Some may say that any helmet is better than no helmet, but even though that might sound good in theory, that claim couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Believe it or not, there are valid reasons why there are different types of helmets for different activities.
You might think that it can’t hurt to slip on a bicycle helmet to ride your motorcycle down to your local store. The store is only a mile or two down the road, so that’s okay, isn’t it?
Sorry to tell you, but the bottom line is that a bicycle helmet for motorcycle just doesn’t cut it.
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Can You Wear A Bicycle Helmet On A Motorcycle?
It’s not simply a case of wearing something, anything, on your head just to appease the law. The whole idea of helmets is to ensure that your kids don’t lose a parent due to their helmet-less head impacting with the bitumen. Even a bicycle helmet on a motorcycle could be considered close to helmet-less due to the protection it would (not) provide.
The law, in States that have helmet laws, states that the helmet worn when riding a motorcycle must be DOT approved, in the United States at least. So if you can find yourself a DOT approved bicycle helmet then you should be good to go. Otherwise, you may as well just walk to the shop down the road.
Sorry, buddy, but I don’t make the laws. If your purpose was to entertain your friends by wearing something silly on your head, then why not try a colander? You know, one of those metal strainer things that they use for draining water from your spaghetti or boiled veggies.
You could secure it under your chin with a bit of fencing wire. It won’t offer any kind of head protection but should be good for a laugh.
The point is though, that you can’t just wear anything on your head and call it a helmet, or even pretend that it’s head protection. Apart from that, I don’t think colanders are DOT approved.
Bicycle Helmet For Motorcycle
If there was a bike helmet Vs motorcycle helmet fighting it out in the ring, it would be a no-contest. The motorcycle helmet is much bigger, stronger, has more padding, and can take a much harder hit than a bike helmet. The bike helmet would be like the 97-pound weakling. Plus, it’s full of holes.
Back on a serious note now. Both motorcycle helmets and bike helmets need to be certified in order to be ‘fit for purpose’. But they both have a different purpose and they both have different helmet safety standards to meet to be fit for their individual purpose.
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Helmet Safety Standards
The helmet safety standard for bicycle helmets is CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) 1203, while the helmet safety standard for motorcycle helmets is DOT (Department of Transport) FMVSS No. 218.
It’s no surprise that there are many similarities in the requirements of both of these helmet safety standards. For example, both are looking at ‘impact attenuation’, ‘peripheral vision’, ‘positional stability’, and the ‘retention system’.
Both helmet safety standards have clear-cut requirements with regard to the materials and manufacturing processes of the respective helmets.
Where bicycle helmet and motorcycle helmet safety standards differ is in the testing requirements. Let’s take for example the impact attenuation test.
The impact attenuation test is a performance test to ensure that the helmet will adequately protect the head in a collision. Without going into the finer details, it’s quite clear that the average bicycle helmet involved in a collision will crash at around 10 – 20 mph, while the average motorcycle could be (legally) traveling at 75 mph.
That’s quite a difference in impact speeds and obviously requires different strengths in helmet construction and overall durability.
For that reason, the testing is completely different, and the motorcycle helmet has to be able to pass tests that are not designed for a bicycle helmet. That is also why a bicycle helmet will not offer your head much in the way of protection when riding a motorcycle.
To summarize, bicycle helmets are designed for impacts at bicycle riding speeds. Motorcycle helmets are built to withstand harder impacts at faster speeds. Riding a motorcycle while wearing a bicycle helmet is sheer madness.
The same goes for pillion passengers on your motorcycle. If there are helmet laws in your area, then the passenger also needs to be wearing a DOT approved motorcycle helmet.
If there are no helmets laws in your state, then common sense will dictate what you and your passenger should be wearing. If you have no common sense, then just be sure you have arranged for someone to look after your orphaned children.
Just in case you haven’t worked it out yet, the reasons why you can’t wear a bicycle helmet on a motorcycle are that bicycle helmets are not DOT approved, and because bicycle helmets cannot protect your head sufficiently for the speeds that motorcycle helmets are designed for.