The best motorcycle helmets
In this guide we’ll be covering the best motorcycle helmets available, but more importantly, what you need to be considering so that you make the best decision when choosing a motorcycle helmet.
There’s such a large variety of riding styles, if it’s either quick bursts as a street rider, sitting for hours on end on a cross country tour, or darting around a mud track on your enduro.
You need to consider what you’re going to be using your helmet for? Factors such as the shape of your head or the environment around you are all vitally important when choosing a motorcycle helmet, and it can be a real bummer when you later realise you made a wrong choice.
- The 6 considerations when choosing the best motorcycle helmet
- The anatomy of a motorcycle helmet, how did we choose the best helmets?
- The best motorcycle helmets available
The 6 considerations when choosing the best motorcycle helmet
Before you even decide on a helmet, you need to factor a few different considerations to help you narrow down the right helmet for you. We’ve included the six most important factors when choosing the best motorcycle helmet.
What will your helmet be used for?
Your riding stylewillo has a big impact on the helmet you choose; while it’s true that it’s just there to protect your head at the end of the day. If you’re looking for the best motorcycle helmet then factor in what your riding style is.
Cross Country Touring
Your helmet choice will be more important than any other riding style if you’re planning a motorcycle tour. This is because when you’re on the road for hours on end, any discrepancies with the helmet will be compounded because you’re wearing it for such a long period of time. For instance,a helmet that’s too heavy won’t be that noticeable on your commute to work, but after a6-hourr ride, your neck is going to be sore and might begin cramping.
That’s why for a cross country tour, you should be spending a lot more than a standard motorcycle helmet.
Predominantly motorcycles aren’t used for transportation such as your daily commute, but rather for leisure. The weekend is a time to relax and nothing beats going on a weekend ride with your friends. Things like bluetooth communication and added comfort are essential. Because this is leisure time, you don’t want to skimp on an uncomfortable helmet or ventilate heat properly.
My first bike was used nearly entirely for commuting, it made things a lot more fun and there’s something about darting through traffic that never gets old. Now I’ll be frank, if you’re predominantly using your bike for commuting you can get away with a cheaper helmet. Obviously, safety standards are a must, but all the added bells and whistles aren’t strictly necessary.
What weather will you ride in?
Choosing a helmet for the wrong climate is a big mistake, from personal experience being frozen to your bike isn’t something we recommend. You’ve also got to consider if the weather is both hot and cold. Russia or Japan is an example where you might need two separate helmets for each part of the year. Both their climates have stinking hot summers and freezing cold winters. Using a helmet designed in the summer months won’t cut it when temperatures begin falling.
If you live in a warmer climate or only plan to ride for half of the year, then a helmet designed for the heat will make your rides a lot more comfortable. You’ll want to maximise airflow with quality ventilation and also features that properly manage your sweat.
For the warmer months, modular and half-face helmets are an obvious choice. However, we recommend modular because half-face helmets don’t offer adequate protection. Other features you’ll need in hotter months are removable padding and interiors so that you can wash them as they’ll get a bit smelly with time.
Sun protection is something you won’t realise until its glaring straight in your face, a UV visor will handle this. Lastly you want something low weight as heavy helmets are usually more insulated and subsequently a lot hotter.
For the winter months, definitely don’t go with a modular or half-face helmet. They maximize ventilation which you’ll be wanting to avoid when riding in the winter. Unfortunately, there aren’t any helmets specifically designed for cold weather riding, although there are types explicitly designed for the snow. What you can do is make sure to avoid helmets designed for the summer months. These helmets maximize airflow and have extra expensive sweat management features.
Helmet Safety Ratings
Safety ratings are undoubtedly the most crucial aspect of any helmet. It’s a rarity to come by a helmet without the correct safety ratings, but it’s still important to consider. Here’s helmet safety ratings explained.
Dot is the minimum standard safety rating in the United States. It’s the minimum safety a manufacturer must certify against in the United states. While it’s testing is similar to how Snell is tested, one crucial factor about Snell is it’s run by an independent 3rd party, while the manufacturer itself runs DOT testing. This means that DOT is less trustworthy because they have something to gain since they’re the manufacturer.
The ECE helmet rating is relatively new but more comprehensive than DOT. However, it’s a European rating, so any helmets outside of the European Union don’t have to adhere to it. ECE. ECE has a trustworthy rating system, and unlike DOT, you can have absolute confidence in its effectiveness.
When choosing a helmet we recommend that Snell’s testing ticks it off. Snell is an independent third party that is the gold standard of testing helmet protection. What they do is buy a helmet at random, not being sent a helmet by a manufacturer but grabbing one off a random store’s shelf. They then put this helmet through a series of rigorous tests.
Their tests are designed for racetracks safety standards which means they’re far more rigorous than the DOT alternative. When choosing a helmet, we recommend you select a Snell-certified helmet because some manufacturers won’t pass Snell’s tests, and it’s the best way to distinguish excellent quality protection.
