In praise of my 3/4 helmets..

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by Jim Day, May 11, 2015.

  1. Jim Day

    Jim Day full manic mechanic

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    I've been riding motorcycles a long time and have a lot of hours riding with both full face and 3/4 helmets. After years of riding with full face I've finally gone back to 3/4 and the main reasons are the simplicity and visibility. For me personally I think comfort, simplicity and the ability to see things and avoid trouble before I crash trumps any extra protection I get from riding with a full face helmet. That said I'm not immune to the power of media and pretty much daily you see articles on motorcycle websites and in other media claiming that open faced helmets are not safe and only the latest full face technology will do. so I did some reading on the subject.


    Looks like the most definitive study involving 3/4 helmets was motorcycle accident study done by USC in Southern California in 1981 where almost 60% of the riders in that study were wearing what they then called call Full but what we now call 3/4 helmets when they crashed. Published by The Traffic Safety Center of University of Southern California Los Angeles, for the Department Of Transportation. "Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures" (the Hurt study) dispels some of the current mythology about helmet safety and it's a interesting read.

    Here's the link to that USC DOT helmet analysis. It's actually pretty mind blowing. 400+ pages but the interesting stuff starts in the mid to late 200s.
    http://isddc.dot.gov/OLPFiles/NHTSA/013695.pdf

    Myth one: Everyone takes it on the chin... I've seen articles in riding magazines that suggest that up to 35% of motorcycle accidents result in a face plant where a full face helmet is necessary for safety. Keep in mind these magazines and websites are dependent on advertisers like Bell, Shoei and other helmet manufacturers to make money and stay in business.

    Well....

    [​IMG]
    As you can see in the Hurt study the percentage of helmet strikes to the chin was closer to 3.5% but that was only in wrecks where the helmet actually hit something and in the vast majority of normal accidents (lowsiding etc) the helmet never hits anything. It's important though to realize that this study was done before sportbikes and superbikes became popular, but then again I do not ride sportbikes either.


    Myth two: Expensive high-tech construction is needed for protection..... This is simply not true. The researchers for the USC study were actually amazed at how almost any helmet offered some degree of protection, and found that the standard fiberglass/Styrofoam construction was more then adequate protection in anything but the most extreme accidents. I'm looking for the actual quote in the report but that was their findings.


    Myth three: You drop your helmet you have to replace it....... Being someone that has worked with fiberglass I always thought this was total bullshit and my instincts were right.

    Actual quote from the USC report:

    "......precrash condition of the motorcycle rider helmets: As shown with these data, 25.0% of the accident-involved helmets showed evidence of significant damage in advance of the accident. The damage to the fiberglass shell helmets was innocuous and did not affect accident performance. Damage to the fiberglass shell consisted mainly of superficial abrasions and chipping of the gelcoat and small delaminations at the vertex of the shell (from handling and dropping the helmet)..."

    So previous wear and damage (like from dropping) had no effect on performance.

    These are scientific findings, from a local scientific study based on real accident data from thousands of accidents obtained locally and actual on site investigations of almost a thousand accidents where researchers went to the sites and collected detailed information right down to the riders clothing, glasses, riding history and what they had been doing that day. It is 30+ years old but then again I ride vintage bikes upright much like they did 30+ years ago.:lol3
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  2. Paebr332

    Paebr332 Good news everyone!

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    It is NOT the shell that is compromised in a crash so much as the expanded foam lining the shell. This foam is good for ONE impact since it crushes to absorb the impact. A second impact in that same area would be a very bad thing even if the shell is okay.
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  3. mrphotoman

    mrphotoman Long timer

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    That is right, just do not crash on your face and 3/4 helmets are great!
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  4. LittleRedToyota

    LittleRedToyota Yinzer

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    well, i guess there are conflicting studies out there.

    my own personal study has so far consisted of two trial runs of me getting off the bike unexpectedly on pavement.

    in 50% of the cases in my study, the chin bar was impacted very hard. had i not been wearing a helmet with a chin bar, i'd have been on my way to the hospital minus lots of teeth and a broken jaw at best.

    because i did have a chin bar, i got up, dusted myself off and finished riding to work.

    to each his own, though.
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  5. NJ-Brett

    NJ-Brett Brett

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    3/4 is great when you do not have a front fender.

    45 years of riding and I have not needed a full face in a crash yet.
    That included a little enduro racing and lots of dirt riding.

    I found I really like fenders though.

