The 24 Best Motorcycle Helmets

Jun 2, 2020

Category: Gear

Though motorcycles undeniably offer thrills, exhilaration, and the ability to inject some much-needed fun and adventure into your everyday routine, they don’t possess the seat-belts, crumple-zones, and other protective qualities of the four-wheeled vehicles they share the roads with, leaving riders to rely on their wearable protective gear for safety. And while all protective riding gear is important, we’d argue helmets are the single most crucial piece of moto gear, as it’s hard to think of more critical areas to protect than your head and brain.

With hundreds of different helmets currently on the market, however, it can be extremely difficult to narrow the multitudes of offerings down to the handful of legitimately worthwhile, high-quality lids — a fact further complicated by the expansive array of different styles and genres of motorcycle helmets that currently exist. So, in order to help ensure you’re protecting your melon with the best possible brain bucket, we’ve put together this guide to today’s 24 best motorcycle helmets. Below we’ll be delving into what makes for a quality helmet, what to look for and consider when shopping for one, how you should go about purchasing a lid, and of course, the latest and greatest from each category of motorcycle helmet.

Photo: Klim Krios Element Helmet

Quality Cranial Fortification

What Makes For A Good Motorcycle Helmet

Here we explore the elements that are used to determine the overall quality of a motorcycle helmet.

Application & Riding Style: Over the years, as the different genres of motorcycles have increasingly turned into purpose-built machines made for specific riding applications, so too have motorcycle helmets. Whether you’re riding modern machinery or a vintage model, or plan on riding on or off-road (or doing some of both), your intended application should help you narrow down which category you should be shopping in. Below, we’ll also be exploring each of the eight primary helmet types/applications in more detail.

Protection: A helmet’s only real job is to protect your head, and when we talk about helmets and protection, what we’re really talking about is its ability to absorb and disperse energy and impacts. Safety ratings and standards (which we will also be exploring a little bit further down) are somewhat helpful in this realm, though it’s very worth noting that safety certifications tend to focus on the crown of the helmet and neglect the structural quality of the chin-bar — one area that hugely differs in strength and quality between low-end and high-end manufacturers.

Materials & Construction: This is unquestionably one of the biggest determining factors that go into a helmet’s overall quality. On top of the materials used in the shell (which is typically fiberglass, carbon fiber, or a composite) foam/padding, and lining, how a helmet is made also plays a massive role in its quality. The scale of production also plays a pivotal role in quality, with the market including everything from mass-produced budget items to individually-crafted, hand-made artisan offerings.

Amenities & Features: Pretty much all helmets do the same basic job, though some come equipped with more features than others. Amenities to keep an eye out for include internal drop-down visors, removable beaks (and/or “peaks” or external visors), and built-in Bluetooth communication systems (or ports/recesses designed to accommodate comm systems). There are also comm systems designed specifically to work with certain helmet models.

Visor & Hardware: Elements far too often overlooked, the visor and hardware on a helmet make a pretty big difference in overall quality and user experience. You’ll want to research a helmet’s visor pivot mechanism, as some are quite robust while others are cheap and more prone to breaking. It’s also well worth researching the visor itself to determine factors such as whether or not it’s pin-lock ready, available in tined (or even photochromatic) versions, anti-fogging? comes with tear-off posts, etc.

Closure System: The vast majority of helmets on the market use a double D-ring closure system, and that’s been pretty standard for years, though in recent times more and more companies have been rolling out helmets with Fid-locks, ratcheting chin-straps, and other more novel closure systems. While on the subject of closure systems, it’s also worth considering if a helmet has an emergency removal system, which allows EMTs and/or first responders to safely remove your helmet while minimizing movement to your neck, head, and spine.

Photo: Arai Rapide Helmet

Shell Size & Fitment: This is a big one because for a motorcycle helmet to properly do its job, it needs to properly fit its wearer. Helmets should have a snug fit, with enough room left to be able to slip a finger or two inside while wearing them. To allow for more precise fitment, manufacturers almost always produce helmets in multiple shell sizes, and while mid-tier brands will often use two or two shell sizes for all seven of their sizes (XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL), the top-shelf companies tend to produce 3, 4, or 5 shell sizes, which, while more expensive to produce, enables the helmets to offer that much tighter of a fit, and therefor offer that much better protection. And while we all have pretty much the same basic head shape, some peoples’ skulls tend to be more round or oval-shaped. As a result, most moto gear brands will cite which head shape their helmet best fits, allowing for even more precise fit on top of the size of the helmet (and shell) itself. The more high-end helmets also often come with included pieces of pads and foam to further dial in the helmet’s fitment to be perfectly shaped to your head.

Ventilation: Helmets are usually thick and well-padded, and while this makes for quality protection for your noggin, it doesn’t make for the most comfortable or breathable of situations. To help beat the heat, pretty much all helmets come with built-in ventilation in the form of intake and exhaust ports (not to mention the visor/view-port). These are typically located around the forehead (and around the mouth on full-face and modular models) and can almost always be opened or closed to control the airflow. Ventilation also helps to keep the visor from fogging, though a pin-lock insert will do an even better job at this. Ventilation is also another area where the high-end helmets offer much better performance, as well.

Fit & Finish: One major area that separates high-end lids from the budget brain buckets is fit and finish. Elite helmet brands tend to exhibit much better quality control, and their helmets not only tend to have a solid and more plush feel, but the paint tends to be markedly nicer and sport a much nicer overall finish.

Weight: Considering you wear a helmet on your head, its weight makes a tremendous difference in overall comfort, especially when worn for prolonged periods. With helmet manufacturers constantly clamoring to one-up each other, weight has become a key focal point in this space, ultimately resulting in some extremely light — yet still remarkably protective — helmets. Weight numbers should be readily available for any helmet, though this area comes down to design and materials.

