Are Half Face (AKA Open Face) Helmets Unsafe As Compared to Full-Face Helmets?
Ask any motorcycle rider and they will tell you that the best part of riding a motorcycle is the feeling of freedom that comes from being both on a motorcycle and in the elements as you maneuver the motorcycle through the road … very different from simply sitting in a car, turning the wheel, and operating the accelerator and brakes.
But, what they leave out is that motorcycle helmets, especially full-face ones, restrict that feeling. As a result, many riders choose to go for half-face helmets in order to maintain both freedom and safety.
However, how safe are half-face (open-face) motorcycle helmets, and are they better or worse than full-face helmets? We will answer such questions in this article. No matter what kind of motorcycle helmet you prefer, it is important to remember that any helmet is better than no helmet at all. But, if you’re concerned about the safety of different types of motorcycle helmets, let’s break it down for you.
Types Of Motorcycle Helmets
Before we deep dive into whether half-face helmets are the same or different from full-face motorcycle helmets, it is imperative that you are aware of the different types of motorcycle helmets, to begin with. Primarily, there are three types of motorcycle helmets: full-face, half-face, and modular helmets. Let’s see what they are.
Full-Face Helmets: Full-face helmets, as the name suggests, cover the full face. These types of helmets cover the front, rear, and crown of the head. Full-face helmets include a robust chin bar that is incorporated into the rest of the helmet, which makes them structurally sturdier. These kinds of motorcycle helmets provide excellent protection and help defend motorcyclists from the brain, and facial injuries.
Opposed to other motorcycle helmet styles, these helmets are big and clunky, although they are made to be as light as possible. Apart from sun and wind protection, it also reduces noise levels and avoids rain from penetrating the interior. Overall, full-face helmets are best for motorcyclists who do heavy riding and ride in harsh climates with too many distractions.
Half-face Helmets (again, AKA Open-Face): Evident from the name, half-face helmets are motorcycle helmets that cover half of your face. These kinds of helmets are also known as three-quarter helmets and cover only your head while leaving the face open. Motorcyclists prefer this kind of helmet, owing to the airflow they offer.
Compared to full-face motorcycle helmets, half-face helmets are much lighter on the face. The visor shields the face and allows you to see your surroundings without any restriction during riding. However, there is no chin bar. The good thing about this kind of motorcycle helmet is its breathability. Riders prefer half-face motorcycle helmets for times when they wish to experience a breezy ride.
Modular Helmets: The third kind of motorcycle helmet are called the modular helmet. Modular helmets can be considered as a mix of both. Known also as flip-up helmets, modular helmets come with a detachable chin bar with a hinge system and a visor. These types of motorcycle helmets are made with the same material and fitment as full-face motorcycle helmets.
Sometimes, these helmets also feature an internal visor to protect you from the sunlight. All these additional designs can occasionally make modular helmets slightly heavier than full-face helmets. Regardless, these are best for cruisers, tourers, and adventure riders, who need both comfort and protection.
Are Half-Face Helmets Unsafe?
To completely disregard half-face motorcycle helmets and tag them as unsafe would be absolutely wrong and silly. Yes, it is no doubt that full-face motorcycle helmets are the safest out of all the helmet types. However, that doesn’t imply that half-face helmets are unsafe.
After all, half-face helmets are approved for use by national/ international standards. That wouldn’t have been the case if half-face helmets were truly unsafe. What makes these types of motorcycle helmets safe or unsafe is the preference and riding style of the motorcyclist.
When comparing full-face helmets and half-face helmets, it is evident that full-face helmets are safer owing to the fact that they cover the entirety of your face. On the other hand, half-face helmets offer limited jaw protection and leave your chin exposed. Despite knowing the risks of such motorcycle helmets, many riders choose them mostly for fun and style.
However, there are also quite a few other reasons why someone might prefer a half-face helmet.
Riders who live in a tropical or subtropical region will undoubtedly prefer a half-face helmet since the climate, can be for some, too unbearable for wearing a full-face one. Moreover, when setting a standard for motorcycle helmets, organizations must consider the climatic and cultural conditions of that region, along with the riders’ preferences.
These factors influence the willingness of the riders to wear helmets, so naturally, if a region with a warm climate only allows full-face helmets, riders will not want to wear helmets at all and that is never good.
Let’s take the example of Vietnam. In 1993, Vietnam had a helmet standard that allowed only full-face motorcycle helmets and restricted any other type or style of helmet. Considering the humid climate of Vietnam, this decision was widely unpopular and was made to revise in 2001 when it included half-face helmets under its standard as well.
While full-face helmets are safer in terms of coverage and noise cancellation, they do increase the chances of a heat stroke, nausea, or dizziness owing to the heat. Even though a person might be able to save themselves from a serious accident, they will still be prone to heat strokes and other such issues, especially if they belong to a humid climate.
Moreover, if the rider has asthma or any kind of breathing problem, full-face helmets are not the best option.
Ultimately, it all comes down to the rider and the preferences they have, and the climate they ride in. For instance, while half-face motorcycle helmets are better in humid climates, they are not ideal in colder climates where the face can get extremely cold. Similarly, full-face helmets are better in windy climates while half-face helmets are not. It has a lot to do with the riding style of the motorcyclist as well.
For instance, if you are a cruiser or a tourer, full-face helmets are definitely a better option but for daily commutes or casual rides, half-face helmets work perfectly.
But, if you are a heavy rider and stay in a region with a moderate climate, you should opt for full-face motorcycle helmets. Think about it. If you do get in an accident, you will fly off head first. There are high chances of you hitting your face if you fall from your motorcycle and hit your head. If your chin and nose are exposed, they will end up getting broken if the accident is serious.
A full-face helmet can protect your face from such severe accidents while a half-face helmet may not be as successful.
Which Motorcycle Helmets Are The Best?
It is not possible to simply call one type of motorcycle helmet the best while calling the other one unsafe. Every kind of motorcycle helmet has a purpose to serve and they all can turn out to be safe if used correctly in the right situation. But, if you want to enjoy the best of both worlds, a modular helmet can be a good option for you.
Modular motorcycle helmets offer a great compromise between the breathability of half-face helmets and the protection of full-face helmets.
If you live in a warmer climate where wearing a full-face helmet seems like an impossible task but you still want to be as safe as possible, you can wear a modular helmet. Whenever you feel hot, you can just pop open the front and get some air and close it when necessary. Moreover, these kinds of motorcycle helmets are also preferable for riders who are required to have face-to-face communication with other people such as delivery people, riding instructors, and couriers.
The great thing about modular helmets is that they are customizable and can be adjusted according to the preferences of the rider. Some of these helmets also come with tinted sun visors that protect you from sunlight. Furthermore, for riders who wear eyeglasses, modular helmets are much more convenient as they can be easily opened as opposed to full-face helmets.
The flip-up visors of modular motorcycle helmets are also preferable for riders who get hungry or thirsty between rides and want to get a drink or grab a bite.
Overall, it is up to you to decide which kind of helmet will serve you the best. Remember that any kind of motorcycle helmet is still better than wearing none at all.
Choosing the right kind of motorcycle helmet for your safety can be overwhelming. With so many styles and factors to take into consideration, how do you know which one will protect you from an accident? As we discussed in this article, each helmet has a purpose. To summarize, if you are a heavy rider, full-face helmets are the best, if you are a casual rider, half-face helmets are preferable and if you are a frequent rider who needs to have breathability in their motorcycle helmets, modular helmets are right up your alley.