Safety and riding style aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, as evident by the sudden popularity of the notorious "Skid Lid" motorcycle helmet throughout the entire motorcycle rider spectrum. You'll find these low profile helmets on casual weekend riders and outlaw bikers alike; probably because they blend the best of both worlds: Safety and tough looks.
How safe are they? Many are actually DOT approved (that's "Department of Transportation," in case you didn't know). It's widely known amongst riders that DOT approved motorcycle helmets are safer than those that aren't. Why? Because they've been tested extensively by government and third party laboratories to ensure they provide maximum security. Many full helmets have gone through the DOT certification process, but until recently these smaller "Skid Lids" have been labeled as "Novelty only," which is bureaucratic speak for: "You will die with this."
But not any more. Thanks largely to the booming popularity of these types of low profile helmets, manufacturers have taken great lengths to make sure they provide enough products that meet the demand. Ironically, this is probably a case of the "invisible hand" creating a better society; because as these helmets became more and more popular, the makers realized that there was a huge market of people willing to buy them IF they could be made as safe as the full motorcycle helmets. When there's a demand, you can bet that there will be plenty of people ready to capitalize on it, and that's exactly what happened.
Why Buy A "DOT Approved" Motorcycle Helmet?
Because they are safer. To get the approval of the Department of Transportation, they must be tested extensively. These tests are designed to maximize head protection in case of a wreck or collision. Any helmet that hasn't been DOT approved may not be as safe as you think it is. In fact many non-certified helmets barely provide any protection at all, even if they look tough as nails.
Think about it this way: If a helmet was safe, why wouldn't the manufacturer be willing to put it through the paces to prove its worth? There's only one answer: They either know it will fail, or aren't willing to put their money where their mouth is to find out. Either way, that's not exactly the vote of confidence any rider should have when it comes to personal safety.
What To Look For When Buying A Skid Lid
Credit: AmazonThis is one of those rare instances when you don't have to sacrifice safety for style. This was hardly the case even just a few years ago. That was when only outlaw bikers wore these types of head protection, because it kept the police from pulling them over (most helmet laws didn't mandate at DOT approval, any helmet was good enough). But now that this style has crossed over into the general motorcycle riding public, there are plenty of safe and stylish options to choose from.
But you'll still need to shop smart, because there are plenty of things you'll need to keep in mind before making your final decision:
DOT Approval. I know I'm hitting this one over the head, but there's a reason: Not all helmets have been certified. Those that have will clearly state this inside the helmet itself, or if you're shopping online for a cheaper deal (for example, Amazon has some killer prices) it will probably be mentioned in the product description.
Size. And no, I'm not just talking about the way it fits on your head (though that is important, too). I'm talking about the actual "profile" of the helmet itself. Generally speaking, riders who choose these types of helmets want the smallest look, otherwise known as a "low profile" or a "shorty." The good news is that a DOT skid lid helmet shorty is easier to find than ever before. Of course there are some larger sized lids, too.
Color/Looks. Let's face it, we ride because it sets us apart from the rest of the world. We're rugged individuals, and our personalities are reflected in everything about us, from the bikes themselves to our apparel to our haircuts and even to our choice of helmets. You can go as tame or wild as you want, because everything's out there. Many riders prefer a flat black skid lid or even a shiny black one, while others like the looks and strength of carbon fiber or even metal.
Credit: AmazonDesign. This is similar to the point above, but there are plenty of ways to make your helmet unique. Some of the paint and decal schemes I've shown in this article are examples of what you can buy straight out of the box. Other folks prefer to buy a solid color then hand their helmet over to an airbrush artist for a custom design - almost like a tattoo. And still others prefer to just slap their favorite stickers on them. And then there are those who prefer the simplicity of a solid base color. The choice is up to you.
Reviews. What are the people who are actually wearing these helmets saying about them? I've included a whole section below for finding honest, sincere reviews online. But no matter what you do, don't fall for the hype you'll read in magazines or from a salesman; those guys are in business to make money. You want to hear it from the horse's mouth; that is to say, real, honest people who have bought them and use them.
DOT Skid Lid Helmet Reviews
There are way too many different lids on the market for me to list them all here and then give an honest review (besides, I haven't tried them all, so that wouldn't be fair).
What I'd recommend is going to AMAZON and scrolling through the user comments. Unlike the reviews you'll read in biker magazines, these are written by actual customers, not companies who are getting paid big advertising dollars to give certain products top ratings.
Because at the end of the day, you want to know that the DOT skid lid helmets you're looking at actually hold up to the rigors of the road, not just some slick marketing executive's paycheck.