Motorcycle Helmets: A Comprehensive Guide

Riding a motorcycle can feel liberating and adventurous. As you hit the open road with the wind in your hair, it’s easy to feel carefree. However, safety must always be the top priority. Wearing a quality helmet significantly reduces the risk of a fatal head injury in a motorcycle accident. With so many helmet options on the market, it can take time to determine the best helmet for your needs and budget. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to find the safest, most comfortable, and best-value motorcycle helmet for the riding you do. Equipped with this knowledge, you can gear up confidently and focus on enjoying the freedom of the ride. Click Here for more information on essential motorcycle gear.

What Makes the best helmets safe?

A motorcycle helmet’s primary purpose is to protect your head in the event of an accident. It accomplishes this crucial job in three key ways: via its outer solid shell, impact-absorbing inner liner, and secure retention system. Most countries require motorcycle helmets to meet specific governmental safety standards that dictate minimum requirements in these areas. Two significant safety ratings are DOT (Department of Transportation) certification in the US and ECE 22.05 approval in Europe. Additional respected standards include Snell and SHARP, which evaluate helmets through intensive laboratory testing for attributes like impact force management, chin strap strength, coverage area, and more. 

All certified-best helmets must utilize a rigid outer shell, usually made from carbon fiber, polycarbonate plastic, or fiberglass composite. This allows the helmet to slide upon impact rather than catch and twist the head and neck. Softer, crushable materials line the inside, like expanded polystyrene or multiple layers of foam. These compress upon force to decelerate the head more gradually. The retention system, including adjustable chin straps and sizing pads, ensures the helmet stays firmly around the head. Advanced safety features like MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) also reduce rotation forces during crashes. Remember these protections when determining the best motorcycle helmet for your riding style.

Types of Motorcycle Helmets

The intended riding purpose is one of the most significant factors in choosing your best helmets. Certain types provide more all-around protection for street and highway use, while others favor openness and breathability for off-road adventures. These distinctions primarily revolve around the amount of head and face coverage. Here are some of the most common motorcycle helmet configurations:

best helmets for motorcycles

Full Face Helmets: As the name suggests, these best helmets encapsulate the entire head in a solid shell with a chin bar and face shield. This provides maximum impact protection and aerodynamic performance, making full-face helmets ideal for street, performance, and track riding. Built-in visors block sun, wind, and debris at higher speeds. The chin bar helps prevent face and mouth injuries in a crash. For those reasons, full-face helmets are the preferred choice for safety-conscious riders. Downsides can include added weight, lack of ventilation, and facial claustrophobia for some.


Modular Helmets: Modular helmets attempt to bridge the gap between safety and convenience. Also known as “flip-up” or convertible helmets, they function similarly to a full-face helmet with a built-in chin bar and face shield. But a pivoting mechanism allows the front portion to flip up, enabling the rider to eat, drink, and converse more easily when stopped. They retain protective capabilities for regular street usage while offering increased flexibility. Weight can be an issue, and moving parts may compromise safety in high-speed crashes. Still, for those seeking versatility, modular helmets merit consideration.  

Open-Face Helmets: As the most minimalistic option, open-face helmets resemble a bowl covering the top and back of the head without a face shield or chin guard. This allows maximum airflow and visibility for riders of cruisers, touring bikes, and scooters who remain mostly upright in traffic conditions. Open-face helmets work well for fair-weather urban commuters not reaching freeway speeds. But they provide significantly less protection overall. Adding a snap-on face shield helps guard the face from debris. Wearing goggles protects the eyes when going faster. Those choosing open-face helmets assume more risk but likely find the styling and convenience factors worthwhile.


Dirt Helmets: Purpose-built for motocross, enduros, ATVs, and single-track riding, dirt helmets include an elongated visor and chin bar, plus increased rear head coverage. These specialized features shield participants from roosted rocks, branches, and mud and provide ventilation across goggle straps. The extensive jawline protection helps prevent painful injury when landing tricky jumps or interacting with aggressive riders mid-race. Made to withstand frequent impacts while allowing freedom of movement, off-road helmets are essential for extreme environments. They complement motorcycle goggles and incorporate features like removable mouthguards. Casual trail riders may still utilize convertible helmets, but competitive events demand helmets explicitly designed for dirt use.

Key Features to Evaluate

Drilling deeper, several other factors affect a helmet’s safety, comfort, and convenience during day-to-day usage:

Weight: The lighter the helmet, the less neck fatigue you’ll experience on longer rides. But since weight often derives directly from the amount of inner protective padding, the safest helmets skew heavier. Finding the optimal balance for your needs depends on the bike, riding distance, and personal conditioning. Modular, dirt, and higher-end carbon fiber lids tend to weigh the most due to advanced components. 

