The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that prolonged exposure (beyond 50 minutes) to the noise of 95 decibels and higher could cause permanent hearing damage. What is more, your helmet’s noise level can reach up to 115 decibels when riding at high speed.
Generally, the lightest full-face (aka Full Coverage) helmets tend to be quieter than modular (aka Flip-Up) helmets. However, this is not a one-size-fits-all answer. There are exceptions. A modular helmet with good noise reduction features can be quieter than a poorly made full-face helmet.
But what makes full-face helmets quieter than modular? We have prepared a detailed article on why full-face helmets are quieter. Grab a cup of tea or coffee and read on for comprehensive insight into what makes full-face helmets less noisy.
Are Full Face Helmets Quieter?
The aerodynamics of a helmet plays a vital role in wind noise reduction. One of the main sources of helmet noise is wind turbulence around a helmet. A helmet with aerodynamic qualities can minimize wind noise significantly.
Less resistance (less turbulence) to the flow of air over and around a helmet results in noise reduction. Any component on a helmet that obstructs the free flow of air ultimately leads to an increase in turbulence. The easier it is for the wind to flow over and around a helmet, the less noisy it will be.
Full-face helmets are quieter because they have a better aerodynamic design. A single-piece, the full-face helmet has no flip-up parts that obstruct the free flow of wind around the helmet. This reduced turbulence results in increased noise reduction.
On the other hand, a modular helmet has hinge or lock mechanisms that cause increased air turbulence around the helmet. The flip-up components cause high air resistance. The higher the resistance, the noisier the helmet will be.
According to a study by Lower, Hurst & Thomas, one of the main noise sources is the turbulent wind flow that hits the helmet somewhere at the top of the visor. This study further explains why full-face helmets (without flip-up components) are quieter.
However, a high-end modular helmet can be quieter than some full-face helmets, especially low-quality ones. Such a modular helmet is made with top-notch noise reduction features. A modular helmet’s flip-up components can be designed to offer minimal wind resistance.
Noise reduction features that can make a high-quality modular helmet quieter than full-face are:
- Improved Aerodynamic Design
- Internal Padding
- Neck Padding
- Better Fitting
- Advanced Noise Cancellation System
1. Improved Aerodynamic Design
A better aerodynamic design can significantly reduce wind drag and noise. The fewer the components that cause wind resistance, the quieter a modular helmet will be. As a result, a modular helmet with a good aerodynamic design can be quieter than a poorly made full-face model.
Wind turbulence over a modular helmet reduces when flip-up components are well sealed. A tight and well-sealed visor allows free airflow. The goal of high-end design is to ensure the flip-up components overlap perfectly on the helmet with minimal wind resistance.
According to the Lower, Hurst & Thomas study, improvements to a helmet’s visor and its sealing and hinges will be effective at reducing noise.
A modular helmet with a few vents will be quieter. Openings on the helmet are responsible for some whistling and irritating noise at high speed. Reducing vents is an aerodynamic improvement that can make a modular helmet better at noise reduction than a full-face.
2. Internal Comfort Padding
Internal comfort padding insulates against noise. A helmet with good interior padding can reduce wind noise significantly. A modular helmet with effective interior comfort padding can handle noises better than a cheap full-face model.
The higher the quality of the comfort padding material, the better the noise-absorbing or trapping capability. It may be soft or hard foam or any material with good noise-absorbing quality. So, a modular helmet with a good lining will be better than a full-face with low-quality or no internal padding.
3. Neck Padding
In 2011, the University of Bath in England conducted a study on the aeroacoustics sources of motorcycle helmet noise. The study revealed that helmet noise is also associated with how the wind flows through the opening at the neck region.
The wind noise at the neck region can be reduced with significant comfort padding around the neck. The comfort padding minimizes airflow into the helmet and consequently causes noise reduction. A modular helmet with good neck padding can be less noisy than a full-face helmet – especially a poorly made one.
4. Better Fitting
The neck region is one of the main sources of helmet noise. How the helmet fits the rider is another factor that significantly impacts noise levels. A modular helmet with a better fitting to the neck and head handles wind noise better and will be less noisy than a full-face type.
5. Advanced Noise Cancellation System
The cancellation system reduces noise by making a reverse soundwave of the noise. The noise waves are collected by a microphone at the ear region and played back to minimize the irritating noise levels.
The presence of an advanced noise cancellation feature in a modular helmet can make it quieter than the full-face model. In a nutshell, full-face helmets are less noisy generally. But it also depends on the helmet’s quality.
Are Modular Helmets Louder?
Yes, the flip-up system causes wind resistance that results in higher noise levels. So, they are louder than the full-faced models. However, the noise levels can be reduced with a good aerodynamic design and noise reduction features.
On the other hand, compared to the open face type, modular helmets have better noise reduction efficiency. This is because the open face model creates higher wind turbulence. As a result, the modular model is quieter than open-face helmets.
Why Do You Need a Quiet Motorcycle Helmet?
You need a quiet helmet to avoid permanent hearing loss, have a thrilling cycling experience, and avert a crash. The decibel levels from road traffic, the motorcycle engine, and the wind are always high. If not controlled, it could lead to permanent hearing damage.
Dealing with irritating noise while riding affects your cycling experience. With a quiet helmet, you can reduce noise levels and have a better riding experience. In addition, a high noise level can prevent you from hearing horns and sirens. In some cases, it can lead to a crash.
How Can I Make My Helmet Quieter?
If you have an overly noisy helmet, there are ways you can make it quieter. Here are the few proven steps to reduce your helmet’s noise level:
- Make sure it fits perfectly to your neck and head: when your helmet fits correctly, it reduces the amount of air entering through the neck region. It will minimize the turbulence around your helmet – resulting in noise reduction.
- Remove some accessories that increase noise: some components on your helmet cause wind resistance. When you remove them, your helmet’s noise will significantly decrease. Removal of such components improves the aerodynamic features of your helmet.
- Use a Shield: if there is no shield on your motorcycle, fixing one will significantly decrease the amount of wind that reaches your helmet. But if you have got a windscreen, making a proper adjustment can go a long way to making your helmet quieter.
- Use a neck roll or wedge: one of the roles of wearing a neck roll is to reduce the opening between your neck and the helmet. The narrower the opening, the less the turbulence around your neck.
Final Thoughts: Are Full-Face / Full Coverage Helmets Quieter than Flip Up Modular Helmets?
Yes, full-face helmets are quieter than modular helmets. This is because they have a better aerodynamic design. The full-face model is one-piece construction. It lacks the flip-up components that cause increased wind resistance and turbulence.
Modular helmets come with flip-up components that create more turbulence. Increased turbulence leads to a higher noise level. In some cases, the hinge and lock system can become loose and create openings that further elevates the noise level.
However, a high-end modular helmet can be quieter, especially when compared to a cheap full-face. Noise reduction features and a better aerodynamic design can make modular helmets just as quiet as full-face helmets.
About the author: Michael Parrotte was the Vice President of AGV Helmets America, and a consultant for KBC Helmets, Vemar Helmets, Suomy Helmets, Marushin Helmets, KYT Helmets, Sparx Helmets. In addition, he is the founder and owner of AGV Sports Group.