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The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Motorcycle Helmet

A motorcycle helmet is the most important safety purchase a bike owner will make. A good helmet will last you for years and makes all the difference between coming out OK and being left critical after an accident. It is also something that you’ll be wearing on a day to day basis, in most cases. Make sure that your helmet not only looks good but feels great too. There are lots of criteria which have to be up to standard in order to ensure that you get great protection and outstanding overall quality. Secondly, you also need to consider what type of bike you’re riding before rushing off to buy a helmet. Certain styles are better to off-roading. Follow our ultimate guide to choosing the right helmet to guarantee that you get the best.

Quality Factors & Features

The following quality factors & features need to be considered before buying any new motorcycle helmet. Protection & comfort are of prime concern, while these points will ensure that you get great overall value.

Helmet Shell Material Type

Polycarbonate is the least expensive helmet shell material. It flexes as it absorbs the energy of impact. Fiberglass composite is slightly more expensive than polycarbonate but it flexes, dissipates and splits, absorbing more impact energy. Carbon fiber is the most expensive type of helmet shell material found. The impact energy distribution is the best, and carbon fiber helmets are the lightest.

Helmet Weight

All good helmets will distribute their weight evenly to around your head and shoulders. The lightest helmets weight as little as two to three pounds, with the average helmet weighing in the region of five to six. Modular helmets typically weigh more on average than full face and other varieties due to the mechanism of the visor.

Integrated UV Protection, Fog & Scratch Resistance

If you’re going for a modular or full-face helmet, good UV protection is essential. Just make sure that the treatment on your visor is not poorly done or you’ll have a helmet in great condition with a visor that makes it difficult to see. Fog and scratch resistant coatings are supplied by default by the best motorcycle helmets as well.

Quick Release Buckles

Quick release buckles are extremely handy for putting on and taking off your helmet while wearing gloves. Getting your helmet off can be tricky or annyoing if your buckles are poorly designed and not well built for those wearing gloves. Keep a close eye on which are featured by your potential new helmet.

Bluetooth / Speaker Pockets

Not everyone wants in-ride calling and music but those interested should definitely keep integrated Bluetooth functionality in mind. Even cheaper but reliable helmets such as the HJC 972-601 MAXBT Modular Helmet feature built-in Bluetooth. Alternatively, look for helmet speaker pockets if you’re only looking for music. Just make sure that the helmet you have in mind features great ventilation and design aspects which lower wind noise while driving. Bluetooth and radio facilities are great but they’re pointless if all you hear is noise.

NOTE: Riding with headphones in or on your ears is illegal in many states, but many built in speakers and bluetooth devices for helmets are exempt and are legal. Be sure to check your state laws regarding this.

Helmet Safety Ratings

Every legitimate helmet must carry a safety certification. The main three helmet safety standards found are:

DOT – The US Federal Government’s Department of Transportation sets the minimum safety standard for all helmets sold for use on public streets in the United States. This is the certification you’ll find most often.

UNECE22.05 – This standard is also known as the ECE22.05, set in place by the Economic Commission for Europe. It is the legal minimum safety rating which all helmets sold for use on public roads in Europe and Australia. 

Snell (M2015) – The Snell organization is non-profit founded in memory of William Pete Snell, a sportscar racer who suffered a fatal head injury after not wearing a helmet. The Snell M2015 standards are among the most stringent in the world but a helmet without this certification is not necessarily a worse option.

Motorcycle Helmet Sizing Guide

Everyone has a different head size and shape. Many motorcycle helmets, particularly those featuring an EPS lining, are made to fit all head shapes comfortable. In order to find the right sized helmet, you’ll need to take your own measurements. Use a measuring tape to measure the circumference of your head. Start by measuring slightly above the ears and eyebrows, wrapping the tape around the back of your head just below the crown. This is the broadest part of your head. Use the measurement to determine which sized helmet fits you best:

Measure around your forehead, just above your ears, and just below the crown.

