The Best Motorcycle Helmets Regardless of Riding Style

Motorcyclists are individuals, and we demand gear that reflects our personalities. Nowhere is this truer than with helmets. The best motorcycle helmets provide peak levels of protection and styling that expresses our individuality. The following lids on this list do that and then some.

Full Face Helmets

To the uninitiated, full face helmets are only for racing. However, seasoned riders know that they provide the utmost in protection regardless of riding style. They are at home on race-replica motorcycles, and they will work equally well on any ride while keeping riders safer in the event of a crash. 

Our Top 3 Picks

GT-AIR

AGV AX-8 Evo Naked Road Helmet

AX-8 EVO NAKED

HJC CL-17 Best Motorcycle Helmet

CL-17

Brand

SHOEI

AGV

HJC

Shell

Fiberglass and Organic Fiber Composite

Fiberglass, Kevlar and Carbon Fiber

Polycarbonate

Ventilation

Wind Tunnel, 3 intake and 3 exhaust vents

IVS, 4 front air vents, 2 lateral air intakes and 2 rear extractors

ACS Advanced Channeling Ventilation System; Full front to back airflow

Comfort

3D Max-Dry

Dry-Lex

SuperCool

Shape

Intermediate Oval

Intermediate Oval

Round Oval

Lightweight

Multiple Density EPS

Internal Sun Shield

DOT Certified

SNELL Certified

Shoei GT-Air is the Best in Comfort and Performance

Shoei designed the GT-Air to be a premium, race-derived helmet for all seasons. It has an intermediate oval shape, which will fit most riders well.

The shell is five-ply, interwoven fiberglass and organic fiber composite, which is light and extremely protective.

The multi-density EPS liner has deep channels to allow the free flow of air to keep the cranium cool, and the 3D Max-Dry interior liner is soft, cool and moisture wicking.

It weighs 3 pounds 11 ounces and is highly aerodynamic to resist buffeting for longer, more comfortable rides.

The ventilation is completely adjustable, and the drop-down internal sun shield adds fighter pilot style and eliminates the need for multiple shields. The outer shield on the GT-Air is a pinlock type, which utilizes two sandwiched lenses to lock in an insulating layer of air, which eliminates fog.

Many of the best motorcycle helmets today have pinlock-capable shields. Do pinlocks work better than other anti-fog solutions? Motorcyclist magazine checked. If you didn’t follow the link, the answer is yes, much better.

Pros:

  • Retractable tinted internal sun shield eliminates need for sunglasses or shield changes
  • Superior air ventilation provides intense cooling, but shuts off completely for cold days
  • Includes emergency release system so EMTs can keep the rider’s head stationary

Cons:

  • More expensive than many other helmets on this list
  • Not SNELL rated

AGV AX8 EVO Naked Makes a Bold Statement

Italian manufacturer AGV’s AX8 EVO Naked has a fiberglass, Kevlar and carbon fiber shell and is DOT-rated. The intermediate oval shape fits most riders comfortably.

AGV gets kudos and style points for creating a truly unique helmet.

The AX8’s tall shield and dropped chin bar give it the look of a fighter pilot’s helmet, and what rider hasn’t felt the connection with aircraft while riding.

It weighs just over 3 pounds, and is aerodynamic considering its flat-front appearance.

The Dry-Lex padding is antimicrobial, and forms a tight fit around the cheeks. It is removable and washable.

AGV intended the AX8 EVO Naked to be bare-bones, so there is no room for internal speakers. Riders who want communications units must perform padding surgery.

Pros:

  • Wicked cool looks; these bad boys get all the right kind of attention
  • Lightweight in the extreme; never noticeable even after hours of riding
  • Dry-Lex padded lining is secure, comfortable and defeats the sweaty stink

Cons:

  • Tools required to change the shield out for a tinted version
  • Rear vents don’t close; the risk of getting wet in a downpour is omnipresent

HJC CL-17 is Lightyears from the HJCs of the Yesteryear

HJC’s CL-17 brings some serious features to that company’s cost-effective approach. Its shell is polycarbonate, which makes for a heavier helmet than its more expensive competitors.

Its round oval shape suits riders with rounder heads better.

The CL-17 is loaded with ventilation ports, but only some of them are closeable. Yet, there is a lack of air flow compared to the competition thanks to shallow EPS channels.

A securely locking shield design cuts down on the wind noise that once plagued the brand, though.

The aerodynamics on the CL-17 have a nice front-to-back sweep to them. Stylistically, this improves the look of the lid while also reducing buffeting for more comfort.

Comfort also gets a boost from the SuperCool interior, which is cool to the touch and moisture wicking.

