Top 3 Things to Ensure Your New Motorcycle Helmet is Safe and Legal Before you Buy

Fake and unsafe motorcycle helmets
5 December 2020
Top 3 Things to Ensure Your New Motorcycle Helmet is Safe and Legal Before you Buy

Helmets are your most critical road safety protection.

In terms of protecting yourself from major life-changing injury on a motorcycle, helmets are by far and away the most important piece of personal protective equipment you can buy. That is why they are the only piece of kit you have to wear by law! And with so many cheap, fake helmets on the market, it is vital that you check a few things about them before you buy. You only need to look at these popular BBC Watchdog videos to see why.


So, what should you look out for, and what are the questions you need to ask?

1. Ensure Your Motorcycle Helmet is road legal and abides by UK Law.

Here are the answers to your most common questions:

How Can I Find Out if My Motorcycle Helmet is Road Legal in the UK?

All motorcycle helmets worn on UK roads must:

  • Meet British Standard BS 6658:1985 and carry the BSI Kitemark,
  • Meet UNECE Regulation 22.05 or
  • Be of a European Economic Area member standard offering at least the same safety and protection as BS 6658:1985, and carry a mark equivalent to the BSI Kitemark.

Manufacturers must show compliance to all these standards and regulations on (or inside) the helmet, so take a look and check them carefully or check the product listing on the website and if these no safety information ask before you go any further.

Are Tinted Visors Legal for Motorcycle Helmets in the UK?

If you ride with a visor or goggles they must also meet a British Standard and display a BSI Kitemark or meet a European standard offering at least the same safety and protection as the British Standard and carry a mark equivalent to the BSI Kitemark (UNECE Regulation 22.05). As a general rule you can wear a tinted visor in daylight but it is not recommended you use them at night or in poor visibility. The legal rule is that your tinted visor must allow a light transmission of 50%.

Why Do I Need to Replace My Motorcycle Helmet?

Motorcycle helmets are not designed to last forever, the inner foam lining is biodegradable which means that certain conditions (e.g. sweat from your head, heat, or condensation from your breath etc) can speed up the degradation process. All of this means the lining shrinks and the helmet fits more and more loosely making it dangerous in an accident. Similarly, the small knocks and general ‘rough and tumble’ of handling helmets over the years mounts up and slowly but surely degrades the strength of the helmet shell itself.

Do Motorcycle Helmets Expire?

Generally, manufacturers normally rate their motorcycle helmets for seven years but that is based on many factors for example, how the motorcycle helmet is stored, how it is used, has it been involved in an accident.

When Should I Replace My Motorcycle Helmet?

Many riders prefer to replace their helmets every three to five years. The production date can be found on a sticker underneath a section of the comfort liner.

If you have come off your bike and your motorcycle helmet is cracked or damaged then it is most definitely time to replace it. Whether you have had your motorcycle helmet for one week or seven years, if it has any cracking, scratches or dents you should really consider replacing it.

2. Make Sure Your Motorcycle Helmet Complies with British Safety Standards in the UK.

Here are the answers to the following questions:

What is ECE 22.05, the Safety Standard for Motorcycle Helmets in the UK and Across Europe?

The ECE22. 05 (also known as the ECE R22-05) standard is a basic European helmet standard. This is the other standard that a motorcycle helmet can display to be road legal for use in the UK. The ECE 22.05 testing is the equivalent of the DOT helmet testing in the USA and this approval covers both the helmet and the visor.

What Has Changed with ECE 22.06, the New Safety Standard for Motorcycle Helmets?

Now visors of motorcycle helmets are to undergo more rigorous testing with the new regulations. New testing will see them shot with a steel ball at 60 m/s (134mph) to simulate the visor being struck by something out on a ride.

Which Type of Motorcycle Helmets are the Safest and ECE 22.06 Approved?

There are different types of motorcycle helmets on the market – full face, open face or modular flip motorcycle helmets – whichever one you choose, they should all be ECE 22.06 approved. If they do not carry the appropriate safety standards sticker, do not buy it.

