Motorbike helmets: key info to look out for
UK: In the United Kingdom all motorcycle helmets worn on the UK roads must meet one of the following criteria:
1. British Standard BS 6658:1985 and carry the BSI Kitemark
2. UNECE Regulation 22.05
3. A European Economic Area member standard offering at least the same safety and protection as BS 6658:1985, and carry a mark equivalent to the BSI Kitemark
As such, when buying a motorbike helmet it is crucial that you identify its official marking. Never buy a helmet without one, as it is most likely illegal and could be lacking the most basic safety features. More information about UK helmet law can be found on the official UK Government website.
US: In the United States many states, but not all, require riders to wear a motorbike helmet. Certain states do not require a rider to wear a helmet at all, though.
The official safety standard to look out for is the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218.
Snell and ANSI labels located inside the helmet also show that the helmet meets the standards of those private, non-profit organizations.
These two markings are usually joined with the word "Certified" at the rear of the helmet. More information about U.S. helmet law can be found at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website.
In many ways, buying one of the best motorbike helmets on the market is an easy process. There are plenty of quality motorcycle helmet makers in business day, such as Arai, Shoei, AGV, Bell and Caberg who offer comprehensive ranges of head protection that fully comply with country laws and safety standards.
Indeed, it's true to say that you could, if you desired, randomly pick a helmet from their ranges and you'd be covered in terms of protection and it would be, in the most basic sense, job done. But, riding a motorbike is such a personal experience, an experience that can differ markedly depending on what sort of bike a user is riding and what they are doing with it, that to do this would be a disservice.
The best motorbike helmets not only legally protect your most valuable organ, your brain, but also offer a way to enhance a rider's riding experience in numerous positive ways, be that through their design, technology or features. They're personal and highly important pieces of biking gear, so anyone looking to pick up a helmet should take their time and absolutely make sure they end up with the perfect motorbike helmet for them.
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Which is why our motorbike riding team members at T3 (our fleet includes a Ducati Monster, Kawasaki Ninja 650, Honda CBR 500r and Yamaha MT-07) have used their collective expertise to pick six of what we consider to be the very best motorbike helmets on the market today.
We've got top picks from the very best manufacturers, including full face motorcycle helmets, open face motorbike helmets, flip-up varieties, touring specialists and track-day-ready race lids, too.
In terms of motorcycle helmet pricing, we believe here at T3 that if there is one piece of kit that you spend proper money on when gearing yourself up then it should be the motorbike helmet. You really just have to ask yourself one question: how much do I value my brain? Because that is what your motorbike helmet is there to protect.
As such, the helmets we recommend here are not the cheapest in their class on the market, but we're not interested in cheap, as cheap means the helmet might not be available in many shell sizes, and probably won't be made from the lightest materials. We feel these are premium quality helmets that will not only protect you to a very high level, but will also last and deliver riding experiences that spark joy.
What follows are the list of six motorbike helmets that T3 thinks are the best to buy in 2021, followed by some useful information on choosing the perfect motorcycle helmet for you, the different motorcycle helmet materials, and which helmet makers you should consider as the best in the business.
The best motorbike helmets of 2021
Our number one recommendation for the best motorbike helmet is the superb Arai Chaser X. This quality helmet can be worn on the track and on the road, and comes with Arai's new and improved visor system, which offers superior aerodynamics among other things.
Other notable standout tech includes a new ventilation system, which aims to imitate the diffuser on the far more expensive Arai RX 7V helmet, a sound deadening chin curtain and bar, as well as Arai's eco-pure interior, which is fully removable.
We like this helmet so much as it delivers premium build quality and features but does so at a price point that is still affordable to many bikers, as it is very firmly in the upper mid-range. It's also a helmet that is very versatile as it is both track and road ready. The helmet also comes with Arai's class 5-year warranty.
The Shoei Ryd is a super stylish sports helmet for road and track that retails in the lower mid-range price wise. Despite its affordable cost, though, it comes with a dump truck-load of features that even a MotoGP champion like Marc Marquez would appreciate.
The Ryd boasts an AIM shell with integrated shell spoiler, a double d ring closure, EQRS emergency cheek pad removal system, fully removable lining, multiple cooling vents and, naturally, a CWR Pinlock visor. The helmet is also intercom and Bluetooth ready.