Pros:

  • Available in sizes up to 5XL, which is a boon to riders with large craniums
  • One of the most affordable SNELL certified helmets available
  • For a polycarbonate shell, the CL-17 is still on the lighter side

Cons:

  • Pinlock shield ready, but does not come with the pinlock shield
  • Several vents are non-closeable, meaning air leakage on cold days and noisy operation

Open Face Helmets

The best motorcycle helmets provide great protection, but not every rider likes the claustrophobic feeling of a full-face helmet. Touring riders often like to feel the wind on their faces, but still want the utmost in protection. There is debate about the merits of open-face helmets, but they are indisputably better than wearing none. This article debunks the myth that helmets are not necessary, and a couple others as well.

Our Top 3 Picks

Image of HJC IS-33 II Motorcycle Helmet

IS-33 II

J-Crusie Helmet Image

J-CRUISE

Image of shark helmets drak blank

RAW/DRAK 

Brand

HJC

SHOEI

Shark

Shell

Polycarbonate

Fiberglass and Resin Composite

Injected Thermoplastic

Ventilation

ACS Advanced Channeling Ventilation System; Full front to back airflow

Wind Tunnel, large upper vent shutter for air intake , a lower neck outlet vent, and two upper exhaust outlet vents

Air ventilation system, one top vent

Comfort

SuperCool

3D Max-Dry

natural bamboo fiber liner

Shape

Intermediate oval

Intermediate oval

Round

Lightweight

Multiple Density EPS

Internal Sun Shield

DOT Certified

HJC IS-33 II has Graduated Past Entry-Level Status

HJC’s IS-33 II is a polycarbonate 3/4-shell, and the whole unit weighs in at 3.25 pounds. It has an intermediate oval shape that will work for most riders, and is DOT-approved.

It has an internal, retractable sun shield and a clear face shield for a second layer of protective comfort.

The multiple vents provide excellent air flow over the scalp, and the optically true, UV-blocking face shield is removable via a tool-less quick-release system, allowing the freedom to experience the blast of wind on the face.

Like the CL-17, the IS-33 II utilizes HJC’s SuperCool padding, providing the rider with cooling, moisture-wicking comfort.

The cheek pads provide an aggressively secure fit that breeds confidence and trust. The padding also has antimicrobial properties.

Pros:

  • Retractable sun shield gives the rider several options for face and eye shielding
  • Wide viewing angles provide unblocked peripheral vision
  • Superior venting gives full-face helmet style air flow

Cons:

  • EPS lining is single-density, though still provides adequate protection in most crashes
  • Cheek pads are secure, but may be overly tight until fully broken in

Shoei J-Cruise Provides Almost Full Face Protection

Shoei used a wind tunnel to design the J-Cruise, producing one of the quietest open-face helmets available.

The shell is fiberglass and resin composite, and its intermediate oval shape will work for most riders. It is DOT-rated but not SNELL-certified.

The outer, full-face clear shield is pinlock-capable and optically true. There is also an internal, cable-operated retractable sun shield, which is ANSI Z-rated for safety.

The two-piece EPS is denser at the sun shield, so it doesn’t compromise safety.

Air flow is substantial, thanks to deep channels in the EPS. Typical for Shoei, the cheek pads are multilayered to provide a positive fitment.

The 3D Max-Dry liner is removable, washable and antimicrobial, and the D-ring chin strap is also padded for an extra layer of comfort.

Pros:

  • Multiple shield configurations possible with dual shields
  • Updated locking mechanism on outer clear shield keeps it in place at speed
  • Shoei comfort that gets better as the liner breaks in

Cons:

  • Not Snell rated, which is not uncommon for half helmets
  • No detent for locking the outer shield, which may pop open at speed

Shark Raw/Drak Takes the Open Face Helmet to Hooligan Levels

Shark’s Drak helmet — formerly called the Raw — is a new take on the open-face design, reminiscent of a fighter pilot’s helmet.

The shell is injection-molded polycarbonate and weighs less than three pounds. The shape is rounded, and it is DOT-rated.

The Drak comes with a functional but non-protective polyurethane mouth guard that is removable, and the included, double-paned goggles are made by Carl Zeiss Optics.

They have a foam gasket for positive fitment, and are quick-release removable.

The Drak’s one top vent has a removable rubber dam, and it provides excellent air flow through the EPS lining.

The scalp lining is bamboo, which is moisture-wicking and cool to the touch. The removable and washable liner has cutouts to fit Shark’s communication system speakers.

