Don't take a crash course when it comes to choosing the right motorbike helmet
It doesn't matter how cool a crash helmet may look or how well it goes with your brand new bike or syncs with your phone's Bluetooth system; unless it fits your head properly, in the event of an accident it will offer the same amount of protection as any other fashion accessory.
Despite the unrelenting march of online shopping and the growing trend for showrooming, buying a crash helmet, particularly if it's your first, is something that should only ever be done in person.
"We always stress for people to go to their local dealer to buy a helmet, where trained staff can ensure they get the right fit for them," explains Mark Eilledge, the racing and technical manager for Shark helmets.
You can check the size of your head with a tape measure for a rough idea of fit (just like before buying a hat) but "Different helmet brands -- and styles within the brand -- have different fits and suit different people," Eilledge explains.
Regardless of whether you like the look of a full face, modular, off road or an open-face helmet, all types and styles of helmet are identical when it comes to fitting. And in this regard, it's surprising that even experienced bikers are often caught out, thinking a helmet should feel loose on the head.
"If it slides on too easily then it's too big and won't protect you effectively," says Eilledge, pointing out that once on, a rider shouldn't be able to get a finger between the helmet and the liner. ‘You should feel the skin on your head move rather than the helmet shift [when moving the helmet up and down or side to side with your hands]. If the helmet moves independently from your head, then it's too big."
The lining is key to fit, comfort and safety in all helmets and it is the liner's condition that dictates how effective the helmet will be in the event of an accident. "Often people think it's damage to the outside of the helmet over time which means it needs replacing, when actually, it's the bacteria and the acid inside from the rider's head that degrades it from the inside. I always say: imagine having the same pillowcase on your bed for five years without washing it," explains Eilledge.
So looking after the inside and keeping it clean is absolutely vital, as is giving it a proper wipe down after every ride. "There's a whole host of things not to do to a helmet -- don't drop it, don't put it near fuel, don't rest it on your fuel tank, don't put your dirty oily gloves in the helmet and don't be scared to wash the internal liners," Eilledge says.
However, even if you manage not to drop it and avoid having an accident, even a premium helmet has a short usable life as Eilledge explains: "Most helmet manufacturers -- Shark included -- would say that a helmet has a maximum ‘life' of five years. This is on the basis of looking after it and keeping the inside liner washed and clean."
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