9 Best Carbon Fiber Helmets
Short of shiny chrome, there is nothing quite as striking and soul stirring to the eye of a motorcyclist than carbon fiber. The weave pattern of the fabric has a look all its own, and it wears its technological sophistication on its sleeve. The best carbon fiber helmets can be truly stunning.
How It's Made
For anyone unfamiliar with the material, this YouTube video shows how carbon fiber car parts are made. For comparison, this video shows how polycarbonate helmets are made.
To make the fabric, strands of carbon fibers are woven into yarn, which is then made into a fabric, which is then cut into strips. As the fabric is layered, epoxies are pressed into the material to form a composite, which is then compression molded in a helmet mold.
As the epoxy cures into a hard plastic, a carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) is formed. The product is similar to reinforced concrete. The CFRP fabric holds the now-hard polymer together like the rebar does the cement. Alone, neither ingredient is spectacular, but together they can be revolutionary.
Its light weight and tensile strength makes carbon fiber the perfect reinforcement material for plastic. It can be molded into novel shapes, and it can exhibit different properties with the inclusion of different secondary materials and additives. Industry continues to come up with new and innovative uses for it all the time.
In motorcycle helmets, the relatively expensive CFRP is usually used to lighten an existing, successful design. It is not uncommon to see savings of half a pound or more through use of an all-carbon fiber shell as opposed to a fiberglass composite, and strength is usually improved.
Carbon fiber helmets are not just beautiful to look at, though they are that. They give a glimpse of the future of molded materials in general, and they are already revolutionizing motorcycle helmet manufacturing. Let’s look at some of the best of these promising designs. The future has already begun.
Full Face - Best Carbon Fiber Helmets
Bell Race Star
It says it all in the name. Bell’s Race Star is not just some sporty looking helmet throwing the race word around; it is a pure, full-carbon, track-ready lid. It is one of the best carbon fibre helmets on the market.
It is made to be worn full tuck, with the rider looking up, chin-to-tank and elbows down, but it meets DOT and SNELL M2015 standards.
Yes, the Race Star is capable of traffic duty; it’s just not designed for it. Anyone interested in the Race Star’s styling, but looking for a less track-oriented helmet, might consider Bell’s Star helmet. It isn’t full carbon, but carbon fiber is in its three-layer composite.
The Race Star is 3.25 pounds, which is extremely light for the features it has onboard.
Its impact protection is in its own class. Instead of relying on just EPS, Bell utilizes three different polymers to slow the riders head during slow, medium and fast impacts. The EPS liner only deforms in high-speed hits.
Bell upgraded the viewport from its previous Star model, expanding it both laterally and vertically for improved vision on the track. It also worked to streamline the aerodynamics, using extensive wind-tunnel testing. Nothing on the Race Star is there for show.
Fitment on the Race Star is as precise as the safety engineering. There are five shell sizes for the six different EPS sizes — XS through 2XL. This precision means there are no sizes where the shell and EPS sizes overlap awkwardly, which can lead to high-speed buffeting issues.
Inside, the VIRUS Cool Jade liner features fabric made from yarn infused with recycled jade. Bell claims in reduces the temperature of the skin against it by 10 degrees. The Magnefusion cheek pads are affixed with magnets, making them easy to remove in case of injury, or simply just for cleaning.
Check out this Bell video on YouTube for live shots of the Race Star.
- One of the most advanced safety linings in the business
- Carbon shell saves almost one pound off the road-going Star version
- Interior liner is cool, comfortable and suitably high-tech
- Tight initial fit, though Bell claims a 20-percent break-in margin as the interior padding conforms to a rider’s head shape
- View port angles aggressively upwards, only for sport riders
AGV AX-8 Evo Naked
AGV took its popular AX-8 DS EVO dual sport helmet, axed the peak, and produced an instant icon in the street fighter niche.
The AX-8 EVO Naked, in full carbon fiber shell, is still an adventure-oriented lid, minus the drag the peak and top vent induce.
Vision in all directions is impeccable, and is a remarkable improvement over the typical full-face helmet.
Peripheral vision is noticeably wider than normal, but the vertical axis is taller by far.