Sound: Different helmets possess hugely different levels of noise-control (or soundproofing). If your commute involves ample freeway time, you’re almost certainly going to want a helmet that’s nice and quiet at speed. Quite helmets also allow for greater clarity on both ends when using communication systems or Bluetooth speakers/headphones. The one area where sound shouldn’t be considered is with race and track helmets, as they typically aren’t designed to mitigate sound, as the vast majority of racers and trackway enthusiasts wear earplugs.

Style & Aesthetics: While ultimately application should be your primary guiding factor in what your helmet looks like, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with using a quality motorcycle helmet for an application other than the intended one, such as wearing a cafe helmet on a sport or touring bike, or wearing on ADV or (DOT/ECE-certified) dual-sport helmet on the street. Just like with motorcycles themselves, it’s totally fine to factor your aesthetic tastes into your purchase.

Photo: BSMC x Hedon Heroine Club Racer Carbon Edition

Finding Your Next Helmet

The Areas To Consider When Shopping

Believe it or not, but there’s an objectively right (and wrong) way to purchase a motorcycle helmet. So, now that you know what factors you should be looking for, let’s jump into some tips to help ensure you get the best possible protection for your head.

Brand: Though this area is admittedly tied to the aforementioned construction and materials categories, it’s never a bad idea to go with one of the bigger, more trusted brands out there. Though they might use some of the same shell, padding, or liner materials, high-end helmets are often made by hand (typically in places like Japan, Italy, and Germany), and possess an overall higher level of craftsmanship and attention to detail.

Retailer: Just like with Rolex watches or Jordans, the high-end motorcycle helmet market has been flooded with knockoffs and cheap imitation brands that attempt to replicate the looks (and often the liveries) of models from the leading helmet brands. It’s hard to overstate just how low-quality these knockoffs are, but they should be avoided at all costs. One guaranteed way to know you’re buying the real thing is to make your purchase from a reputable retailer, rather than trusting Amazon, eBay, or Craigslist. Paying a little extra to buy from a reputable retailer will also save you from a massive headache if you have any issues with defects, or if you have to make returns due to fitment.

Price: Good helmets are rarely cheap and cheap helmets are rarely good, that’s just a fact. Considering your helmet is the only thing protecting your brain from concrete at freeway speeds or multi-ton vehicles, it’s extremely worthwhile to invest in a quality helmet. This doesn’t mean you have to shell out two grand, but we’d advise investing at least $400-$500 at the very least (with exceedingly few exceptions). You also don’t simply want to opt for the most expensive available helmet, as a $2K race lid might serve you well on the track, but it will be a noisy, neck-ache-inducing nightmare for day-to-day use on the street. Put simply, when shopping for a helmet, it’s always worth asking yourself, “What dollar value do you place on protecting your brain?.”

Ask Around & Do Your Homework: Before buying a helmet, it’s always wise to do some basic research. Reading articles that evaluate the helmet in question in magazines or on websites is a great way to get the opinion of an expert, and because manufacturers will almost always highlight a helmet’s selling points and forgo any negative details or aspects, reading online reviews from real customers can give you a better sense of a helmet’s overall quality, as well as some potential insights into how it holds up after extended use.

Other Crucial Info: Lastly, there are a few things every helmet owner should be aware of. First off, no matter how high-end or nice of a helmet you buy, once a motorcycle helmet has suffered a single (decent) impact, it needs to be replaced — not unlike a bulletproof plated vest that’s been shot. Even if there’s no visible damage, the helmet is likely structurally compromised internally, and will no longer afford anywhere near the same level of protection that it did prior to suffering an impact. Lastly, helmets need to be replaced roughly every five years, even if they never see an impact. After this half-decade-span, helmets start degrading and losing their ability to protect (and no, this isn’t just some myth propagated by “big helmet”).

Photo: Shoei GT-Air II Bonafide Helmet

Deciphering The Rating System

A General Guide To Helmet Safety Standards Certifications

You may have noticed that there are almost always little stickers or logos on the back of motorcycle helmets denoting what safety standards and test certification (or certifications) a helmet has received. In a nutshell, these acronyms tell you where the helmet can be legally used, be it certification meeting the standards for road use, or homologation specifically for track use.

DOT: If you reside in the United States, chances are you’re familiar with DOT ratings. This is the standard set by the US Department of Transportation (hence the “DOT” acronym), and certifies that a helmet meets the minimum Federal standards required for legal use on public roads.

ECE: This safety standard is essentially the European equivalent to the DOT rating, and signifies that a helmet has met the standards set by the Economic Commission for Europe.

FIM: This rating pertains to use on race tracks and means that a helmet that’s wearing this label’s been homologated for racing purposes by the FIM (or Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme). This certification is required for certain racing and on-track activities.

SHARP: Supplementary to the ECE rating, this voluntary certification forgoes the traditional pass/fail methods in favor of a star-rating system. By their nature, all SHARP-certified helmets have also already met/passed ECE standards.

SNELL: Another voluntary certification held by the Snell Memorial Foundation, SNELL ratings give additional insight into a helmet’s safety. It’s also worth mentioning that there is a SNELL standard for street and urban use, as well as a SNELL standard used by some race direction.

Photo: Quinn MCQ Nero Helmet

3/4

Classic Old-School Open-Faced

The earliest motorcycles helmets (excluding the turn-of-the-century football-style leather items) were open-faced units that covered three-quarters of your head, providing protection for your skull from impacts. The outward appearance of these helmets has changed very little since the introduction of the first hard-shelled production helmets in the 1950s, though the technology and materials used to create modern 3/4 helmets allow for much greater protection than the models of yesteryear, allowing for a vintage look while still being afforded decent cranial protection. Often paired with a set of riding goggles, these vintage-themed helmets routinely feature snaps just above the brow so beaks/visors or bubble-style face-shields can be attached. The minimum amount of protection any rider should be wearing, 3/4 helmets are preferred by many due to their ability to amplify the uniquely freeing experience of the wind-in-your-face and enjoying the open air that’s provided by riding. And while 3/4 helmets are admittedly worlds better than not wearing any helmet, it should be noted that the 1/4 left exposed just happens to be your jaw and face — things that typically don’t fare well in terms of impacts or slides on the tarmac at speed.

