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Use your head when buying a motorbike helmet


The fact is that one day, your helmet could save your life, no matter what colour it is or who it’s endorsed by.

Woman with bike helmet

Follow this simple guide to ensure you’re getting maximum protection.

Be safe: buy new

The first rule is that you should never buy a second-hand helmet. Not only is it unlikely to be a perfect fit: it could well have already suffered some damage that you can't see.

The same holds true for any helmet that has had even the slightest knock – there's no way of knowing, without an X-ray machine, whether its protective interior has been damaged.

So if you have an off, or get butter fingers and drop your lid, the only sensible option is to buy a new one.

What to look for

Every helmet in the UK must bear either the BS6658 sticker on the outside or the UN E mark somewhere on the inside. 

This is the absolute minimum to ensure a helmet will offer you basic protection. Rules apply to visors as well – they should have the BS4110 mark or EC Regulation 22 type 05 mark and be no darker than a 50 per cent tint.

The Department for Transport also operates the Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme (SHARP), which now covers more than 200 lids and gives bikers extra advice on finding the best helmet.

A series of 32 tests is carried out on a helmet before its SHARP rating of between one and five stars is determined. 

A range of sizes in each style is put through the analysis to ensure consistency and trials are carried out at different speeds. Each lid is assessed for how well it protects in the event of high- and low-severity impacts in different areas.

Bear all this in mind when you buy a new motorcycle helmet, but remember the fit is the vital element. You could have the safest lid in the world but if it doesn't sit snugly on your head it might not do much good in the event of a crash.

Try before you buy

Get out there and try helmets on – this is the only way to find your ideal lid. Secure the strap, allowing enough room to get two fingers between the helmet and your jaw. 

There should be no pressure points – it should fit snugly all round – and when moved side-to-side your cheeks should stay in touch with the pads firmly and comfortably. Have someone (gently) try to push it off from the back to check it will not slip off easily.

Of course, there is no point spending all this time and money choosing the right helmet and then not wearing it properly, so keep it strapped up at all times and clean the visor regularly.

Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa has given us perhaps the best recent example of the importance of a well-fitting and high-quality helmet.

Despite being hit by a suspension spring just above the left eye while travelling at nearly 200mph, the Brazilian lived to race another day with only minor injuries.


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