Ventilation: Proper airflow keeps you calm and focused while preventing the shield from fogging. Effective helmets circulate air through intake and exhaust vents, channeling it over the head without compromising safety. Features like breath deflectors prevent lenses from clouding up. Adjustable vents allow customization for weather conditions. The absence of a chin guard on open-face helmets naturally provides superior ventilation. Consider the climate where you ride when assessing ventilation.

Noise: The amount of wind and ambient noise you’ll experience is closely tied to airflow. Streamlined shell shapes and tight seals make helmets quieter, while breathability features allow more sound. Pricier options use sound-dampening materials like EPS foam and comfort liners to reduce distracting roar at speed. Earplugs also assist significantly in lowering noise levels. Test helmets firsthand when possible to gauge potential loudness issues.  

Visors and Face Shields: Integral eye protection protects against glare, insects, and other hazards. Optically correct tinted visors guard against changing light conditions or transition types reactively adjust. Pin lock anti-fog inserts further increase visibility. Modular and dirt models often allow simple visor removal for cleaning and customization. Consider add-ons like flat shields or bubble windscreens for bikes lacking fairings. Mirrored finishes look cool but limit visibility in low-light riding.  

Comfort Liners: The material contacting your face influences coziness and hygiene. Avoid acne, skin irritation, and hearing loss by selecting helmets with removable, washable comfort liners and cheek pads. Natural moisture-wicking fabrics like Dri-Lex® or COOLMAX® feel great and won’t get overly funky with sweat and oils. Proper sizing coupled with adjustable liners creates a custom, non-distracting fit. Upgrade kits allow further dialing-in over years of use.

Retention Systems: Consisting of adjustable straps, a durable D-ring closure, and a snap, the retention system ensures your helmet stays securely atop your head in case of a crash or other jostling. Chin straps should fit snugly without choking the wearer. Premium models allow customizing strap lengths and pivot points for stability and comfort. Pit zips facilitate slipping helmets on easily. Seek dual homologation for chin straps, meeting both DOT and ECE standards for strength. These components keep your helmet in the optimal position when needed most.   

How to Ensure Proper Fit  

Motorcycle gear

Now equipped with knowledge of the protection levels, components, and key features of various motorcycle helmet types, dialing in the proper fit should come next. An approved safety helmet can rock solid until it slides disastrously askew mid-accident due to poor fit. Follow these guidelines for fitment perfection:

Measure around your head: Wrap a flexible tape measure across the forehead and around the largest circumference of your head. Compare the numbers with sizing charts from the helmet manufacturer, knowing most helmets run slightly small. Intermediate sizes often fit many riders best. 

Get the right shape: Helmet interiors exist in different head shape profiles, from round to intermediate to long oval. Choosing the shape aligning closest with your own maximizes comfort while minimizing empty spaces that can cause rotation. Dimensions and interior padding also vary by gender. 

Make contact: Once on your head, the cheek pads should touch without compressing or pinching cheeks. The forehead should press lightly against the front liner. No gaps should exist above the brows or at the back of the neck. More significant gaps indicate a size too large. Temples should also avoid restrictive pressure points.  

Test comfort over time: Brand-new helmet comfort differs significantly from broken-in fit. So test helmets first for at least 10 minutes to determine pressure point issues that padding adjustments may later correct. Over time, liners take shape to your head for personalized comfort.  

Adjust fit mechanisms: Most quality helmets integrate adjustable liner and pad systems to customize the fit. Use included tools to tailor thicknesses, alignments, and tensions, retesting until the helmet feels like an extension of your head. Strap adjustments also fine-tune angles.

The adequately fitted motorcycle helmet stays put as you move your head rapidly from side to side and up and down. Shaking your head vigorously should not allow any side to slip. Strapped tightly, opening your mouth wide, you should pull down the helmet slightly. Getting it dialed in takes effort but ensures the helmet protects as intended. 

Our Top Motorcycle Helmet Picks

Now for the fun part: picking some winning helmets! Comparing safety certifications, weighing key attributes like vision field, noise, and weight while assessing rider reviews and value, here are five great motorcycle helmets to consider across the most popular categories:

1. Shoei RF-SR: This premium full-face street helmet meets the most rigorous safety standards while providing exceptional ventilation, comfort, and versatility. Generous intake and exhaust ports circulate air through the moisture-wicking 3D Max-Dry interior to keep you cool and collected while riding in warm climates. Spring-loaded base plates allow custom shield adjustments. And with tri-composite shell construction accentuated by hand-laid fiberglass, it remains impressively light. For maximal protection and performance, the Shoei RF-SR delivers.

2. Schuberth C4 Pro: Flip-front modular helmets are less advanced than the Schuberth C4 Pro. Its aerodynamic shell conceals an internal drop-down sun visor, built-in antenna, and Bluetooth system for seamless communication. Wind tunnel testing optimizes stability up to speeds of 160 mph. Yet it remains almost eerily quiet thanks to exclusive sound-dampening EPS foam. The hypoallergenic COOLMAX® liner keeps comfort supreme even when riding for hours in summer. With elite versatility for changing conditions, the C4 Pro modular helmet makes the premium worthwhile. 

