Motorcycle helmets have long been designed to protect riders’ heads, but today’s helmets are offering all sorts of new technology that can help increase riders’ awareness of their surroundings while protecting them better in a crash.
Safety and comfort can go hand in hand, and you can find both in today’s helmets. Here’s a look at some of the recent innovations that are making riders safer as well as making riding more enjoyable.
Cooling systems: Keeping your head cool on a warm day can be a challenge, but new helmets are changing that. Using different technologies – some use solar power, others use batteries – helmet manufacturers are finding ways to help riders keep their cool, implementing features like ventilation systems and fans that can reduce heat inside the helmet.
Rear-view helmets: A helmet can block your line of vision or force you to take your eyes off the road when you have to look over your shoulder before changing lanes. But with rear-view options on newer helmets, riders can maintain a nearly complete view of what’s around them. Helmets with rear-view mirrors basically bend light around the sides of the helmet, allowing for a much broader field of vision. Rear-view cameras work in a similar way, providing a display in real time to the front of the helmet, much like a backup camera on a car.
LED lights: Being seen is crucial to the safety of every motorcyclist, but that becomes more difficult in at night or in inclement weather. LED lighting on helmets now works several ways – as brake lights, turn signals or just to provide additional lighting that improves riders’ ability to see and be seen.
Heads-up displays: As one of the newest additions to the market, heads-up displays are getting a great deal of attention. The displays vary in available features but can show information on the visor screen, including GPS data, traveling speed, call information from a smartphone, and the video feed from a rear-view camera.
Add-ons and afterthoughts
With all these new options being offered on helmets, it was inevitable that aftermarket kits would become available, offering riders the promise of customizing their headgear at a lower cost. Hong Zhang of the nonprofit Snell Memorial Foundation, which tests helmets and develops helmet safety standards, says it’s better to invest in a new helmet with the features you’re looking for instead of trying to modify an existing one.
“In general, if you are going to add to a helmet, don’t try it on your own. Take it to someone who specializes in that,” she recommends. “There are several issues that can occur. The tools used to make the hole could damage the helmet shell or the liner. Sometimes that’s because of the location of the hole, sometimes it’s because of the tools used. But it is something that should only be done by a professional.”
Even using glue to attach items to the helmet can compromise the helmet’s integrity and durability. The glue may melt the coating on the helmet, leading to less effective protection and allowing the liner to break down as well.
“Installing these after the fact can compromise the primary function of the helmet, which is to protect your head,” Zhang says, emphasizing that any medications can affect the helmet’s ability to protect and will invalidate any Snell certification it had earned.