2XS – Double Extra Small – Hat Size 6 3/8 to 6 ½ – 20 to 20 ½-inch Head Circumference

XS – Extra Small – Hat Size 6 5/8 to 6 ¾ – 20 7/8 to 21 ¼ -inch Head Circumference

S – Small – Hat Size 6 7/8 to 7 – 21 5/8 to 22-inch Head Circumference

M – Medium – Hat Size 7 1/8 to 7 ¼ – 22 1/2 to 22 7/8-inch Head Circumference

L – Large – Hat Size 7 3/8 to 7 ¾ – 23 ¼ to 23 5/8-inch Head Circumference

XL – Extra-Large – Hat Size 7 5/8 to 7 3/4 – 24 to 24 3/8-inch Head Circumference

2XL – Double Extra-Large – Hat Size 7 7/8 to 8 – 24 3/4 to 25 ¼-inch Head Circumference

3XL – Triple Extra-Large – Hat Size 8 1/8 to 8 ¼ – 25 5/8 to 26-inch Head Circumference

Motorcycle Helmet Types

There is a range of different motorcycle helmet types available. Each is better suited to a particular style of rider, and some give better protection than others. The best motorcycle helmets are all extremely lightweight and will come certified to safety standards which ensure that you’re fully protected.

Full-Face Helmets

full-face-motorcycle-helmet

A full-face helmet provides the most protection and is the most common type used. It covers most of your face with certain helmets offering complete facial protection. Comfort and breathability are extremely important. Full face helmets can often be heavy, especially towards the cheaper end of the pricing scale. If you’re shopping for a good full-face helmet, look for something lightweight that fits you perfectly. Here’s a look at a few of the top full face helmets:

Shoei GT-Air Shine Full Face Helmet – You don’t get better if you’re looking for a high-end full-face helmet. DOT218 certified, aerodynamic, and boasting an advanced integrated matrix shell, this is a pricy choice which is worth every cent. It only weighs 2.5 pounds and has impressive ventilation, a sun shield, and even a molded spoiler to reduce drag. A multi-piece EPS liner helps threefold. Your impact absorption and ventilation are superior to most other helmets thanks to this feature, and the EPS liner guarantees that it’ll fit most head sizes. The Shoei range of motorcycle helmets are considered the best in class.

Bell Vortex Unisex Full Face Street Helmet – If you’re looking for an excellent helmet on a mid-range budget, this is your best option. The polycarbonate / ABS shell is extremely lightweight at just 3.5 pounds. NutraFog II anti-fog is integrated, as is a padded collar to reduce wind and road noise, speaker pockets, contoured cheek pads, and a padded chin strap.

Storm Full Face Helmet – At half the price of even the affordable Bell Vortex, this is a fantastic option for anyone on a tight budget. The sizes run a little small so order one size larger than you would normally take but other than this minor caveat, the value is unbeatable. The thermodynamic plastic shell is solid enough to protect you from the hardest of knocks and it carries a good-looking design. The UV protective visor works flawlessly, and the interchangeable three to five channel ventilation is a nice touch.

Modular Helmets

modular motorcycle helmet

Modular helmets give the convenience of an open-faced helmet, with the protection and comfort of a full faced helmet. Some riders can’t live without a flip-up chin bar, visor, or both. Wearing one lets you talk on your phone or grab a snack without taking off your helmet. The mechanism handling the flip-up chin bar or visor adds a little weight to the helmet but they do compete closely with their larger counterparts.

Shoei Solid Neotec Modular Street Helmet – Shoei’s quality in the modular helmet department is once again outstanding. Their Neotec Modular Street helmet has a highly functional flip-up visor, an internal sun shield, fog resistance utilizing Pinlock EVO, and its shell aerodynamics are unparalleled. The liner is removable and washable, and the ventilation even lets you control the amount of air intake. It is a quiet helmet with plush internal padding. The price may put it out of reach of some riders, but for those who can afford it, it is money well spent.

HJC IS-MAX II Modular Motorcycle Helmet – This leading modular helmet from HJC is a touch higher than mid-range, but its value for money places it as a firm second. Splash out, and you’ll get a helmet boasting an advanced lightweight polycarbonate composite shell with an adjustable chin bar. Comfort levels beat many far higher priced helmets thanks to the advantaged CAD technology used in its’ design. The sun shield is adjustable to three different stages, and you can clip in a range of optional other shields as well. The ACS ventilation flushes all heat and humidity up and out the helmet. Quiet, cool, and fitting to any head shape, this is one of your best options.

ILM 8 Colors Motorcycle Modular Flip Up Dual Visor Helmet – Just because ILM supplier their modular helmet at a good price, this doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing protection. It meets both FMVSS-218 and DOT safety standards, boasting a durable ABS shell which protects you with the aid an EPS impact absorption inner liner. This also means that it fits any head shape extremely well. The flip-up visor resists scratches, while the sleek design actually works to lower wind noise.

