Different Types of Motorcycle Helmets – Harley-Davidson Recommendations & Tips
Looking to learn about the different types of motorcycle helmets? The most important piece of motorcycle gear you will ever own is your helmet. Read that sentence twice and let it sink in because it’s probably the most significant piece of information in this article. Once you’ve digested this fact thoroughly, the next step is learning everything you can about the basic types of motorcycle helmets. And we’re here to help!
Why Do Motorcycle Helmet Laws Exist?
Before we start breaking it all down, though, let’s review some important numbers. In 2015, for instance, motorcycle helmets saved nearly 800 lives. It’s also estimated that another 740 riders who died in motorcycle accidents would still be alive had they been wearing a helmet during the crash.
These sobering statistics should be more than enough impetus to start caring about motorcycle helmet safety, so let’s get into discussing the different types of motorcycle helmets you can buy.
So What Are the Different Types of Motorcycle Helmets?
There are three basic kinds of motorcycle helmets—full-face, modular, and open-face helmets. Of course, there are plenty of other options available, but for this article and the needs of most Harley-Davidson motorcyclists, these three basic designs will do just fine.
Regarding other options, the one you’re most likely to see or consider is a half helmet, which covers the top and front of your head while leaving the face exposed. Some half helmets also offer protection for the ears and neck, making airflow much less of an issue. There are also dual-sport helmets that are safe for dirt bike use and as off-road helmets for adventure riders.
If you opt for a half helmet, make sure you get one that’s street-legal and approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Invest in a good visor, too, because visors aren’t part of the helmet package for half styles. It’s also wise to keep in mind that there won’t be as much room to add things like Bluetooth speakers with this style.
What is a Full-Face Motorcycle Helmet?
The biggest advantage offered by full-face helmets is simple: they’re the safest available choice. They protect your head completely, and that protection extends down around the neck.
The secret sauce behind the safety success of the full-face helmet is the chin strap. Why? Because studies have shown that the chin takes about 50% of the impact during a typical accident, and the chin strap can take a significant part of that load. This small part of the helmet can mean the difference between life and death in some accidents and the difference between walking away unharmed and sustaining significant injury in others.
Now that we’re done with the ominous safety warnings, let’s talk a little about the style choices for full-face helmets.
What is the Best Full-Face Motorcycle Helmet?
For sport riders who spend most of their ride in a crouched position, your second priority after you’ve accounted for personal safety is to keep the helmet from lifting at high speeds. You can do this by choosing a helmet with a higher chin strap and a visor with an angle that opens up toward the top of the helmet. This option opens up a lot of style choices, so have some fun and select accordingly.
For those who ride in an upright position—we’re talking to you, cruisers, tourers, and adventure riders—the helmet needs a lower chin strap and a visor with less of a tilt angle, so make your style choices accordingly.
Another main priority is a proper ventilation system. Regardless of style, your helmet must allow sweat to evaporate away so that you can keep your cool while also ensuring your face shield cannot get fogged up. The cooling mechanism is almost as important as the protection factor. If you can’t see because you’re sweating bullets while you ride, you’re probably a lot more likely to get in an accident.
A good piece of good news for all riders is that there are plenty of bells and whistles available for upgrading your helmet.
- Speakers that work using Bluetooth
- Loads of high-visibility color choices and designs
- Automatic light-sensing and glare-preventing tinted visors that increase visibility
What Are Modular Helmets for Motorcyclists?
Modular helmets are a little different. This second type of helmet is based on the availability of what’s known as a three-quarters (3/4) helmet, or flip-up helmet, which works by allowing the chin strap and visor to lift. The modular helmet also adds a visor for eye protection. Some models even offer another internal visor for additional eye protection.
You can mix and match between a full-face helmet and a three-quarters helmet. This choice ultimately boils down to determining what’s more important, impressive safety features or getting a different look with a little more style and comfort.
There are two basic compromises attached to this:
- Modular helmets tend to weigh slightly more than their full-face counterparts, mostly due to the extra hinge required to allow the visor to flip up.
- There is a slight fissure in the helmet’s structure when comparing it to a full-face counterpart, lowering the safety factor slightly.
What is the Best Modular Motorcycle Helmet?
Usage-wise, the modular helmet is preferred by those who tour, cruise, and ride for adventure, which isn’t surprising since modular helmets were originally designed based on an upright riding position. The chin strap sits a little lower on the face, the eye openings are a bit easier to figure out, and that combination is desirable to many riders.
The design possibilities and the bells and whistles remain largely the same as full-face options, though. Some riders would say that the open look increases design possibilities, but this is an opinion that’s based on personal preference. Either way, the ability to open and close your helmet is a safety feature that should not be overlooked.
Are Open-Face Motorcycle Helmets Legal?
The open-face helmet is just that. Its outer shell covers the front and sides of your head, but the face is open and exposed. The big appeal of this style is the ability to feel the wind in your face when you ride, but the compromise is the lack of a chin strap, a fact that lowers the safety score by a lot.
Some riders swear by open-face helmets, but aside from not having a chin strap, there are other risks associated with this style. Weather conditions and road debris come into play as well, so most riders who opt for open-face helmets will require a serious visor to protect themselves and ensure maximum visibility.
The Safest Bet for Motorcycle Safety Gear
Whether you’re big on safety, style, or both, there are countless options for protective motorcycle gear and apparel. Your helmet alone can’t keep you safe, but it can go a long way when it comes to serious injury if you do happen to have an accident. The best way to make a great choice is to head to your local Harley dealer so you can see the different types of motorcycle helmets available and decide which style is right for you.
Visit our team of Harley enthusiasts and safety experts at Harley-Davidson of The Woodlands. We’ve got a stellar selection of new and pre-owned Harley-Davidson motorcycles, as well as classes in rider safety for all the new riders out there. No matter what your safety needs, our Harley dealership in The Woodlands is a safe bet.
Harley Davidson of The Woodlands
Harley-Davidson of The Woodlands has been serving Southeast Texas for more than 20 years. We provide the Greater Houston area with new and pre-owned motorcycles, riding apparel, parts, maintenance service, and more at our state-of-the-art dealership. Whether you’re a new rider or a seasoned Harley vet, our friendly team of Harley-Davidson experts is ready to help you find the perfect bike today. Stop by and visit the Harley-Davidson of The Woodlands Showroom off of I-45 North in The Woodlands, TX.