggressive styling that makes them easily recognisable as a Scorpion helmet.

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  19. Shark Helmets
  20. Shark Helmets
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    From $157 to $1,330

    Shark are quickly becoming a dominant player in the motorcycle helmet development and manufacturing. Within 25 years of a humble beginning in Marseille, France, Shark helmets are now sold in 45 countries worldwide.

    Their rapid expansion can be put down to over-delivery - every Shark helmet is made to surpass current safety standards. This together with comfort and exceptional value for money has meant Shark has seen the fastest growth in the market.

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  21. Shoei Helmets
  22. Shoei Helmets
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    From $350 to $997.50

    Shoei Helmets have been at the forefront of motorcycle helmet development since they opened for business in 1960's Japan.

    While Shoei are most definitely a premium helmet they do also manage to offer value for money. Yes, they cost more than a budget helmet but you are buying one of the safest and best made helmets available.

    They are a very quiet helmet and can be custom fit to any shaped head and face thanks to various cheek and head pads to guarantee an extremely comfortable fit.

    Unlike other manufacturers Shoei have resisted moving production so they could lower prices and every single helmet they produce is still made at the original factory in Japan.

    Shoei is the helmet of choice for many professional motorcycle racers including 6 time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez.

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Which motorcycle helmet brands should I avoid?

Don’t buy a cheap imported helmet such as the ones found on Amazon and eBay, regardless of whether it says DOT or ECE approved or not. Amazon has thousands of unhappy reviews from people who’ve paid $40 or less for a lid only to find it doesn’t fit properly, straps are too thin and snap easily etc.

Not sure what they were expecting for a few dollars but in all the cases I found, I had never heard of the helmet brand.

Avoid all motorcycle helmet brands you have never heard of. If you’re completely new to motorcycling, don’t know any brands and looking for your first helmet, go to a genuine motorcycle store rather than a ‘sells everything, specialises in nothing store’ to buy one and expect to pay $100 or more.

Do motorcycle helmets really save lives?

In most cases the motorcycle helmet is the only piece of safety gear that is enforced by law. This is because wearing a helmet during a motorcycle accident has been shown to greatly increase your chances of avoiding death or ending up brain damaged.

Wearing a helmet instantly reduces your risk of death during a crash by 37%

Wearing a helmet reduces your risk of head injury during an accident by 69%

Source

How much does a motorcycle helmet weigh?

The lightest I own is the Caberg Freeride open faced helmet which weighs in at just 800 grams or 28 ounce and this is considered an extremely light lid, particularly at its price point.

I have seen carbon fibre open faced helmets as low as 700 grams (24 ounce) and as much as 1400 grams (48 ounce).

I would consider any open faced helmet weighing over 1.4kg or 48 ounce as being uncomfortable.

Carbon fibre is the material of choice for the full face racing helmets. Originally developed for the track, carbon fibre helmets are much lighter than their polycarbonate or fibreglass counterparts. The outer shell is also tougher and offers better protection against accidental scratches.

Most manufacturers in the above list will offer carbon fibre helmets, even open faced. You will of course pay a premium but if you are looking for the comfort only a light helmet can bring, you may consider a carbon fibre helmet money well spent.

Are all motorcycle helmet shells the same size?

The shell is the outer part of a helmet which offers the first line of protection to your head (the second line is the EPS liner inside).

Cheap helmets will have 1 or 2 shell sizes to keep manufacturing costs down. Most of the helmet manufacturers in the list above will offer at least 3 or 4 and the premium brands (Aria and Shoei for example) will have 5 or 6 shell sizes for most of their range.

Why 5 or 6 shell sizes? The top helmet makers believe a perfectly fitting helmet is more comfortable.

According to research by Aria, a comfortable and correct fitting helmet keeps you more alert, better focused and therefore a better rider.

Source

Occasionally for a top selling helmet such as the Bell Custom there will be 5 shell sizes even though it doesn’t come with a premium price. Bell sell so many of their Custom retro open faced helmets it just makes sense to provide their customers with better sizing options to increase sales and brand loyalty even further.

So how does it work with only 1 or 2 shell sizes?

Lets say the helmet you want comes in 2 shell sizes, these would normally be medium and large.

If you are an extra large you would receive the large shell with less EPS lining in so that it fits.