Quinn MCQ Nero Helmet

Named after the classic 3/4-style lids famously worn by the “King of Cool,” Steve McQueen, QUINtessential Designs’ McQ Helmet sees the traditional open-face model treated to numerous modern amenities and technology. In addition to getting an internal drop-down visor, the McQ packs integrated Bluetooth speakers and microphone for taking calls, GPS directions, or listening to music, and the “Intelliquin Smart System,” a crash-detection, SOS beacon, and response system that can summon help if a rider crashes and isn’t responsive. The entire smart system is contained within waterproof housing and powered by a Lithium-ion battery with over 60+ hours of standby time (or 6-8 hours of non-stop use). The McQ is offered in three matte colors with accent stripes and quilted and color-matched polystyrene linings and features a trio of snaps to accommodate a beak or bubble face-shield and a looped leather snap for riding goggles.

Weight: 2.79lbs
Origin: China
Safety Standards: DOT
Shell Material: Polycarbonate Thermoplastic ABS

Purchase: $299

Bell Custom 500 Carbon RSD Checkmate Helmet

The Bell Custom 500 is one of the most popular and iconic helmets in existence, and while it’s gone largely unchanged aesthetically for the last several decades, the American brand has treated the 3/4 lid to a host of updates, tweaks, and variations. This particular version of the Custom 500 was born out of a collaboration between Bell, and fellow Southern California-based moto gear, parts, and custom bike shop, Roland Sands Design. Sold in a limited edition helmet bag, this lid features a low-profile carbon fiber shell that’s produced in a whopping five shell sizes, a custom perforated brown leather and stitched suede interior, and a special checkered livery with pin striping and negative space that reveals the carbon weave beneath. The Bell Custom 500 Carbon RSD Checkmate — which is also available in regular colors and a fiberglass version —also has snaps to attach a beak/visor, and is backed by a five-year warranty.

Weight: 2.17lbs
Origin: America
Safety Standards: DOT
Shell Material: Carbon Fiber Composite

Purchase: $420

Arai Classic-V Groovy Helmet

The Classic-V is Arai’s take on a high-end 3/4 helmet, offering the traditional appearance of the classic open-faced item that’s backed by the modern safety standards, materials, and technologies born out of the Japanese brand’s more than 70-years of motorcycle helmet development. Constructed around a peripherally-belted complex laminate shell wrapped around a single-piece multi-density EPS, the design of the helmet features a hidden ventilation system – an extremely seldom-seen feature on 3/4 helmets — with a trio of intakes and a pair of exhaust outlets. A looped strap and a five perimeter snap arrangement also allows for a wide variety of face shields, visors, goggles, and other accessories to be utilized with the lid. Also known as the “Urban-V” in some markets, the Classic-V sports the same top-notch fit and finish that Arai helmets are famous for. And though the Classic-V is offered in a number of different solid colors and liveries, the “Groovy” version does a wonderful job furthering the helmet’s retro-vibe with equally vintage-themed striped colorways.

Weight: 2.62lbs
Origin: Japan
Safety Standards: DOT / SNELL
Shell Material: Peripherally-Belted Complex Laminate

Purchase: $600

Photo: Klim Krios Pro Loko Helmet

ADV

On-Road/Off-Road Protection

Just like with adventure motorcycles themselves, ADV helmets are designed for both on and off-road use, and as such boast designs that blend features from motocross helmets and full-face helmets. Also known as an enduro, dual-sport, crossover, or hybrid, ADV-style helmets tend to have view-ports that are smaller than that of an MX helmet, but still bigger than the ports on regular full-face models. This category of helmet also normally comes with a removable visor/beak (which are designed to break off in the event of a crash), and the models that do have face-shields can typically be flipped up and out of the way, or removed entirely so the helmet can be worn with riding goggles. Because of this section’s adaptable nature, and rugged and often aggressive aesthetic, ADV helmets are commonly seen on riders piloting dedicated street bikes – a trend that shows no signs of slowing.

ICON Variant Pro Ghost Carbon Helmet

A decade ago ICON unveiled its popular Variant helmet, and after spending years on the market as a fan-favorite in the industry, the Portland outfit has redesigned the model, resulting in a lighter, more compact product that retains its predecessor’s unique and aggressive appearance. The top-shelf member of the new Variant Pro lineup is the Ghost Carbon, which features a shell made from a fiberglass and Dyneema combo that is reinforced with ICON’s proprietary 4Tress Carbon (Fiber) which is hand-laid in strategic areas to maximize structural integrity without adding weight. The Variant Pro’s MX-inspired design enables it to offer superb ventilation, and the helmet’s removable beak and visor gives allow it to be turned into a more street or off-road-flavored item on the fly. The helmet is also sold with both smoked (tinted) and clear visors, plus features a drop-down visor and ICON’s sweat-wicking HydraDry interior.