Pros:

  • Unique, hooligan-type styling that attracts attention
  • Great air flow for an open-face helmet
  • Included goggles are a high-end accessory for open-face helmets

Cons:

  • Goggles’ gasket is not dense enough to last for years without proper care
  • The goggles’ attachment points are covered with breakable plastic covers

Half Helmets

Half helmets have a reputation as being minimally protective, and often carry no DOT rating. The ones on this list are more than just decoration, though. They may not provide the protection of a full-face lid, but some protection is better than none.

Our Top 3 Picks

Image of Bell Rogue Helmet

ROGUE

J-Crusie Helmet Image

PIT BOSS

image of Covert Helmet

COVERT

Brand

Bell

Bell

Scorpion

Shell

Lightweight Composite Shell

Lightweight composite shell

Polycarbonate

Ventilation

​No ventilation

​No ventilation

Closeable Chimney Vents

Comfort

Removable/Washable Interior

Anti-bacterial microfiber liner

KwickWick II liner

Shape

Round

Intermediate Oval

Intermediate Oval

Lightweight

Multiple Density EPS

Retractable Sun Shield

DOT Certified

Bell Rogue is the Tough Guy’s Half Lid

Bell’s apocalyptic-wasteland helmet takes hooligan style to another level. The aptly named Rogue uses a lightweight (3 pounds) composite shell and is DOT-approved.

It comes with Bell’s phenomenal 5-year warranty. It fits riders with round heads best, though.

There are three shell sizes, with corresponding EPS liners. A key feature of the Rogue is its muzzle, which is removable and extendable and has its own removable liner.

The shell top is the only truly protective feature, while the shroud and muzzle are more for debris.

The shroud features lined cheek pads for added comfort, which have cutouts for Bluetooth speakers. The interior lining is removable, moisture-wicking and washable.

The Rogue easily accommodates either goggles or glasses, and works well for cruisers and naked sports.

Pros:

  • No-nonsense hooligan look, ready for the street fighter and the cruiser alike
  • Composite shell is super protective, definitely not a novelty helmet
  • Extremely quiet, even more so than most full face helmets

Cons:

  • Zero venting makes the shrouded Rogue a hot helmet on sweltering days
  • Muzzle must be unfastened to take the helmet off or put it on

Bell Pit Boss is Refinement in a Half Helmet

The Bell Pit Boss has the look of a classic half-face helmet, but is more than that. Its Trimatrix composite shell is thin yet strong, and the Pit Boss weighs just 2.5 pounds.

The intermediate oval shape, common among the best motorcycle helmets, is almost universal in fitment.

The Pit Boss also features Speed Dial adjustability, which makes the fit secure. The dial sits on a polymer insert at the back of the helmet, and is removable and adjustable for placement.

Tightening the dial keeps the helmet from rising on the head, a common issue for half helmets.

For colder weather, the Pit Boss comes with a fleece-lined leather neck liner. The molded EPS keeps the helmet unusually low on the head for a half helmet, and provides excellent crash protection.

There is also a retractable sun shield, eliminating the need for goggles or glasses.

Pros:

  • One of the lightest DOT-approved half helmets available
  • Speed Dial adjustability provides unmatched variability in fitment
  • Retractable sun shield is a rarity in half helmets, and a nice touch

Cons:

  • Shield may sit too close to the eyes for riders who wear glasses
  • Shield is tricky to replace if the clear version is needed for night riding

Scorpion Covert has Fighter Pilot Chic

Scorpion’s Covert is its addition to the hooligan-style, half-helmet market. It has a polycarbonate shell and dual-density EPS.

It’s intermediate-oval shape suits most riders well. The Covert has a shroud and muzzle, but only the top shell is DOT-rated.

The shell is ventilated via closeable chimney vents that pull air through for comfort. The EPS shroud and muzzle are both removable, though the resulting change in style may not suit everyone.

The KwickWick II liner keeps riders cool in the heat and warm in the winter.

A drop-down sun shield integrates seamlessly with the muzzle, giving the Covert a sleek look. Clear and tinted shields are included, and both are coated with EverClear fog-proof coating.

The muzzle includes a gasket to ensure leak-proof fitment of the shield when it is deployed.

Pros:

  • Provides great crash protection for a half-shell helmet
  • Cool, military-style looks give the Covert a mean appearance
  • Transformable, integrated pieces are likely the future of the class

Cons:

  • Extremely loud, even when shroud and muzzle are in place
  • Over-ear padding is uncomfortable until fully broken in

Modular Helmets

Modular helmets are modern manufacturers’ attempts to be all things to all people, and they are mostly a success. Riders who prefer a full-face helmet, but want to get fresh air occasionally, flock to the flip-up face helmets. They are popular among touring riders and adventure-touring riders alike.

