Are modular motorcycle helmets less safe than full-face headgear?

Facts versus myths
by Aris Ilagan | Jun 8, 2018

Modular motorcycle helmets are fast becoming popular among riders nowadays, especially those often engaged in long, cross-country travel.

With a hinged chin bar, this type of helmet allows the rider to easily get some air, smoke a cigarette, or take a sip from a soda bottle while at a brief stop. With a modular helmet, it's easier and quicker to show the rider's face at a police checkpoint compared to full-face head gear.

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By pressing a lock button, the rider can flip up the lower part of the helmet without releasing the neck strap or removing the entire helmet from his or her head. Owners of a modular helmet will attest that it's so convenient to use.

When the hinged bar is lowered, a modular helmet looks almost like a full-face helmet but with large screws on the sides to hold the moving part and the release/lock button in front. However, tales are going around claiming that modular helmets are less safe than their full-face counterparts.

There are harrowing stories about modular helmets that broke into pieces as a result of strong impacts from a motorcycle accident. These rider incidents add to the long list of fatalities from motorcycle-related accidents.

According to Tim Endencia, product specialist of MotoMarket and MotoStyle, these stories that tend to generalize modular helmets as products with design flaws are just myths. MotoMarket and MotoStyle were designated as the authorized dealers of Schuberth helmets, a German brand known for high-quality motorcycle helmet.

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Endencia cited four possible factors that may cause the disintegration of modular helmets when subjected to strong impact. Here's what to watch out for:

1) The lock button is not properly secured. There are riders who sometimes forget to secure the lock button on the lower hinge when they ride the bike. A loose lower hinge weakens the integrity of the helmet against impact. A rider must make it a habit to double-check if the lock button is secured before hitting the road. Don't forget to secure the strap of the helmet, too.

2) Avoid being screwed up. Although this kind of incident is more prevalent with low-quality helmets, any moving part which is secured by a screw must be periodically checked. If the rider can feel the screw has loosened even just a bit for one reason or another, this must be tightened immediately before resuming a journey.

3) You get what you pay for. There are modular helmets that are being sold in the market for a cheaper price but with lesser quality. Remember that this kind of helmet is not made in solid form like the full-face helmet, so it’s very important to determine if thorough research was applied in its construction. Premium helmets like Schuberth, for example, uses the Direct Fiber Processing (DFP) in constructing the helmet shell for optimum strength against impact.

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4) Go for maximum protection. There are modular helmets that are tested as both full-faced and half-faced helmets. Schuberth is among the few premium helmet products that passed testing standards for both with flying colors. But despite having two homologations, riders are discouraged from wearing modular helmets with the hinged bar flipped up while the motorbike is moving at high speed. This is to ensure full protection of the rider’s face in the event of a road mishap.

A rider must not only be wise in choosing a quality helmet, but should know how to properly use them for safety reasons. In riding, there's no room for ignorance and negligence.

Here’s another important reminder: Always read the user’s manual.

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PHOTO: Aris Ilagan
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