Fortunately, finding a well-made motorcycle helmet, one that's up to the highest standards is an easy task nowadays. All you have to do is look for a Department of Transportation (DOT) or Snell certification sticker. These stickers guarantee that the helmet meets the strict standards of one or both of these organizations-the US Department of Transportation and the Snell Memorial Foundation (a private non-profit institution). It's unlikely that you'll be able to find one that doesn't carry the stickers. A federal law created in 1980 requires that all helmets to be used on the highway be certified by the DOT. Likewise, helmet dealers are required by law to sell only those with DOT certification. A helmet need not meet the Snell requirements, which are more stringent and continually evolve along with improvements in technology and design.
A helmet that hasn't been certified as safe for highway riding aren't simply less effective. They are much, much less effective. Most, in fact, were created for the sole purpose of avoiding tickets in states where helmets are mandatory by law. A "fake" helmet is little better-if at all-than riding without one altogether.
The next question is what style of helmet to buy. A full-face helmet, with a chin bar and movable face shield? The shell of these helmets not only extends to the base of the skull, but also around chin, providing ventilation for breathing. Or a three-quarter helmet, which is functionally identical to a full-face helmet, except that the shell doesn't wrap around the chin? Or, finally, a half shell or "beanie" helmet, which covers only the very top of the skull?
To some degree, the choice of helmet style is one of personal taste. However, the three types don't provide the same amount of protection. The full-face helmet, as you'd expect, provides the most protection, and the half shell the least. Half shells don't protect the back of the head or the face, and the overall level of protection to the brain, because they're not as effective at absorbing impact, is also less.
Once you've settled on a helmet style, your next challenge is to find one that fits you properly. As we mentioned before, a well-fitting helmet is not only more comfortable in the long run, but also offers more protection and safety. Here are a few things to consider:
· The cheek pads and brow pads should touch your face.
· The face shield should not touch your nose when you press down on the chin piece.
· A well-fitting helmet should feel a little tight at first. The comfort padding compresses over time.
· Your head should not be able to move independently of the helmet. If it jiggles when you move your head left and right, it's too large.
· A helmet should not be able to easily roll forward off your head by lifting from the back.
· If you feel pain or soreness anywhere on your face or head once you take it off, or if there's obvious red spots, you may want to go up a size.
· If you're at all unsure about the helmet size, ask for help.
A roundup of the best tips and legal advice.