There are hundreds of different motorcycle helmets available to purchase, all in a variety of styles, prices, and colors. Whether for style or for safety, many riders wonder what the best color of motorcycle helmet is.
The best color for a motorcycle helmet is white. While some people may prefer other colors of helmets, the visibility you achieve from a white helmet is unmatched by other colors. In general, bright colors are the best, so yellow or orange would also be good.
There’s a bit more to it than that, though. There are lots of different styles of motorcycle helmets, and still a lot of acceptable colors to choose from. Below, I’ll go through these considerations in more detail.
Why Does The Color Of Your Motorcycle Helmet Matter?
So, why does the color of your helmet matter in the first place? Well, there are really only two basic criteria to look at when considering the color of helmets. The first and foremost is safety, and the second is style.
A motorcycle helmet’s primary job is to protect you. They can be bulky and uncomfortable and annoying to carry around, but when it comes down to it, you want to be wearing one in the event that an accident happens. If you’re riding a motorcycle, you should know that accidents can happen a lot, and at any time.
As far as safety goes, when color is concerned, it’s a matter of visibility. People have an easier time seeing some colors than others. Humans are most likely to notice things if the colors of those things contrast with their environment. This is the reason most soldiers don’t go to war wearing bright pink uniforms!
Contrast matters where visibility is concerned, so it’s an important thing to consider when choosing helmet color. Colors that are different from their environment are much more likely to be seen, while colors that blend into their environment, especially at night, are far less likely to be seen.
One of the most common factors behind motorcycle accidents is the negligence of other drivers. More than 40% of all motorcycle accidents in 2019 were due to the fact that a driver did not see a motorcycle. Given this crazy statistic, whether or not other drivers see you is a major concern all motorcyclists should pay attention to.
A highly visible motorcycle helmet could save your life. While not every accident related to not being seen has been fatal, many of them have been and many more will be. Other drivers cannot always be counted on to pay enough attention, so making yourself easier to see is paramount for your personal safety.
What Color Of Motorcycle Helmet Is Most Visible?
So, given that visibility is our primary concern with the color of motorcycle helmets, which colors are actually the most visible? There have been several different studies comparing the paint color of vehicles to accident rates. These studies can be used to examine the general safety of different colors.
In one piece of research, a black car was more than 10% likelier to be in an accident than a white car. Other higher risk colors include silver and gray. Red and blue cars were safer overall, although not as safe as white.
Though this study was done with cars, it should be applicable to motorcycle helmets, and given the smaller surface area of a helmet, the difference in accident likelihood between different colors may be even higher.
The Importance Of Contrast
A different study on color and accident rates reached a much more specific conclusion. To paraphrase, what matters isn’t necessarily the color, but if the color contrasts with its environment. If you live in a city or in the countryside, a white motorcycle helmet will stand out pretty well. However, if you’re riding in a snowy area, it may not be the right choice.
What colors contrast most will be different depending on your location. If you live in the desert, where greenery is hard to come by, a green motorcycle helmet would stand out in comparison to the environment. If you live in a forested area, however, or somewhere else with a lot of green, perhaps a white, orange, or yellow helmet would contrast better.
If you want the best color for motorcycle helmet visibility, you need to be aware of where you ride, and what colors are most commonly seen in those environments. If you get a motorcycle helmet that contrasts as much as possible to those colors, you’ll be as safe as possible.
White vs Black Motorcycle Helmets
Are White Motorcycle Helmets Safer?
White motorcycle helmets are much safer than black helmets. Given the added contrast and visibility a white helmet offers, especially at night, there’s really no contest between them when visibility is concerned, and visibility is the key to safety on a motorcycle.
Signs of wear will usually be much clearer on white helmets as well. Helmets can be dangerous if damaged, as they’re really only designed to sustain impact once. In fact, even just dropping a helmet on the ground can hinder its ability to protect a rider. Black helmets can be much harder to notice signs of wear or damage on, so white helmets are also safer in this regard.
Beyond the safety differences, white motorcycle helmets offer a different look and style than black helmets. White helmets tend to feel bright and energetic. Black helmets, however, often look sleek and refined, and cool, and sometimes even a bit menacing. Each rider will have their own preference and opinion on this.
