Best Motorcycle Helmets: Our Picks for Staying Safe While You Ride

Don’t get caught unprotected while out riding your bike. Check out our top picks for the best motorcycle helmets

Driving a motorcycle on the road while wearing a helmet
Getty Images

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The road can be a very unforgiving environment, especially if you like to cruise around on a motorcycle. Studies have shown that having a high-quality motorcycle helmet can greatly reduce the risk of serious head injuries from an accident. Check out our picks for who makes the best motorcycle helmets.

Best Motorcycle Helmet Overall: HJC CL-17 Full Face Motorcycle Helmet
Best Value Motorcycle Helmet: Vega X888 Full Face Helmet
Best Motorcycle Helmet Honorable Mention: Shoei RF-SR Helmet

Why Buy a Motorcycle Helmet?

  • Safety. If you think that the sense of freedom felt while riding a motorcycle down the road is hindered by wearing a helmet, we have three words for you: traumatic brain injury. A bike doesn’t provide the structural support like an automobile does, so riders need quality motorcycle 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. This leads to reduced visibility, which is dangerous. A helmet with a face shield will prevent this.
  • 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.

Types of Motorcycle Helmets

Full-Face 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.

Flip-Up Helmets

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.

Open-Face Helmets

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, it might be best to avoid highways and other high-speed environments.

Half Helmets

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 will need to wear glasses for eye cover.

Dirtbike 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 this one if you plan on hitting the trails.

Top Brands

Shoei

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 with popular products like the J-Cruise Touring Motorcycle Helmet.

HJC

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. It has many popular products such as the 980-614 IS-MAX II Modular Motorcycle Helmet.

Vega

Since 1994, Vega has been offering some of the best motorcycle helmets for the money. Based out of Columbus, Ohio, it has been making high-quality, reasonably-priced helmets, sticking to its philosophy that nobody shouldn’t be able to afford safety. Among its popular products is the VF1 Adult Off-Road Helmet.

Pricing

  • $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. 

Key Features

Materials

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.

Inner Padding

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.

Shield

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.  

Chin Strap

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. 

Other Considerations

  • 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 Helmet Reviews & Recommendations 2019

Best Motorcycle Helmet Overall: HJC CL-17 Full Face Motorcycle Helmet

HJC CL-17 Full Face Motorcycle Helmet
Amazon

This helmet offers superb protection and some amenities that will enhance your riding experience. It is fairly lightweight at about 6 pounds, is constructed from an advanced polycarbonate composite, comes with a full warranty, and is both DOT- and Snell-compliant. The HJC CL-17 is extremely comfortable to wear, with comfort padding that conforms to your face over time.

The two features that really make the CL-17 stand out are its ventilation and shield. The vent channels in the cool air that works in conjunction with a moisture-wicking lining to keep you dry. Multiple controls allow you to fine-tune just how much air gets into the helmet. The shield uses an optional Pinlock lens that keeps it fog-free, and the RapidFire Shield Replacement System makes switching them out a snap. Replacement shields are available in virtually every transparent color, so you can customize it to deal with the sun or match your bike’s look.  

On the negative side, the CL-17 can be a bit restrictive, and the padding takes a while to break in. Also, depending on your head position, the top of the shield can rub against your forehead while riding. That said, the HJC CL-17 offers a great combination of comfort, functionality, and cost that makes it one of the best motorcycle helmets on the market.

Best Value Motorcycle Helmet: Vega X888 Full Face Helmet

Vega X888 Full Face Helmet
Amazon

This is Vega’s entry-level full-face model, and it has lots of features that make it the best motorcycle helmet for the price. This DOT-certified product uses a dual-density EPS foam that offers great protection, ventilation with controls located near the forehead, mouth, rear, and top of the head, and a Wick-Dri, anti-microbial inner lining. Vega helmets are backed by a one-year warranty that covers defects.

There are many features that make this Vega motorcycle helmet a great choice for newbies to the biking world, as well as the experienced rider. There are nine different shields available that include different colors, anti-fog coating, and a tinted option. Weighing in at just under 5 pounds, this helmet is very light, which is nice for long rides. The X888 comes in gloss black, flat black, and with red dashio graphics.

Unfortunately, the Vega X888 has been known to have issues with the inner padding falling out. There have been problems with the chin strap breaking as well. The warranty should cover these though, and this motorcycle helmet is still a great deal with a lot going for it.

Best Motorcycle Helmet Honorable Mention: Shoei RF-SR Helmet

Shoei RF-SR Helmet
Amazon

Made out of a composite shell consisting of fiberglass, plastic resin, and organic fibers, the RF-SR is a very durable full-face motorcycle helmet. It comes with many bells and whistles that make it a favorite of motorcycle enthusiasts. Shoei helmets meet both DOT and Snell safety standards, so you can legally take them on the road or to the racetrack. 

Part of what makes Shoei helmets so special is that they are handmade in the company’s home city of Tokyo. This is unique in any industry and makes for impeccable design and build. There are many great features, including an aerodynamic design tested in both a wind tunnel and by professional riders, and a dual-layer, multi-density EPS liner designed to maximize impact absorption and ventilation.

There are a couple of negatives to point out about the RF-SR. There is a gap in the seal between the helmet and visor that allows some wind noise, which can be distracting. Also, Shoei helmets are expensive and will run you a few hundred dollars. However, you get what you pay for, and with everything the RF-SR has to offer, it has to be our pick for the best honorable mention.

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. 

FAQs

Q: Does every state require the use of motorcycle helmets?

A: Currently, only Illinois, New Hampshire, and Iowa have no helmet use laws. However, there is a mountain of evidence showing motorcycle helmets save lives, so regardless of the law, you should wear one.

Q: Which kind of motorcycle helmet is the best to wear?

A: This one is tricky because 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.

Final Thoughts

Our overall pick for the best motorcycle helmet is the HJC CL-17 Full Face Motorcycle Helmet. Its superior materials, aerodynamics, and loads of features make it worth the extra cost.

The best motorcycle helmet for the price is the Vega X888 Full Face Helmet. This is a durable, inexpensive helmet with solid features.

What do you think of our picks? Let us know in the comment section down below.