Buying a motorcycle helmet is a very tricky process. Most helmets are impossible to find if you want to try them on, plus everything fits differently, and most of the descriptions provided by helmet-makers are indecipherable and incoherent. Luckily for you, I get to try a lot of them out firsthand—and I’m here to help.
First of all, if you haven’t read Siler’s “Everything You Need To Know About Motorcycle Helmets” article, you should do so now. The most important thing to note, as far as this guide is concerned, is that helmets all have specific interior head shapes, which are the most important thing to consider when purchasing a motorcycle helmet. A $1,300 helmet that creates hot spots is far more unsafe than a $150 one that fits appropriately.
Helmets are incredibly difficult to find to try on, especially when you get into the decent brands, and if you can’t find a local store where you can try them on I suggest making a field trip out of it or ordering from someone with a great return policy like RevZilla.
There are far too many helmet options out there today for me to have touched/experienced/tried them all, so consider this guide more of a “what Sean would say if I called him and asked him what I should buy” than the be-all, end-all definitive guide. But we test a lot of gear around these parts, and these are the ones we swear by.
If I were buying a sport or race helmet and had money to spend, I’d be in a bit of a pickle right now. Shoei and Bell are both about to launch new, top-of-the-line sport lids and both definitely have their advantages. All of that said, I can tell you that the Schuberth SR-1 ($899-$969) is, without a doubt, the best helmet I’ve ever worn and I somewhat expect that not to change.
Like any good race helmet, it’s a bitch to put on/take off (so don’t buy it for daily or street us) but, on the track, the thing is simply aces. It has zero buffeting, a small shell, is quiet, and is the most aerodynamic thing I’ve worn.
If you’re not buying a dedicated track helmet, I’d wait to see about the new Bell and Shoei, but the Arai Corsair X ($755-$872) is certainly a great option. Its shape isn’t the most aerodynamic for track stuff, but it’s sufficient and the helmet is fantastic for daily riding.
For those of you who don’t want or need the best out there, but are still willing to spend some money for something you really like and that has a few additional features, your money should go to the ICON Airframe Pro ($375-$600). It fits great, does well at speed, and looks incredible with a race suit or in your street gear.
If that doesn’t float your boat, Bell Star Carbons are on sale for $450 on RevZilla, and the AGV Corsa has dropped to $637 for some options. I think the shell on the Bell is massive and not very aerodynamic, but it’s lightweight and still has that premium feel. The AGV fits me terrible, but Lindsay swears by it (and it looks fucking awesome.)
For those of you who don’t care about a lot of the creature comforts or the name on your lid, there are still some great options. If I were looking to spend under $300 on a lid, I would look no further than this Scorpion EXO-R200 for $229 (on sale.) I know a lot of guys who have moved to Scorpion lately and they make a killer product, and that’s before you consider the price.
The other helmet I’d look at is the HJC RPHA-10, which has lots of options on sale currently in the $240-$300 range. It’s another really nice helmet considering the money, and is used by actual professional racers unlike many brands that offer budget “race” helmets.
I think the Schuberth C3 Pro is the best commuter helmet, but I cover that below. If I were looking for a regular full face for normal, everyday use (commuting/canyon riding/just being a motorcyclist), I’d be looking at the Arai Corsair X (covered above) or Shoei GT-Air ($494-$603). Arai makes a lot of great options, and I’m pretty happy with my Defiant, but the sides of it drop so low they make a bluetooth headset impossible and often hit the collar of some jackets. The Shoei has a drop down sun visor and features Shoei’s new internal head shape, which fits a much larger variety of people (finally including me).
As some people have mentioned, you get a ton for your money with the Bell RS-1 ($300). I actually wasn’t super impressed with it (the shell felt too big and the pads broke in too much), and would probably opt to spend either quite a bit more or less, but many have had better experiences than I. Being able to use the photocromatic lens is a huge plus here.
The Shoei Qwest ($330-$450) is another great option at this price point. It has a premium feel to it, and their improved head shape. It also has their new visor system, which creates a much better seal than the previous Shoeis did.
Look no further than the ICON Alliance Dark ($150). It’s cheap, comfy, has a nice liner, comes with a dark shield, and looks far more stylish than anything else in the price range. This helmet is such a freaking good deal.
No question, the Schuberth C3 Pro ($770-$830) is my favorite modular helmet. It fits extremely well, is quiet enough that the bluetooth system is actually useful, is all day comfy and looks great. I’ve put tens of thousands of miles in mine and it’s still a trusted staple.
The Shoei Neotec ($584) is a great option in the mid price range. It does a great job at venting/keeping air out, but isn’t as comfy as the Schuberth and not nearly as quiet. It still has that premium helmet feel however, and is a solid choice overall providing it fits.
Honestly, if you’re looking at modular helmets, you probably plan on putting some serious time in and I would be very hesitant to go cheap. Luckily for you, the Schuberth C3 is only $329 right now on RevZilla which is sort of the deal of the century.
This one wins only by being the only entrant, but the new Schuberth E1 ($829-$889) is a modular dual sport lid that looks incredible. I got a chance to see it in person when they unveiled it a month back and it looks superb—although I’m not completely convinced it will be worth the premium over our next options.
I’m simply in love with my Arai XD4 ($539-$656). It looks and fits great, looks premium, and has a super plush interior. Most importantly, it buffets the least at speed out of everything I’ve worn with a beak.
