Still driving bikes with a flower pot on your head as helmet? Don't you think you - and your family - deserve better? The market has never been better for helmets, both in terms of variety and price. With summer around the corner, this may be just the right time to upgrade your headwear.
The big three of the Indian helmet market - Studds, Steelbird and Vega - have all got strong portfolios in all varieties of head covers, be it for regular commuting or racing or the dirt-track variants that are so popular with bike hooligans. And with superbikes proliferating, imported, ultra luxurious and super-light stuff too can be had, if you have the moolah.
Assuming that you are a regular rider than a racer (who have their own private social networking parlance), here are a few things that you should look at while buying a helmet:
Size matters: All heads are not the same size - or shape. Buy something that suits you. And if one company's models are not a good fit, don't hesitate to move to the next shop.
Fitting: Even if you don't plan to zoom at 100-odd kph, the upholstery inside the pot does make a difference. It ought to be comfortably tight. Do remember, a helmet tends to become loose over time, so it is better to go in for a tight fit - especially in windy conditions: the wind sound with the visor down kills the thrill of a fast ride, besides fouling up vision and focus.
Full face, three-quarters or half? This is a delicate point. A full face helmet offers protection to the jawline. With the visor down, it also protects the face against grime and dust, the bane of north India. On the other hand, one ends up with a roasted head and premature balding. Overall, a full-face is still preferable for the protection it offers.
Ventilation: On hot summer days, a helmet that channels some draft into the top of the helmet is a balm. These are slightly more expensive than the run-of-the mill pots, but worth the extra money. Multiple vents, with the option to slide shut, is the best option - they can be used in winter as well.
Oomph factor: This is pure swank, but all companies these days offer helmets with great graphics. If the lines can convey your personality (or what you think of yourself!) why not shell out a bit extra? By the way, those World War style helmets, while great looking, won't go a long way if you suffer a crash.
Budget: Average full-face helmets from a good brand can cost as little as R650. The more features you add, the more the cost goes up. A good Indian helmet with great graphics, ventilation and full-face protection costs a shade south of Rs 2,000. On the other hand, if you ride Harley Davidson or BMW, it would be a pity to spoil it with cheap headwear: splurge a little, buy something that matches the overall effects. Imported helmets - Shoei, Arai and what have you - start at Rs 5,000 and go all the way up to several tens of thousands.
Remember, the first purpose of the helmet is not to keep the traffic cop at bay. It is to protect your head. Happy riding.