Weight: 3.37lbs
Origin: America
Safety Standards: DOT / ECE
Shell Material: 4Tress Carbon Fiber-Reinforced Fiberglass Dyneema Composite

Purchase: $500

Arai XD-4 Helmet

Arai’s XD-4 is a benchmark helmet in the ADV space, benefiting from the usual premium construction and unparalleled fit and finish that Arai built its reputation on. Produced in a generous five different sizes, the XD-4’s shell is made from the Japanese company’s “Superfibers,” which are specially-engineered layers of high-grade fiberglass and other synthetic fibers bonded together using a resin that Arai formulated in-house. Originally developed for use in Formula One auto racing helmets, Superfiber shells are incredibly-resistant to cracking and offer 30% more tensile strength than conventional fiberglass — though are around six-times the cost to produce. This same material and construction can be seen on Arai’s flagship helmets that are used by top-level professionals. Sold as the “Tour-X 4” in certain markets, the XD-4 also has a removable visor and beak, Arai’s signature shield-lock, a pin-lock ready face-shield, and removable 5mm micro-fitting cheek pads to create the perfect fit. Seen here in the (Honda) Africa Twin livery, the XD-4 is sold in a variety of solid colors and other designs, as well.

Weight: 3.66lbs
Origin: Japan
Safety Standards: DOT / SNELL
Shell Material: Superfiber

Purchase: $610+

Klim Krios Pro Helmet

Unlike most of the other manufacturers on this last that deal in a variety of riding disciplines and applications, since Klim’s inception in 1999, the Idaho-based outfit has solely-focused on the off-road and adventure category, and as a result has developed some brilliantly-designed and engineered, purpose-built adventure gear over the years. And the off-road brand’s Krios Pro helmet is no exception, born out of the same real-world demands and feedback, the item is built around hand-laid, wide-weave, carbon fiber shell. Sold in an enormous array of liveries, the Krios Pro offers incredible levels of protection through the use of Koroyd energy-absorption technology, utilizing Koroyd welded tubes in lieu of traditional EPS liner to better dissipate the energy from impacts. Built to be compatible with the Sena 10U comm system, the Krios Pro also swaps out the standard double D-ring closure with a top-shelf Fid-lock, features the Klimatek sweat-wicking, antimicrobial liner, and is offered with a Transitions-branded photochromatic lens and a pin-lock-ready Polycarbonate unit.

Weight: 2.86lbs
Origin: America
Safety Standards: DOT / ECE
Shell Material: Carbon Fiber

Purchase: $700

Photo: Arai Rapide Helmet

Cafe

Retro-Themed Shells For Standards

Cafe — or cafe racer — helmets take ample inspiration from full-faced sportbike and race helmets of the 1970s and 1980s. Just like with today’s scramblers and modern retro models, these items provide the best of both worlds in the form of timeless vintage style backed by thoroughly modern materials and technology that comply with today’s safety standards. Over the last few years, this segment has absolutely exploded, and there’s now an extensive array of cafe lids on the market, ranging from budget, entry-level lids to top-shelf, super primo handmade items. Because of their somewhat fashion-forward nature, cafe helmets are available from more boutique artisan brands than pretty much any other style of helmet, which is definitely something to consider when shopping, as it allows for some wonderfully top-notch craftsmanship (and obviously an incredibly attractive helmet).

Arai Rapide Helmet

While the lion’s share of full-face cafe helmets on the market today draw their visual inspiration from brain buckets of the 1960s and 1970s, Arai’s Rapide helmet (or the “Concept-X” as its known in some markets), instead borrows from the visual themes of 1980s and early ‘90s race helmets. Sporting a silhouette that lands somewhere between a modern full-face helmet and the bullet-shaped items of the ‘60s/‘70s, the helmet features a Superfiber shell with a series of grilled ventilation slits running down the center of the chin-bar and exiting out via side and neck exhaust ports. Arai has also designed some really noteworthy liveries to go along with the helmet that sports a similar throwback-inspired aesthetic. The Rapide also ships with Arai’s pin-lock-ready, anti-fogging VAS-V Max Vision visor, which is secured with a 3D moving latch system that the company developed for its F1 auto racing helmets. The helmet also gets a removable/washable antimicrobial liner, Arai’s Facial Contour System with 5mm peel-away pads for precise fitment, pre-made recesses for speakers, an emergency release system, and a five-year factory warranty.

Weight: 3.32lbs
Origin: Japan
Safety Standards: ECE
Shell Material: Superfiber

Purchase: $592

BSMC x Hedon Heroine Club Racer Carbon Edition Helmet

Based in the London, Hedon is an ultra-premium outfit that produces helmets using an old-world, artisan approach: producing its wares by hand, in small batches, with an extreme scrutiny on quality control, feel, and fit and finish. Each detail and component on Hedon’s helmets ooze quality, from the CNC-machined visor hardware to the supple perforated black leather interior, to the gorgeous HEDON badge just above the visor. This particular version of the boutique British brand’s Heroine Racer helmet was done in collaboration with fellow UK outfit, The Bike Shed Motorcycle club, and sports an exposed full carbon fiber shell decorated with metallic gold accents, all under a gloss finish. Inside this limited edition helmet, the BSMC logo is printed on the top of the liner’s crown in genuine gold leaf. Old-school appearance and craftsmanship, modern-day materials and safety: seriously, what’s not to love?

Weight: 3.15lbs
Origin: England
Safety Standards: DOT / ECE
Shell Material: Carbon Fiber

Purchase: $991

Ruby Castel Helmet

Established in 2007 by Jérome Coste, Les Ateliers Ruby is another boutique European brand that trades in ultra-high-end motorcycle and auto helmets that merge designs and silhouettes of the ‘60s and ‘70s with contemporary safety standards and materials. Made in three shell sizes, the French firm’s Castel model distinguishes itself from other cafe helmets via its open eye port design, central finned spine over the mouth and crown, and a chin-bar boasts a dozen chrome-plated steel vented exhaust ports that are supplemented by an additional seven ventilation channels in the crown, all feeding into a pair of exhaust ports in the back of the neck roll. Other details include aluminum and titanium hardware, chrome-trimmed eye-port, sheepskin leather-lined interior, and comfort foam padding. The Castel is also available in a huge array of colors and designs, all of which, like the St Germain, are individually painted by hand, and is offered with a host of add-ons such as carbon fiber three-snap beaks and retro goggle-style face-shields. To offset the enormous costs involved with the Castel’s top-notch materials and artisan construction, the helmets are produced in a special workshop in China, though they still exhibit expert craftsmanship and an overall beautiful finish and feel.