Our Top 3 Picks

neotec-winered helmet image

NEOTEC

Image of Helmet-HJC-IS-Max-II-Solid-Silver-Side

IS-MAX II

exo-gt920_mblack_front_ang-2 helmet image

EXO-GT920

Brand

SHOEI

HJC

Scorpion

Shell

Fiberglass

Polycarbonate

Polycarbonate

Ventilation

Wind Tunnel, a large lower vent shutter, 3 upper vent for air intake , and upper exhaust outlet vents

ACS Advanced Channeling Ventilation System: Full front to back airflow

Aero-Tuned Ventilation System

Comfort

Max-Dry liner

SuperCool liner

KwickWick II liner

Shape

Intermediate Oval

Intermediate Oval

Intermediate Oval

Lightweight

Multiple Density EPS

Retractable Sun Shield

DOT Certified

Shoei Neotec Modular is a Stellar Modular

The Shoei Neotec helmet replaces Shoei’s Multitec modular design. It has a five-ply matrix fiberglass shell and dual-density EPS liner.

The intermediate oval shape provides a nearly universal fit, and the helmet meets DOT standards for safety.

The shield is wider and taller, and is now pinlock-capable. The pinlock shield is included. There is also an internal drop-down sun shield for bright days.

Both shields are UV-blocking and are anti-fog and anti-scratch. They are also injection-molded to provide distortion-free vision.

The Neotec’s modular locking mechanism is crisp and secure, and allows no air in when closed. Ventilation is profound, thanks to improved EPS channeling.

The interior moisture-wicking liner is now removable, washable and anti-microbial, all improvements over the Multitec.

Pros:

  • A vast improvement over the previous version, worth a second look
  • Included pinlock shield and drop-down sun shield provide safety-improving protection
  • One of the best-ventilated motorcycle helmets available on the market, yet still quiet

Cons:

  • Vents difficult to operate with gloved hands
  • A quality product, but the price leaves many riders out of the mix

HJC IS-MAX II is All Bang for Few Bucks

HJC’s IS-MAX II is a budget-friendly modular helmet that doesn’t sacrifice much to its more expensive competition.

It has a lightweight polycarbonate shell and an adjustable chin bar. The IS-MAX II has superior fitment and comfort levels for most riders.

Like all IS models, this modular helmet has a drop-down sun shield, eliminating the need for shield changes.

It has three-position functionality, and blocks 95 percent of UV rays. The outer shield is pinlock-capable.

This HJC model is DOT-approved for safe function. The modular chin bar raises with one-touch, one-handed operation, and closes to a secure fit.

Inside, the SuperCool interior liner is moisture-wicking, removable and washable. There is also good ventilation for cooling the head.

Pros:

  • Three positions on the drop-down sun shield is an unusually nice touch
  • Removable liner fits securely against the cheeks, almost sport-helmet-like
  • One of the best values in a modular helmet on the current market

Cons:

  • Allows in outside air, which is cooling in summer but cold in winter and wet in the rain
  • Chin bar lifts easily, but is difficult to latch closed, do not operate while moving

Scorpion EXO-GT920 is Back-In-Black Cool

Scorpion’s EXO-GT920 is one of the sportiest helmets in the modular market. It is a DOT-approved design with a polycarbonate shell.

This is a sport-touring modular, with aggressive styling and aerodynamics, providing more stability than a typical modular at faster speeds.

The GT920 comes with a drop-down tinted shield that drops lower than previous Scorpion models.

The outer shield has an EverClear fog-free coating, and utilizes Scorpion’s Elip-Tec ratcheting closure, so it stays open at any position the rider wishes at almost any speed.

This modular helmet has a dual-density EPS liner for added safety, and includes the KwickWick removable and washable inner liner for comfort.

There are cutouts for use with Bluetooth speakers. Ventilation is adequate, though not extraordinary, and wind noise is minimal.

Pros:

  • Ratcheting shield closure allows customizable ventilation, as long as the weather is dry
  • Superior and safe EPS safety liner for a helmet in the GT920’s price range
  • Improved drop-down shield is dark and encompasses the eyes for great shading

Cons:

  • The fit at the cheek pads may be overly tight for some riders, but it’s a sport feature
  • Visibility is narrow in the up-down dimensions, though superior in the peripheral

Off Road Helmets

Adventure and dual-sport riders have their own criteria for the best motorcycle helmets. They need a top peak for shielding the sun when off road, as well as extreme visibility in all directions. Dirt riders also want the option of removing the face shield and switching to goggles for off-road riding.