In my opinion, despite black helmets being less safe overall than white ones, I think they generally look better. This isn’t always true and will depend on the specific helmet, but a motorcyclist in all black gear usually looks very cool. All black gear is also the least safe you can be though, so it’s up to you on what you want to prioritize!
It’s also worth noting that helmet color isn’t the only thing that matters. There are other things you can do to ensure you stay visible on your motorcycle.
How To Stay More Visible On Your Motorcycle
Beyond helmet color, there are a few other things you can do to be as visible as possible when riding a motorcycle. These things include wearing bright clothes, having bright lights, having a brightly colored motorcycle, and exercising safe riding habits.
Wear Brightly Colored Gear
Wearing bright gear is the easiest way to stay visible on a motorcycle. As we discussed in the previous sections, color is very important when it comes to visibility. From many viewpoints, a motorcycle rider may be far more visible than the motorcycle itself, so wearing highly visible gear can be the difference between someone seeing you or not seeing you.
Though many motorcyclists prefer to wear black, if safety is your goal, it’s not the best choice, especially at night. There’s no rider less visible at night than the rider with a black motorcycle, a black helmet, and black clothes. If visibility is your goal, bright colors are simply the way to go.
When it comes to every piece of gear, from your helmet down to your boots, the brighter and more visible what you wear is, the more of a chance you’ll have of being seen. Helmets especially, being the highest point of a rider on the road, really do benefit from being a visible color. On a dark road at night, a black helmet is incredibly difficult to see.
There are different ways that surfaces reflect. When a mirror reflects light, it displays a perfect image of that light in a different direction. A well angled mirror allows us to see behind our bikes without having to look backwards.
Retro-reflective materials are different. They absorb light and reflect it directly back at the source, no matter what the angle is. The effect of this different type of reflection is diffraction and glow, making retro-reflective things much easier to see.
Retro-reflective materials aren’t very good at mirroring, but they’re very good at illuminating. If you’re driving at night, you may notice that the official road signs are much easier to see than many other things you’ll look at while going along. These road signs have probably been made of retro-reflective materials, so they’ll appear much brighter.
This technology is incredibly useful for motorcyclists, as being visible is one of our paramount safety concerns, especially for night riding. By using retro-reflective gear, we make ourselves much more visible. Any light sources, such as streetlamps and car headlights, will illuminate our retro-reflective gear and make us much more visible to others on the road.
Using as much retro-reflective riding gear as possible in what you wear when riding could save your life. I can’t recommend wearing retro-reflective colors enough, the difference you’ll see in nighttime visibility alone is easily worth it.
Another great way to increase your visibility is by making sure your motorcycle’s lights are adequately bright. While many newer motorcycles will come from the factory with lights that are already pretty bright, older ones often don’t.
A lot of visibility can be gained by upgrading your old bulbs to newer and brighter bulbs. Not only will these upgraded bulbs help other drivers see you, but they will also improve your vision whenever you’re riding at night.
Another thing that can improve visibility is flashing bulbs. There are bulbs available that flash consistently at a high frequency instead of staying steadily lit. These can be very useful if you’re worried about being seen, as they really will attract a lot of attention. Though it’s most common to see flashing headlights, it’s possible to have other lights on your bike that flash as well.
Not everybody likes these flashing bulbs though, as they can be annoying, not only to the rider but also to other motorists. Also, in some areas they may not be legal, so make sure to do your research on local laws before purchasing one of these.
Even if your motorcycle already comes with bright lights, you can always add an extra light or two. Check to see if this is allowed where you live, but as long as the lights installed are standard colors and brightness levels, it should be totally legal in the vast majority of places.
Another consideration for riding safety and visibility is the spacing of your lights. Your motorcycle should have running lights, not including the headlight and taillight. These lights should always be on.
Running lights are often contained within the same bulb as your turn signals, but your turn signals will flash and are much brighter. If your bike doesn’t have running lights, installing some can help tremendously with visibility.
If you do have running lights, make sure they’re adequately spaced out. Many motorcycles have their running lights right next to the headlight or taillight, and so while still potentially registering as different lights to other motorists, they may only appear separate at close range, and this can make the bike look small, the opposite of what you want.
Spacing out your running lights from your headlight and taillight can have a huge impact on how big and wide the motorcycle looks, especially at night. If you have these lights well spaced out from the center, your motorcycle will look much wider and more obvious. To other drivers, this will make your bike way easier to see.
