Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I Try Out a Half Helmet

A few years ago I switched from sport touring bikes to a cruiser (The Vulcan 900 Classic). And ever since then I have continued wearing full face helmets and other typical sport bike gear, like my fluorescent green Scorpion motorcycle jacket.

But two days ago, "The Lost Motorcyclist" (Me) slipped a little further into the "Wild Hogs" image, with my purchase of a half helmet. To recap the issues In case you are not aware, many sport riders and touring riders insist that full face helmets are safer than 3/4 or half helmets. But many "bad ass" cruiser types insist on the freedom to ride with the wind in their hair, and if they are required, will wear the helmet that is lightest, cheapest, and with the most exposure. There are exceptions, but usually half helmets go with cruisers, and sport riders use full face helmets.

So now I have a half helmet and a cruiser motorcycle. And I have worn it a few times already, on my Honda CD175 with no windshield, and on the Vulcan with the windshield. I have been out on the freeway, and in cross winds. But so far only in very nice weather, and if there was even a hint of rain I had a full face helmet strapped to the sissy bar just in case.

The half helmet is a Vega XTS black leather finish with orange flames stitched on with white thread. I know those are the Harley colours, and it clashes with my green jacket. So I wore it with my old black Joe Rocket jacket, which I use for hot weather anyway. I found it for a really good deal (half price) at Zdeno Cycles in Kitchener, and it looks like a good quality helmet.

I am not endorsing the safety of half helmets vs. full face, but you can be injured with either type, so always pay attention when riding. What are the differences between full face and half helmet, other than safety, which I am trying to not test for myself.

The half helmet is lighter, but the centre of gravity is really high compared to the full face. You feel it only when moving your head back and forth.  I assume the smaller helmet is easier on my neck and back. Actually it is hard for me to feel any difference in weight while riding.

I can see the instruments way down on the gas tank, where cruisers typically have them. without bending my head forward. My full face helmet has a wide enough opening that side vision is just as good as the half helmet.

The wind blast does not affect this helmet, but I did ride with a half helmet a few years ago when I rented a Harley in Florida, and that helmet was so bad it almost lifted off my head. So either this helmet is well designed for wind blast, or my windshield is what makes the difference. Actually, a windshield is probably almost necessary with a half helmet on the freeway.

I can hear a little bit better with the half helmet. For example, I can now hear a humming sound when I lean the bike over for a corner that I couldn't hear before. Also, I heard a big clang during a gear change, but that was from a Harley going the other direction. I'm not sure if I would have heard that with my full face helmet. Another thing, I can take out and put in my earplugs without removing this helmet.

Along with earplugs, I'm also wearing two pairs of glasses. One prescription lens, and an extra-large wrap around pair of polarized sunglasses over them for more eye protection.   I found the sunglasses did shake a bit loose in high winds, but it was fairly easy to push them back in place. The prescription glasses didn't come loose. This problem does not really exist with my full face, as I have a flip down sun visor. However with the full face, the prescription glasses arms are pressed into my ears, and this can become a bit irritating after a few hours. This irritation around the ears does not happen with my half helmet.

What else is nice about this half helmet? Well, my face does not look all squished up, so it helps me to not look too old in pictures. With the half helmet, it is possible to smile at people, and I think people are more likely to talk to me when I have it on. For example, I was at my first fill-up and a nice lady in the next car said hello to me. I think it was hello - I still had the earplugs in, but I always assume the best. And if I go inside, I always take off the full face because it's too intimidating and I can't talk or hear with it. I can do just about anything with a half helmet on, like drink a coffee, pay for gas, or just walk around .

I was worried that my ears would get sunburned, but that didn't happen, or my nose either. Maybe I was just lucky. But I was out for four hours of riding today, including Tim Horton's. (Yes I include sitting in a Tim Hortons in my riding time because the chairs are just as uncomfortable as the bike).
I find that my nose itches while riding in hot weather. With the half helmet, it seems to itch less and anyway it's really easy to scratch when there's no face shield.
The half helmet is cooler and more comfortable than the full face in town on hot days, and I don't need to open the visor at stops.
Picture: The Vega Leather Half Helmet. The peak in this picture (I think that's what the sun shade is called) is very small, but I happened to have a bigger one at home. So I switched to the longer one, in case I needed to ride into the sun. With my bike's windshield I didn't get any lifting on the bigger peak, if that was the reason Vega supplied the small one.


  1. Around town--hot day---defintely prefer my half helmet

    But out into the country where there are a lot more bugs and stones being kicked up--happy to have the full face even though I'm a cruiser guy...guess I'm not as tough as those real cruiser (aka Harley) guys esp in the states where they have no helmet at all!

    What is troublesome is when the ride is some of both---get into the city and bumper to bumper and just want to rip the full face off!

  2. I'm not sure I'm prepared to trade off the bugs and pebbles in my face for the convenience of being able to have a smoke without removing my lid.

    I have a full range of helmets (shorty, open face and full face) but, for some reason, have got into the habit of just grabbing a full face whenever I head out.

    Perhaps it's just old age (and lack of flexibility) catching up with me ... LOL!!