The search for your next helmet can be a daunting task. The helmet market is full of brands, styles and features to choose from. We’re here to help make your decision much easier. We will try and educate you and offer some recommendations to help you narrow down the best full face motorcycle helmet for your riding style and budget.
Your motorcycle helmet is the most important piece of protection you will buy. You need a lid that will make the miles comfortable. One that fits within your budget and does it’s most important job, protecting you.
What To Look For When Evaluating a Helmet
This is the meat and potatoes of any full face helmet. The inner impact absorbing foam or the EPS liner is generally the same over the entire helmet market. That leaves the shell. The hard outer shell of a helmet is designed to dissipate the force of an impact over a wide area. To do this, they must not crack or puncture. Full face helmets shells can be made with various materials. Yet they all basically fall into two categories, composite and thermoplastic.
These outer shells are constructed by placing layers of fiber strands in a perpendicular pattern over a pre-made mold. Other resins and fillers are added and then heated. The process gets repeated until a very strong weave pattern of material is achieved.
Fiberglass or carbon fiber are the materials commonly used in this process. Sometimes Kevlar gets mixed in as well. You can have one of the materials or a mix of them in a composite shell.
These materials are not cheap and the process is labor intensive. This will be reflected in the helmet’s price.
Composite helmets are lighter, stronger and have more flexibility.
Thermoplastic shells are made from simple oil based polymers. There are different variations of thermoplastic such as ABS, polycarbonate & lexan and advanced thermo resin. The difference in these variations is the cooling and hardening process and additives to the polymers. In thermoplastic construction the plastic is melted into liquid form and poured into a helmet shaped mould.
Although very safe, thermoplastic shells need more material to match the safety level of their composite counterpart. This makes thermoplastic helmets heavier and larger.
The advantage to the consumer is in its lower cost.
This is where you will feel and connect with your helmet. Its main job is to hold and keep your head from rotating in a crash. It’s also there to keep your oily, sweaty noggin away from the EPS foam so as to not degrade it. It’s always recommended to choose a helmet with a removable liner. This let’s you wash it and keep it fresh
Last but not least, we need to consider the face shield. This is here to keep stuff from hitting your face. Quality ones are polycarbonate. They are also part of SNELL certification as well.
The Selection Process
We poured over the details and specs of dozens of helmets. We also took customer feedback into account. After many hours of studying, we were left with a list of five helmets. These were broken down into price, overall quality, owner reaction, innovation and specific use. We feel the following helmets are the best for each category.
With the Shoei RF 1200 you are getting a helmet that we believe is the best full face helmet for the money. It sits in around that entry price point for a premium brand helmet . For that you are getting premium construction and features such as a pin lock visor. The helmet is rated for DOT as well as SELL M2010 so safety is well looked after here. It’s outer shell is composite. Constructed from a hand laid woven fiberglass, organic fibers and resins.
There are so many colors and graphics to choose from. Twenty two to be exact so there is a style for most everyone.
Customers loved its lightweight. At three pounds six ounces, it’s a very comfortable weight.
Fit is another strong point with owners. The comfort level is high and the fit is snug without feeling hard.
Riders also loved its ventilation. This translated into minimal to no fogging issues for the RF-1200.
A small amount of owners were put off by wind noise. This wasn’t a major complaint but it was noted.
After seven years on the market, The Shoei RF-1200 is tried and true to this day. This makes it our pick for best motorcycle helmet overall. Check out my in depth review here
Best Budget Conscious
Any helmet is always, any day, better than no helmet. If funds are tight the Bell Qualifier is well worth considering. At 3.2 pounds it’s light. That makes it comfortable as well.
It’s a polycarbonate shell and DOT rated of course so it is crash worthy. It comes in tons of colors so picking a style you’re happy with should be easy. We love the aggressive, clean looking style to the helmet.
Riders loved how comfortable this helmet is. And felt it ventilated very well
A great feature is the visor quick release. This makes swapping visors a breeze.
It also has speaker recesses which is excellent for its price point
Road noise was a bit of an issue for some.