Weight: 3.0lbs
Origin: China
Safety Standards: DOT
Shell Material: Kevlar-Reinforced Carbon Fiber

Purchase: $1,400

Photo: AGV K6 Helmet

Full-Face

Contemporary Complete Coverage

Full-face helmets are aerodynamic, designed to minimize noise, and offer the most robust protection for your head than any other category of helmet. Full-face helmets also provide complete protection from the rain and weather, or pebbles than can get kicked up (or bugs) — all of which can be extremely painful to take to the face at freeway speeds — not to mention how irritating the wind can be on the eyes. Because this category is extremely popular, manufacturers pour ample resources into the development of these helmets, resulting in full-face models typically featuring more supplementary amenities than any other category as well (though this is also partially explained by the possibilities opened up by a permanent chin-bar). And while these may not have the same featherweight construction as top-shelf race replica lids, you really don’t need an ultra-lightweight helmet on the street, as you’re not in a situation where every added ounce of weight counts equates to slower lap times — though modern full-face helmets still don’t weigh much as is.

Scorpion EXO-R1 Air Helmet

Released in early 2020, the Scorpion EXO-R1 is a modern track-ready full-face helmet that’s been toned down just enough to be made appropriate to regular street-riding duties. Wind-tunnel-developed and made in three shell sizes, the helmet is the first to be constructed using Scorpion’s latest TCT-Ultra Pre-Preg shell technology: a multilayered structure combing aramid, fiberglass, and poly-resin fibers. The interior features an antimicrobial liner and padding with an emergency release system, recesses for sunglasses and comm system speakers, 3D-contoured Kwikfit cheek pads, and Scorpion’s Airfit system which is a layer between the shell and interior that can be inflated to perfectly fit the rider’s head (think Reebok Pumps for your head). Backed by a half-decade warranty to cover the helmet’s entire intended lifespan, the helmet also comes standard with titanium double-D rings, clear and tinted visors, and an included MaxVision pin-lock insert. In addition to solid colors and several designs, the EXO-R1 is offered in race replica versions of rising MotoGP star, Fabio Quartararo, and World Superbike Factory Ducati rider, Alvaro Bautista.

Weight: 3.3lbs
Origin: America
Safety Standards: DOT / ECE
Shell Material: Multi-Layer Poly-Resin, Aramid, Fiberglass Composite

Purchase: $400+

AGV K6 Helmet

Though AGV’s K6 helmet doesn’t actually bring anything novel to the table, it’s nonetheless one of the most revolutionary helmets designs in the last decade, delivering outstanding performance and features in an incredibly compact and lightweight package. The K6 benefits from a plethora of R&D from the Italian firm’s flagship track model, offering solid protection through a five-density EPS liner while tipping the scales at under 3lbs, making it lighter than most top-shelf race helmets. Made in four sizes, the K6’s shell is constructed from a blend of aramid and carbon fibers and boasts a number of open and closable ventilation channels. Seen here in Audi’s famous Nardo Grey, the helmet’s outward aesthetic design also draws heavily from AGV’s flagship Corsa/Pista model, albeit with a less aggressive viewport angle and less-pronounced spoiler. Other premium touches include Ritmo and Shalimar fabric cheek pads and a Shalimar fabric headliner, AGV’s 2Dry moisture wicking system, and the same central visor locking system seen on the top-of-the-line AGV Pista helmet.

Weight: 2.95lbs
Origin: Italy
Safety Standards: DOT / ECE
Shell Material: Carbon (Fiber) Aramid

Purchase: $500+

Shoei GT-Air II Helmet

Born out of feedback Shoei received from riders on the already-stellar first-generation model, the GT-Air II is a high-end all-arounder full-face helmet that’s perfect for touring and/or daily commuting duties. Compared to the first GT-Air, the second-gen sports an extended drop-down visor, better ventilation and aerodynamics, and comes with cavities designed to accommodate Sena’s SRL2 wireless Bluetooth comm system which was designed specifically for the GT-Air II. This allows you to have a premium comm system without the awkward Bluetooth gadget stuck on your chin-bar, as well as an ultra-low profile external button control system that’s easy to operate with gloves on. Boasting a remarkably plush feel and top-notch paint (shown here in the black “Redux” livery), the GT-Air II also features a stainless steel “micro-ratchet” chinstrap, emergency release system, and pin-lock-ready visor. Shoei’s Neotec 2 is also basically a modular version of this same helmet and is well worth checking out as well, and we’d be remised if we didn’t mention the brand’s legendary RF1200 helmet when discussing the best full-face lids.

Weight: 3.757lbs
Origin: Japan
Safety Standards: DOT
Shell Material: Multi-Ply Matrix AIM+

Purchase: $600+

Photo: Shark S-DRAK Carbon Helmet

Mask

Military Moto Helmets

Mask-style helmets are a relatively new phenomenon in the motorcycling world, though the sector has quickly picked up steam since emerging onto the scene. Decidedly aggressive in appearance, these helmets are often inspired by the modern masks, tactical goggles, and helmets worn by combat personnel, used in fighter jets, and by those piloting other military vehicles (and seemingly a hint of paintball masks too). These are basically 3/4 helmets that almost always come with drop-down sun visors and mask sections covering the mouth that can be removed or reattached, making them incredibly modular in nature. There is also often a rear section than can also be removed, transforming then into a 1/2 helmet. Unfortunately, mask helmets don’t offer the best protection when compared to regular full-face (or even modular) helmets, and it should be noted that the removable mask/chin-bar item on these are frequently of questionable structural integrity.

