ATGATT: All The Gear, All The Time

Guys want to look macho, the ladies love to make a “biker chick” fashion statement. But you can still look fashionable with the proper riding gear - and it could save your life.

Your helmet is one of the most common impact zones in an accident.  A helmet should be snug like a good handshake - comfortably firm without causing discomfort or pain. A loose fitting helmet leaves gaps and spaces and is more likely to come off in event of an accident. Avoid an open face helmet - wherever the wind makes contact, so will the elements, bugs, road debris and noise. Tiny “piss-pots” are strictly for the movies. 

Buy a brand that offers a good level of protection, and know your standards. Testing agencies (DOT, ECE, Snell, etc) certify a helmet’s ability to protect you from trauma which is caused by your brain abruptly making contact against the inside of your skull in the event of sudden impact. Other tests are done on a it’s ability to disperse the impact force over the area of the hard outer shell and ensuring the chin strap will hold it in proper position and not allow it to rotate or come off.

  • DOT-rated helmets – A DOT helmet complies with the U.S. Department of Transportation's safety standard.
  • ECE-rated helmets – United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
  • Snell - Snell Memorial Foundation is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to improving helmet safety. Snell goes beyond the governmental standard-setting approach.

Choosing your helmet

  1. Measure your head with a material tape measure around the biggest possible point above the eyebrows.  That is your helmet size, match against the helmet manufacturers size chart.
  2.  Identify the shape of your head according to the three identified head shapes. Helmet manufacturers have different helmet shapes according to the shape of your head.  The most common is intermediate oval.
  3. You should only be able to pull the helmet over your head by using the chin straps to pull apart the foam along the jaw line.
  4. The right helmet should sit snugly. The foam will conform to the shape of year head with wear. There should be no pressure points.
  5. Move the helmet up and down. The skin on the forehead must move with the helmet.
  6. Move the helmet forwards and backwards. There must be no movement and you must not be able to fit your fingers in between the helmet top pad and your forehead.
  7. Do a roll off test by tying the chin straps and attempt to roll off the helmet from the back, it should not move more than a few mm.
  8. It is just as critical to be able to see as it is to be seen, so select a helmet with a high-quality face shield. Some face shields are injection molded and basically optically perfect. Others are bent to the shape of the helmet which creates distortions

When to change your helmet

  • After 5 years, the impact absorbing material starts breaking down and offers less protection it is time for a new helmet.
  • A significant drop may result in hairline cracks on the inner part of the helmet. For your safety it is best to purchase another.  
  • When an impact occurred while the helmet was worn, it is recommended to change the helmet. Have you ever bitten into a styrofoam cup and noticed that the impressions from your teeth stay and don’t fill back out? This is what happens to the protective EPS when it does its job absorbing a blow and why helmets are ‘single-use’ items.
  • Never buy a second hand helmet and always check the sticker with the date inside the liner to check the 5-year shelf life.

Helmet Headache Tips

A helmet headache is caused by external compression of the head by helmets and is common with new riders.  If you develop headaches after a long distance ride consider that the following could be the cause:

  • Your skull cap may be too thick and cause pressure points. Use a thinner, lightweight cap.
  • Sunglasses can add extra pressure around the ears. Try a pair of glasses with thin flexible arms.
  • If the fit appears fine, consider other causes - heat trapped inside the helmet, strong sunlight or shoulder tension all cause headaches that reduce your focus.
  • Eye strain - perhaps it is time to visit the optometrist to obtain suitable driving glasses!

Submitted by: Angelique Dermit

Helmet impact zones
After being involved in a crash, this motorcycle helmet was sanded down by the pavement
Know your head shape and buy a helmut that fits snugly
To put on a motorcycle helmet, grab each of the helmet straps and pull them outward as you slide the helmet on. The fit should be snug.