    Since getting older, I do snap on a shield in the cold and rain.
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  6. LittleRedToyota

    LittleRedToyota Yinzer

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    btw, i do agree with your assessment about being able to see better.

    dirt bike helmets give you both. you get a chin bar (not as robust as the chin bar on a full face street helmet, but still a chin bar) and also allow you to see just as well as with a 3/4 helmet.

    just another option to consider.
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  7. dwizum

    dwizum Long timer

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    Interesting to compare the numbers you're reporting with the Hurt Report which was conducted around the same timeframe in the same part of the world. I'm sure we've all seen the graphic from that:

    [​IMG]
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  8. Blue Mule

    Blue Mule Persistent Slacker

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  9. Steve in OC

    Steve in OC Been here awhile

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  10. SloMo228

    SloMo228 World Class Cheapass

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    Hey, we all get to choose what we want to wear, and at least the OP seems to be making his choice on a rational assessment of the risks he is willing to take instead of wearing a non-FF helmet because "it looks cool."

    That said, I choose a FF every time for a number of reasons, from not wanting to have my lower jaw ground off on the pavement, to simply protection from the elements and road debris. I don't ride motorcycles with fairings so I take some hits to the face from time to time. With a FF helmet, it's startling at worst. With a 3/4 helmet, it could be a more serious injury or lead to a loss of control of the motorcycle.

    I don't find that my vision is unduly restricted while wearing a FF helmet, either, but I will grant that an open-face helmet isn't going to restrict your field of view much, if at all.
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  11. gravityisnotmyfriend

    gravityisnotmyfriend Long timer

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    My full face helmet doesn't impact my vision any more than a 3/4 helmet. The only difference is that I may not be able to see as much right in front of me. And I mean right in front of me - like the gas tank. I can see in front of the bike just fine.

    What kind of FF helmet are you wearing that impacts your vision?
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  12. gmk999

    gmk999 ____ as a Rotax

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    I’m with you on the 3/4.. Great for duking about town and sunny day cruising, but when i’m traveling I still opt for my MC style full face.
    The one get off that i have had in almost 40 years was a superman slide down the centerline of the merrit parkway, My gear ,Chinbar- faceshield saved me for sure. I owe the FF some respect. ( from 60-0 on my belly and was able to ride home)
    I agree with the vision aspect, I may have easily avoided my wreck if I had better peripheral vision. After that I swiched to the M/C style for the extra vision it provides. I certainly like a 3/4 in town wher there is a LOT going on in the periphery.
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  13. dwizum

    dwizum Long timer

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    Agreed 100%. I would never argue that someone shouldn't be allowed to make that choice based on whatever factors they want, as long as there is no material impact to society at large.

    That said, I do find it interesting that part of the OP's argument based on a set of data that appears vastly different from another set (the Hurt report) given both data were obtained through university research in the same geographical area and time period. The Hurt Report seems to be the standard bearer whenever the subject comes up, I don't think anyone typically questions if it is widely invalid. I'm wondering if anyone who is familiar with both studies might be able to offer ideas about why the numbers are so different.
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  14. klebs01

    klebs01 Been here awhile

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    After my crash last summer where my helmet got ripped off and I slid on my face at an estimated 60mph, I will continue to wear full face helmets. I can tell you from experience that it's not fun and neither are the reconstructive surgeries. I'm just lucky to be alive and be able to see out of my left eye after getting chunks of my eye lid ripped off and having road rash on my eye brow and forehead bone. I'm not an ATGATT nazi, but full face helmets are worth wearing on every ride to me.
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  15. Jim Day

    Jim Day full manic mechanic

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    That graphic is often falsely attributed to the Hurt report but it's from Dietmar Otte, and used out of context.. My info is actually from the Hurt report including the image I posted. Clink on the link and you can read the Hurt report PDF for yourself.

    Page one:
    [​IMG]

    Once again here is page 288...
    [​IMG]

    .......it's pretty self explanatory.
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  16. Jim Day

    Jim Day full manic mechanic

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    My info is from the Hurt report just click the link and read the PDF for yourself.
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  17. adam728

    adam728 Long timer

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    I'm wondering the same.

    With my full face I can, without moving my head, glance down and read my speedometer. The chin guard impedes my vision from about the steering stem nut and back. Not exactly critical in crash avoidance.


    But I do agree with others, at least the OP put enough thought into looking at the risks to then make a decision. Everyone has a different threshold of risk they are willing to take. Some won't ride without a full face (me). Other's will ride with no helmet. Still other people would never be caught on a deathcycle, I mean, motorcycle. No one's right or wrong, it's based on the individual and their assessment/choices. Unfortunately too many think that if your decision is different than theirs then you are wrong, and an idiot.
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  18. Pecha72

    Pecha72 Long timer

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    so your saying an open face helmet is as protective as a full face, because it is not very probable, that you will actually face plant on your face?
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  19. Rgconner

    Rgconner Long timer

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    On classic bikes the chin bar often blocks the instrument cluster.

    Minor, but annoying
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  20. motif

    motif Banned

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    ok, but how you deal with bees and other flying sh$it?
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