Bell Broozer Helmet

One of the newest entries to the mask helmet sector with a release at the beginning of 2020, Bell’s appropriately-named Broozer Helmet offers several styles of moto lid in a single modular package. The helmet features a drop-down visor that when lowered, pairs with a removable ventilated chin-bar to transform the lid into a full-face helmet. Available in a gloss or matte finish, the Broozer features an airflow system that is regulated via a number of slider vents on the chin-bar and shell, and recesses that open up space for sunglasses and/or earbuds/headphones. The helmet’s standard loop and double D-ring closure arrangement is also swapped out for a padded chin-strap and a quick-release ratchet buckle. Bell also sells replacement drop-down visors available in clear, silver iridium, or smoked (tined) for a stealthy all-blacked-out look.

Weight: 2.97lbs
Origin: America
Safety Standards: DOT
Shell Material: Polycarbonate ABS

Purchase: $230

Scorpion Covert X Helmet

After breaking into the mask sector with its original Covert helmet in late 2016, Scorpion released several followup mask models onto the market, the latest of which was the new Covert X. Like the Broozer, the Covert X boasts an internal drop-down visor and a removable chin-bar mask piece, which on the Covert X features a design that’s something of a modern-day take on Japanese Samurai masks, with a stacked trio of intake ports that add functionality while furthering the lid’s decidedly-aggressive appearance. This new mask lid is constructed using the same advanced modern materials as Scorpion’s flagship EXO-R1 Air model, with a multilayer poly-resin, fiberglass, aramid composite shell covering dual-density EPS, as well as the EXO-R1 Air’s KwikWick 3 anti-microbial liner. The Scorpion Covert X is also offered in black with matte or gloss finishes, or in a glossy monochrome grey.

Weight: 3.5lbs
Origin: America
Safety Standards: DOT
Shell Material: Multi-Layer Poly-Resin, Aramid, Fiberglass Composite

Purchase: $300

Shark S-DRAK Carbon Helmet

While most mask-style moto helmets follow the same basic premise, Shark’s S-DRAK takes a more neo-retro approach to its design. Using the same shell design as the French outfit’s X-DRAK, this version of the S-DRAK replaces the regular material with an all carbon fiber construction that’s produced in two sizes. The glossy carbon shell is complemented via a premium suede interior with a perforated neck-pad, and gunmetal finishes on the mask and side-pannels. Prewired for the company’s Sharktooth Bluetooth comm system, the helmet also has recesses for eyewear, and perimeter snaps for adding an optional beak. This helmet also obviously includes a drop-down visor and a removable chin-bar mask piece that features a redesigned ventilation setup, as well as a removable/washable liner, and a five-year factory warranty. Interestingly, the S-DRAK is also available in a race replica livery version of up-and-coming French MotoGP talent, Johann Zarco.

Weight: 2.89lbs
Origin: France
Safety Standards: DOT
Shell Material: Carbon Fiber

Purchase: $370

Photo: Schuberth C4 Pro Magnitudo Helmet

Modular

Modern Modularity

As the category’s name suggests, modular helmets are versatile offerings that can take more than one form. These are essentially full-face helmets with chin-bars that can flip up, exposing the rider’s face and turning the thing into a 3/4-style lid. This enables you to have the full robust protection of a total-coverage helmet, without having to constantly take your helmet off if you want to have a conversation or catch a breath of fresh air. Because of this, these helmets are incredibly popular with urban commuters, two-wheeled couriers and delivery drivers. Even though the chin-bar flips up, these helmets can still be fitted with integrated internal microphones, speakers, and comm systems for GPS directions, calls, and music. Modular helmets can also be something of a godsend when stuck in traffic on hot days, as flipping up the face is the closest you’ll get to being able to remove your lid in traffic.

Shark EVO One 2 Helmet

Though Shark has traditionally been viewed as more of a mid-tier brand, in recent years the French helmet company has increasingly been wading into more top-shelf territory. And while it might not be quite as trick or flashy as some of the other more exorbitant entries in the modular category, the EVO-One 2 is a solid helmet available at an exceedingly accessible price-point. Made from an injected thermoplastic resin, this helmet irons out many of the kinks that are typically associated with modular offerings, such as extreme wind noise and an awkward weight distribution when the chin-bar is flipped up. Shipped with a pin-lock-equipped visor, this helmet also has an integrated system that raises the drop-down visor when the chin-bar is lifted and then lowers it back down when the chin-bar is dropped.

Weight: 3.7lbs
Origin: France
Safety Standards: DOT / ECE
Shell Material: Injected Thermoplastic Resin

Purchase: $430+

AGV Sportmodular Carbon Helmet

When AGV released the SPORTMODULAR in 2018, it objectively raised the bar in the modular sector. The helmet borrows a host of features from AGV’s uber-top-shelf Pista GP RR model, such as its class-leading 180-degree panoramic view-port, visor locking, and mounting mechanisms, and most importantly, the race flagship race lid’s stellar level of protection. AGV’s first-ever all carbon fiber modular model, the SPORTMODULAR also packs an internal drop-down sun visor, titanium D-rings, a pin-lock-ready face shield, antimicrobial and moisture-wicking Ritmo fabric cheek pads, and a reversible liner with one said designed for winter riding and the other for warmer conditions. Tipping the scales at only 1,295 grams (2.85lbs), the SPORTMODULAR is available in a variety of solid colors and graphics liveries.

