Street Motorcycle Helmet Buyer's Guide



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>> Aaron Cortez



September 15, 2014

Street Motorcycle Helmet Buyer's Guide

It's an undisputed fact that a motorcycle helmet is the best measure against life-threatening injury when riding a motorcycle, and we recommend that everyone ride with one. But there are thousands of different helmets out there – which one is right for you? Read on and find out.


Full-face Helmets

So then what is the best type of helmet? Well no matter what kind of bike you're on, the general rule of thumb is that the more your helmet covers, the safer it is.

Sure, slapping on a tough looking half-helmet that matches your chrome decked chopper may look the part, but it's the bare minimum when it comes to safety and leaves your face exposed to wind, bugs, and rocks while riding, and completely vulnerable in case of a crash. That’s why, no matter what you ride, a full-face helmet offers the best protection from road hazards and unwanted spills.

Full-face helmets are a staple in the sport riding community, but what about among cruiser riders? Well fortunately, in the last several years, there has been a lot more acceptance of full face helmets in the cruiser world, and we’ve been selling an increasing number of them to cruiser riders (yes, even the die-hard Harley guys!)

The bottom line is, full-face helmets aren’t for one kind of rider or another, they’re for anyone on two wheels that cares about their safety and protecting their face in a crash - which should be everyone!

Check out these examples of different types of full-face helmets our customers love.



Race/Super-Sport Helmets


Great Value

Scorpion EXO R2000 Dispatch Helmet

Scorpion EXO R2000 Dispatch Helmet

Price: $389.95

Features:

  • Airfit cheekpad system
  • Emergency release cheekpads
  • Snell M2010 certified


Most Popular

Shoei X-Twelve Solid Full Face Motorcycle Helmet

Shoei X-Twelve Solid Full Face Helmet

Price: $613.95-$623.95

Features:

  • Five different shell and six different liner sizes
  • Completely removable liner
  • Ultra lightweight
  • Snell M2010 and DOT approved

Premium

Arai Corsair V Solid Full Face Motorcycle Helmet

Arai Corsair V Solid Full Face Motorcycle Helmet

Price: $719.96-728.96

Features:

  • Arai's "crown jewel" helmet
  • Lower weight and shell size, 5mm wider eyeport
  • 5-position rear spoiler
  • New DryCool moisture wicking inner liner

Shop all Full-Face Helmets >>




Sport/Sport Touring Helmets


Great Value

Icon Airmada Solid Motorcycle Helmet

Icon Airmada Solid Motorcycle Helmet

Price: $180.00

Features:

  • Fully removable HydraDry liner system
  • Rapid release shield change system
  • DOT and ECE certified


Most Popular

Shoei RF-1200 Solid Motorcycle Helmet

Shoei RF-1200 Solid Motorcycle Helmet

Price: $437.95-449.95

Features:

  • Lightest Snell-certified helmet in Shoei's lineup
  • Completely removable liner
  • Emergency quick release cheekpads
  • Snell M2010 and DOT approved

Premium

Arai Defiant Solid Full Face Helmet

Arai Defiant Solid Full Face Helmet

Price: $557.96-566.96

Features:

  • Arai's street fighter/naked bike helmet
  • Water repellent cheek pads and neck roll
  • 5mm pull-away cheek and temple pads for custom fit
  • Exceeds both DOT and M2010 Snell standards

Shop all Full-Face Helmets >>




Dual Sport Helmets

These helmets are a hybrid between the full-face street and off-road helmet designs. The dual sport helmet has a wider visor opening in order to allow you to wear goggles underneath the face shield if need be and most also have a visor to help block the sun and debris. This helmet style is perfect if you want to go straight from the street to the dirt without missing a beat.


Great Value

Speed And Strength SS2500 Solid Speed Helmet

Speed And Strength SS2500 Solid Speed Helmet

Price: $179.96

Features:

  • Tri-composite fiberglass shell
  • Anti-scratch, Anti-fog, UV resistant shield
  • DOT and ECE certified


Most Popular

Icon Variant Solid Helmet

Icon Variant Solid Helmet

Price: $350.00-370.00

Features:

  • Fully sealed face shield and chin curtain
  • Oversized vents
  • Visor like a dual sport helmet, but with spoiler for higher speeds
  • Snell M2010 and DOT approved

Premium

Shoei Hornet DS Dual-Sport Motorcycle Helmet

Shoei Hornet DS Dual-Sport Motorcycle Helmet

Price: $459.95-485.95

Features:

  • Fully featured road helmet that also works in dirt
  • For dual sport, adventure touring & supermoto
  • Adjustable in 3 configurations
  • DOT and Snell certified

Shop all Dual Sport Helmets >>




Open-face Helmets

So you bought your bike so that you could feel the wind in your hair and the sun on your face as you speed down the highway. That means that the last thing you want is a helmet getting in the way. So you've forgone the superior safety features of the full-face variety and are taking your chances with an open-faced one. This leaves you with three different choices on the type of helmet; depending on the type of riding that you'll be doing, you can pick from a modular, three-quarter helmet, or a half helmet.


