If you ride a motorcycle, having a good helmet is absolutely critical. In the event of a crash, your helmet will be your best protection against everything from facial injuries to death. You want to make sure your helmet is made of materials that can protect you from serious impacts and head injuries.
There are a lot of different materials that can make up motorcycle helmets. Read on to learn more about some of the most popular materials and the benefits each can offer.
Basic Helmet Anatomy
Before we dive into all the different materials motorcycle helmets can be made of, let’s talk some about basic helmet anatomy. There are three basic layers to a motorcycle helmet: the outer shell, the inner crush foam, and the inner comfort padding.
The outer shell of a helmet is designed to spread out the force from an impact across the entire shell, minimizing the blow. Then comes the crush foam, which is designed to compress and absorb all that shock that the outer shell distributed. The comfort lining is the padding you feel around your head and face, which helps the helmet fit snugly and not chafe.
The inner crush foam is usually made of expanded polystyrene and varies only in how many layers a helmet has. The materials we’ll focus on here are the ones that make up that outer shell.
Composite helmets are made up of a mix of different materials that can include various fibers mixed with epoxy resin. In technical terms, almost all the materials we’ll talk about here are composite materials. Composite helmets will usually be made mostly of carbon fibers or glass fibers.
Manufacturers make composite helmets by laying layers of these into a mold in a criss-crossing pattern. They then pour in the epoxy resin or other filler they’ll be using to bind the layers and form the outer shell of the helmet. The whole mixture gets heated up to set the filler, and then another layer begins.
Fiberglass helmets are one of those sub-classes of composite helmets that we mentioned. As you might guess from the name, these helmets use mostly glass fibers bound with epoxy resin. Some models may also include Kevlar or carbon fiber in the mix, but they are primarily made of glass fibers.
Advocates of fiberglass helmets love them for their flexibility, strength, and affordability. A fiberglass helmet is strong enough to stand up to a heavy blow, but flexible enough to distribute that force across the entire helmet. The materials are also relatively cheap, making it easier to afford a fiberglass helmet.
Like fiberglass helmets, carbon fiber helmets take their name from their primary ingredient. Carbon naturally organizes itself into crystalline patterns that are very strong. Carbon fibers are long chains of carbon molecules bound together in these organized structures.
Carbon fiber is strong and light, and the helmets made with this material can absorb a lot of shock. They also tend to be somewhat more comfortable to wear since they don’t have to be as heavy as other materials. However, they are a little more expensive than fiberglass, especially if they include some Kevlar.
Kevlar is one of the strongest materials available when it comes to protection of any sort. The material is actually a trademarked name for a material DuPont developed that’s made from synthetic polyamide fibers. These helmets are bonded with an incredibly durable plastic compound.
Because Kevlar fibers are composed of even, parallel lines of molecules, they have an incredibly high tensile strength. This allows manufacturers to make Kevlar helmets less dense and thus lighter. However, Kevlar does not have as much compression strength as carbon fiber, so the two materials are often blended.
Synthetic Reinforced Shell
Synthetic reinforced shell helmets, or SRS helmets, combine many of the materials we’ve discussed already. Their primary defining material is the heat-cured thermoplastic resin that binds the different fibers together. Like the other helmets we’ve discussed here, SRS helmets use multiple layers of fiber materials that provide strength, flexibility, and durability.
SRS helmets can include a variety of different fiber materials, even including some organic materials. But because they use a thermoplastic resin, they can provide the same level of durability and strength with fewer layers of fiber. This makes them lighter and more flexible than standard helmets bound with epoxy resin.
Outside of the resin and fiber-based helmets, there are also plastic helmet options. Within this category, you’ll find two types of plastic: thermoplastics and thermoset resins. Thermoplastics can be melted and poured into a mold, while thermoset resins need an additional curing agent to harden them.
Plastic helmets only contain these moldable materials, not any of the reinforcing fibers we’ve discussed. This means that they’re not as strong as the composite options. They have to be thicker in order to meet helmet regulations, so they are generally larger and bulkier, but they can also be a little more affordable.
Find the Best Motorcycle Helmets
When it comes to motorcycle materials, you want a magic combination of strength, flexibility, and lightness. Composite materials provide that, although they come with a higher price tag. Plastic helmets are a little more affordable, but tend to be larger and heavier to make up for their relative weakness.
If you’d like to find the best motorcycle helmets on the market, check out the rest of our site at Xtreme Helmets. We provide a price match guarantee, free shipping on orders over $59, and no-hassle returns if you need them. Shop our street helmets today and get the best protection possible when you’re on the road.