Our Top 3 Picks

XD4_BLACK_FROST_MAIN helmet image

XD4

Bell-MX-9-Adventure-Helmet-Stryker-Flo-Orange-Black-L-helmet image

MX-9

AFX FX-39 helmet image

FX-39

Brand

Arai

BELL

AFX

Shell

Super Complex Laminate Construction (SCLC) - Carbon Fibre, Fiberglass, Resin Composite

Polycarbonate and ABS

Poly-Alloy Composite

Ventilation

FreeFlow System, redesigned face vents and a venturi vent at the brow

​Velocity Flow Ventilation system

Three intake vents and six exhaust vents

Comfort

FCS (Facial Contour Support) liner

Removable/washable anti-bacterial interior

Hypo-allergenic and Antimicrobial nylon liner

Shape

Intermediate Oval

Intermediate Oval

Intermediate Oval

Lightweight

DOT Certified

SNELL Certified

Arai XD4 Gives Adventure Riders Everything

Arai’s XD4 is a premium dual-sport helmet with a DOT-approved and SNELL-rated shell, which is also aerodynamically tuned to work with the peak to funnel air to two vents on the brow.

The peak is designed to resist buffeting, making for smoother adventure riding at highway speeds.The peak and shield can both be removed to provide custom riding options.

There are ample vents, which Arai calls a FreeFlow system, keeping the rider cool at all times. The face shield locks securely against its rubber gasket to keep out the elements.

The interior FCS liner uses soft foam to contour to the rider’s particular face shape, and there are peel-away pads on the temples for customizable sizing.

The liner is removable, washable and antimicrobial. The cheek pads also have latches, so they can be removed in an emergency.

Pros:

  • One of the most aerodynamic on-road/off-road helmets available
  • Provides superior levels of comfort, functionality and protection
  • Contains truly creative uses of ventilation, which work extremely well

Cons:

  • The price keeps many riders from even looking in its direction
  • Lack of filter or screen on chin vent, look out for dust and bugs

Bell MX-9 Raises the Entry-Level Bar

Bell’s MX-9 is an affordable on/off-road helmet. It has a polycarbonate and ABS shell, and is DOT- and ECE-rated.

There are three different shell and EPS liner size combinations in six overall sizes. The MX-9 chin bar is also EPS-lined, uncommon among even the best motorcycle helmets.

The intermediate oval shape is normally a good fit for most riders. The clear shield on the MX-9 seals solidly, and produces no visual distortion.

Bell left room on the side of the shield for riders to use goggles without removing it.

Although the MX-9 has superior ventilation and air flow, the vents cannot be closed, which introduces the threat of wetness and cold.

The MX-9’s peak is not overly aerodynamic and is a liability at high speeds, but it can be removed to reveal a more street-oriented style helmet.

Pros:

  • Generous ventilation keeps craniums cool on hot days
  • Transforms from dirt to street form with ease, and looks natural either way
  • Multiple EPS and shell sizing makes for a comfortable helmet across the product line

Cons:

  • Non-closeable vents can introduce moisture and cold air on those miserable riding days
  • Non-adjustable peak can cause wing effect and buffering in the wind at higher speeds

AFX FX-39 is Off-Road Ready

AFX’s entry-level FX-39 is an on/off-road helmet that sports an affordable price tag.

Its DOT- and ECE-approved shell is constructed from a lightweight poly-alloy composite, with three intake vents and six exhaust vents to provide positive air flow.

Those familiar with the previous FX-37 model should note that the FX-39 has an improved shield, allowing the use of goggles for off-road use.

The shield can also be removed completely for use with goggles alone, or the peak can be removed for unencumbered high-speed riding.

The shield has a positive fit, is optically correct and is scratch- and UV-resistant.

The FX-39’s comfort liner is removable and washable, and it is also swappable to help produce a more customized fit. Sizes in the FX-39 run from XS to 4XL.

Pros:

  • A lot of bang for the buck, quality helmet at entry-level price
  • Ultra-customizable fit ensures a level of comfort uncommon in helmets at this price point
  • Configuration options are light years ahead of the previous version from AFX

Cons:

  • Lack of fog treatment on shield leads to fogging issues on occasion
  • Shield fitment goes bad after some time, but an upgrade brings back the tight seal

Parting Thoughts

Looking through this list, it is evident that most riders can find a helmet to suit their taste and budget, regardless of riding style. The best motorcycle helmets aren’t the ones we pay the most for, but the ones that best fulfill our wants and needs at a reasonable cost. Remember to replace your helmet at the first hint of damage. This article has tips for inspecting your lid.

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