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If you buy your motorcycle helmet purely based on the design, you are doing it wrong. Purchasing a helmet is about more than just the cool artwork that’s plastered on the side of it. For those of you who love your helmet but haven’t purchased a helmet in several years, then you are also due for an upgrade. The experts say you should replace it every five years, which is plenty of time for manufacturers to develop new safety features and innovative materials. But whether it’s your first-time helmet shopping or you have been riding for decades, we’ve got you covered. After carefully scouring manufacturer websites and comparing the many features, materials, and stats, we have compiled a list of the best motorcycle helmets riders can buy. Our list covers different riding styles and price points, so there’s something for everyone.
Icon Airflite Rubatone Helmet
This aerodynamic helmet is more than a looker. It's a full-face helmet with an injection-molded polycarbonate shell and a fog-free face shield you can land at a reasonable price.
- Recessed twin air channels
- Removable moisture-wicking liner
- Fog-free shield
- Inner shield doesn’t block enough light
- Hard to mount a camera
Bell Qualifier Full-Face Motorcycle Helmet
A decent helmet on a tight budget. This simple and lightweight helmet has a polycarbonate shell, and NutraFog II face shield.
- Aerodynamic design
- Integrated speaker pockets
- UV protective shield
- No chin curtain
- Tight fit for glasses
HJC CS-R3 Helmet
This helmet's ability to form to the wearer's face and moisture-wicking lining paired with fresh air vents makes for unparalleled comfort. The RapidFire shields and its Pinlock compatibility aren't hurting anything either.
- RapidFire Shield Replacement System
- Moisture-wicking fabric liner
- ACS Advanced Channeling ventilation system
- A lot of wind noise
- Leaky vents
Our goal is to find the best motorcycle helmets that not only look great but provide you with effective protection. Since different types of helmets work better with different types of motorcycles, we considered the overall design and shaping that dictates how the helmet cuts through the air while riding. We choose a selection of helmets that range across all riding types to address each rider’s needs.
When considering comparable helmets, we referred to each manufacturer’s website to have accurate details about each helmet for shell sizing, internal shape, and included features. User reviews were also helpful in determining how a particular helmet performed when put to use in various riding conditions. Helmets that effectively combined protective, comfort, and style were given preferential treatment. We also looked for helmets that integrated with technology easily. We strive to stay true to our methodology by thoroughly researching each product we suggest to ensure its quality and performance reliability.
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Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.Learn more
Best Motorcycle Helmet Reviews & Recommendations
The AGV K1 Helmet has a strong focus on aerodynamics and ventilation. It features a spoiler with a profile intended to reduce collar bone injuries and it also has an integrated ventilation system, including a central air intake that's based on the AGV Pista GP R track helmet. The K1 has a high-resistance thermoplastic resin shell and an X-tra quick release system for the fog-resistant face shield, which provides 100-percent UV protection. It also features a 3D Dry-Lex fabric liner that is removable and washable.
Unfortunately, it is noisy, and the visor starts to lift at high speeds, which is annoying and could even be dangerous for riders. The peripheral vision could also be better, making this helmet better suited for the track than the street. There are also only two shell sizes, limiting the number of riders that can actually use this helmet.
Our Verdict on Motorcycle Helmets
Our top pick for the best motorcycle helmet is the Icon Airflite Rubatone Helmet, with its aerodynamic shape, fog-free shield, and removable moisture-wicking liner. For a more affordable option, you can’t go wrong with the Bell Qualifier Full-Face Motorcycle Helmet which will protect you and comes with some bells and whistles that come as a nice surprise for the price.
What to Consider When Buying a Motorcycle Helmet
Before we get into it, you need to know that the best way to buy a new motorcycle helmet is to put it on first. This can be tough when online shopping offers so many more options than your local shop. Narrow down your online search by looking for the type of helmet you need for your riding style. Then narrow down your options to the manufacturers that make helmets that match your head shape. Your final step is to compare features and design to find the helmet with the right combination to match your taste and needs.
Types of Motorcycle Helmets
These are by far the best motorcycle helmets available in terms of protecting your head, face, chin, and neck from impact. They come in a variety of designs to suit riders of all types and you need to balance the characteristics to ensure you have a helmet suitable for your riding style. For example, sport bike owners can opt for a more aerodynamic design to keep their heads from popping up at high speeds. In contrast, helmets designed for cruisers are more focused on optimizing visibility.
The distinguishing feature between a flip-up (or modular) and a full-face helmet is that the chin bar and shield are separate pieces that flips up via a hinge. This is great for putting on and taking off the helmet easily or having a quick chat with your friends at a red light. The downside is that the hinge can break on impact, leaving your face and neck exposed to the pavement. That's not to suggest that these aren't viable in terms of protection, simply that there's a limit to how effective they'll be and you'd not want to trust one if you regularly ride in high-risk situations.