Weight: 3.2lbs
Origin: Italy
Safety Standards: DOT / ECE
Shell Material: Carbon Fiber

Purchase: $600

Schuberth C4 Pro Helmet

Schuberth’s C4 Pro helmet is something of a benchmark in the space that all other modular helmets are judged against. This top-notch German-engineered offering builds on its already impressive (non-Pro-spec) predecessor, adding a newly-developed and completely seamless interior liner that’s made from ShinyTex fabric: an antimicrobial, quick-drying, machine-washable material. The C4 Pro also comes straight from the factory with a built-in antenna, microphone, and internal speaker setup, as well as a cavity designed specifically to accommodate Schubert’s SC1 communication system. The helmet’s shell is constructed using a Direct Fiber Processing that’s unique to Schuberth, while underneath the EPS uses a multi-sectional structure designed to withstand a myriad of impact levels. After spending only a short time with this helmet, it becomes increasingly clear that every aspect of the C4 Pro has been finely-tuned and thoroughly calculated, resulting in a truly phenomenal lid.

Weight: 3.91lbs
Origin: Germany
Safety Standards: DOT
Shell Material: Special Fiber-Reinforced Fiberglass

Purchase: $700

Photo: Alpinestars Supertech S-M8 Deus Ex Machina LE Helmet

MX

Brain Buckets For Brappers

Because riding off-road is almost always a much more physically rigorous experience than riding on smooth roads, MX (or “motocross”) helmets are designed with much wider viewports that afford their wearer significantly more ventilation compared to a road-style full-face helmet. Because off-road bikes are generally ridden at slower speeds, MX helmets have bigger ventilation intakes, as wind noise isn’t really an issue (especially over a revving dirtbike). This larger view-port also allows for the use of goggles in lieu of a visor, which affords for the best possible protection from the dirt and mud. Not just for those piloting dirtbikes, some motocross helmet models on the market are DOT/ECE-certified, making them street-legal, and thereby popular with riders of scrambler-style bikes, as the off-road-appearance of these helmets jives well with the retro-themed sleds. A removable visor/beak is pretty common on these, and some MX helmet offerings even boast internal drop-down sun visors. And, just like with cafe helmets and modern full-face helmets, today’s market includes a handful of modern-day helmets that are designed with vintage-aesthetics.

Shoei EX-ZERO Helmet

Taking direct inspiration from off-road and motocross helmets of the 1980s, the Shoei EX-ZERO brings the brand’s usual top-notch quality and construction to the modern-retro space and does so with incredible results. Made using the same shell material and EPS as Shoei’s top-of-the-line racing and road models, the EX-ZERO leaves little doubt as to the era that inspired it, with a long, pointed chin-bar that features a trio meshed vertical slits on either side of the mouth. Use the helmet’s drop-down visor while on the street, then slide it up to make room for a pair of goggles when the road ends. You can also supplement its look via a smoked drop-down visor or three-snap beak. Best of all, the EX-ZERO clocks in at an incredibly-svelte two-and-a-half pounds. Shoei also sells the EX-ZERO in a number of attractive solid colors, as well as a handful of beautiful vintage-inspired designs. It’s also hard to think of a better helmet to pair with a modern-day scrambler motorcycle than the EX-ZERO.

Weight: 2.51lbs
Origin: Japan
Safety Standards: ECE
Shell Material: Multi-Ply Matrix AIM+

Purchase: $520

Alpinestars Supertech S-M8 Deus Ex Machina LE Helmet

Though Alpinestars is best-known for its world-class riding jackets, gloves, race suits, and boots, as of 2018 the Italian moto gear purveyor has been producing equally-high-end full-face off-road helmets. The company’s Supertech M8 (or S-M8) is built around a shell comprised of a unidirectional carbon fiber weave laced with aramid and bonded using an epoxy resin, while underneath a MIPS-equipped structure calls on a multi-density EPS polymer. The helmet also boasts Alpinestars patented A-Head system, which uses micro-adjustable pads to dial in the angle and height at which the helmet rests. An even more precise fitment comes from each size getting its own dedicated shell and EPS liner. Extensively tested by both professional MX riders and Dakar-style rally competitors, the helmet is also hydration system ready, fully-street legal thanks to DOT and ECE-certification, and packs a whopping 19 air intakes and 6 exhaust ports, an emergency release system, and a premium finish fortified via TPE-coating throughout. The version of the S-M8 seen here is a limited edition model done in collaboration with lifestyle house and custom moto shop, Deus Ex Machina, and is part of a larger capsule collection.

Weight: 2.99 lbs
Origin: Italy
Safety Standards: DOT / ECE
Shell Material: Carbon Fiber Aramid Composite

Purchase: $550

Shoei VFX-EVO Helmet

It’s hard to go wrong with a flagship off-road model from a leading helmet brand, and that’s exactly what we’ve got here with Shoei’s VFX-EVO (or the “VFX-WR” as it’s known in other markets). Made from the same ultra-lightweight and high-strength Advanced Integrated Matrix Plus (or AIM+) shell used on Shoei’s race helmets, this helmet builds on the strengths of its predecessor, adding a generous dose of lightness and increasingly the already-solid ventilation. The helmet’s beak can also be adjusted into one of several positions or removed entirely. Added safety comes from the use of Shoei’s Motion Energy Distribution (or “M.E.D.S”) System, which is comprised of a flexible insert piece that helps absorb and disperse energy in the event of an impact. The VFX-EVO is sold in several colors and graphics, though our favorite is without-a-doubt the Japanese brand’s kanji-clad, anime-inspired “Zinger” livery. And, while it is technically the heaviest MX lid on this list, the VFX-EVO is nonetheless an extremely lightweight offering.

