There is a never-ending debate in my biking crew about how safe the recently popular flip-up helmets are. For speed bikers like us, safety is paramount and having this knowledge is crucial when buying out body protection equipment. So are modular helmets less safe compared to full-face helmets? They all have distinct advantages and different safety levels because of the differences in their design.
Modular helmets are safer than open face helmets but slightly less secure than full-face helmets. You press a lock button and flip up the chin bar without removing the entire helmet. In a locked position, the chin bar provides protection and security narrowly similar to a full-face helmet. In a locked position, the chin bar provides the same protection as a full-face helmet. However, the chin bar’s hinge weakens the helmet’s shell and makes it prone to cracking on impact. Here is a detailed review of how safe modular helmets are.
Are modular helmets as safe as full-face variants?
Despite the convenience and versatility of the flip-up helmet, the hinge mechanism compromises its safety rating. Supporters of the flip-up or modular helmet believe that they offer the best of both full-face and open-face helmets. However, the organizations that set the safety standards of motorcycle helmets have rated modular helmets lower in crash protection than full-face helmets.
There are flaws in the flip-up helmet designs that can expose you to more severe injuries than wearing a full-face helmet. Here are the disadvantages of the modular helmet that make it slightly less safe than full-face helmets.
- When in a crash, your head is likely to hit the ground several times, and this can allow the locking mechanism of the visor to open and therefore exposing your head and face to more severe injury.
- The locking mechanism and hinge tend to make the modular helmet larger than the full-face helmets and half-face helmets. A larger helmet decreases aerodynamics and causes extra wing turbulence when riding at highway speeds.
- Any additional weight on a helmet is quite significant when riding. The hinge and locking mechanism gives the modular helmets some extra weight, compromising the visor and shell’s integrity.
- This additional weight may also be uncomfortable for a rider and can make you quickly exhausted when riding.
- You always have to remember to check the screws on the modular helmet. Any loose screws weaken the integrity of the helmet against impact.
What is the best time to wear a flip-up helmet?
The modular helmets are comfortable and convenient while also keeping your head and face protected when riding. The modular helmet is the middle ground between full-face helmets and open face helmets. Here are some instances where the flip-up helmet is advantageous:
- While you still need full protection, riding during hot weather with a full-face helmet can be quite uncomfortable; this is where the modular helmet comes in handy. It allows you to catch a breath during stops by lifting the chin bar without removing the whole helmet, making it quite convenient.
- It makes it easier for riders to communicate at traffic lights or eat and drink during quick stops without removing their helmets. Modular helmets are great for long-distance biking as they accommodate occasional stopping.
- The modular helmet comes in handy on summer days. It allows you to cool off when you are not riding but gives you the protection equal to a full-face helmet when on the move.
- The modular helmets also come with built-in internal sun visors that full-face helmets lack. You flip down the sun visor, which protects your eyes from the sun’s harmful Ultraviolet rays giving you comfortable vision when riding.
- Modular helmets are great for people who feel claustrophobic in small spaces. It allows you to open the visor when you start feeling uncomfortable without removing the whole helmet. But do not open the visor when riding; you may lose control when the wind hits your face.
Are modular helmets better than nothing?
Beyond any doubt, any type of head protection is better than nothing when biking. That’s why it is important to always ride with the front portion of the modular helmet locked down. Though not compulsory in all states in the U.S., wearing a helmet when riding significantly reduces the severity of head injuries during a fall by absorbing the force of impact rather than your head and brain.
The helmet works these three following ways:
- The helmet’s hard outer shell slows down the skull and brain movement’s speed by cushioning the impact. The helmet’s inner padding absorbs some of the force, and the head comes to a stop slowly; therefore, the brain does not hit the skull.
- A helmet spreads the force of impact over its curved surface area rather than concentrating the pressure on one spot of the head.
- It prevents direct contact between your skull and the surface of impact, therefore, reducing the force that collides with your head.
- The visor protects your eyes from wind, dust, rain, and snow, allowing you to ride well even during bad weather.
- Chin straps keep your head in place inside the helmet when riding and during impact.
In some states, if you end up in a crash without a helmet on, the insurance company may use that as a reason to deny you compensation over damages on your bike. In other states, it is entirely illegal to ride a motorcycle without a helmet on. But whether your local road safety laws have helmet laws or not, wearing a helmet is better than nothing as it is for your safety in case of a crash.
Can you ride with a flip-up helmet open?