Modular Helmets

Also known as flip-up helmets, these lids look a lot like their full-faced cousins. Designed to be a hybrid between a full-faced helmet and a three-quarter helmet, modular helmets have a visor and chin piece that protect the face, but it can be swung up away from the face with the click of a button.

These are great for when the rider wants the option to have an open-face helmet, or when it would be more convenient than taking off the whole helmet. Many touring riders like these because they allow you to quickly flip up the face shield and chin bar to take a picture, stop for a snack, or show your face at a border or police checkpoint.

Though modular helmets look just like a full-face helmet when the front is down, they're not as safe. A modular helmet may cover your whole face and be better than a helmet that doesn't, but the structure of the helmet isn’t as strong since it’s composed of two separate pieces joined by a pivot joint. While these helmets can be more convenient, it's important to know that they don't offer as much protection in a crash.

One thing to keep in mind when shopping for a modular helmet is that if they are ECE or Snell certified, that means the chin bar and face shield have been tested to the same standards as full-face helmets. If you want the convenience of a modular helmet but safety is a major concern for you, you may want to make sure the ones you’re shopping for hold one of these certifications.

Great Value

HJC IS-MAX BT Solid Modular Motorcycle Helmet

HJC IS-MAX BT Solid Modular Motorcycle Helmet

Price: $179.99-184.95

Features:

  • Built-in pocket for communication device
  • Single-button release to open chin bar
  • Three position adjustable


Most Popular

Scorpion EXO 900 3-in-1 Transformer Solid Helmet

Scorpion EXO 900 3-in-1 Transformer Solid Helmet

Price: $185.95-279.95

Features:

  • Three helmets in one; full-face, modular, and 3/4 helmet
  • No-fog face shield and retractable sun visor
  • Airfit adjustable fit system
  • DOT and ECE certified

Premium

Shoei Hornet DS Dual-Sport Motorcycle Helmet

Shoei Hornet DS Dual-Sport Motorcycle Helmet

Price: $459.95-485.95

Features:

  • Fully featured road helmet that also works in dirt
  • For dual sport, adventure touring & supermoto
  • Adjustable in 3 configurations
  • DOT and Snell certified

Shop all Dual Sport Helmets >>




Three-Quarter Helmets

Also known as Open Face helmets, this type of helmet covers most of the head the way a full-face helmet does, but is missing the face shield and chin bar. This does expose your face to more of the elements, but also exposes it to more danger of becoming way too close to the asphalt. While you may prefer the option to choose your own shades to wear with your helmet, some three-quarter helmets come with a built in visor for eye protection as well.


Great Value

HJC FS-3 Open Face Motorcycle Helmet

HJC FS-3 Open Face Helmet

Price: $42.95

Features:

  • Lightweight composite weave shell
  • Removeable, washable anti-bacterial comfort liner
  • UV-treated face shield


Most Popular

Bell Custom 500 Helmet

Bell Custom 500 Helmet

Price: $119.95

Features:

  • 5 separate shell sizes
  • Classic throwback styling
  • 5-snap pattern for aftermarket shields and visors
  • 5-year warranty
  • DOT certified

Premium

Shoei RJ Platinum-R Metallic Open Face Motorcycle Helmet

Shoei RJ Platinum-R Metallic Open Face Motorcycle Helmet

Price: $262.95-292.95

Features:

  • Lightweight AIM+ shell
  • Adjustable top intake and exhaust vents
  • Shoei's distinct GT visor
  • Removeable, washable liner
  • DOT certified

Shop all Three-Quarter Helmets >>




Half Helmets

Then there is the bare minimum: the half-helmet. These helmets are perfect for looking like you don't care about whether or not your face might meet the road (because it actually might) as they leave the face and base of the skull exposed. These helmets tend to be most popular with cruiser riders as they give you the closest thing to a helmetless ride while still protecting the top of the head.

If you decide that this is the helmet of your choice, be sure to check to make sure it’s DOT certified. With as little protection as these actually offer, you need to be sure that the protection that it does give is up to par.