Open Face Helmets

Open Face Motorcycle Helmet

An open face helmet doesn’t carry the same protection as a modular or full-face design but it is extremely comfortable. Wearing one lets you feel the wind in your face without running the risk of getting bugs or debris in your face while out on the road. Here’s a look at the top three open face helmets across each price bracket.

Shark Raw Blank Helmet – Shark back’s their industry leading RAW Blank open face helmet with a 5-year guarantee. The quality and style can’t be matched. The entire helmet remains quiet thanks to its innovative design. The googles and face mask are easily detached using a quick release system. There is no chance of fogging with the way that Shark has put together their double pane design. Day night visibility can’t be criticized, while the weight stays under five pounds. If you want the best fitting, best-looking open-faced helmet available and aren’t worried about the cost, this is the ultimate option.

HJC 640-576 FG-JET Open-Face Motorcycle Helmet – Some may argue that they prefer the look of HJC’s open-face lower price alternative. The quality between this and Shark’s Raw Blank Helmet is nearly an equal match. It is a bulkier helmet but uses an advanced fiberglass composite shell to deliver a superior fit and higher comfort than almost anything in its class. The SilverCool interior with provided odor-free, antibacterial liners, keep your helmet cool and fresh at all times. It’s quiet with ventilation that works well. Be sure to consider both helmets if you’re shopping in the $200 range.

MMG Motorcycle Open Face Helmet – MMG has put together one of the lightest open face helmets around which still delivers solid protection from impacts and collision. It is aerodynamically designed with a wide vision field which remains super clear at all time. The visor also has anti-scratch technology built in. The inner cheek pads are washable, and the entire helmet feels and looks like good quality. The value-packed into this cheap offering rivals helmets three times its price. It’s not the quietest but it is very cool.

Dual Sport Helmets

Dual sport motorcycle helmet

If you own a dual sport bike, or two bikes – one for in town and one for off-roading, then a dual sport helmet may be your best option. They offer excellent protection and certain designs feature removable visors & face shields. Dual sport helmets are among the lightest that you’ll find but all carry the same distinctive look.

Shoei Marquez4 X-14 Sports Bike Racing Motorcycle Helmet – If you’re looking for a dual sport helmet for competition, or if you simply have to have the best, this is the helmet for you. Shoei has put this helmet to the test with the help of professional riders and extensive wind tunnel testing. There are no less than four shells and five EPS liners. The impact absorbing EPS liners are even in the chin bar and the cheek area is cooled. Rear flaps can even be replaced with narrower ones for greater aerodynamics. The overall quality and engineering of the Shoei Marquez4 put it far ahead of all the competition. Keep in mind, its price tag matches its caliber.

Voss 601 D2 Dual Sport Helmet – No matter how you look at this mid-range dual sport helmet, it offers outstanding quality, value & protection. An internal VIVS Voss visor system gives you quick releasing visors which protect completely against the sun. It can be dropped down or unclipped. Supplemental face shields in other style are available from Voss. The peak can also be removed, revealing the aggressive design of the aerodynamic shell. It is suited to oval and round head shapes, while an antimicrobial moisture wicking liner keeps your helmet fresh. You’ll struggle to find a more lightweight helmet, durable helmet with matching aesthetics at its price.  

O’Neal 0623-054 3 Series Helmet – For a low budget dual sport helmet, O’Neal over-delivers in every way. The quality matches that of far higher priced helmets, just falling short of what Voss has to offer in terms of quietness, comfort, and ventilation. The inner liner is ultra-plush and can be removed to be washed. Four pounds makes for a very lightweight helmet which is rugged enough to take a knock during motocross due to its high-quality polycarbonate shell.

Taking Care of Your Motorcycle Helmet

Shop carefully and you will be rewarded with a motorcycle helmet which will remain comfortable through extended use given just a little light care. If your inner liners are washable, make sure you keep them washed and fresh. Get yourself a good motorcycle helmet and visor cleaner with a good microfiber cloth to keep your view clear & your visor scratch free. If your helmet doesn’t have anti-fog protection, give anti-fog spray a try. A compact rain repellent is another handy spray to keep on hand when traveling in bad weather, or over an extended distance. Take care of your helmet, and it will take care of you for many years to come.