Riders accustomed to sport helmets may be disoriented from the new, Panavision view.
The off-road shape that gives the AX-8 Naked its attitude is functional in the protective sphere as well. The extended chin bar acts as a buffer during impact, reducing trauma. The DOT- and ECE-rated shell also has a contoured skirt for use with back protectors, which just happens to also supply the unique look. There are three shell sizes available.
Inside, the removable and washable interior liner features a new textured fabric that is smooth to the touch, and the Dry-Lex padding is treated and sanitized. Three adjustable and closeable intake vents work with two exhaust ports to pull cooling air through the helmet.
The use of carbon fiber on the AX-8 brings the weight down to 3 pounds even, shaving only an ounce off the fiberglass composite model. But, if the weight savings do not justify the extra cost of the carbon fiber, the added impact resistance and the sweet looks of the weaved skin might.
- Looks unique, just right for the naked bike aficionado
- Vision port is like seeing the world through a wide-angle lens
- Three shell sizes for six overall sizes means no awkward fits
- • The extra space around the face means extra noise, this is a loud helmet
- No cutouts in liner for use with Bluetooth speakers
Simpson M30 Bandit
The Simpson M30 Bandit is a true classic, but updated in an uber-modern, all-CFRP shell .
Though it manufacturers protective racing gear for other motor sports, American-based Simpson has been making the DOT-approved, motorcycling-only Bandit model since 1979.
The M30 Bandit features a Cool Max fabric covered liner with removable cheek pads that is washable. Its EPS is single-density, however.
The supremely sturdy carbon fiber shell brings the weight down from 3 pounds for the standard Bandit to 2.5 pounds for the carbon option.
The clear face shield has Simpson’s proprietary FreeStop pivoting system, enabling to remain open at almost any position and speed for fine-tuned wind cooling.
The Bandit also has a non-closeable vent system with no rear exhaust, which is effective for the face but not the cranium.
One issue with the Bandit is that it is made for people with round heads. Of course, round-headed people will disagree, but the majority of Americans have oval-shaped craniums and may not wear the Bandit well.
One issue the Bandit will never have is looking weak. The aesthetics are such that an M30 Bandit will make a scooter look tough, but it is obviously most at home on a cruiser, bobber or chopper, preferably with Born to Be Wild playing in the background.
- Pure, classic styling that gets knowing nods and waves at every turn
- FreeStop visor is a nice touch for riders in hotter climates
- Carbon fiber makes an already light classic lighter
- Profoundly round shape will not suit everyone
- Chin bar mounted vents have no closures
Nexx XR2 Carbon Pure
Simply put, the Nexx XR2 is a full-on, full-bore, full-tuck race helmet bar none. Nexx designed it to be worn while in the crouch, so its field of vision will be skewed for anyone riding anything other than an R-class race replica.
Anyone interested in a more subdued helmet should check the XT1, which is meant for the sport-touring and adventure riders.
With the XR2, though, the modern track-day rider gets one of the lightest race helmets on the market, coming in a lithe 2.8 pounds.
Its polycarbonate Lexan flat-front visor is pinlock and tear-off ready, and has an Easy Lock mechanism that makes it quieter than most competitors’ offerings.
There are two shell sizes, though sizes 2XS through large share a shell size. The EPS liner is triple-density, adding to its effectiveness at a variety of collision speeds. The XR2 is ECE- and DOT-approved. It is one of the best carbon fibre helmets available.
The XR2 features a removable and washable CoolMax 3d comfort liner, and an extra set differently sized pads for fine tuning the fit. There are two intake vents and four exhaust vents to maximize airflow, and removable chin curtain and breath guards for warmth and fog prevention.
The aerodynamics of this Nexx helmet are hard to beat. Once in the tucked position, the subtle rear spoiler prevents most of the buffeting that small, bubble-type windscreens are prone to allow. It is a state of the art lid, thoroughly modern and exceedingly attractive.
- Ultra-quiet interior space, regardless of speed
- Field of vision is unparalleled in a race-ready helmet
- Exceedingly light and comfortable, it almost melts away in use
- Chin strap is low-tech and is placed oddly rearward
- Having to change visors for sun relief seems archaic
Open Face/Half Helmet
The LS2 Cabrio features one of the most eye-catching, unique patterns on a carbon fiber helmet.