What type of helmet do you need?
There’s a large variety of different helmet types on the market. Which of them is the best is hard to say without knowing the individual rider. For that reason, we’ve listed every type of motorcycle helmet, so you can get an idea of what’s best for you.
Full face helmets
Full face helmets provide the most protection out of all the helmet types and naturally are the most popular choice among motorcyclists. Structurally, full-face helmets are the strongest because the chin bar is integrated directly into the helmet.
You might not of known, but the chin encounters 50% of impact in a motorcycle accident, meaning the superior chin bar in full-face helmets could save you from a serious injury facial injury.
On the same token, superior protection comes at the cost of a tight container around your head. The excellent protection results in poorer airflow compared to other helmet types. Because of this, airflow will be a more significant consideration when choosing the best full-face helmets.
Open face helmets (¾)
Open face helmets are also known as ¾ helmets because they’re missing one-quarter of the helmet, leaving your face entirely exposed, including your chin. While they provide far less protection than full-face or modular helmets, there’s no better feeling than the wind on your face when riding, and it’s why many riders choose to use them.
Open Face helmets won’t protect you from the weather, road debris or insects. It’s why we don’t recommend them, it’s fusually ine to ride in the rain but it’s not possible with any open face helmet.
Structurally, open face helmets are equal to their full face counterparts for what they do cover. But having no chin bar is a serious risk in the case of a crash and something you do not want to experience.
Commonly used by bikies or motorcycle gangs, these helmets are the least popular choice and it’s obvious why. At a glance, you can tell their protection is inadequate, and quite honestly, their aesthetics are poor when compared to other helmet types.
Their name is self-explanatory,Half Helmets only cover half of your head a; yourour entire face, neck and lower areas of your head are completely exposed. We recommend that you avoid half helmets because your chance of getting a head injury is far higher if you crash. To further our opinion of half helmets, you’ll never find one that passed a Snell safety rating.
The majority of half helmets on the market do not come equipped with visors or face shields. If you want these, you’ll have to purchase them separately.
The only upside to half helmets is that you’ll feel the wind on your face, but also the rain, the sun, bugs, and road debris.
Modular helmets (Flip Up)
Modular helmets, flip-up helmets or ‘flip ups’, are the middle ground between full face helmets and open face helmets. Both the visor and chin bar will flip upwards, giving them the appearance of a full face helmet but quickly turning into an open face helmet.
Generally, modular helmets do weigh more than standard open face helmets, this is because of the mechanism that allows the chin bar and visor to flip upwards. It’s arguable if modular helmets are less safe than full face when they aren’t flipped upwards.
Structurally modular helmets are weaker, but modern technology means that the chance of a modular coming apart in a crash is meager. On the other hand, if you crash with your modular helmet flipped upwards it’s far riskier. The chance of grievous head and facial injuries will be a lot higher.
Something else that makes modular helmets more popular is their convenience. If you need to take a call or it’s just a hot day, you can flip them open, allowing a pleasant breeze or the ability to speak without your words being muffled.
ADV/dual sport helmets
Dual sport or ADV helmets are an exciting mix of full-face and dirt bike helmets. You can use these helmets for both road and off road riding. As you can see, their exterior is very similar to that of a dirt bike helmet, but what you can’t see is that their interior is that of a full face helmet.
This means they’re lighter than most helmet types but still have significant interior padding that what a dirt bike helmet would usually have. Their visors are significantly larger, just like off-road helmets, but the chin bar is structurally stronger because of the risk of high speed crashes. Then their ventilation has been improved because of the extra padding. ADV helmets are a great choice, although they tend to gravitate to the more expensive price ranges.
Your helmet and riding position
Even veteran motorcyclists don’t realize that most helmets are actually designed for a specific riding position. The two riding positions are either racing or commuting. If you choose a racing helmet for a commuter bike, it won’t be the end of the world, and you probably won’t realize that you’re wearing the wrong helmet (technically). We haven’t tested this indefinitely, but another factor is less or more wind noise depending on helmet position type.
There are some minor benefits for choosing the correct helmet design firstly if you’re riding in a more crouched position, with your head lower down, which is very common for race style bikes. A helmet designed for racing will have better airflow in that position, and it will be more effective aerodynamically in that crouched position. While on the other hand, a helmet designed for commuting will have better airflow and aerodynamics in an upright, more vertical position.
You could potentially hear slight whistling sounds if you’re wearing a helmet for the wrong position. Although it’s not something we’ve experienced, other riders mentioned it happening to them.
More of the best motorcycle helmet buying guides
There are numerous considerations and possibilities when choosing a motorcycle helmet. We couldn’t possibly cover everything in one guide, not to mention the massive variety of rider needs and circumstances. Because of this, we’ve compiled a variety of more specific motorcycle helmet buying guides.
Have a look below to see if any of our best helmet guides narrow down on your personal needs.