Riding with the flip-up helmet open may be tempting, especially during hot weather (you can grab a well-ventilated helmet for hot weather instead), but experts strongly advise against riding with the helmet open. The modular helmet’s original intention is to use the open face when you’re not on the move without having to remove the whole helmet like the full-face helmet. A rider should not use the open face option when riding. You are only supposed to open the visor at a stoplight or parked to catch a breath, eat or drink or talk to someone. These dangers include:
- Riding with the helmet’s front part exposed reduces your crash protection significantly. During a crash, the bike’s speed thrusts you forward, and your face and chin will be the first point of impact. Without that barrier, you are likely to have severe head and facial injuries.
- The open chin bar and face shield create a curved shape that causes increased wind drag and reduces aerodynamics when riding and making the helmet feel heavier than it actually is
- Riding with the visor open exposes you to weather elements and causes low vision that can even lead to a collision.
- When riding with the modular helmet open, the chin bar protrudes further from the forehead, which increases the risk of neck injury during a crash.
- When the flip-up helmet is open, the hinge mechanism can be a bit noisy in the wind.
Fortunately, if you want to enjoy the convenience of an open modular helmet when riding, some modular helmet designs have been certified safe to use when open as you ride, like the BMW Motorrad System 7 helmet.
Which helmet is better: Modular or Full-Face
There are several factors to consider before deciding which one better between the modular and full-face helmet. We have broken down the benefits and shortcomings of the modular versus full-face helmets regarding safety, style, and comfort.
The primary purpose of a helmet is to protect your head from severe injury during a crash. Modular helmets and full-face helmets have the same protective materials, but which one is safer?
Undoubtedly, full-face helmets are safer than flip-up helmets. Full-face helmets are only one piece of gear with no moving parts that could break off and leave you exposed to injury. Moving parts such as the hinge on the modular helmet reduce the helmet’s safety structure by creating a weak point that can crack on impact.
The chin bar on the full-face helmet is more compact, steady and cushions your chin better than the modular helmet. The chin bar on modular helmets is made of lower quality plastic and has less cushioning material to accommodate the releasing mechanism.
Also, if the screws of the modular helmet happen to be loose or you didn’t lock it correctly, the chin bar will lift during impact.
If you are an avid speed racer or track biker, you should opt for the full-face helmet for its guaranteed safety against head injuries.
Whether you have a modular or full-face helmet, its design’s level safety is a non-issue if the helmet does not meet the safety standards passed by local jurisdiction laws. There are three globally-recognized safety ratings. In the U.S., they only recognize the DOT-rated helmets legislated by the U.S. Department of Transportation safety standards. In the U.K., the ECE subjects the elements to more rigorous testing to ensure maximum safety. Lastly, the Snell rating is mostly for racing applications and more high-end helmets.
Comfort and fit
Comfort is another helmet feature you need to consider. An uncomfortable helmet will make you quickly tired and affect your riding. If a helmet is not well-fitting, it can compromise your safety and cause headaches after long rides. A helmet should be snug, not too loose or too tight.
A loose helmet will be noisy, which can be very distracting when riding and can come off when you crash, exposing your head to injury. A tight-fitting helmet reduces proper airflow, which can cause difficulty in breathing and exhaustion; it can also cause bruising around your neck and ears.
Flip-up helmets are more comfortable than full-face helmets. Many riders complain about how cumbersome it is riding with a full-face helmet, having to unstrap it and remove it every time you need a break. Full-face helmets are also more tight-fitting than flip-ups, and older models cannot even fit eyeglasses.
However, over time full-face helmets have improved. Most of the latest full-face helmets come with vents that allow proper circulation inside the helmet. They also with removable foam lining and cheek pads which you can remove on hot days. The helmet’s lining is a much lighter material, which doesn’t put too much pressure on the head and face.
Even with all the new modifications on full-face helmets, ultimately, modular helmets are more comfortable because of the convenience of their flip-up option.
When it comes to style, personal preference plays a more significant role here. Both modular and full-face helmets come in a variety of colors, graphics, and shapes. Full-face helmets have a smooth surface and take their styling after the simple finish of Moto G.P. helmets, while modular helmets have a more structured look with angled edges.
In the conflict of modular vs. full-face helmets, it all comes to how much safety and comfort you want. Full-face helmets cover the whole head and face, therefore, having more superior protection compared to modular helmets. The flip-up helmet has unmatched convenience, it also covers the front face when riding with the visor locked down. The downside is, this flip-up mechanism jeopardizes the integrity of the helmet’s shell and, therefore, slightly reducing its safety level. If you prefer convenience and comfort, you aren’t sacrificing much safety when riding with a flip-up helmet.