What sets it apart is the wide, 4X4 weave of the carbon fiber strands, which gives the surface a quilted look that smaller weaves lack. It is almost elegant.
Do not confuse elegance for weakness, though. The Cabrio is a DOT-approved open-face helmet with three shell sizes across six helmet sizes, meaning the multi-density EPS will fit the riders head and deform properly in the event of an impact.
The Cabrio has a removable and washable comfort liner with laser-cut cheek pads that are comfortable and secure without being intrusive. Extra security comes in the form of a quick-release chin strap which is reinforced with a security plate.
The drop-down sun visor provides eye protection and shading, and there is also a removable clear face shield included. Both shields are 3D optically correct, scratch-resistant, fog-resistant and UV-resistant. The process for removing the clear shield is a bit convoluted, however.
The Cabrio is engineered to fit an oval head shape, so it will suit the majority of North American riders well. It is also one of the lightest open-face helmets available, tipping the scales at a scant 2.3 pounds. Peripheral visibility is excellent, though a lack of vents becomes apparent on hot days.
- Beautiful wide-weave carbon fiber pattern, eye-catching and attention-getting
- Extremely light when compared to even carbon fiber competition
- Dual eye shielding options adds convenient functionality
- No air venting makes for hot rides on hot days
- Removal of clear shield leaves retention pieces to be kept track of
Joe Rocket Carbon Pro
Joe Rocket is best known for its protective jackets, gloves and boots, but the hip company makes a few helmets, all of which are excellent.
The Carbon Pro is Joe Rocket’s DOT- and SNELL-approved open-face helmet, which is built on the same mold as the company’s Speedmaster full-face carbon fiber helmet.
The Carbon Pro uses a full, 4X4 weave that is laid symmetrically off the center line.
The inside geometry, which Joe Rocket designed with CAD, is suited for riders with rounder heads, rather some of the more oval options out there.
The bottom edge is streamlined to reduce buffeting.
Ventilation on the Carbon Pro comes via Joe Rocket’s Quadport 2.0 system. It features two closeable and adjustable front intake vents that channel through one rear vent using the venturi effect. The cooling through the matte-black vents is quite effective and noticeable.
In addition to the impact protection from the solidly woven carbon fiber, the Carbon Pro features a dual-density EPS for safety in slow- or high-speed impacts. There is also a removable and washable Quickdry comfort liner.
The Carbon Pro also sports an adjustable clear face shield, which is hard-coated and optically true. It is also fog-resistant, 95-percent UV resistant and is actuated without tools. Visibility with the Carbon Pro is excellent compared to many open-face helmets.
Joe Rocket coats the carbon fiber weave in a thick, luscious-looking clear lacquer finish. It brings out the alternating shades of the fibers brilliantly. The Carbon Pro weighs in at 3 pounds, 14 ounces.
- Excellent visibility, rivalling half-shell helmets
- Remarkable air flow through vents
- Dual-density EPS adds an extra layer of protection
- Initial fit is quite tight, will break in to an extent
- Runs small, consider ordering up a size
Daytona Skull Cap Slim Line
Daytona’s Skull Cap was already the smallest DOT-rated half helmets on the market, but it is even smaller now with the introduction of the Slim Line.
There are three different shell sizes in overall sizes from 2XS to 4XL.
It is also available with a removable nylon visor and a snapping closure, instead of the typical D-ring style.
The Skull Cap includes a moisture-wicking liner for comfort, though it is not removable.
The trim is recessed around the perimeter to give it a sleek, finished look. The carbon fiber weave stands out, and it is coated with a UV-proof lacquer.
Weighing in at just 1 pound 8 ounces, the Skull Cap is one of the lightest helmets on the market.
It is a viable — and safer — alternative to novelty helmets.
It has an exaggerated oval shape, though, which will not fit all riders equally.
Daytona designed this half lid to eliminate the mushroom effect that half helmets with EPS tend to have on the wearer’s head. To a large extent, it succeeded, though it would be more fair to say the mushroom effect is drastically reduced, rather than eliminated.
