There is a lot of disagreement on the subject of half-shell helmets, so it makes sense to look at the pros and cons.
- Wearing a half-shell keeps you legal. Look, we all know that some motorcycle riders would just as soon not wear a helmet at all, at least when the weather is nice. But many states and countries require the wearing of helmets. And in those jurisdictions, a half-shell that meets local safety standards (some don’t) is the least amount of helmet you can wear.
- Half-shells are more comfortable than full-face helmets. There is less weight on your head, less weight on your neck. In warm weather, your head and face will stay much cooler than if you are wearing a heavy, encasing full-face helmet. It does not become tiring to wear a half-shell if you are taking a long ride.
- You can pretty much forget that you are even wearing one. This will never be true with a full-face helmet! Wearing a half-shell helmet is like wearing clothing, or a baseball cap. You don’t think about it. And you don’t have to be taking it off all the time. You can hold a conversation with it on, you can drink a glass of water.
- You remain more in connection with your surroundings. You have better peripheral vision with a half-shell. You can hear better. You can feel the wind. You can experience the special feeling of freedom and unencumberedness that is a big part of the appeal of riding.
- You’re stylin’. Half-shells look pretty boss. And the price will generally be lower than that of a full-face helmet.
- You do get some protection. Admittedly, safety is not the half-shell’s strong suit. But wearing one is exponentially better in that respect than wearing no helmet at all.
- You get much less protection than you would with a full-face or even three-quarter helmet. There is no way around this. In the event of an accident, your face and really every part of your head below the crown is exposed to potential injury. To protect your eyes, you’ll need to wear goggles (recommended). Half-shells are also much more likely to fly off the head when an impact occurs, even if your chin strap is well-secured.
- You are more connected with the unpleasant side of your surroundings. Dust, pebbles, bugs, rain, excess noise, cold air in the fall and winter – a half-shell is not going to protect you from any of those.
Clearly, the decision to wear a half-shell, three-quarter-shell, or full-face helmet comes down to personal preference and an intelligent assessment of these pros and cons. Many riders choose to own both a half-shell and a full-face helmet, and to pick the one that seems right for that day’s ride. Having more options is usually better than having fewer.