Appleton Harley-Davidson®
5322 Clairemont Dr, Appleton, WI 54913

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Protect That Head : Expert Advice on How to Pick The Right Helmet for You

November 02, 2019

Protect That Head : Expert Advice on How to Pick The Right Helmet for You

Choose the right helmet.  When looking for a helmet, make sure that it meets the minimum safety standards offered by the DOT.  These safety standards can be found on the back of the helmet and ensures that the brand and model you choose have met rigid test standards.  ALL helmets offered at Appleton Harley-Davidson are DOT Approved.

Always try on a helmet before purchasing.  Manufactures use different criteria when determining size, and Harley-Davidson uses 3 or more different manufacturers.  The helmet should fit snugly and may even feel a bit tight until it is in place correctly. Be sure it sits squarely on your head. It shouldn't be tilted back on your head like a hat. Remember, if your helmet is too large, several things could happen: it will move around and up and down on your head when you least want it to; it can be noisy and let in wind; worst of all, it may come off in a crash!

Helmets do not last forever.  Most helmet manufacturers recommend replacing your helmet every few years. If you notice any signs of damage before then, replace it sooner. 

Some people ask, why replace your helmet every few years if it doesn't appear damaged? Its protective qualities may deteriorate with time and wear. The chin strap may fray or loosen at its attaching points; the shell could be chipped or damaged. The best reason is that helmets keep improving. Chances are that the helmet you buy in a couple of years will be better – stronger, lighter, and more comfortable – than the one you own now. It might even cost less!

Proper storage and cleaning is very important in order to maintain your helmets integrity. It is not wise to store helmets near gasoline, cleaning fluids, exhaust fumes, or excessive heat. These factors can result in the degradation of helmet materials, and often the damage goes unnoticed by the wearer. Read the information that comes with the helmet so you know how to care for it. Definitely read the instructions about painting, decorating, pinstriping, or applying decals to your helmet.

Helmet Care is important!!  Follow the manufacturer's care instructions for your helmet. Use only the mildest soap recommended. Avoid any petroleum-based cleaning fluids, especially if you own a polycarbonate helmet. Exposure to strong cleaning agents can cause the helmet to decompose and lose protective value. Keep your helmet's face shield clean. Normally, mild soap and warm water with a soft cloth will do the job. If it gets scratched, replace it. A scratched face shield can be difficult to see through. At night, it could dangerously distort your vision and your view of oncoming lights. A helmet looks tough and sturdy, but it should be handled as a fragile item. This means that you don't want to drop your helmet onto hard surfaces. It could ruin your helmet. Remember that its function is to absorb impacts, which can affect its integrity and effectiveness.

Four basic components work together to provide protection in the motorcycle helmet: an outer shell; an impact-absorbing liner; the comfort padding; and a good retention system.

What we see first is the outer shell, usually made from some family of fiber-reinforced composites or thermoplastics like polycarbonate. This is tough stuff, yet it's designed and intended to compress when it hits anything hard. That action disperses energy from the impact to lessen the force before it reaches your head, but it doesn't act alone to protect you.

Inside the shell is the equally important impact-absorbing liner, usually made of expanded polystyrene (commonly thought of as Styrofoam). This dense layer cushions and absorbs shock as the helmet stops and your head wants to keep on moving. Both the shell and the liner compress if hit hard, spreading the forces of impact throughout the helmet material. The more impact-energy deflected or absorbed, the less there is of it to reach your head and brain and do damage. Some helmet shells de-laminate on impact. Others may crack and break if forced to take a severe hit; this is one way a helmet acts to absorb shock. It is doing its intended job. Impact damage from a crash to the non-resilient liner may be invisible to the eye; it may look normal, but it may have little protective value left and should be replaced.


The comfort padding is the soft foam-and-cloth layer that sits next to your head. It helps keep you comfortable and the helmet fitting snugly. In some helmets, this padding can even be taken out for cleaning. 

The retention system, or chin strap, is very important. It is the one piece that keeps the helmet on your head in a crash. A strap is connected to each side of the shell. Every time you put the helmet on, fasten the strap securely. It only takes of couple of seconds. To ride without your helmet secured would be as questionable as driving without your seat belt fastened.