There tends to be a lot of motorcycle riders that are looking to modify their helmet beyond a spectacular custom paint job or decals. Paint and decals are cool, but in terms of functionality they aren’t generally what is on the minds of those looking to upgrade their motorcycle helmet.
In general, some of the best mods you can do to your motorcycle helmet improve ride quality, safety and overall performance. These modifications can include: Bluetooth headsets, reflectives or lighting, tinted shields, and comfort mods like installing new cheek pads, liners and chin skirts for a tailored fit.
By far one of the most popular add-ons for any street, or even off road rider is a Bluetooth headset for music, communications, and navigation. Not every helmet is deemed “Bluetooth ready” as you will need either speaker cutouts inside the shell, or enough room where your ears fit inside the helmet.
Majority of modern street helmets will have a V or Y shaped cheek pad that allows your ear to fit inside the helmet without putting any pressure on your ears. You will want to check to see that you have clearance for the speakers without them touching your ears. The speakers are typically a bit larger than a US half dollar coin. 40mm diameter x 6.5mm thickness is the dimensions for the Sena 20S drivers.
Most Bluetooth speaker units will mount at the bottom of the helmet on the left hand side to allow for quick volume or function adjustments. You can pick up cheap units that are more useful for just music or navigation from your phone, or find systems that have over a mile of range of crystal clear Mesh or Bluetooth communication capabilities.
- Easy installation
- Communicate in group rides
- Play music and navigation directions
- Nicer units cost around $200 or more
- Adds drag or helmet lift if mounted improperly
- Not every helmet has space to fit or mount headsets
Heads Up Display
There is a new product on the market that can be mounted to full face motorcycle helmets much like Bluetooth headsets that offer a heads up display much like what is becoming popular in modern cars. The Nuviz unit is the latest product that offers an AR type display that mounts on the lower section of just about any helmet.
This is not for everyone, and the price for the Nuviz units is pretty high at around $700, which is prohibitive for most riders to even consider trying out. Heads up displays for motorcycle riders could also be seen as having a distraction in your face at all times. Do some research to see if this helmet mod would be right for you.
- Bluetooth functionality built in
- Built in HD camera
- Displays speed, navigation, music selection
- Answer phone calls
- Could add distractions that aren’t necessary when riding
Adding lighting kits like options available from LightMode are one of the wildest ways to customize your helmet. These helmet lighting kits look futuristic and resemble characters from Tron - not exactly for every style of rider.
LightMode kits use EL wire (Electroluminescent Wire), which is much more streamlined and less mechanical-looking than LED strips. There are cheaper options on the market, but LightMode really nailed the helmet market with a number of colors and options spanning anywhere from just over $100 to around $200 that includes everything you need including a rechargeable power supply.
So, this technically counts as a decal, but for the sake of safety and functionality. You could slap a bunch of reflective decals on your helmet and call it a day, or you can DIY this in a tasteful manner by adding strips near vents or other places that add just a splash of reflective making you significantly more visible on the road in low light conditions.
You can pick up reflective tape or high viz decals in a range of colors including black reflective tape from 3M that won’t stand out like a sore thumb and generally fit with most color combinations.
Tinted Face Shields
This is probably the easiest way to transform the look of your helmet, but it is totally dependent on what is available for the exact helmet model you own. Keep in mind that shields for one helmet will not be compatible with another model.
Whether you like the look of blackout smoke, or silver iridium with a mirror finish, tinted face shields are easily one of the first style and functional “mods” that those who wear full face helmets tend to go for. Hang on to that clear shield though because riding at night or even overcast days with a tinted shield can be more of a nuisance than they are worth.
Double Pane Shield or Heated Shield
This helmet upgrade is geared more towards riders who get their 2 wheel fix in the colder months. Those who are familiar with snowmobiling might be familiar with snowmobile helmets with heated shields, and how much of a difference they make. No amount of anti-fog sprays, liquids, and DIY concoctions can really compete with a heated shield.
Heated shields tend to range anywhere from $75 to $150 depending on the brand, and helmet model they are designed for.
You can read how heated shields work HERE
Double pane shields without any heating element are also effective at combating fog in colder temperatures. These shields do have their limit and tend to still fog given the right humidity conditions, or extremely cold temperatures. Helmets that use Pinlock systems are really just offering the option to modify the shield and convert it to a double pane shield using their model-specific inserts. If you own a higher end AGV, HJC or SHOEI helmet, then there may be Pinlock inserts available for your helmet. For most other models, sealed double pane shields might be available for your helmet.
Double pane shields range from $25 to $60
Quick Release Straps
If you are tired of fiddling with a double D-ring strap, and don’t want to upgrade to a different helmet that may feature a quick release, you can find quick release straps to replace the standard D-ring closure. Quick release is pretty nice and is typically a feature found on higher end helmets with a few exceptions for helmets under $100 depending on where you shop for motorcycle helmets.
You should be aware that many of these kits are permanent and require cutting, and often sewing new straps to the pre-mounted chin strap that was included with your helmet. This will void any kind of warranty, or safety claims from the original helmet manufacturer.
- Much easier on or off than standard D-ring straps
- Unsafe if installed improperly
- Voids any warranty, or exchanges from helmet manufacturer
A helmet skirt fits around the bottom rim of your helmet and helps deflect some wind from drafting up inside your helmet. These are especially handy when riding in cold weather and can quickly be attached or detached as needed. Full helmet skirts could be more effective than a standard chin skirt, but in normal riding conditions you might find it totally unnecessary.
These are a really cheap add-on generally running under $20, but again, they are really only helpful in cold weather or minimizing wind noise slightly. Some of the cheaper options on the market like the Speedmetal Windstopper tend to need a little extra help staying secured to a helmet with the use of tape. You might be able to get similar relief by wearing a scarf or head wrap bunched around your neck.
Helmet Fit Modifications
You can modify the fit of your helmet by adding new cheek pads or liners. Helmet shells come in different sizes, so you may want to check with the manufacturer if a size XL set of cheek pads will fit in your size large helmet. If your helmet doesn’t fit well from the start, however, you have the wrong size and should find the size that fits you best.
Padding breaks in over time kind of like a leather jacket or pair of shoes, but they should not break down to the point of the helmet feeling loose if it was once a snug fit. Helmets do have a shelf life of around 5 years of regular use, so customizing the fit of an old helmet might not be the route you want to take in the place of replacing it with a new helmet. The main concern with an aged helmet is the EPS foam degrading resulting in less protection in the event of an impact.
Cheek pads and padded liners may have different layers of foam padding or batting that can be removed or added that allow you to customize the fit of your helmet. This option is typically found on more expensive helmets, but you can easily check to see if your helmet has this feature by looking for zippered or Velcro openings on your cheek pads. If the padding in your helmet does not have multi layered foam inserts, then you will want to avoid cutting your cheek pads open.
Things to Avoid
Do not drill or cut into your helmet. This will without a doubt create a weak point and once it is done, it cannot be undone. Action cameras, lighting, whatever it is that you need to attach should only be attached by following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Another thing that is strongly discouraged is attaching things that can cause a restraint or get hung up. This includes retrofitting hydration packs through a helmet, connecting devices via wires to a power supply on your bike or in a backpack. Wiring for any sort of lighting, camera gear, speakers, headphones etc should be tucked and secured inside your helmet.
Do not shave or remove EPS foam from your helmet. If you are trying to modify how your helmet fits, it would be best to order new pads from the helmet manufacturer.