The 3 Best Motorcycle Helmet Brands for Any Budget
The best motorcycle helmet brands provide great crash protection, though helmets do not last forever, and full-face helmets protect from the elements as well. Quality helmet like those on this list are investments in the long-term safety of future rides and in the comfort of longer rides.
1. Shoei Helmets: The Best of the Best
Shoei dates to the 1950s, but it has been one of the best motorcycle helmet brands since 1960. Shoei has always been a Japanese-based company. Its roots are in racing, and that tradition remains strong, as the company is a major player in modern MotoGP racing.
Shoei was one of the early adopters of carbon fiber technology, and its modern helmets still exhibit the use of high-tech materials that made the company famous. Regardless of riding style, the modern motorcyclist would be hard-pressed to find a better helmet.
Of all the helmets in Shoei’s repertoire, its RF line continually sets the standard for quality across the industry. In its current form, the RF-1200, Shoei’s premier helmet provides an elite combination of comfort and protection that other manufacturers can only hope to equal.
On the safety side, the RF-1200 features an ultra-wide field of view, unsurpassed in full-face helmets. It is DOT-approved, and it is SNELL-2015 certified. The shell utilizes six interwoven layers of fiberglass and carbon fiber to produce the lightest and strongest helmet in Shoei’s line.
The key to any helmet’s impact protection is the variable density of its EPS lining, which deforms at a precise rate in a collision. Here again Shoei leads the industry. The RF-1200 uses precisely placed EPS with burrowing tunnels for air flow to cool the riders head.
The RF-1200 owes its phenomenal comfort to its 3D Max-Dry interior liner system, which maximizes sweat absorption and dissipation and gradually conforms to a rider’s head shape. Shoei is known for snug, secure fit, and the RF-1200 is the perfect example.
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The RF-1200 is a race-inspired helmet. Riders interested in a modular helmet design may like Shoei’s Neotec helmet. For a different take on the open-face helmet design, check out Shoei’s J-Cruise helmet. None are cheap, but it’s hard to put a value on protection and comfort.
SHOEI Helmets Summary
- State of the art design and construction
- Provides a secure fit that gets more comfortable over time
- Composite shell is one of the toughest in motorcycling
- Costs more than some other helmets with comparable features
- Model is due for upgrade so supplies are getting limited
2. Bell Helmets: An Uncompromising Compromise
Bell Racing is an American helmet manufacturer. Its history in powersports originates in the 1950s, when longtime owner of Bell Auto Parts, Roy Richter, began making auto racing helmets in Bell, California. Since then, the company has gained a reputation for affordable quality.
The Qualifier DLX
Affordable here should not be confused with cheap. Bell is one of the best helmet brands in all of racing, but it also caters to riders who choose value over status symbols. In keeping with this tradition, Bell offers the Qualifier DLX, its entry-priced sport/street helmet.
The Qualifier DLX utilizes a polycarbonate shell, which is a poured thermoplastic material. While not as light as a composite shell, it offers comparable impact resistance at a fraction of the cost. It is DOT-approved, but does not carry a SNELL certification.
Comfort comes via an aerodynamic design that resists wind buffeting and a highly adjustable ventilation system that keeps the cranium cool. The cheek pads are contoured, and the liner is soft, comfortable, anti-microbial and moisture-wicking.
Bell’s Qualifier series helmets all feature an intermediate oval fitment, which will work well for the vast majority of North American users. It also has a standard port, which is cut into the left side of the chin bar, that fits the Bell Scala or Sena communication systems.
The Qualifier DLX features a Transitions visor, which is sensitive to UV light and will darken or lighten as needed, eliminating the need to switch from tinted to clear visors at night. Though, with its quick-release visor system, visor changes with this helmet are easier than normal.
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Riders interested in the Bell Qualifier DLX, but for whom the price is too high, may be interested in the original Bell Qualifier, which offers a similar profile with fewer amenities. Riders for whom money is no object may like Bell's Star helmet, which meets SNELL 2015 standards.
Bell Helmets Summary
- Affordable helmet provides a lot of bang for the buck
- Transitions visor is high-tech and functional
- Quick-change visor is modern and convenient
- Polycarbonate shell is out of date, though still protective
- Wind noise at speed is noticeable, but not overwhelming
3. HJC Helmets: The Best-Selling Solution
HJC is the top-selling motorcycle helmet brand in America. The company’s roots go back to the early 1970s, and they are currently made in three separate facilities located in China, Korea and Vietnam. HJC has earned a reputation for producing great helmets that most riders can afford.
After years of building entry-level helmets, upped its game with the introduction of the RHPA-10 in 2012. The RPHA-10 is a race-level street helmet with the types of high-tech features that were once out of reach for riders on a reality-based budget.
Unlike the typically round HJC helmet, the RPHA-10’s shape is an intermediate to moderate oval design, which fits most riders relatively well.
Air ventilation is also an improvement over the typical HJC lid, and the chin-bar mounted vent has an easy-to-operate closure. This article on Motorcyclist.com has more information on helmet fitment.
The visor forms an extremely tight seal, which reduces wind noise and keeps out the elements on cold or rainy days. Visor changes are simplified over previous generations of helmets, and the visor pops off and on simply for quick, tool-less changes from clear to tinted lenses.
The RPHA-10’s liner is soft — almost luxuriously so — and is moisture-wicking and anti-microbial. It is removable for washing and snaps securely back into place. The EPS crash liner is well-vented for comfort.
The RPHA-10 boasts one of the most advanced and protective shells on the market, especially at its price point. It is a carbon fiber, aramid, fiberglass and organic matrix, which is extremely light yet profoundly protective. No helmet on the market provides better crash protection.
HJC designed this helmet in a wind tunnel for racing, and it features prominently on the MotoGP circuit. It is DOT-approved and SNELL 2010 certified. A newer model, the RPHA-11 is now available, so RPHA-10 models are available at reduced prices while they last.
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Riders on a tighter budget should consider HJC’s more-affordable CL-17 full-face helmet. Those looking for a modular helmet may like the IS-MAX II, which has a polycarbonate shell. HJC has long one of the best motorcycle helmet brands, and that will not likely change any time soon.
HJC Helmets Summary
- A big step up for the former budget company
- Quality composite shell for cost of others’ polycarbonate jobs
- MotoGP representation means protection you can trust
- Replacement model has arrived, so get it while you can
- Large air scoops work well, but the look isn’t for everyone
In some arenas of life, the brand you choose makes little difference. With helmets, though, trust is everything. The best motorcycle helmet brands have built their reputations on honest innovation and pure performance. Taking a risk on an unknown introduces unknown quantities into the mix. When it comes to your life, it just isn’t worth the risk.