In terms of pure design there are some really neat touches, too, such as how the top vents have been designed to look like horns. We're huge fans of the pure white finish here as well, which looks class.
This is the successor to the helmet that Ewan McGregor and his chum Charley Boorman wore on their epic "Long Way Down" motorcycle touring documentary, which saw the pair ride through 18 countries in Europe and Africa. This journey required both on and off road adventure riding and plenty of long-distance touring, so you can see how this upgraded model is perfect for adventure and touring.
And when you look at what the Arai Tour-X 4 delivers, you can see why it was chosen. The helmet boasts a super fibre laminate construction outer shell and triple density inner shell, while this model features improved ventilation ports, a removable DFS Type-M diffuser ventilation system, flatter neck roll to minimise turbulence and a new visor and peak holder pressure plate that is enlarged for greater stability.
As you would expect for such a helmet, it can be used peak or visor only, and the visor is both pinlock ready and comes with a pinlock insert included. There's also some strong emergency systems built in, with an emergency release tab releasing its cheek peg for easy removable.
Flip-up helmets aren't for every rider, but they are incredibly versatile. Our pick of the bunch is the Schuberth C3 Pro, which not only looks great but comes with a strong build quality and some advanced features.
The helmet is made from glassfibre reinforced with a Duroplast matrix composite shell. It also features a multi point adjustable ventilation system
with removable washable interior, a pinlock anti fog, anti scratch clear visor, and a micro-lock ratchet buckle.
The C3 Pro is also a comms master, coming with an integrated double antenna and SRCS certification, so if you do plenty of communal riding you're catered for.
Looking to cruise around on your café racer, scooter or cruiser at generally low speeds and want to match that with a retro look, open-face helmet? Well out pick is the stylish and affordable Bell Custom 500 Deluxe, which is based on the 1954 original but with modern safety features and build materials.
The helmet features a low-profile composite shell with anti-bacterial interior, multi density EPS liner and padded chin strap with D-ring closure. If you do want to add in a visor then the Custom 500 Deluxe also comes with an integrated 5 snap pattern for aftermarket shields & visors.
Rounding off the package, the Custom 500 Deluxe comes with a 5-year warranty, dark visor, peak and leatherette storage bag.
If you like the idea of touring a bit but will find yourself mainly riding short stretches on road and attending a few track days, then the AGV K5-S is a great sports tourer choice to consider.
The AGV K5-S's shell is made from carbon fibreglass, meaning it is super lightweight, while the helmet sports 5 vents at the front and 2 rear extractors (which can be toggled on or off) for superior ventilation.
There's also a rear spoiler integrated into the shell profile, a neck roll made of Shalimar fabric, cheek pads made from Ritmo fabric, a double D retention system, a removable nose guide and wind protector, as well as pinlock visor.
The K5-S is also ready for communication systems, which are good when touring in a group, and as this comes from AGV the helmet is available with lots of different graphics finishes.
How to choose the perfect motorcycle helmet for you
Picking the perfect motorbike helmet is, we think here at T3, a six stage process:
1. Decide on what helmet style you want
It may seem like a "well, duh!" question to ask yourself, but just how you are going to use your motorbike should have a large impact on what type of helmet you pick up. As too the style of motorcycle you are riding, however that is very firmly a secondary consideration.
Let's first deal with facts, though: there are three main types of motorcycle helmet, full face, open face and flip-up. Full face helmets offer the most protection, fully encasing your head in one, mechanism-free, piece of kit. Open face helmets offer the least protection of the three types, leaving the chin, jaw and mouth area uncovered. While flip-up helmets offer a balance between the two, offering both full face and open face modes.
In terms of ventilation, though, this ordering is roughly reversed, with open face helmets delivering the most ventilation, hybrids the next, and finally full face the least. Naturally, the environment and weather you will be riding in should be taken into account.
Next up to consider is the type of bike you are riding while wearing the helmet. Any helmet can, obviously, be worn with any bike, however if you are say, a track day fiend, then an open face or touring-focused flip-up are not ideal choices by a long stretch.
The simple fact of the matter is that certain bike styles lean towards certain motorbike helmet types. Cafe racers, scooters, and cruisers, for example, tend to suit open face helmets, while a touring or sports tourers tend to suit feature-packed flip-ups. While naked, sports, super sports and hyper sports should be ridden with full face helmets.