The Snell Memorial Foundation is a private, non-profit organization formed in 1957 dedicated to improving motorcycle helmet safety and they go beyond the governmental standard-setting approach and is available to assist manufacturers with motorcycle helmet development by offering prototype testing.

What Does it Mean when a Motorcycle Helmet is Snell Approved or DOT Compliant?

DOT stands for “Department of Transportation” and means the motorcycle helmets are tested in accordance with the guidelines and regulations set by them.

For a motorcycle helmet to be legal in the UK, it has to have met the government’s required British safety standards. This is most commonly the ECE 22.05 regulation but if a motorcycle helmet carries the BSI Kitemark it is also suitable.

Around the world, there are many different safety standards; the nationally recognised standards include ECE 22.05 within Europe and DOT in the US. Other certifications include SHARP and SNELL.

Which Motorcycle Helmet Brands Conform to the Highest Safety Standards in the UK?

We have written a second blog which lists our top pick of the best and safest motorcycle helmets all conforming to the appropriate standards for the UK. Click on the link to take a look for a more in-depth recommendation.

3. Your Motorcycle Helmet Must Fit Well & Be Comfortable to be Safe.

Ensure Correct Sizing.

You need to find a motorcycle helmet that fits your head. A correct sized full-face motorcycle helmet, for example, should feel snug but not annoyingly tight and shouldn't move back and forth or side to side when you move your head. It should sit level on your head (not tilted back) with the front edge one inch or less above your eyebrows so that your forehead is protected. Push the motorcycle helmet from side to side and back to front.

Good Ventilation

Good ventilation in a motorcycle helmet is important – it will help keep you cool when it's hot and keep your visor fog-free when it's not. Make sure you have a look at what ventilation the motorcycle helmet offers you and check out any reviews that are available to make sure it meets your needs.

What Type of Visor is Best?

Another factor to consider is the type of visor you should look for when making your purchase. Some motorcycle helmets have nice wide visors designed to maximise your peripheral vision so it is good to get a motorcycle helmet with a wide visor.

A point to consider with visors if you ride a sports bike, your riding position will be different, a more tucked-in position, so you will be chin-down and looking up through towards the top of the visor much of the time so a tall visor opening would be better so the top of your view isn’t obscured by the motorcycle helmet.

What is the Best Helmet Fastening Mechanism?

When considering which motorcycle helmet to buy, check out what type of interior it has and the fastening mechanism. A removable interior is easier to keep clean, so particularly important for daily riders. Also look for a chin skirt and a good seal around your neck for warmth in winter, and less noise. Being able to remove the chin skirt will allow for more air to move around on hot days, or when riding behind a tall screen.

Your motorcycle helmet will either have a ‘double-D’ fastener, or a ‘micro-metric ratchet’. You can’t choose which to have – it’ll depend on the model. Double-D is the choice of racers and gives a very secure fit every time you put the lid on, with a really simple mechanism. But it’s hard to use if you have your gloves on.

Most touring motorcycle helmets have a micrometric ratchet – with this, you set the strap to the size you want at first, then it gives around an inch of adjustment every time you put the motorcycle helmet on, which means you should still get a secure fit. Some people don’t like the fact that it depends on moving parts, but it’s a very secure and simple self-locking design, and a vast improvement on the old seat-belt buckle types that were set to one length only, so tended to work loose.

What is Important for fitting an Intercom?

If you’re going to want to fit an intercom into your lid, check there’s space for speakers – some motorcycle helmets have recesses, but others can push the speakers painfully into your ears when riding.

How much does a Motorcycle Helmet Cost?

In terms of how much a motorcycle helmet costs, this can vary from as little as £50 to well over a £1,000 and you have to find a motorcycle helmet that gives you the best level of safety that you can afford combined with the style you want, and with the best fit possible.

Storing your motorcycle helmet correctly will help to prolong its life and ideally motorcycle helmets should be stored in a cool dark place in a motorcycle helmet bag.


We hope this guide helps you make sure any helmet you buy is safe, legal, and provides the best protection - after all that is what its meant to be for!

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