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Arguably, your helmet is your most crucial piece of equipment when you ride a motorcycle. This is the device that could very well save your life one day, and helmets have saved many lives already. No one has more interest in keeping your head safe than you do, so it’s worth spending the time to understand what makes a good helmet.

How a helmet works

Whether you’re buying HJC helmets, Bell helmets, or the latest offerings from Fox Racing, all helmets have certain things in common:

The outside: The shell on the outside is made from a strong material that can be crushed — that’s on purpose. This material has two important jobs. First, it holds all the insides together. Second, it absorbs the first impact to your head during an accident and spreads that impact out.

In other words, the shell is supposed to crush instead of your skull. And instead of your head feeling all the blow in one concentrated spot, the helmet spreads it out across the whole device. There are several types of material that will do the job, including carbon fiber and plastic.

The visor, or shield, is expensive, and that’s because it has to allow you to see clearly while still being impact resistant. It should protect your eyes from the sun and your face and eyes from anything that might penetrate it.

The inside: The liner of your helmet is made of styrofoam, which sounds cheap but is exactly what you want. There is no better, more cost-effective material for absorbing energy, and that’s what the liner is supposed to do.

The liner absorbs even more of the blow, instead of your head. And with a nice tight fit, it keeps your head from accelerating rapidly within the helmet. The rest of the interior is designed around feeling comfortable and warm if you ride in the cold, with straps to hold it on you head.

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What makes a good helmet?

The number one most important consideration is fit. If the helmet fits, it’s a good one. Never buy a helmet that doesn’t fit because you like it better than one that does. Everyone’s head is a unique shape, and helmets come in four or five different shapes, all of which can vary by manufacturer.

You should look for helmets that passed rigorous safety tests, which means the manufacturer has demonstrated that the helmet meets or exceeds the ECE 22.05 or the Snell M2015 standards.

Finally, a good helmet for you is one that fits your riding style. If you ride in the cold a lot, you want a helmet that protects your whole face and doesn’t allow a lot of air to blow around your head. If you ride in warmer weather, you want a helmet with plenty of vents in front and back to allow for airflow.

How to find the right helmet

Since the most important safety consideration is fit, if you’re buying your first helmet, you should always go in and try some on to find the size and shape style that fits your head, even if you end up actually buying online.

Once you have a good fit, you can buy the same again when you need to or check how sizes and shapes compare in other brands. Remember that you should always replace a helmet when it has been in an accident, even if it appears to be undamaged.

Finally, you should always buy your helmet from a reputable dealer. Never buy from an unknown Amazon seller or from a friend of a friend. There are too many knock-offs out there that won’t keep your head safe. Buy from shops that specialize in motocross gear.

Your head is the most important part of your body, and your helmet is the most important part of your gear. Make sure you’re getting the right one to keep yourself safe.

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