Let me start by telling you a little about myself and how I got into DOT Motorcycle Helmets. For the past five seasons I have been riding a motorcycle. I have a passion for riding and would like to ride for the rest of my life…in order to do so, I want to be as safe and protected as I can…while still being able to enjoy the ride.
So five years ago…before even purchasing my first street motorcycle at the age of 34…I bought a full set of gear. Now I’m not talking about just a helmet and gloves. I’m talking about the helmet, the gloves, the jacket, the pants and the boots. I felt like Evel Knievel walking around the house for about two weeks before even getting my motorcycle home…of course I had to break the gear in…what better way than wearing it?
Why did I purchase all this “stuff” before even having my ride? Because I knew when I did buy my bike, I would be so excited that I would just want to jump on that thing and run it ’till it was out of gas and not even THINK about motorcycle gear. So I chose the cautious route and bought gear that I knew would keep me safe…call it skin insurance if you will.
One of the main pieces of gear that I looked at, was the motorcycle helmet. I mean, up until this point in life I didn’t know anything about helmets other than they go on your head…so I started doing some research. And that is what brings me here…so that I can share some of the information I’ve gathered over the years to help you in your gear purchase experience.
So, here are some basics of the DOT motorcycle helmet…
First, what is this DOT mean?
DOT stands for the department of transportation and is part of a certification process that is used on all motorcycle helmets. This is to ensure the helmet meets minimum safety requirements and can be certified for use on the roads.
Why is this certification important?
If you buy a helmet that does not have the DOT certification…it means you are buying something that doesn’t even meet the minimum standard of safety requirements. It means a DOT motorcycle helmet will give you a better chance of walking away from an accident than not wearing a DOT certified helmet.
Types of DOT motorcycle helmets…
There are a number of types of motorcycle helmets…some offer more protection than others…while others offer more ventilation than others. The main types of helmets are German motorcycle helmets, 3/4 face motorcycle helmets, full face motorcycle helmets and modular motorcycle helmets.
German motorcycle helmets — the German style of motorcycle helmet came into being during World War II, where the German army officers that rode motorcycles wore helmets. The modern version of this helmet is now called a half helmet, beanie or shorty helmet today. It covers just above your eye brows in the front, to the center of the back of your head. They have a meaner look to them as they expose more of a person’s head and face. You will see this style of helmet on a lot of chopper or cruiser bike riders.
Full Face motorcycle helmets — this style of helmet is the extreme opposite of the German helmet in that it covers from the bottom of the chin in front, to the base of the skull in the back. There is a visor that can flip open in the front allowing ventilation, as well as vents in the front, sides and top of the helmet. A full face motorcycle helmet is the only style of helmet that can qualify for the Snell Memorial Foundations certification, as Snell measures the safety of the chin and mouth protection in addition to the rest of the helmet. Snell certification has a higher safety level than the DOT certification, as Snell certification looks at the helmets for use in racing. Full face helmets will then provide full head protection, excluding the neck of the rider. This style of helmet will most often be found on sport or semi-sport bike riders.
3/4 Face Motorcycle Helmets — this style of helmet is similar to the full face helmet, with the exception of the chin and mouth protection, where it is open in front. This allows more protection than the German helmet as well as more ventilation then the full face helmet. This helmet can sometimes be fitted with a flip up shield allowing more wind protection or have a replaceable visor which can shield your eyes from the sun. This style of helmet is typically worn by touring bike riders.
Modular Motorcycle Helmets — this style of helmet has in recent years been taking to the scene, as it is a mix of the 3/4 face helmet and the full face helmet. On this helmet, the chin and mouth protection can be flipped up at the push of a button allowing additional ventilation to very quickly enter the helmet. However, with the chin and mouth protection in the open, it is not advisable to ride with the helmet in this position as it will cause significant wind buffeting and could potentially damage the helmet. In light of this, Shark has come out with the Evoline modular motorcycle helmet, where the chin and mouth protection can be flipped all the way to the back of the helmet…allowing the helmet to be almost fully 3/4 and full faced at the flip of a button. This style of helmet is typically worn by the touring or semi-sport bike riders…but is gaining popularity across all styles of riders.
So there you have it…these are some of the basics of DOT motorcycle helmets. When you are deciding on which type of helmet to choose, take into consideration the style of bike that you ride and the average temperature that you are riding in. Taking both into consideration should guide you to the best choice of helmet for your given purpose and needs. Safe and happy riding!
Allan Marx is an avid motorcyclist who puts goes on some major trips each year. He has been to Sturgis four times in the last five years, rode up Mt Washington, Pikes Peak and Cadillac Mountain. He wants to keep riding so he almost always wears his DOT motorcycle helmet…be it a full face, 3/4 face or beanie style helmet.