A while back, I talked about the importance of wearing motorcycle safety gear – including helmets.

But what is a helmet really made from?

What’s inside that protects your melon from being cracked to pieces?

In this blog, you’ll discover:
– The six layers of a motorcycle helmet
– What each one does

We’re going to use a full-face helmet as an example, although most helmets have these parts.

 

 

 

The anatomy of a motorcycle helmet

A motorcycle helmet consists of 6 main parts:

  1. Outer shell
  2. Crumple zone/Impact
  3. Comfort layer/Comfort padding 
  4. Visor 
  5. Ventilation
  6. Retention system

The outer shell

If you should fall off your motorcycle, the outer shell is what keeps objects away from your skull as it absorbs the impact.

Usually, the outer shell is made from one of these three materials:

  1. Polycarbonate
  2. Kevlar
  3. Glass fiber

Polycarbonate

A polycarbonate shell is lighter than glass fiber, but it doesn’t last very long.

Because of its shorter lifespan, a helmet with a polycarbonate shell mustn’t be cleaned with any solvent or have stickers put on it.

Kevlar

Kevlar is used in bulletproof vests – and since it’s designed to stop bullets from handguns, Kevlar tends to be extremely tough – not to mention lightweight.

However, since it’s a costly material, a Kevlar helmet tends to have a high price tag that reflects that cost.

Glass fiber

Glass fiber weighs more than polycarbonate, but despite the weight, a glass fiber helmet lasts longer than one made from polycarbonate. 

It’s also easier to clean.

The Crumple Zone

You may have heard car makers mention the term “crumple zone” before.

Simply put, the “crumple zone” (or “crush zone”) is the area in a car that is designed to absorb some of the impact energy of a crash and “crumple” – hence the name.

Without a crumple zone, the impact energy would be transferred to the people in the car, who would be injured more severely.

A motorcycle helmet also has a crumple zone, which works on a similar principle – all thanks to a material known as “Expanded Polystyrene.”

Expanded Polystyrene (or “EPS”)

Inside your helmet, there’s a piece of hard foam made from polystyrene, also known as “EPS” (or “Expanded Polystyrene”).

This foam absorbs energy from the impact and cushions your head from the remaining force of the impact.

In other words – just like the crumple zone in a car.

Comfort Layer

Like the crumple zone, the comfort layer also uses a piece of soft foam – except that this foam is much softer.

This soft foam gives you a comfortable fit and ensures that the helmet remains still while it’s on your head.

The first time you try on a new helmet, it might feel a little tight. But eventually, the foam will begin to mold itself to your head shape. 

Of course, it’s because of this while you should never buy, sell, or lend a used helmet to someone else.

Since their head shape is different from yours, the helmet will not protect their head in a crash.

Visor

If you’re wearing a ¾ helmet or a dirtbike helmet, you might not have a visor attached, but if you’re wearing a full-face helmet, you should have one.

The visor is made from strong polycarbonate and protects the rider’s face from:

 

  • Wind
  • Dirt and other debris
  • Bugs flying into your eyes

Ventilation

A full-face helmet has tiny vents on it which remove exhaled humidity when they’re open.

Retention system

The retention system will keep your helmet on, usually through a chinstrap or a set of D-rings, as shown in the video below:

No matter what kind of retention system your helmet has, make sure that this is fastened while you ride – if it isn’t, the helmet might come off.

Some helmets might have a tab made from Velcro to fasten the strap but don’t use this to secure the helmet.

Not only is this unsafe, in some countries (like the United Kingdom, for example), it’s illegal to wear a helmet that’s not fastened correctly.

And those are the essential components of a motorcycle helmet!