3. Daytona Helmets Skull Bone: Sometimes, simple, straightforward style trumps all. This sentiment embodies the Skull Bone open-face helmet from Daytona. Covering the minimum legally required areas in its fiberglass composite shell, it offers substantial freedom paired with its off-road capabilities. The moisture-wicking liner pulls sweat away on those blazing afternoons. Little wind noise intrudes to break the concentration, curling through winding canyons. And with one of five bold colorway options and complimentary headwraps, they’ll see you coming miles away! Classic excellent need not break the bank.

4. Arai VX Pro-4: When podium counts at the motocross track, Arai brings the goods with their VX Pro-4 off-road helmet. Its R75 shell shape protects the chin, jawline, and temples while increasing airflow from all angles. The multi-stage impact liners dissipate energy through collapsing stages to mitigate concussions. Generous neck opening permits easy entry yet won’t catch when banking into berms backward—durable peak and broad goggle strap positioning ready it for roost battles ahead. From amateur practice to professional outdoor nationals, the VX Pro-4 delivers hardcore off-road performance.  

5. HJC CL-17: For riders operating on a tight budget, the value of the HJC CL-17 must be addressed. Dropping under $150 yet appearing much pricier, its polycarbonate composite shell incorporates proven CAD technology for lightweight impact resistance. Beyond the pin-lock shield, the Speed Sentry’s internal sun shade deploys quickly when glare strikes. Single button shield swaps simplify visor changes. Breath boxes channel humidity out the back. This comfortable full-face helmet satisfies DOT certifications through various graphics to conceal costs. When value matters most, consider the CL-17.

While many outstanding helmets exist for every style and budget, these well-rounded contenders rise to the top through our evaluation process. But as always, assessing your anticipated usage, safety priorities, riding environment, and budget helps determine which option best suits your needs. The motorcycle gear marketplace brims with choices these days. So take your time, do diligent research, and then take emerging leaders like these for a test drive firsthand. 

Key Takeaways in Finding Your Helmet   

To summarize, when seeking the best motorcycle helmets that provides ideal protection, comfort, and convenience, keep these essential selection criteria in mind:

Safety Certifications: Trust only helmets meeting or exceeding DOT, ECE 22.05, Snell, or comparable safety standards to protect your head. Rigorous laboratory testing substantiates their real-life effectiveness. 

Intended Use: Your riding style determines the optimal helmet type. Street, performance, and track riding demand the coverage of full-face helmets, while modular helmets add versatility. Open-face helmets retain airflow for cruisers and some commuters. Dirt helmets have become necessary for off-road activities. Choose wisely for how you ride.

Comfort and Noise: You want the best helmets

to fit like a natural extension of your head – no pinching, pressure points, or undue noise that adds distraction or fatigue. Liners, vents, and aerodynamics each contribute here. Test thoroughly!    

Perfect Fit:

  • Measure the head carefully.
  • Align with internal shape and pad thicknesses.
  • Utilize multiple adjustments to achieve a snug, integrated helmet positioning that won’t shift out of place during abrupt movements or possible crashes.  

Additional Features: From tinted visors and face shields to communication system integration and materials like carbon fiber, additional features enable personalizing and enhancing how the best helmets function. But avoid unnecessary add-ons affecting safety or structural rigidity.

Taking the time upfront to consider these motorcycle helmet selection criteria methodically will simplify identifying models that check your boxes. Then, launching out onto the open roads and trails wearing the fitting helmet keeps you protected, so the adventures ahead remain memorable for all the right reasons!

Best motorcycle helmets FAQ’s

Q: How often should you replace a motorcycle helmet?

A: Most manufacturers recommend replacing helmets every 5-7 years as materials break down. Also, replace after any significant impact that damages the shell, liner, or straps.

Q: Do the best motorcycle helmets expire?  

A: best Helmets components, including glues, polymers, and padding material, degrade slowly. So, while helmets don’t have a strict expiration date, older helmets likely don’t protect as intended. 

Q: How do I know when to replace my helmet?

A: Signs include damaged shells, worn straps, loosening liners/pads, poor fit, extreme smells, and scratches obstructing vision through the shield and visor.

Q: Should I buy a secondhand helmet?  

A: Only if you can verify it was manufactured recently with no previous crashes. Otherwise, critical internal materials may be compromised, so protection would be uncertain.

Q: Are flip-up modular helmets as safe as full-face helmets?

A: Modular helmets must pass minimum federal standards, but some research shows vulnerabilities during crashes at very high speeds or extreme angles. Most experts recommend full-face for ultimate safety.

In conclusion, your helmet choice is a critical aspect of motorcycle safety. By considering safety standards, helmet types, key features, and fit, you’ll find the best helmet for your riding adventures. Stay safe, and enjoy the open road!

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