The best motorcycle helmets
In this guide we’ll run through the best motorcycle helmets available but more importantly, what you need to be considering so that you make the best decision for you 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 and the environment around you are all vitally important when choosing a motorcycle helmet, and it can be a real bummer when you 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 6 most important factors when choosing the best motorcycle helmet. Remember these are just some useful things to consider before a helmet.
What will your helmet be used for?
Your riding style is going to have a big impact on the helmet you choose, while it’s true that at the end of the day it’s just there to protect your head, if you’re looking for the best motorcycle helmet then factor in what your riding style is.
Cross Country Touring
If you’re planning to do a motorcycle tour, your choice of helmet is an important one, more so than any other riding style. 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 a 6 hour ride, your neck is going to be sore and might begin cramping. That’s why for a touring helmet you should be spending a lot more than a standard motorcycle helmet. All those little things will become things over a long enough period of time.
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 pows. For weekend rides, things like bluetooth communication, and added comfort are important.
Because this is more of a leisure time you don’t want to be skimming on a helmet that’s uncomfortable or just doesn’t ventilate heat in the right way.
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 exactly 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 your climate 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 snow is falling around you.
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. Although we recommend modular because half face helmets don’t offer as good protection. Other features you’ll need in hotter months are removable padding and interiors so that you can wash as they’ll get a bit smelly with time.
Sun protection is something you won’t realise until there’s a glare 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 are hotter.
For the winter months definitely don’t go with a modular or half face helmet. They maximise 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 designed specifically for the snow. What you can do is make sure to avoid helmets designed for the summer months. These helmets maximise airflow and have extra expensive sweat management features.
Helmet Safety Ratings
Safety ratings are without a doubt the most important aspect about any helmet, it’s a rarity to come by a helmet without the correct safety ratings but 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 the way Snell is tested, one important factor is Snell is run by an independent 3rd party, while DOT testing is run by the manufacturer itself. What this means is that Snell is a more trustworthy rating because they have nothing to gain unlike a manufacturer.
The ECE helmet rating is relatively new but more comprehensive than DOT, although 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 it’s ticked off by Snell’s testing, 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.
Then they put this helmet through a series of rigorous tests, their tests are designed for racetracks safety standards So they’re far more rigorous than DOT tests. When choosing a helmet we recommend you choose a Snell certified helmet because some manufacturers won’t actually pass Snell’s tests and it’s the best way to distinguish great 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 in the helmet.
You might not of known, but the chin encounters 50% of impacts 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 superior protection results in poorer airflow compared to other helmet types. Because of this, airflow will be a bigger consideration when choosing the best full face helmets.
Open face helmets (¾)
Open face helmets 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 compared to full face or modular helmets, there’s no better feeling than feeling 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 fine 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 a crash and something you definitely 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 quite poor when compared to other helmet types.
Their name is self explanatory, they only cover half of your head area, your entire face, neck and lower areas of your head are completely exposed. We recommend that you avoid half helmets because if you crash your chance of getting a head injury is far higher. 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 or 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 the helmet the appearance of a full face helmet but then 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 they’re weaker but modern technology means that the chance of a modular helmet coming apart in a crash is very low. On the other hand, if you crash with your modular helmet flipped upwards it’s obviously 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 properly speak without your words being muffled.
ADV/dual sport helmets
Dual sport or ADV helmets are an interesting mix of full face helmets and dirt bike helmets, you can use these helmets for both for 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 a dirt bike lacks. Their visors are significantly larger, just like off road helmets, but the chin bar is structurally a lot 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 prices.
Your helmet and riding position
If there’s one factor even veteran motorcyclists don’t realise is that most helmets are actually designed for a specific riding position. The two riding positions are either a racing or commuting position.
If you choose a racing helmet for a commuter bike it won’t be the end of the world and you probably won’t realise 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 aero dynamically 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, but other riders mentioned it’s happened 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.