Shoei has come an incredibly long way with their new Shoei Hornet X2 ($535-$644), which replaces the terrible Hornet DS. It uses Shoei’s new internal headshape, which fits many people quite a bit better, and looks great while venting well. It isn’t quite as aerodynamic as the Arai, but it’s close and it still keeps its spot in my rotation.
Lastly, the AGV AX-8 DS ($379-$500) is another great option. It doesn’t fit me as well as the other two options, but it has best in class visibility and, in my opinion, looks the best of the bunch. Siler has an AGV head and it’s his favorite helmet, but he’s also a dummy.
If you’re going budget, your best bet is the Bell MX-9 Aventure ($144-$200). Even Bell’s basic offerings are well made helmets, and are made using the tech that trickles down from the nicer helmets. They also create some of the best graphics out there right now. I haven’t worn this one yet, but I did read 50 or so reviews before posting it, and people seem really happy with it so this is what I would do.
If you really want to style-shame people, there’s only one answer: Ruby Castel. They went bankrupt, and were then purchased with the intent of remaining open, but you can still find them on eBay if their online site is down on any given week. At more than $1,000 a pop, you better be obsessed with looking good and making sure other people know it, because these are simply terrible to wear.
I debated long and hard before leaving the words “quality” and “comfort” in the subhead, because retro helmets aren’t nearly as comfortable as a real full face. That said, at these helmets at least have an internal headshape that shows they were intended for human use instead protecting bowling balls.
The most popular in this space is the Bell Bullitt ($180-$600). The Bullitt comes in tons of amazing colorways, but I just can’t convince myself to love the extra wide opening. Add a dark or mirrored visor and it gets better, but I think the lines are just off. To be honest, I think the Biltwell Gringo is far more worth it as it looks nicer and is much cheaper.
I haven’t had a chance to wear this one yet, but the new NEXX X.G100 ($400) is the most interesting in the space to me. The helmet shape blends retro with something that looks like it will be better at speed and, while the graphics are all direct Deus and Ornamental Conifer rip-offs, I still sort of love them.
If you want to look cool riding your bike around town, and don’t want to get hit in the face with debris, look no further than the Biltwell Gringo ($129-$250). It’s my favorite of all the retro lids, and is the cheapest of the “full face” bunch. Love the looks. Love the colors. Love the price.
None of the existing open face helmets have really done anything for me. The Bells fit me terribly, the Biltwells aren’t much better and look massive. Back when I wore them more often, I actually wore a novelty helmet so that it would sit lower, look better, and be more aero (because, let’s face it, if I went down I was already screwed.)
This year, we’ve seen two new entrants come which look very interesting. The first, the new Scorpion Belfast ($200), is actually a really nice helmet. I got to preview some of Scorpion’s new gear a month or two back and this was one of the things I was the most excited about. It fit great (in their HQ), and looked incredible in person. I wasn’t a fan of the drop down sun visor (because if I’m wearing this, I want to look as cool as possible and will wear glasses), but that may be a draw for a lot of you.
The other new option is the NEXX X.G10 ($250). Like its full faced brother, it’s a massive rip off of some other popular brands but, if they get the fit right, it could be a great option. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to test these in the near future.
While it may seem silly to spend a ton of money on something you’re pretty much guaranteed to bounce off the ground with, I absolutely love some of the premium options in this space.
I’m a huge fan of 6D and their ODS technology, and the 6D ATR ($500-$760) is simply a fantastic helmet. It’s incredibly comfortable, feels premium inside, and will actually help save your brain.
My other favorite is the Bell Moto-9 FLEX ($599-$699), which is now also getting some brain saving technology. The Bell is the only dirt helmet I’ve ever worn that doesn’t buffet at high speeds, and I actually wear my matte black one as a street helmet for most of the summer.
I would still recommend the Bell Moto-9 ($399) if you’re looking to wear something nice, but not spend more than $500. They don’t offer it in the carbon anymore, and it doesn’t have the flex technology, but it still has an incredible shape, fit, and finish.
I actually haven’t had a chance to wear the Arai or Shoei options yet, but I’m sure they’re fine as well. Personally, I’d go for one of the options above or below.
Most dirt helmets are cheap, so at this price it’s about finding something that fits well and looks great. The new Scorpion helmets look incredible (I have a camo one thats coming out soon that’s beautiful), but they don’t fit me very well.
I love my Thor Verge helmet, but it’s likely pretty similar to the options from FOX or TLD or Answer. Find some jerseys you like and then get a helmet that matches and you’ll likely be fine. Or take the money you would have spent on a premium helmet and buy three cheap ones so you can keep your steeze on point.
There are a ton of great helmet options, with even more on the horizon. There are simply too many options to cover them all here so, again, remember that this is just based on my life as a guy who gets to play with a bunch of stuff.
If there are other helmets you think are worth my checking out, I’d love to hear about them. Also, check out the related links for more info on helmets in general as well as some of the important advancements happening in the field.
Have things you want suggest? Questions about my selections? I’ll try and follow the comments section closely.
Top Shot: Dainese Trickster Evo
Ducati Monster Pic: Alpinestars Orbiter race suit
Harley Pic Rebecca: ICON Fairlady Jacket
Photos: Zach Cohen, Scott Sorenson, Brian J Nelson, Sinuhe Xavier, Brian Murray, Dean Bradshaw, Drew Ruiz