Have A Brightly Colored Motorcycle
The reason to have a brightly colored motorcycle is pretty much the same as the reason to have a brightly colored helmet – they’re more visible. Brightly colored motorcycles afford you the same additional visibility as helmets, and the same color hierarchy applies.
White is generally the safest color for a motorcycle. A color that contrasts to the environmental surroundings of the motorcycle will be the safest, and white will usually contrast best. Especially for night riding, white is probably the safest color.
White isn’t always the safest color, though, as we mentioned earlier. If you ride in a snowy environment, or for whatever other reason, somewhere with a lot of white scenery or buildings, it may not be the best choice. In those situations, yellow would appear to be the next safest choice, or perhaps a bright orange.
Other bright colors such as red or blue are not the best but they’re still pretty good. They will not be quite as easy to see as some of the brighter and more visually grabbing colors, but they’ll still be better than colors such as black, silver, and gray.
Silver, gray, and especially black, are the least safe colors for a motorcycle. Black motorcycles often blend into their environments, such as dark road surfaces and dark metallic buildings in urban environments. When night falls, black motorcycles are even harder to see, and would be almost invisible if not for their lights.
While a retro-reflective motorcycle would theoretically be the easiest to see and ergo safest, it’s often hard to find motorcycles that have been painted with retro-reflective colors. The easiest way to gain some retro-reflectivity on your bike is to buy some reflective tape and install it wherever you have room.
While it’s certainly possible to find a bike with a retro-reflective paint job, it’s not very likely. Doing your own paint job is possible but getting good results can be costly, and doing it yourself is a hassle not everyone is willing or able to take on, but some retro-reflective tape and a decal or two will go a long way.
Lane Position When Riding
Consider where you’re placing yourself on the road. Lane position can be a crucial factor in whether you are seen or not. The safest lane position may differ depending on your situation. A general rule of thumb is to try and place yourself where you think you will be the most visible to other drivers.
If you’re behind a car on the road, try and make sure they can see you. Think about the sight lines of all the drivers near to you. If you are following a car too closely, or are hidden behind it, another driver might turn after that car thinking that there isn’t anyone there and could hit you.
It’s also important to be aware of blind spots. Cars usually have a few blind spots, and while drivers should always be checking them, they don’t always do that. Even so, a small motorcycle can be hard to spot if it lingers for too long in a car’s blind spot, even if a car driver is attempting to drive safely.
The danger of blind spots can’t be understated, as accidents happen a lot due to cars switching lanes or turning without checking their blind spots. The results of these accidents where motorcycles were concerned usually resulted in injury, and have at times been fatal.
The best policy for blind spots is to avoid them whenever possible. If you have to pass through a blind spot, make sure your passing is known and do so quickly. Under no circumstances should you linger within this area, as the longer you’re there, the more danger you’re in of being in an accident.
Other Riding Habits That Promote Visibility
Another useful riding habit to consider using is the brake tap. Motorcycles are generally capable of stopping far faster than cars. Most motorcyclists know this, but many car drivers do not. Often while riding a motorcycle, you’ll be followed way too closely by an inept car driver who may not be paying much attention.
This following driver would have no hope of stopping as quickly as you, so if you had to slam on your brakes, they would probably just run into/over you. This isn’t optimal for them, but it’s way worse for the rider. Though it would be nice if everyone paid a little more attention, it’s still on you to keep yourself safe while riding.
As well as leaving yourself a lot of stopping room between you and whatever vehicle is in front of you, a great way to avoid potentially dangerous rear-ending situations is by communicating as much as possible with other drivers. Lightly tapping your brakes is a great way of doing so.
When you lightly tap your brakes, you trigger the brake light(s) on the back of your motorcycle. This lets the driver behind you know that there may be a need to slow down or stop, and they should pay attention to the road.
The goal is to lightly tap your brakes multiple times, every time you intend to slow down. This habit will allow the driver behind you some time to react and prepare themselves for stopping. Putting other drivers in positions where it’s easy for them to make safe choices as much as possible is the key to motorcycle safety.
White is the best color for a motorcycle helmet. While helmet color is largely down to a matter of personal preference, white is the most visible helmet color, and black is the least visible. However, how your helmet color contrasts with your environment is more important than the color itself.