For a sub $200 product the Bell Qualifier scores very high. Very stylish helmet for the price and our pick for the budget Conscious buyer.
If you are looking for the best of what’s out there and you’re not price sensitive, the Arai Corsair X has it all. Arai has been a leader in helmet design, construction and safety for decades. Arai’s philosophy has always been that the role of a helmet, first and foremost, is protection. We Tend to agree. The Corsair X is one of the safest motorcycle helmets you can buy. Therefore it’s the best premium priced helmet for us.
The Corsair X is an exceptionally comfortable helmet. The comfort liner and cheek pads incorporate tear away layers of foam. This allows for the perfect fit for pretty much anyone.
The helmet literally feels at one with our head.
The shape of the Corsair X is centered around safety. Its egg shaped shell is designed to turn any impact into as much of a glancing blow as possible. There aren’t any flat surfaces to its shape.
Ventilation is excellent with its brow vents incorporated into the visor. There are three more vents on top and a chin vent. Exhausting of the air is excellent. We’d even go as far to say that it makes a great hot climate helmet.
The rear spoiler is adjustable up and down to offer more downforce.
When safety is the number one standard, there will be a couple trade offs. The X is not considered the most aerodynamic helmet out there. No slouch on the track that’s for sure but there are others that handle the wind a bit better.
For its exceptional comfort and outstanding attention to safety the Corsair X will fit the needs of the track or street rider
Shark has been an innovator in the modular helmet game for some time. It all started with their Evoline of helmets years ago and has now evolved into its latest offering. The Evo-One 2. This helmet is for those who want the functionality of a modular helmet without the typical module look. The best thing about the Shark Evo-one 2 is that you can wear it with the chin bar up at speed. The innovative design puts the chain bar all the way to the back of the helmet as opposed to the top which can create a sail effect and is not recommended for riding at road speeds. This newest iteration in the Evo line makes going full face to quarter helmet easy. No more messing with the visor to achieve the change like the previous model. Everything is done in one motion. The new pivot mechanism puts the visor into its proper position as the chin bar makes its transition to the front.
Its thermo injected plastic shell comes in two shell sizes. It’s DOT certified, comes with a pin lock in the box and has a drop down sun visor. One really nice feature of the helmet is its bamboo comfort liner. It creates an above average, comfortable fit.
There are a few drawbacks with this design. Some owners feel it is quite loud. Some also complained of inadequate air flow when closed. No doubt the design creates these issues but most were happy that they had a helmet that could serve double duty.
We feel it’s a very cool design and worth a spot on our list.
Best Dual Sport
With the popularity of ADV bikes we had to include a dual sport helmet on our list.
We are going back to Arai with its XD-4 as our pick for the best in this segment.
The XD-4 might be the most famous ADV helmet out there. Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor each wore one in their famous round the world adventure, Long Way Round.
The Arai XD-4 isn’t a cheap helmet by any means. With its premium price tag you get a lot of helmet.
Fit shouldn’t be an issue for anyone. With 5mm tear away layers in the cheek pads and comfort liner, finding a custom fit is achievable for most.
Of course being an Arai, its shell is constructed of fiberglass and carbon fiber. This creates a lightweight ADV helmet coming in at 3.66 lbs.
Ventilation is fantastic with its plethora of chin vents. It has brow vents incorporated into the visor for more direct venting.
Being a true ADV helmet the XD-4 can be configured three different ways.
You can have the full ADV look with
the peak and face shield. You can get a street helmet by removing the peak for more high speed highway riding. And of course you can remove just the face shield to allow for goggles for true off road riding. Most owners raved about how comfortable and lightweight the XD-4 is. This is an important consideration as ADV riders tend to travel long distances.
Another plus for many riders is the low noise level of the helmet even with the peak on.
For its advanced safety rating the XD-4 gets the nod in this segment.
Whatever your particular needs may be, you can’t go wrong with any of these helmets.
For its price, safety, comfort and tried and true customer satisfaction over many years, the Shoei RF-1200 gets our nod for best motorcycle helmet overall. Besides the subjective noise complaints, there is almost nothing to find fault with here.
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