Weight: 3.3lbs
Origin: Japan
Safety Standards: SNELL / DOT
Shell Material: Multi-Ply Matrix AIM+

Purchase: $680

Photo: AGV Pista GP RR Carbon Soleluna 2019 Helmet

Track

Ultra-Lightweight Low Drag-Coefficient

These are the top-of-the-line flagship race helmets from manufacturers and are the exact models you see worn by the best racers in the world, like those in WSBK, MotoGP, MotoAmerica, etc — albeit in replica form, and available in regular solid liveries. While they don’t offer much in the way of noise protection, these things weigh damn-near nothing and are engineered to be as lightweight as possible, as well as almost always benefiting from extensive wind-tunnel testing to optimize aerodynamics. Most cutting-edge helmet technology debuts in this realm, before later trickling down to other helmet categories. It is extremely important to note that track helmets have viewports/visors that are primarily designed to accommodate a rider in a face race tuck with their chin against the tank, and as such will not only be extremely awkward and unforgettable on the street but also won’t allow the helmet’s ventilation to properly operate. And, as you’d expect from models worn by the pros, these helmets offer the best in protection, as well.

Shoei X-14 Helmet

Trusted by current reigning, six-time MotoGP world champion, Marc Marquez, Shoei’s X-14 helmet is the top-shelf Japanese brand’s top-of-the-line, no-holes-barred race lid. The helmet has an Advanced Integrated Matrix Plus Shell that’s produced in four sizes and a dual-layer multi-density EPS liner that’s manufactured in five. Born out of countless hours of wind-tunnel testing, the X-14’s shell design is not only incredibly aerodynamic but has also been engineered to be extremely stable at high-speeds and to allow the rider to look over their shoulder while at speed without catching a sail’s worth of wind. Furthermore, the X-14 — which is branded as the “X-Spirit3” in certain regions – sports a removable lower air spoiler and an adjustable/replaceable rear flaps, allowing its aerodynamic properties to be dialed in that much more. The helmet’s pin-lock-equipped, scratch-resistant visor offers an enormous field of vision and can be secured using Shoei’s new double-shield locking mechanism. And, though it may lack some of the bells and whistles found on other modern road-focused helmets, the X-14 is undeniably one of the finest track helmets currently in existence.

Weight: 3.62lbs
Origin: Japan
Safety Standards: DOT / ECE / FIM
Shell Material: Multi-Ply Matrix AIM+

Purchase: $732+

Arai Corsair X Helmet

Arai’s Corsair X is what it looks like when producing motorcycle gear has been elevated to an art form. Born out of decades of real-world experience and never-ending research and development, each Corsair X is made by hand in Japan by one of Arai’s highly-trained shell experts — each of which spends a half-decade being trained in the elaborate 27-step process that is making an Arai Superfiber shell. Compared to Arai’s outgoing flagship race lid, the X model features an upgraded variable axis system (VAS) shield lock mechanism, a softer “Eco-Pure” liner, and adjustable diffusers that are 20% longer, thereby increasing airflow by almost a fifth — all while tipping the scales at 30% less than the Corsair V. Quite possibly more so than any other high-end race helmet, the Corsair X is offered in numerous race replica liveries, including that of “King” Kenny Roberts, Maverick Vinales, Jonathan Rea, and legendary Kentucky-born rider — and last American to win a MotoGP championship — Nicky Hayden (seen here in the Hayden Laguna livery).

Weight: 3.55lbs
Origin: Japan
Safety Standards: DOT / SNELL / FIM
Shell Material: Superfiber

Purchase: $980

AGV Pista GP RR Carbon Speciale Helmet

When it comes to race helmets, AGV pretty much sets the standard in the sector for all other manufacturers to follow, and it really isn’t hard to see why with its flagship Pista GP RR model. Designed with a spare-no-expense mentality, the latest iteration of AGV’s Pista — which was first launched in 2012 using feedback from the nine-time world champ, Valentino Rossi — the GP RR, is an even more lightweight and compact design that manages to thoroughly retain its predecessor’s ultra slippery drag coefficient, robust protective qualities, and world-class fit and finish. A pair of adjustable intakes on the chin-bar and a trio of intakes above the visor provides class-leading ventilation, while certain integrated loop and attachment points make the helmet hydration-system-ready. On top of boasting a class-leading field of vision, the helmet is also compatible with the AGVisor, an electrochromatic LCD lens that can instantly go from tinted to clear at the press of a button. This particular version of the Pista GP RR is the limited edition Carbon Speciale, which features a bare carbon fiber shell decorated in a matte finish and complemented via a smoked rear spoiler, an iridium red visor, and matching frost red intake ports.

Weight: 2.97lbs
Origin: Italy
Safety Standards: DOT / ECE / FIM
Shell Material: Carbon Fiber

Purchase: $1,700

The 8 Best Beginner Motorcycles

Still need to add your first two-wheeler to your stable and not sure as to where to start? Our guide to the best beginner motorcycles is sure to start you down the right road to finding your very first bike.

More From Gear

Stand Out From The Crowd With ZINVO's Plated Titanium-Cased 'Blade Titan'

A modern Seiko-powered watch that's rugged, unique, and lightweight.

Posted By Tim Huber

Partner
Featured Image

This Highly Modular Magnetic Titanium Multi-Tool Can Adapt To Suit Any Situation

The Windeler is a revolutionary and versatile step forward in EDC.

Posted By

Jul 2, 2020

Featured Image

The 20 Best Grilling Essentials

Summertime is here and that means it's time for a BBQ.

Posted By

Jul 1, 2020

Featured Image

TAD’s Elite ‘Gambit’ Leather Driving Gloves Are Perfect For Track Days

A classic, full-finger design inspired by history's finest variants.

Posted By

Jul 1, 2020

Featured Image

Nike Has Finally Released Kobe’s Posthumous 5 Protro ‘Big Stage’ Sneaker

Hybridizing the star's “Big Stage Home” and “Parade” PE basketball silhouettes.

Posted By

Jun 30, 2020

Featured Image

Nike Reinvents The Soccer Ball Over 1,700 Hours For 30% Better Accuracy

With bespoke architecture designed for less drag.

Posted By

Jun 29, 2020