Great Value

Skid Lid Original Solid Half Helmet

Skid Lid Original Solid Half Helmet

Price: $40.95-49.95

Features:

  • Low-profile fit with clean minimalist styling
  • Thermoplastic alloy shell
  • DOT certified


Most Popular

HJC CS-2N Solid Half Motorcycle Helmet

HJC CS-2N Solid Half Motorcycle Helmet

Price: $53.99-62.99

Features:

  • Thermoplastic alloy shell
  • Dual forehead vents
  • Soft brushed Nylex interior
  • Zip-off neck curtain
  • DOT certified

Premium

Bell Pit Boss Solid Half Helmet

Bell Pit Boss Solid Half Helmet

Price: $129.95

Features:

  • Carbon, Kevlar, and fiberglass matrix shell
  • Speed Dial adjustment
  • Drop-down sun shade
  • 5-year warranty
  • DOT certified

Shop all Half Helmets >>






The Standard

For a helmet to be legitimately sold as a "motorcycle helmet" it needs to pass a series of tests and trials to achieve the Department of Transportation's standard of safety. In addition to, and going above and beyond, the DOTs standard are those of the ECE and the Snell Memorial Foundation.


Helmets really take a beating during the testing process - all that damage would be going straight to your skull if you crash without a helmet on!

For more information on these standards and how helmets are tested to conform to them, check out these Motorcycle Testing FAQs. In a nutshell, both hold helmets to a higher standard than the DOT does; Snell is oriented more toward performance/racing applications, and the ECE standard is more oriented toward international compliance, as it conforms to the standards of over 50 countries.



The Fit

Having a safely constructed helmet is only half of the battle; it's just as important to have a correctly fitted helmet as well. A loosely fitting helmet won't do you any good if it goes flying off in a crash, and helmets that are too tight will just give you a headache every time you ride.

To make sure you get the right size helmet, measure your head size with a cloth tape measurer. Wrap it around your head, about an inch (2.5 cm) above your eyebrows, and record the figure both in inches and centimeters to account for different manufacturer's sizing conventions.

If your measurement falls in between two sizes, try the smaller helmet first. Helmets are supposed to be as snug as possible, and most helmets will break in after a little use anyway. Loose helmets are bad news; it may seem comfortable when taking it on and off, but imagine how easily it will come off if you’re sent tumbling in a crash!

With the helmet on, check that the inner lining fits all around your head snugly, that the top pad presses on the top of your head and that the cheek pads compress your cheeks. Also make sure that you cannot easily slide your finger into the helmet and along the side of your temple. If you can touch your temple, your helmet is still too big. While holding your head still, try to move the helmet up and down and side to side; a properly fitted helmet should slightly pull your head and face with it as it moves.

These days, helmet manufacturers also understand that there are a limitless number of different head shapes and sizes, so more of them are making them customizable, with padding of different thicknesses you can buy. This is perfect if you happen to find a helmet that feels comfortable everywhere but is a little too loose or tight in one area, such as the cheek pads or crown.

In addition, some manufacturers will make a line of helmets specifically for certain head shapes, such as Arai’s Signet-Q, which adds 5mm front-to-back to their standard fit to accommodate “longer” heads.

While reviews can sometimes be helpful when researching helmets, we advise that you not buy your helmet solely based on how great other people say it is. Because everyone's head shape can vary so drastically, a helmet can be extremely comfortable for one person but be a horrible fit for you. The best review is your own. Test out different helmets and choose based on how it feels to you.


Replacing Your Helmet

If you have the unlucky experience of being in a crash, remember that your helmet is meant to take the brunt of the impact and therefore will take most of the damage. After an accident, you should always replace your helmet.

We know, its tough to retire your favorite helmet when it looks like its only a little scuffed, but there may be a lot of damage to the internal protective layers that you can’t see; remember, helmets are designed to sacrifice themselves for your safety, but for one crash only! (For this reason, even just dropped helmets can also be compromised; a single drop may not seem like that big of a deal, but any impact will affect the internal layers of a helmet, and you won’t be able to see how they are affected.)


Vintage helmets are cool, but if you ride around in a helmet that looks like this one...it's time for a new one!

Even if your helmet has never hit the ground, most manufacturers recommend replacing it every five years, to account for normal wear and tear, and aging of the materials in the helmet. This is more of a recommendation than a hard and fast rule, but keep an eye out for certain signs of wear that mean it might be time to retire it.

If the comfort padding or the retention system has become loose or show signs of deterioration, or if the synthetic foam padding is worn, a replacement is probably in order. If your helmet’s padding breaks down to the point that the helmet starts to feel loose, trade it in for one that fits properly.






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