Different Types Of Motorcycle Helmets: When To Use What

Different Types Of Motorcycle Helmets: When To Use What

Are you looking to buy a motorcycle helmet but are overwhelmed by the all the different types of motorcycle helmets available?

Undoubtedly, the most important piece of motorcycle safety gear is the helmet. But wearing a helmet inappropriate for the type of riding may be as ineffective as wearing no helmet at all.

Some states like Iowa and Illinois do not require helmets to be worn. Other states, like California, have specific laws regarding the proper use of a motorcycle helmet. Many states where helmets are mandatory also require that the helmet meets certain safety standards like those put forth by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Before choosing a helmet, consider what type of riding you will be doing, where you will be riding, and what weather conditions you may face.

Different Types Of Motorcycle Helmets

There are six main types of motorcycle helmets:

  • Full Face
  • Modular (flip-up)
  • Open Face (3/4 helmet)
  • Half Helmet
  • Off-Road
  • Dual-Sport

This guide will give helpful information on the different types of motorcycle helmets, as well as who typically wears each type of helmet.

Full Face Helmet

full face motorcycle helmet

The safest of the bunch for typical on-road motorcycle riders is the full face helmet.

The helmet covers the rider’s entire head in dense plastic and foam except for (of course) the eye area. The eye area is covered in a visor that can be light or dark, UV resistant, and even multi-color. As a note, visors for almost any helmet can be exchanged, but the type and color should be appropriately chosen for when you ride.

Hint: don’t wear a dark visor at night.

Full face helmets are as diverse as the other different types of motorcycle helmets. They range in the amount of air flow allowed, shape, and type of chin strap. Riders in hot weather should consider a full face helmet with plenty of vents to help increase air flow.

Modular (Flip-up) Helmet

modular flip up motorcycle helmet

Modular helmets are also called flip-up helmets, because the bottom half (chin bar) flips up. These type of helmets have the added advantage of allowing riders to keep their helmet on during a brief pitstop on the road.

Flip-up helmets are slightly less safe than the full face because the hinge on the helmet reduces the integrity of the structure. Some riders also choose to ride with the helmet flipped open, which makes it as safe as an open face helmet.

Open Face (3/4 Helmet)

open face motorcycle helmet

An open face helmet, or ¾ helmet, covers the top, back, and sides of a rider’s head but not the front. It is the least protective of the different types of motorcycle helmets mentioned so far. Not having a chin bar on the helmet makes the rider more exposed to injury on that area.

One advantage of this helmet is that riders who ride in hot areas will have plenty of air circulation. Most riders with this type of helmet choose to wear either goggles or attach a clear visor or bubble shield to the front of the helmet for eye protection. As mentioned before, choosing the appropriate color and type of shield will depend on riding conditions and time of day.

Open face helmets have recently become popular because of the vintage style they bring to riders looking for a stylish throw back.

Half Helmet

half motorcycle helmet

The half helmet has many different names including the shorty, skid lid, or brain bucket. It covers the top of the head, but not much else, making it the least protective helmet of the bunch.

This type of helmet is oftentimes worn for style (made popular in shows like Sons of Anarchy) or minimal coverage, and is commonly seen on people riding scooters or Harley Davidson motorcycles. Eye protection usually cannot be affixed to the helmet, so the rider will want to wear goggles or sun glasses.

Different Types of Motorcycle Helmets for Off-Road and Sport Riders

The previously mentioned on-road or highway helmets are often inappropriate for riders who want to ride off-road bikes. The two types of helmets mentioned here are specifically for off-road and sport riders.

Off-Road (Motocross) Helmet

motocross helmet

While similar in coverage to the full face helmet, the off-road helmet is commonly worn by dirt-bikers and those riding other off-road vehicles.

The main differences here are the extended brow bar (aka sun peak) and chin bar on the helmet that allows for additional protection in crashes. The open eye area of the helmet is a bit wider so riders can easily see where to take their next turn on the course.

Dual-Sport (Hybrid) Helmets

dual sport motorcycle helmet

The dual-sport or hybrid helmet is as it sounds: a hybrid of two styles. It combines the ventilation and extra protection of an off-road helmet with the sound protection and visor of the full face helmet.

While some upper class models may be the best of both worlds, mid to low-range hybrid helmets may provide a middle ground on the features. Overall, this helmet is for those that want to both cruise and tear up the backwoods.

Different Types of Motorcycle Helmets: Which Will You Choose?

Whether you are a weekend rider, a long distance cruiser, or an ATV rider, there is an appropriate helmet for you. Some types offer comfort and safety, while others are better for those wanting style.

Within the different types of motorcycle helmets, there are numerous other features that can impact the overall quality of the helmet.

For instance, more expensive full face and ¾ helmets come with Bluetooth communication, adjustable ventilation, and fog-resistant visors. When ultimately making a helmet decision, make sure safety and usability are the main deciding factors. Style and price should be a secondary factor.

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