How to choose… a flipfront helmet
How to choose... a flipfront helmet
Flipfront helmets are a practical and popular choice for riders who want to be able to quickly reveal their face.
They have a pivoting chinbar that is designed to be raised until it’s supported on top of the helmet, allowing the rider to more easily have a conversation or get an improved flow of air (or even take in a cheeky cig!)
Beloved of travellers, commuters and instructors – all people who need to be able to communicate quickly – there are a few important factors you need to consider before deciding which one is right for you.
Like conventional helmets, cheaper flipfronts have an all-plastic shell construction – and only a select bunch of helmets have chinbars made from anything other than plastic, regardless of the pricetag. As flips tend to be heavier than conventional full-facers (see below), this will be especially evident with an entry-level flip. It’s not unusual for a budget flip to weigh around 1800g, which is around 15 per cent heavier than a conventional helmet of the same price.
Look for shell size options
Flipfronts tend to be heavier than conventional full-face helmets thanks to the addition of extra material and devices to make the flip operation work. If you have a small head, shell size options are particularly important as helmets that only come in one shell size will be carrying a lot of needless weight for your smaller head. Helmets that come in a wider range of shell sizes will have one that’s closer to your head size and hence lighter and more comfortable.
While on the subject of size, there’s a quirk of fit that’s unique to flipfront helmets… they fit differently when flipped or closed. The fit tends to tighten around the jaw when the chinbar is dropped, which can affect fit around the side of the head. Be sure to try on the helmet in both states before deciding whether it’s the right one for you.
Most flipfront helmets are tested and approved as full-face helmets and are only legal to ride with the chinbar locked in the down position. This is because a raised chinbar could slide forward and obscure the rider’s view while in motion. Some helmets are dual-homologated, which means they have been tested and approved as both a full-face (with the chinbar down) and as an open-face (with it raised). In many of these instances, there will be a locking switch or lever that makes sure the raised chinbar can’t slide down in front of the rider’s eyes while riding.
The last letter or letters on the ECE 22.05 approval label will tell you what test or tests the helmet has passed. If the code suffix is ‘-P’ the helmet is only tested as full-face, while ‘-P/J’ at the end shows it has been approved for use as both full-face and open-face. In very rare circumstances you’ll see the suffix ‘-NP’, which means the chinbar has not been tested for impact and the letters stand for non-protective. If you opt for a ‘P/J’ or dual-homologated lid, check for a switch or lever to keep the chinbar raised before riding with it in the lifted position.
If the idea of a helmet that can be used as both full- and open-face has strong appeal and you plan to use it a lot in both configurations then consider a convertible helmet. These helmets have a novel chinbar that can slide over the top of the shell and rest at the lower rear portion of the helmet. Not only does this location make it impossible for a chinbar to move and impede vision, it is also gives better weight distribution and makes it more comfortable to wear the helmet as an open-face.
Flipfront helmets tend to be worn by riders who want to communicate with the outside world while riding. Many of the lids will be compatible with communications systems to varying degrees, ranging from basic accommodations like recesses in the protective EPS lining that comfortably house intercom speakers through to having antennae already inside the helmet to make a dedicated comms system fit easily without intruding on rider comfort. If you want comms, check to see what accommodation the lid offers for systems.
Flipfront helmets will almost exclusively come with an internal sun visor and they’re not customarily bought by riders who want to switch to a dark visor (so it’s usually harder to get one). A quick-release visor is still handy for when the inside needs cleaning, which can be a bit more common with flipfront helmets as they see a lot of action, and the visor seals can be less effective. This means a bit more water can get through in wet weather and demand the visor is removed to dry it off.
Flipfront helmets are all about convenience and there’s an assumption that flipfront wearers are the sort of riders who want the ease of a clip-up strap fastener. If you’re the sort of rider who prefers the security of a D-ring strap fastener then your choice of flipfront will be very limited.
Flipfronts are seen by most manufacturers as the practical choice, which means there aren’t as wide a range of multi-coloured graphics available on flips as on regular full-face helmets. Expect to see a lot of safety-conscious hi-viz colours and plain white options, and look a bit more carefully to find graphic options.
The majority of flipfront chinbars are locked in the down position by a switch in the middle of the lower rim. They release by being thumbed out or in to allow the chinbar to be raised. Some helmets have two buttons for added security, with one being pushed in by the forefinger and the other being operated by the thumb.
Always make sure a chinbar is lowered to the point of hearing it click securely into place, which may require placing your hand on the rear of the helmet to hold it in place while the chinbar latch locks. It needs to be locked down to make sure it can’t ride up while you’re on the move, blocking your vision. Worth considering also that, in the event of an accident, its protective qualities will be far reduced if the chinbar rides up.