Like your motorcycle, your helmet is comprised of multiple components or parts that work together. As the most critical piece of safety gear you should wear when riding, it’s a good idea to become familiar with your helmet’s anatomy. This will also help you when it comes to purchasing a new helmet, as you’ll be familiar with the terminology used throughout the product description or product reviews.
Shell: Working from the outside in, the most outer part of your helmet is the shell. This is the first line of defense on impact and also helps distribute force. Outer shells come in various materials and construction and is a large factor in the weight, shape and even price of a helmet. The common types of shells are:
• Composite plastic or fiberglass
• Carbon fiber/Kevlar
Materials like Kevlar or carbon fiber are extremely strong and light weight, making them more expensive and typically exclusive to higher end helmets.
EPS Liner: EPS or “expanded polystyrene” foam is the thick, high-density foam on the inside of the shell. This interior foam is what absorbs impacts the most, making it the most critical component of a helmet. The foam is designed to crush, limiting the amount of force transmitted to your head. This is why they say a helmet is only good for one crash, and one crash only. If the foam crunches, it did its job, and is no longer safe for riding. Many helmet manufacturers have different EPS designs utilizing multiple densities to better accommodate for different crash scenarios.
Comfort Liner: The EPS liner and shell do 99% of the impact absorption, however that doesn’t mean the comfort liner isn’t important. The comfort liner is responsible for not only making the helmet comfortable, but ensuring a snug and proper fit. The saying goes “the safest helmet in the world won’t do its job if it doesn’t fit right.” Most helmets will feature a fully-removable and washable comfort liner so you can take it out and wash when things start to smell. Higher end helmets can featured anti-microbial and moisture-wicking liners that keep things cool, dry and more sanitary.
Cheek Pads: Cheek pads are generally thought of as part of the comfort liner. These help keep the helmet from rotating off from a front or side impact. You’ll find cheek pads in virtually every helmet and will likely be fully-removable and washable like the comfort liner. High-end sport bike helmets and motocross helmets will have emergency removable cheek pads. This allows first responders to remove the cheek pads from the helmet for safer removal if spine/neck injuries are suspected.
Face shield: Full-face helmets all feature a face shield of some sort. This is essentially the windshield you look out of when riding. This protects you from rocks, bugs and other debris on the road that might get flung up. Face shields almost always rotate or slide up and are easily swapped in and out. Deferent tints can be purchased for most helmets, and photo chromatic shields that auto adjust to the conditions are even available for many helmets. Off road helmets do not have face shields, but have an opening for goggles.
Drop-Down Sun Shield: Some helmets, specifically designed for touring, feature internal drop-down sun visors. This allows the rider to flip a tinted sun visor down, instead of wearing sunglasses or buying a separate tinted shield. The most convenient aspect is the ability to flip up the sun shield when in cloudy or dark riding situations.
Vents: Ventilation is a must have for any helmet. When looking at helmets you’ll see multiple vents throughout. Vents forward facing help bring air in, and vents rear facing, or exhaust vents, move warm air out and help pull fresh air through. Some helmets are more vented than others because they feature more intake and exhaust vents. Often times you’ll see closable or adjustable vents so you can control the amount of airflow or stop airflow on cold rides.
Closure System: Helmets need a bit of help to stay on your head and that’s what closure systems are for. The most common closure system you’ll find on helmets is the D ring system. A strap runs under your chin and is looped around 2 D rings. Some helmets feature a ratcheting system, but in most cases the D ring closure is what you’ll find. Never ride without buckling or strapping your helmet.
So there you have it, you now know the ins and outs of your helmet! Checkout our full helmet buyer’s guide to learn about the different safety ratings, helmet style and proper fitment!