Popular among scooter owners, these helmets cover three-quarters of the head, leaving the face and chin unprotected. They tend to be less cumbersome than full-face and flip-up helmets, but the tradeoff is a higher risk of injury. If you’re thinking about purchasing one of these helmets, avoiding highways and other high-speed high-risk environments is best.
These helmets are similar to bicycle helmets and only protect the top half of the head. Some models cover the back of the neck and ears, but everything below your forehead is exposed for the most part. They are the lightest street helmet available and have great airflow. Unfortunately, these helmets don’t have any sort of shield, so riders will need to wear glasses or goggles for eye cover and they don't offer the best protection.
Specifically designed for off-road riding, these are the best full motorcycle helmets when it comes to durability. They are specifically designed to absorb tremendous impact while keeping the rider’s head stable. They aren't the best choice for regular street riding because they aren't exactly aerodynamic. It's important to remember that they aren't designed with high speeds in mind and using them in such situations can make them something of a risk to riders.
Motorcycle Helmet Key Features
Every motorcycle helmet has to pass certain quality standards to be sold, so there aren’t any ineffective materials used in their construction. However, there are some key differences in terms of the weight and strength of the materials used. The quality hierarchy of construction materials goes in this order: thermoplastic, fiberglass, composite, and carbon fiber/kevlar.
Recommended motorcycle helmets have two layers of protection inside the helmet to keep your head from jostling around too much during an impact. The first layer is generally made of expanded polystyrene (EPS) that absorbs some of the kinetic energy that is transferred from a collision. The second layer is for comfort and can be made using suede, fabric, mesh, and other materials.
Shields keep your face clear of debris, bugs, etc., while riding. They come standard on full-face and flip-up helmets. They are available with a tint that offers UV protection, different transparent colors that can match your bike, or as a clear piece of plastic.
A padded strap that keeps the helmet securely on your head while protecting the chin is a must. Some have a quick-release button, while others use a traditional D-ring that is considerably more secure.
Higher-end helmets come equipped with speakers that sync up with your bike’s infotainment system to enjoy your favorite music. Some models also have a microphone to turn your helmet into a wearable smartphone.
This is an excellent way to reduce heat and humidity inside the helmet. Many helmets with ventilation slits also have a way to close them when riding in cooler weather. It's important to read into this feature carefully as it can make or break a helmet's ability to be used comfortably year-round.
Motorcycle Helmet Pricing
While you can find helmets less than $100, these tend to be not street legal and a disappointing performance experience. You can find reliable entry-level helmets that cost about $100. These are basic helmets that provide you with simple protection. If you’re looking for your helmet to have some features, look for a mid-range helmet that’s in the $200 to $500 range. These helmets are usually more aerodynamic, have more ventilation, and come with several nice features. For a top-of-the-line helmet, expect to pay $500 to $1,000 or more. These are track-ready helmets and those with the latest innovative technological features. You can expect to find features like wind-tunnel-shaped molding, built-in Bluetooth, and shock absorbing composite liners.
Tips and Tricks
As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and motorcycle helmets. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.
- Make sure to wash the inside liner of your helmet periodically. Sweat, grease, hair, and other particles can build up over time, causing the liner to wear out prematurely. It’s best to use a mild soap to avoid damaging the liner.
- Don’t let splattered bug guts build up on your helmet. Besides being unsightly, insect insides are corrosive to your helmet’s paint job. An easy way to remove the bugs is to soak a washcloth in warm, soapy water and drape it over the helmet for a while. Then, simply wipe them away.
- If your helmet has a gloss coat, give it a good shine with some car polish. It will keep your helmet looking brand new for years.
- Keep the moving parts of your helmet working smooth by using a silicone-based lubricant. The dry rubbing of these parts will wear them down in no time.
- Use a cotton swab or Q-Tip to clean out the ventilation grates. Dust and particle build-up in the vents will inhibit airflow and worsen the quality of air inside the helmet.
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!
Q: Does every state require the use of motorcycle helmets?
No. Some states do not have any helmet law requirements while other states require all riders to wear a helmet. In addition, many states have an age restriction attached to the helmet law. Furthermore, Florida and Michigan use an age and medical insurance combination requirement to determine whether a helmet is required.
Q: Which kind of motorcycle helmet is the best to wear?
A full-face helmet is the best, as it’s the safest helmet to wear. You can argue that being comfortable is important to safety, but face protection is one of those things that's better to have and not need than to need and not have.
Q: What is the safest motorcycle helmet?
As we said above and in other articles, the safest type of helmet is a full-face helmet because it provides the greatest amount of protection to your head, face, chin, and neck.
Q: What does DOT and ECE approved mean?
DOT stands for the Department of Transportation in the United States and refers to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard #218 (FMVSS 218). Helmet manufacturers use the honor system when claiming DOT compliance. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does random testing to ensure compliance. ECE stands for Economic Commission for Europe and has similar safety standards as the DOT.
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