Best Motorcycle Helmets: Our Picks for Staying Safe While You Ride
You know what they say: If you've got a ten-dollar head, then wear a ten-dollar helmet. These are far better choices. Stay safe, stay smart.
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BY Noelle Talmon / LAST UPDATED ON April 26, 2021
A good motorcycle helmet can be hard to find. They're such a subjective thing, and there are so many variables in size, shape, color, etc. There are hundreds if not thousands of options available, so it can be tough to find one that is comfortable, provides the right amount of protection, and falls within your budget.
In our buying guide below, we list some of the top options available. While our list is not exhaustive, it's a good place to start. If you need a new helmet for cruising, touring, or high speeds, check out the following models.
This full-face helmet meets DOT standards, is made of injection-molded polycarbonate, and is a good option for different riders.
- Features an eye-catching design
- Offers good ventilation
- Provides good visibility
- Affordably priced
- Some users think it's too narrow, and it can run on the small side
- Visor can reveal light in your field of view
A full-face helmet that offers excellent protection is DOT- and Snell-approved and comes with a warranty.
- Excellent ventilation system keeps riders cool and dry
- Quick-snap shield is easy to change out
- Interior padding can take some time to adjust to facial features
- Top of the shield can rub uncomfortably against the forehead
Handmade and aerodynamically designed to minimize drag. It’s made from a tri-part weave of fibers and is DOT- and Snell-approved.
- Dual-layer, multi-density EPS liner
- Legal for both street and racetrack use
- Warranty covers defective parts
- Wind noise can be an issue with these helmets
Why Trust Us
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.
Why Buy a Motorcycle Helmet?
- Safety. If you think that your sense of freedom is hindered by wearing a helmet, we have three words for you: traumatic brain injury. A motorcycle doesn’t provide the structural support an automobile does, so riders need quality helmets to keep their brains protected.
- Medical costs. If you choose not to wear a helmet and end up in a nasty accident, you are going to pay for it. According to the numbers, you will pay a lot more in medical costs and have a much higher chance of permanent injury than riders who wear a helmet.
- Visibility. One difference between a motorcycle and an automobile is all the dirt, debris, bugs, wind, and rain that constantly hit you in the face. A helmet with a face shield will prevent this, and let you keep your eyes on the road.
- Insurance rates. Insurance companies survive by calculating the cost-to-risk analysis of different driving situations. Since helmetless riders will rack up higher medical bills on average, insurance companies need to offset this increased cost in the form of higher rates.
- Stay visible. Many of the most popular motorcycle helmets on the market have vibrant designs that are not only stylish but also serve to alert other motorists of your presence. This is especially helpful in heavy traffic where bikes can be obscured by other vehicles.
- It's the law. In most states, wearing a helmet is not an option.
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. For example, sport bike owners can opt for a more aerodynamic design that will keep their head from popping up at high speeds, while helmets designed for cruisers are more focused on optimizing visibility.
The distinguishing feature between a flip-up (or modular) and full-face helmet is that the chin bar and shield are a separate piece flip-up via a hinge. This is great for putting on and taking off the helmet with ease, 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.
Popular among scooter and cruiser owners, these helmets cover the head but not the face, 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.
These helmets are similar to bicycle helmets and only provide protection for the top half of the head. Some models cover the back of the neck and ears, but for the most part, everything below your forehead is exposed. They are the lightest street helmet available and have great airflow. These helmets don’t have any sort of shield, so riders need to wear glasses for eye cover.
Dirt Bike Helmets
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. Make sure to use one if you plan on hitting the trails.
Based out of Tokyo, Shoei has been in the motorsport helmet business since 1958. In 1965, Honda adopted Shoei helmets, which helped propel the company into becoming a major brand in the industry. It is considered one of the highest-rated motorcycle helmets on the market.
This French company has been in business since 1971, and since then, it has grown to become one of the best brands of motorcycle helmets in the world. It has corporate and production facilities throughout the world and regularly sponsors major race events.
Bell’s founder is known for starting the world’s first speed shop located in California. Known for its quality and respected for its functionality, Bell helmets are backed by decades of industry knowledge and trust since 1954.
Icon is based in Portland, Oregon, and has been in business since 2002. The company is led by a group of bikers who know what riders need every time they twist the throttle.
If you want a handmade helmet, look no further than Arai. This American-based brand makes each piece from the shell to the liner with precision. The founder, Hirotake Arai, was a hat maker and motorcycle enthusiast, and the family-owned business continues its mission to make protective helmets of exceptional quality.
Based in Colceresa, Vicenza, Italy, AGV has been producing top-quality helmets since 1947. The company's mission is to create innovative systems to protect everyone who uses its products.
- $25-$100: At the low-end of the price range, you will find some good helmets that have passed the Department of Transportation’s safety tests and will protect against impact. Don’t expect too many perks at this level, just a solid helmet that’ll do its job.
- $100-$200: The mid-range options offer some accessories and features like specialty shields and suede lining. In fact, this price point has some of the best motorcycle helmets for the price in the industry.
- $200 and up: The premium level has lots of bells and whistles that appeal to riders who spend a great deal of time on the road. Technological accessories, like Bluetooth speakers that sync up to your bike’s infotainment system, are standard at this price point.
Every motorcycle helmet has to pass certain quality standards in order to be sold, so there aren’t any ineffective materials used in their construction. However, there are some key differences in terms of 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) and 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 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.
- Bluetooth Speakers. 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.
- Ventilation. 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.
Best Motorcycle Helmets Reviews & Recommendations 2021
Tips and Advice
- Make sure to periodically wash the inside liner of your helmet. 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 also 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, giving it a good shine with some car polish is a good idea. It will keep your helmet looking brand new for years.
- Keep the moving parts of your helmet working by using a silicon-based lubricant on them. 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.
Q: Does every state require the use of motorcycle helmets?
Currently, only Illinois, New Hampshire, and Iowa have zero helmet use laws. Most states require one for all riders; in some states, only on minors. However, no matter where you ride there is a mountain of evidence showing motorcycle helmets save lives, so regardless of the law you should always wear one.
Q: Which kind of motorcycle helmet is the best to wear?
It ultimately comes down to what the rider is looking for. The safest are full-face helmets that protect the head, face, and neck. However, they are bulky and can be cumbersome. Other helmets tend to be more stylish, which may be enough of an argument to buy one. Finding a mix of safety, style, and functionality is the best route.
Our pick for the best motorcycle helmet is the Icon Airflite Rubatone Helmet. Its superior materials, aerodynamics, and features make it worth the cost. For a more budget-friendly option, consider the HJC CL-17 Helmet. This is a durable, inexpensive helmet with solid features.