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im shopping for a helmet. im 5'8", 185, typical size head for proportions, I guess. I just tried on a shoei, size large, and it moved around a tiny bit. tried a medium, it was painful. im guessing I have to go with the large. next question is dot or snell? last question, is 3/4 reasonable safety, or do you suggest full face? I want to be safe, but not feel terribly incumbered. thoughts? If its DOT, is it ok, even thought its pretty cheap on amazon?
 

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full face for me, modular- and I aint ordering one off the internet unless I have tried it on first and it fits good. nothing worse than an uncomfortable helmet.
no need to go cheap, remember its your good looks and brain that you are protecting here. DOT is fine IMO - but Snell has gone though some extra testing/qualifications for that rating.

go somewhere and try them on, find one that works for you, lots of deals to be had on last years models, just like vehicles
 

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Try helmets on and try different brands. Different brands fit differently. The helmet should be tight enough that if you move it around on your head, your skin moves with it; but it shouldn't be painful or uncomfortable. Keep in mind a brand new helmet will be a little bit on the tight side, and will 'break in' a bit over a few rides. Wear it for a few minutes at least when trying it on, to see if there are pressure points. If you ride with glasses (including sunglasses), put them on; make sure they'll be comfortable under the lid as well. Some helmets have nice channels for glasses, others don't and will cram your glasses into the sides of your head.

There's no if's, and's, or butt's, or arguments or questions about it. If your concern is safety, then the full face is the best option. Anything less is trading more comfort for a bit less safety; which you're well within your rights to do. If you don't want to be 'unsafe', don't ride a motorcycle. But yes, full face helmets offer the most protection, and effectiveness tapers down from there. No helmet is 100% effective, and you're still safer in a car than on a motorcycle with the worlds safest helmet. Note that more expensive helmets aren't necessarily any safer; they just might be quieter (more aerodynamic) and have better ventilation. Both rendered moot if you have a tall windshield on your motorcycle, since there isn't enough air flowing over your head for it to matter.

The SNELL rating is the best rating out there. The DOT rating is on the honor system, there's no independent testing or evaluation. DOT will occasionally randomly test helmets; and if they fail, they'll be pulled off the shelves. However, nothing will be done to notify current owners of those helmets (no signage placed at dealerships, etc.) to let them know. They'll just quietly be made unavailable. Essentially, the DOT certification is just a form manufacturers fill out 'promising' they did the testing and everything passed. With Snell, the helmets are sent to Snell, tested, rated, and then produced. Snell also randomly buys off-the-shelf models of Snell rated helmets to make sure manufacturers don't cut corners once the helmets start production. That said, the overwhelming majority of DOT helmets that end up getting 'caught cheating', or cheap half helmets, and novelty helmets sometimes sold at dealerships. And when I say cheap, I mean like $10 eBay half helmets, etc. These are usually the very thin ones with very little padding inside; they really just exist to avoid getting a ticket in jurisdictions where a helmet is required; nobody would seriously buy those thinking they were getting any genuine protection.

Also worth noting that the NHTSA did a study about 6 years ago that actually found a 0% effective rate in a patch of novelty helmets (the ones with very thin or no padding, the 'low profile' and 'german' type ones), essentially, they aren't "better than nothing", they basically don't do anything at all. They just keep you legal, although they don't 'actually' pass DOT tests, they just filled out the form.

Again, it's all personal preference. If you don't want a full face helmet, don't get one (an important disclaimer as some folks don't like them, indeed). But if the question is "What's safest", as your question seems to be; then the answer is a full face helmet with the up-to-date (M2015) Snell rating.
 
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