It doesn’t end there though. Because the large shell has to cater for extra large heads, to ensure it has enough liner and EPS inside after reducing it to make room for the XL head, the large size has an extra thick EPS liner.

This means if you were a size large and purchased it, the helmet would look big on your head even though it is supposedly the right sized shell.

If you are a small or extra small size then your helmet would have a medium shell with extra lining inside, again making the helmet look like its sat on top of your head.

What do you do with your motorcycle helmet when you park?

Scooters sometimes cater for this problem by having somewhere to stow your helmet under the seat and away from prying eyes.

For motorcycles, unless you’re riding a Harley Bagger or similar bike that has a top box, you are pretty limited as to what you can do with your helmet once you reach your destination and want to go for a walk around.

  • Take it with you
  • Leave it unsecured
  • Lock it to your bike

Take it with you

Most helmets come with a bag that you could take with you to carry it around in while some motorcycle back packs such as the Vikingbags AXE shown below come with a helmet carrier.

Once you get to your destination, pop it in the detachable helmet carrier leaving your hands free.

some back packs are designed to carry motorcycle helmets
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Leave it unsecured

This is my favoured option. I simply park up somewhere crowded, perhaps next to a pavement cafe and hang the helmet on the bars. I should point out that living on the Isle of Man, the crime rate is very low and my helmets are not expensive anyway.

I guess it just depends on the neighbourhood you are parking in. If you feel the helmet isn’t safe though, surely the bike isn’t and you should consider finding somewhere else to park?

Lock it to your bike

If your seat lifts either up or off, check to see if you have a helmet lock underneath it. It’s just a metal hook that you put your helmet fastener on and then put your seat back which secures the helmet.

If your motorcycle doesn’t have a helmet lock then you can buy something like this one from Amazon.

Amazon Best Seller
Big Pantha Motorcycle Helmet Lock
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Big Pantha Motorcycle Helmet Lock
4.5
$25.27

This is a very popular helmet lock. Everything wears a rubberised sleeve to both stop it from rusting and stop it from scratching your paint work.

The tough self-coiling braided steel cable stretches to 6 feet long so you can lock your jacket as well as your helmet and even your mates helmets to your bike.

I may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
09/27/2022 01:40 pm GMT

How many motorcycle helmets should you own?

This will depend on your personal circumstances and the climate you live in. In Northern Europe we tend to own at least a couple, one for the hot summer months and another for the colder months.

Currently I own 3 helmets, the Caberg Freeride, Caberg Ghost and the HJC FG-70s fighter pilot.

The Freeride and FG-70s are 5 years old this year so I’m looking for at least one new helmet this Summer to replace them.

The Freeride has been ideal for the Summer months as it’s very light and small. The HJC I wear during the Autumn and Spring as it has an integral tinted visor so it keeps the low Sun out of my eyes as well as the cold wind. It’s also warmer than the Freeride.

The Caberg Ghost I got for a planned motorcycle camping tour up the west coast of Scotland. The detachable nose and mouth shield seemed a good idea to help combat the famed Scottish Highland midges plus I liked its aggressive appearance.

As it happened, the world locked down and the trip never happened. Hopefully I’ll manage to get the road trip in before the helmet needs replacing as I rarely wear it, preferring one of the other two.

Can you wear glasses with a motorcycle helmet?

I wear sun glasses with both the HJC FG-70s and the Caberg Freeride with no problem. I have just checked and the HJC built in sun visor comes down over my sunglasses so over eye glasses would not be a problem.

What you tend to find is that the better quality (ie. more expensive) the helmet the softer and smoother the comfort liner inside the helmet. This means when you slide your glasses frames into your helmet and over your ears they go in smoothly with little friction and once your glasses are on, the liner is soft so isn’t pressing the frames tight against your head.

Summary

Hopefully you’ve found the answers you were looking for but if not just leave your question in the comments and I’ll be sure to add it to the list.

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Martin Walker

Friday 12th of August 2022

Wearing glasses is a PITA, however if you do I have found the modular helmets those with flip fronts to be good as you can take on and off without removing your glasses. The other point I would note around the pricing if your in colder climates then the visor and if it can take an anti-fog system such as Pinlock or fog city is worth considering.