Motorcycle Helmet Liner Comparison
by Rick K. for webBikeWorld.com
Several emails arrived recently from webBikeWorld visitors asking about helmet liners.
We've often referred to this simple piece of equipment in our motorcycle helmet reviews, and I suddenly realized that an article on this topic was way overdue.
I started wearing a helmet liner many years ago to help keep the inside of my motorcycle helmet clean and fresh.
I won't get into the gory details, but let's just say that the inside of a motorcycle helmet can get rather dirty in short order, especially during the summer.
During a typical webBikeWorld motorcycle helmet evaluation, the helmet may be passed around among two or more riders so they can provide feedback.
Wearing a helmet liner then becomes essential for obvious reasons.
I've since got into the habit of wearing one on every ride, summer or winter. If you want to keep your helmet looking and feeling fresh, a helmet liner is the only way to go.
Motorcycle helmets are expensive, and a helmet liner can really keep the inside looking brand-new for many years.
Yep, I realize that many of the motorcycle helmets sold today have removable and washable liners, but really now -- have you ever really heard of anyone taking apart their helmet to throw the liner in the wash?
Which brings to mind the biggest problem with helmet liners: what to call them. Skullcaps? Do-rags?
We're sticking with helmet liner for now and I hope that the context of the reference will determine whether we're referring to the helmet's own liner or the clothing accessory shown here.
I've worn a Sliks "Original" helmet liner for many years; that's the one shown in Photo 2. The Original has remained virtually unchanged for years, and with good reason. It's simple and it works.
The Sliks Original is satin lined, so it feels slippery against your head, which is a good feeling under a motorcycle helmet.
I usually wear the Sliks liner in cooler weather or under tight-fitting helmets, where its satin lining seems to help prevent the pressure points from becoming too painful.
Sliks has a variety of colors and styles and they come in sizes S to XL to fit just about everyone, and the liner shown here retails for $14.95 at Cyclegadgets.
The other helmet liner I've come to depend on is the HJC Coolmax liner shown in the photo at the top of the page.
Coolmax is a specialty "performance" knit fabric that is designed to breathe and to transport moisture away from the body; you may already own a Coolmax T-shirt or other apparel item.
HJC just happens to market this helmet liner; my guess is that they don't actually make it but purchase it from a supplier.
But the HJC liner can readily be found in motorcycle shops or through online motorcycle helmet retailers. Try our friends over at New Enough; they're selling the HJC Coolmax for $10.99.
The HJC Coolmax liner is a tight fit and I'm assuming the fabric includes some stretchy material, at least in this application.
The fabric is not "slippery" like satin, and sometimes it scrunches up under a tight-fitting helmet. But it definitely seems to breathe better than the Sliks Original and is better for riding in hot weather (although the seams can cause problems with bald owners, see below).
See the "Comments From Visitors" section at the bottom of this page for comments from visitors regarding more choices for helmet liners.
Now you may be asking yourself why the model in these photos has his back to the camera. That's because no one wanted to volunteer to have their photo taken in a front view while wearing a helmet liner!
The major drawback of these things is that they basically make the wearer look like a dork. If I'm about to put on my helmet in front of a motorcycle shop surrounded by the local Harley club -- well, let's just say that I've become rather creative in getting on my liner and helmet as fast as possible.
Take it from me: you don't want to be standing around wearing one of these things when other human beings can see you!
HJC Coolmax Helmet Liner
Sliks Original Helmet Liner
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From "G.E." (October 2011): "The microfiber liners at Silver Eagle Outfitters are thin, wick moisture, and best of all, do not hurt, or cause itching, on my nearly bald head. http://www.silvereagleoutfitters.com/microfiber-helmet-liners/
From "L.Y." (October 2011): "I have used Sliks helmet liners for years but for some strange reason, they grow legs and run off somewhere (I am looking for my sixth). I believe you can still get them at www.calmoto.com (BMW dealer in California), the listed online price is $16.95. Keep the rubber side down!"
From "D" (05/11): "I used (Sliks liners) until they were not available, I then found CycleCrafts, they make Silkys and they work great, you might suggest their site. I hope this info is helpful."
From "S.H." (04/11): "I recently read your helmet liner review in my search for a helmet liner. Since the Slik helmet liner is no longer available I went with the HJC Coolmax liner. I found that it was a bit bulky and did not provide a consistent each time the helmet was put on.
I searched a bit more and found a great helmet liner made for pilots by Gibson-Barnes. Even though it was not made with the motorcycle market in mind, it is the best helmet liner I have come across so far. You may want to update your helmet liner review and include this $9 liner as a comparison."
From "J.B." (8/09): "I use a helmet liner for two reasons: 1. Keeps the helmet liner clean. 2. Absorb moisture (sweat).
I have been using the "Original Texas Headskin" for many years and recently received three more. Why three: So I have a clean spare. It is of all cotton fabric. When it is hot, as it often gets in central Oklahoma, and I stop I hang it over a mirror and it is dry in a very short time. It is nice to put on a dry helmet liner.
Oh, by the way I wear it with the seams on the outside preventing streaks in what little hair I have left. I have never been bothered by the seams against the part of my skull with no hair. The cost, about $7.00 plus shipping."
From "D.C." (5/09): "After having trouble with the seams on other products, I started using a CrownWear Helmet Liner. It's got a silky inner layer that's pretty comfortable and it holds a lot of sweat (which is essential in Phoenix, where I live). It's a little more expensive than the alternatives, but it's definitely worth it."
From "W.C.": "I'm a big fan of the Original Buff right now. It does exactly what the website says it will, you can wear it a million ways, there's no seams, and you can even make it look cool in front of the Harley guys if you want to. I drive a metric cruiser, so I already don't really care too much about what the Harley guys think ;) oh and they have a couple hundred different patterns, and winter options and such too.
In the winter I use a Turtle Fur balaclava type deal, thin Lycra type stuff around the head, and polar fleece from neck to mouth, kept me toasty this winter!"
From "B.W.": "I'll second the comment from J.G. I tried the HJC liner under my Arai Signet GT and the seams actually caused pain after a while! I, too, am a bald guy, so maybe that's the issue. Perhaps for us bald guys, our helmet fits so closely, due to lack of hair padding, that there's no room for a seam. The main area of discomfort was my forehead."
From "E.A.": "I use (a pilot's skull cap from Flight Suits) under my motorcycle and flight helmets. My first one was Air Force issue, but I've bought a few from Flight Suits for use under the motorcycle helmets I've owned. They're easy to wash and inexpensive."
From "J.G.": "Rick, Thanks for the great site. Had some feedback on the HJC helmet liner. This product has too many large seams, especially for us bald guys. It left Frankenstein like lines on my head after an hour of riding. I would recommend the Schampa Coolskin Skullcap helmet liner to anyone with or without hair. It's thin and the seams leave no lines. Thanks."
Editor's Note: Thanks for the tip, I didn't know about the seam problems.