A modular helmet was once called a ‘flip-top’, because the chin piece can pivot up, out of the view of the wearer, killing the claustrophobic feel some people experience in a conventional full face helmet.
Modulars aren’t usually designed to be used with the chin piece up while riding – although there are exceptions – but they are often easier to put on and remove than a conventional lid, especially if you wear glasses, are great for being able to be heard without having to take off your lid (which is one reason coppers and couriers love them) and are excellent for touring photographers (which is why I’ve worn them, for selected rides, for over 20 years).
The downsides of modulars are weight, price and a perception they aren’t as safe as a conventional full face.
Modular helmets have been around for decades, with on-going development creating better and better helmets.
There’s a perception modulars aren’t as rigid as a full face, but it’s not as simple as that – construction, design and weight all play a part. If you’re comparing a modular versus a full face at a similar price point using similar construction from the same manufacturer, the full face is likely to offer a little more protection in some accidents.
But these days the difference is likely to be small.
Of course if you’re considering a modular versus an open face, the modular will offer a lot more facial protection
when used with the chin bar down.
P & J
Authorities have determined open face helmets to be type J, full face type P: modulars can be both, although often they are only legal for use while riding if the chin piece is down and locked in position. This would make it simply a type P helmet.
The main reason to choose a modular helmet is convenience. You’ll be trading off some cash, weight and (maybe) a little safety to have a modular over a similar-specification full face, but on the plus side there’s less claustrophobia, more breeze and lots less reasons to take the helmet off when you stop.