Congratulations! As a proud new motorcycle owner, you're undoubtedly itching to hit the road on your sleek set of wheels. Riding your bike down scenic byways or city freeways is an exhilarating experience--but as all riders know, motorcycling comes with plenty of risks. Motorcycles can be hard for automobile drivers to see, and in the event of an accident, a motorcyclist doesn't have the benefit of thousands of pounds of steel protecting him (or her) from the impact. The best way to reduce the risk of serious injury or death is by wearing a helmet.
After buying a new bike, many riders are chagrined to find that a standard helmet purchased from a dealer can set them back an additional several hundred dollars. Many higher-end models can easily approach $800 to $900 or more. Fortunately, a helmet's safety and quality doesn't necessarily go up with the price; cheap helmets can also provide ample protection. Basic helmets can be found for around $100, and it's very possible to get full protection from one of these less expensive models.
The most important thing to look for when shopping for a helmet is certification from either the DOT (Department of Transportation) or the Snell Foundation. These organizations certify helmets based on their ability to absorb the force of an impact and other stringent safety criteria. Their standards are similar and an approval from either one will ensure that you're getting a quality helmet.
Whether you're looking at cheap helmets or the pricier versions, be sure that the one you select fits you properly. Even the best helmet won't be able to protect you if it falls off your head during a collision. A simple test is to fasten it properly and then push up firmly on the back. If you're able to get it off, it's not a good fit.
While it may be tempting to pick up a second-hand helmet from a yard sale or a thrift store, don't--even if it's certified. The typical lifespan of a helmet is about five years, as the protective foam material inside degrades fairly rapidly. If you're using one older than that, it may not be as effective. Similarly, a helmet that has been involved in an accident, even a minor one, has been permanently altered even if there is no visible damage. If you're considering buying a used helmet, you'll want to be certain you know everything about its history.
Wherever you purchase your helmet, making sure it's a certified, properly-fitting, and recent model will give you the best chance at a safe and enjoyable motorcycling future.