- The smallest DOT-approved helmet available
- One of the lightest helmets out there
- Reduces the dreaded mushroom head
- Protects only the top of the head well
- Lacks hi-tech, multi-density EPS liner that larger competitors feature
Klim TK1200 Ilumino Hi-Viz
There is not exactly a glut of carbon fiber modular helmets on the market.
For riders looking for the functionality that modular designs offer in a carbon fiber weave shell, Klim’s TK1200 Ilumino Hi-Viz is one of the options available. An excellent option it is, though.
Klim released the TK1200 in the fall of 2016, and it is one of the most advanced modular helmets on the market.
Starting with its breakaway chin bar that prevents trauma and drama if the rider has the helmet open during a crash, Klim put extra time into the design of the TK1200 and it shows.
The TK1200 is the lightest modular helmet on the market — just 3 pounds. It is also one of the few helmets to offer a Transitions visor, another high-tech and modern amenity. The shield is clear in low-light conditions, but gets progressively darker as things brighten up outside. There is also an included pinlock lens to prevent fogging.
Klim engineered the TK1200 to be phenomenally quiet, utilizing both aerodynamic design and intelligent ventilation to keep wind noise to a minimum. The shell’s fibers are pre-impregnated and polymerized with heat for precise molding, and they produce an extremely solid shell. Unfortunately, there is only one size of shell, which makes for awkward fitment in some sizes.
The 3D padding and comfort liner are moisture-wicking, removable and washable. Klim uses its proprietary, quick-release, micro-buckle chin strap for helmet security. Finally, the bright yellow is not just for show. Its brightness couples with hidden reflectivity to ensure riders are seen by other motorists.
Anyone put off by the high-visibility yellow might be interested in the more subdued Klim TK1200 Skyline or the TK1200 Tech (in white). The Hi-Viz’s bright yellow colors can garner attention in low-light conditions, however, so choose wisely.
- The lightest modular helmet available
- One of the few carbon fiber weave helmets on the market
- Light weight and high tech, to the extreme
- Only one shell size
- Transitions lens not as dark as many tinted visors
Like modular helmets, there is a dearth of viable carbon fiber helmets meant for the off-road rider.
Though, when one considers the expense of the material and the relative hard life of a dual-sport lid, perhaps it is no wonder.
It is hard to think of a better place for weight savings, however.
Intrepid helmet maker Shark is undeterred, though, and its DOT-approved Explore-R Carbon model is trimmed down and ready for the great outdoors.
At just 3.6 pounds, the Shark is barely noticeable even when the pavement turns to gravel, then to dirt.
The Explore-R also offers its owner modularity, as a rider may choose to use the included polymer peak and goggles or remove both in favor of an also-included clear shield. There is also an internal, drop-down sun visor for those bright days.
The interior comfort liner is washable, and is removable in three interchangeable pieces for a precise fit.
The three-vent intake system keeps air flowing, and neck roll is PVC-coated and reflective. The neck roll also stashes a neck gaiter, which rolls up and zips into it.
All of the features in the Explore-R are well thought out, and each adds to the usability of the package as a whole. None is the epitome of function on its own, though. Shark packed a lot of uses into this lid, but it is outshined by more task-specific helmets.
- One of the few full-carbon dual-sport helmets available
- Packed with features and options for use
- Stow-away neck gaiter is smart and functional
- Works hard to be multi-functional, but hardly excels at any
- Goggles do not function as well as wrap-around goggles do
The Ride Away
We should note that each of the best carbon fiber helmets on this list costs a good bit more than its closest, non-carbon fiber relative. That is simply a result of the high cost of carbon fiber fabric. Whether any of these helmets warrant the extra cash is a matter of opinion. What is not in question is the tangible benefits of carbon fiber over its composite competition.
Both are strong enough to protect their fragile, fleshy cargo, but carbon does it better and is lighter in the process. It is not an exchange of properties, but of value that we weigh when considering carbon fiber. As it becomes more commonplace, one can easily see a day when all helmets are made with it. Until then, it will remain exotic.