2. Figure out what size and shape your head is
This one is simple. Get out a tape measure, circle it around your head so that the band is resting on your forehead above your eyebrows and extending around the widest part of your skull. Then take a reading in centimetres.
Once this is achieved, get a family member, partner or friend to take a picture of your head from top down. This will allows you to see, roughly, what shape your head is. Head shapes tend to fall into one of three types: long oval (very egg shaped), intermediate oval (like a fat egg) or round oval (which is more spherical).
3. Pick your motorcycle helmet brand
Next up, pick your motorcycle helmet brand. The truth is that almost all motorbike helmet brands today offer a full range of helmets, so you'll be able to find a suitable one for your needs from most of them. A brands image and aesthetic, as well as brand association for you, should therefore be key in your decision making.
Price also factors into which brand you should choose of course, with premium brands like Arai and Shoei typically costing more than budget brands, but really from our experience certain helmet brands appeal to certain bikers, so choose your favourite.
4. Decide what extra features you want
Once you've got the brand chosen then try to work out what special features, if any, you need from your motorbike helmet. For example, do you need a d-ring or seatbelt style fastening? Do you need a pinlock-ready helmet? And what about an internal sun visor or potential for an in-helmet comms system?
There are many helmets today that offer these sorts of features, but they do tend to cost more, so if you have a limited budget to spend then try to prioritise the feature you want most and opt for that.
5. Choose your colourway
This is the fun part. Now you get to choose your helmet's colourway. Most helmets come in at least three colours, and most major models come in five or more. Special edition colourways can be nice, but often cost significantly more money, so think if that extra spend would be better spent on extra biking gear, rather than that flaming skull with python bursting from its mouth design.
6. Order your helmet
Lastly, it's time to order the helmet. Be sure to lodge your order with an online retailer who run a quality free returns policy, such as GetGeared or SportsBikeShop, as if you do need to return the helmet due to it being the incorrect size then you don't want to spend ages on the phone arguing your case, or have to shell out a returns fee.
We rate both the GetGeared and SportsBikeShop online stores at T3.com as they let you return any item that costs over £25 for free. So if you order a helmet and find you need a size up or down after initially trying it on, then within a few minutes you can have a free return arranged.
Best motorbike helmets 2021: motorcycle helmet materials
A very important part of any motorbike helmet is what materials it is made out of. This can have a huge impact on the amount of protection it offers, as well as how light and comfortable it is on the head. The material of choice can also dramatically effect the helmet's price, too. Here are the four most common motorcycle helmet materials.
1. Carbon fibre – Carbon fibre is the most advanced material that a motorbike helmet can be made out of. Thanks to its unique atomic formation and woven structure it is incredibly tough, as well as been extremely strong and light. As a result of this it is highly prized. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most expensive materials to be used in motorcycle helmets, and those that do use it tend to be very expensive.
2. Composite – Composite motorbike helmets are the most common on the market, as they are constructed from a range of materials including fiberglass, Kevlar, plastic, resins and carbon fibre. These materials are mixed or layered together to create a composite material that tends to be tough and light. These helmets tend to dominate the mid-range in terms of motorbike helmet price points.
3. Fibreglass – A very common material in motorbike helmets, but especially so in the budget and mid-range tiers, fiberglass offers a light weight, strong levels of protection, and high impact flexibility. This latter point is the most important as fibreglass is very good at absorbing and spreading out impacts. This can mean that less internal foam is needed in a fibreglass helmet, making it even lighter.
4. Thermoplastics – Thermoplastics are very common in motorbike helmet construction, being constructed out of plastic compounds. They are cheap to use and easy to handle, simply being heated up, poured into a mold, and then extracted once cool. Thermoplastics offer good strength and flexibility in terms of shock dissipation, but not as much as composite weave materials. As such, you tend to find predominantly thermoplastic helmets in the budget end of the motorcycle helmet market.
Motorbike helmets 2021: what are the best motorcycle helmet makers?
As we mentioned above, when it comes round to protecting our head, we think no expense should be spared, and only the most premium, well-made helmets should be considered. As a general rule, you should buy the absolute best motorcycle helmet you can afford to, and you should only consider premium manufacturers.