I love helmets. I love the graphics and shiny paint. I love how cool they look with a tinted visor. The shape of them. Everything.
It’s easy to get carried away and purchase one based on eye candy. We need to remember they serve a very important purpose. To protect our head in a crash. Let’s see what the safest motorcycle helmet is.
If you are in a hurry and want to know my pick for the safest motorcycle helmet, it’s the
You have DOT, SNELL and ECE for much of Europe. Your head should be in a helmet with at least one of these stickers on it. If it has more than one, even better.
There is a relative newcomer on the motorcycle helmet rating scene. It’s called SHARP and it’s out of the UK. They test helmets specified for the European market. They base some of their research on European crash data obtained from an extensive study called the Cost 327 Study. They don’t test to a standard. They rate how a helmet performs during impacts on various areas of the helmet. They use a color code system of very good to poor on those areas then give a one to five star rating. Some of their ratings will surprise you.
Each motorcycle helmet rating standard or system has its pros and cons. Neither, on its own, is 100% definitive on the absolute safety of a helmet in all crash scenarios.
Regardless of that, there is value in the ratings. They do denote safe motorcycle helmets. It gives us an overview in general terms that we can expect a good level of protection from certified helmets. Certainly much more than a knock off helmet with fake stickers that you can find at a flea market for 25 bucks.
I like the SHARP rating system from a consumer standpoint. It’s a simple way to see how each helmet rates according to their impact testing. As consumers we are accustomed to five star ratings systems. We can quickly obtain the data we are looking for.
The system has its opponents though. Some feel it’s disingenuous to over simplify something as complex as crash data. Also its heavily focused on European data in European spec helmets. That’s okay for Europe but here in North America we need to take it with a slight grain of salt.
Despite its shortcomings, the SHARP system is simple way to help determine the overall safety of a helmet. Until a better system is available SHARP is useful.
Both are safe but composite is stronger and lighter. Keep in mind that being light isn’t just for comfort. Less weight means less mass on impact and less torque on your neck.
Composite will also disperse the energy of an impact over a larger area. Thermoplastic will as well but it can also crack as opposed to shatter into a spider web like pattern. With a crack, you are asking the inner foam to do more work than with the energy more dispersed.
We can’t talk about the safest helmet and have any open face helmets or brain bucket type helmets in the conversation.
It’s a fact that the chin bar of a full face helmet records more than half of accident impacts according to one study.
With this in mind I excluded any open face helmet.
Modular helmets tend to have an issue as well. The flip up mechanism can create a weak link in the design. For this reason I didn’t include any.
Safest Motorcycle Helmet
Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room first. This helmet is expensive.
I included it here because, well, it’s a bloody safe helmet.
This is a race oriented helmet but it’s more street oriented than the AGV Pista GP-R. The Corsa R carries a lot of the Pista’s DNA
It comes in four shell sizes which makes finding the all important correct fit easier for most.
Its shell is made of a composite blend of fiberglass, aramid and carbon fiber. It scores a five star rating on the UK SHARP rating system. It’s also DOT and ECE rated
It has a 5mm optically correct face shield as opposed to a 3mm. That means it’s a beefy shield which I like.
Incorporated into its neck roll are emergency removable cheek pads. EMS can pull tabs that remove the pads to allow easier removal of the helmet in case of an accident. This reduces the chances of further potential injury.
The Corsa-R is a very quiet helmet. This is important when on the track or on the road. It’s one less distraction to break your concentration.
When it comes to overall safety the AGV Corsa-R is as good as it gets in the helmet market. This level of engineering is reflected in its price. If the safest is what you want, then this should be on your list.
Safest Entry Level Price Point Helmet
The HJC IS-17 proves that price doesn’t always equate to the level of safety offered. The IS-17 scores a perfect five star rating in the SHARP rating system. There are plenty of more expensive lids that fail to boast this feat.
The HJC is a surprisingly light helmet especially considering its polycarbonate shell construction. Of note is that it’s for those with an intermediate head shape. With the safety of any helmet dependent on fit, an intermediate head will get the best fit.
The” IS” in its name stands for internal sun visor. I find sun visors can be an important safety feature. Anyone who has ridden west at sunset can agree that having a sunshade is a god send. I wish the spring loaded retraction mechanism of the shade was a little more robust. I feel over time it may not operate smoothly.
The helmet carries only a DOT rating sticker. SNELL and ECE are reputable standards to have but i feel confident in the SHARP five star rating that you are getting a safe helmet. Remember, these standards don’t tell the whole story.
The HJC’s design is not aggressive. It’s a design that will suit any style of bike really.
If affordability is a concern, fear not. The IS-17 should have you feeling confident that you are well protected when you are out on the road.
Safest Mid Price Point Helmet
The Bell Star lineup of helmets has been around for quite some time. The Star MIPS is the entry level of the lineup behind the Race and the Pro Star. Having said that, it is DOT, SNELL 2015 and a perfect five stars in SHARP. It also includes Bell’s MIPS system. This is brought over from their motocross line. MIPS stands for Multi directional Impact Protection. What it is, is a thin, polyurethane plastic that is floating between the EPS foam and the comfort liner. What it does is reduces rotational energy transfer to your head during a crash. It allows the helmet to rotate just enough so that all that energy is not transferred to your brain. This can be really bad. Think of it as an added shock absorber for rotational forces.
The shell is a composite construction of carbon, aramid and fiberglass. Not bad for the entry level of the lineup and a mid price point overall! Having said that I feel it is a bit on the heavy side but that’s relatively speaking. Its weight is in line with many polycarb lids.
One thing that I like about the Star is the shell sizes available. Six to be exact. That’s crazy! That means finding the safest fit should be no problem to most.
The Star MIPS has a really wide face shield cut out. This allows for a better field of view on shoulder checks.
For a helmet in this mid level price point, it packs a big punch in the safety department. Weather on the track or on the road the Bell Star MIPS should give you confidence that your brain is in good hands
I included three helmets in this roundup. I could have included more. I stuck to three because I wanted to be true to the mission. I believe that most people fall into one of these three budget category. I feel given their specs and features, if safety is your number one priority, these three helmets should meet your needs.
Having said that, manufacturers today are light years ahead in safety R&D then they were even 10 years ago. With the plethora of crash data available today, manufacturers are making most helmets really well in terms of safety today.
I really like what Bell has done with its MIPS system. To have that level of safety incorporated into a mid level helmets is something I applaud manufacturers for. Also to have the amount of shell sizes the Bell Star offers is a thoughtful measure id like to see more manufactures do.
If I was a hard core track rider, the AGV Corsa-R is what I would be investing in.
For everyday road usage the Bell Star MIPS would be my go to over the HJC-IS 17 just from the refinement stand point. Having said that, if money was tight, the HJC would win my dollars for its safety over others
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