How good are modular helmets? Are they safe to ride in? These are just some of the questions that come ups in relation to modular helmets. The answers are pretty good and yes, modular helmets are a safe option, fulling just short of their full-face counterparts. The following article answered all those nagging questions you’ve always had about modular helmets.
Modular helmets design
When it comes to helmets, the full-face helmet is without competition. Safety-wise, it’s far and wide the best on the market. But, if it were a competition the modular helmet would be in the silver medal position. Although they have many of the same features as a full-face helmet, the chin bar and visor tilt upward to distinguish them.
The full-face helmet was developed in the 1960s by Bell and quickly became the helmet of choice for competitive riders. With more than 35% of motorcycle accidents having an impact on the chin area (substantially more than other areas of the head and body), the reason for their popularity was obvious. The difficulty was that many riders still wanted the breathability and convenience of the three-quarter helmet, which also offered better ventilation.
Toward the end of the century, a helmet with a detachable chin bar and face shield flipped upwards with the press of a button. This helmet gained favor with the touring riders in particular. Over the years the modular helmet has become a firm favorite with an increasing number of riders. They are especially popular among those in professions that have to communicate when they stop.
Are modular helmets safe?
Most of the safety concerns around the modular helmet arise from the chin bar mechanism. There are concerns that because the chin bar isn’t solid and fixed to the helmet it isn’t as safe as a full-face helmet.
This creates a small potential chink in the modular helmet’s armory. The primary concern is that the helmet design is such that there’s a danger that the chin bar mechanism might disengage during an accident, causing flip-up and leaving the chin and face exposed. Unfortunately, there are no studies to provide any solid data relating to this phenomenon although anecdotal evidence suggests this does occur on occasion.
Adding to the problem for modular helmets is the Snell Foundation does not certify them because the chin bar isn’t fixed and they hold any helmet with a chin bar to the same standard it does a full-face helmet. This means the helmet receives only the minimum DOT safety stamp, which isn’t something to aspire to. The Economic Commission for Europe is beginning to test modular helmets more rigorously and has developed a new standard for the movable chin bar which should provide reassurance in the future.
Advantages of modular helmets
There are several advantages of choosing a modular style helmet:
- Provides almost the same protection as a full-face helmet, while having the conveniences associated with a three-quarter helmet. This means it’s easy to take a drink with your helmet on, talk with fellow riders, scratch your face, and so on. It almost means you don’t need to take your helmet off every time you stop at a shop or the gas station.
- The full-face helmet can feel claustrophobic, and the modular helmet can offer some relief from this.
- When it comes time to clean the visor, it’s a lot easier than other helmets.
- Some riders see the modular helmet as a compromise. They like the freedom of the three-quarter helmet and the feel of the wind around their face but want the extra protection.
- For those with glasses, modular helmets can be a lot more comfortable than their full-face counterpart.
Disadvantages of modular helmets
Of course, with the positives come to the negatives. The disadvantages of choosing a modular style helmet include:
- They’re not full-face helmets and unfortunately, that means they’re not quite as safe. There’s always a possibility that the chin bar and visor might flip up in an accident.
- In addition, the chin bar is not as well reinforced as the full-face helmet raising issues about its safety in a full-frontal impact accident.
- The weight can be an issue, with the modular helmet slightly heavier than most other helmets, which can become an issue on a long ride.
- Although there may be a temptation to ride with the visor up, it’s not recommended as it might catch the wind and snap your head back or get snagged on something.
- Modular helmets have a reputation for being noisy, but as we see below, there are remedies for this.
The noise factor
There’s no way around it, modular helmets are noisy compared to full-face helmets. But like most things, the noise is a question of perspective, and if you’re upgrading from a three-quarter open-face then you will notice how much quieter it is when the wind isn’t rushing around your face in the helmet.
If despite this, you’re still after a modular helmet there are a few tips that can keep the noise down:
- Earplugs have the ability to muffle the annoying noise and amplify the noises you want to hear when you’re riding. There’s a number to choose from including reusable, disposable, corded, and custom molded. A lot of the time the choice comes down to personal preference so there may be a bit of trial and error.
- Riding position impacts how the air flows around you, and can play a significant part in the amount of noise you hear.
- A scarf can stop the wind rushing into the helmet and around your neck which can lower the noise noticeably.
- Choosing a helmet that has enough padding around the head to stop the wind from getting in there is another good way to reduce the noise.
- A motorcycle face mask works similarly to reduce the noise by reducing the wind getting in the helmet.
- Finally, a good-fitting helmet produces significantly less noise than an ill-fitting one.
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, and Sparx Helmets. In addition, he is the founder and owner of AGV Sports Group.