Choosing the right helmet for you can be tough, not to mention confusing, but we’re here to help
Motorcycle helmets are a serious business, because not only are they legally required in most states, but they’re also the single most important piece of riding gear you can wear to help ensure your survival in a motorcycle crash. Not all helmets are the same, just as not all heads are the same, so finding the right size, shape, and style is super important but not always easy.
We’re here to help make two of those choices a little simpler. Learning how to properly measure your head for a helmet is up to you, but it’s critical that you do it correctly to ensure the best and safest fit.
Our recommendations are based on personal experience, safety certifications, user reviews, and sales data, and should provide you with plenty of information to confidently buy your next helmet. Make sure to read on afterward for helpful tips when shopping for your next motorcycle helmet.
Best motorcycle helmet for the street
So, you’re an average motorcycle rider with an average-shaped head, riding a street bike and you want an all-around helmet that’s going to work well in 99% of situations to make you feel safe and comfortable, but which helmet do you buy? Well, if you’ve got a medium-sized budget, you get the Shoei RF-1400.
The RF-1400 is a rare helmet that offers great protection with a Snell 2020 rating, tons of sizes with lots of shell sizes to maximize comfort and minimize weight, as well as great looks and good ventilation. If someone is looking for a helmet and they don’t know what to buy, this is our favorite starting point.
Best motorcycle helmet for the street runner-up
When most people think of AGV, they probably don’t think of affordably priced helmets designed for everyday riding, and yet, that’s just what it came out with when it debuted the K6. It’s a $500 full-face helmet with four shell sizes, most of which come in at under 3 pounds. The K6 is ECE certified and even comes with a Pinlock insert in the box. It’s also super handsome and available in a bunch of colors and graphic designs.
The only reason it doesn’t beat out the Shoei is its ventilation scheme. The K6 has plenty of vents, but they’re small and some testers found them a little fiddly to open with gloves on. That’s it. We even like the face shield change mechanism better than Shoei’s.
Best motorcycle helmet for long-oval heads
Not all heads are created equally, and while different-sized domes are something that everyone considers when buying a helmet, differently shaped heads might not be. Arai has thought of that and offers a pair of helmets with identical features, but for different head shapes.
Most Americans have what’s called an intermediate oval head shape. That’s what most helmet manufacturers cater to, but your author was blessed with not only a giant noggin, but one that’s a longer oval shape. This means that regular helmets create hot spots, mostly on the forehead, but the long oval shape of the Signet-X gets rid of that completely.
The Signet-X features Arai’s hand-laid complex weave shell, round shell shape for impact deflection, and micro-adjustable cheek pads. It’s got removable padding all around, including an emergency cheek pad removal system for EMTs to use if a motorcyclist has been in a crash. It comes with a Pinlock insert and carries the Snell M2020 certification for safety.
Best motorcycle helmet for round-oval heads
So, as we’ve established, the best motorcycle helmet caters to the intermediate oval head shape, and the Arai Signet-X covers the long oval, but what are you supposed to do if you have a more rounded head shape? Arai Helmets has you covered, too, with its Quantum-X helmet. It’s identical to the Signet-X from features and certification standpoint, but because a proper-fitting helmet is key for crash safety and comfort, round-heads should look here.
Best modular or flip-front motorcycle helmet
Schuberth C4 Pro Carbon
Ahh, modular helmets. Best known as the helmets that many adventure touring motorcycle riders and police officers wear. A modular helmet seeks to bridge the gap between the safety of a full-face helmet and the convenience of an open-face helmet (which we DO NOT recommend). This is done by allowing a rigid chin bar to lift up at the push of a button. This makes it easy to get some air when you’re stopped or to talk to someone without needing a communication device.
The Schuberth C4 Pro Carbon isn’t cheap but what it lacks in value, it makes up for in silence and technology. It’s got a very round carbon outer shell that adds strength and reduces weight. It’s got a massive visor that is easy to remove without tools. It comes pre-wired for an integrated communication system, and because it’s a Schuberth, wind noise isn’t a problem being just about the quietest helmet you can buy. Is an expensive modular helmet a necessity for everyone? Nope, but it sure is convenient.
Best modular or flip-front motorcycle helmet runner-up
AGV Sportmodular Carbon
AGV’s Sportmodular is one of the lightest and most aerodynamic modular helmets on the market. That lightness comes from the use of full carbon fiber construction — including the chin bar — and all the metal used on the helmet is titanium. It doesn’t even look like a modular helmet when the face is closed and that’s pretty cool.
The Sportmodular isn’t cheap at around $800, but for that money, you get a great shield change mechanism, smart ventilation, a drop-down sun visor, and a Pinlock insert in the box. It’s likely going to be a bit louder than the quiet-focused Schuberth, but that also means it’s likely to breathe better and be a better lid for warmer climates.
Best adventure or ADV motorcycle helmet
Adventure bikes are the Swiss Army knives of the motorcycle world. They’re comfortable and powerful for long-distance touring, they have enough ground clearance and suspension travel to make off-road riding possible, and they’re even pretty handy on a twisty canyon road, for the most part. That versatility means that a motorcycle rider is likely going to find themselves in a bevy of situations, so you’re going to want a versatile helmet to match. Enter the adventure helmet.
Adventure helmets share traits of road-focused helmets like face shields and a more quiet-focused design, with increased airflow over a road-biased helmet. The inherent compromise of an adventure helmet can lead to heavy lids and weird ergonomics, but the Krios does a good job splitting the difference. It’s light, thanks to strong prepreg carbon fiber construction and we’ll be damned if it doesn’t look really cool, too.
Best dirt motorcycle helmet
When it comes to riding in the dirt, you’re going to want a very different helmet than you would if you were riding on the street, and that’s for a few reasons. First of all, overall speeds on a dirt bike off-road are lower, so having more ventilation in a helmet (which normally comes with a compromise in quietness) is important. Nobody wants a super sweaty head. Secondly, the types of crashes you’re likely to have off-road are very different than those you’ll have on the pavement. With a crash on the dirt, you’re likely to experience more rotation of your head and neck thanks to the uneven terrain, but the overall energy of the crash is likely to be lower because of the lower overall speeds. This means that systems like Bell’s MIPS or Shoei’s EVO system in dirt bike helmets that allow an internal EPS foam liner to move independently of the shell are great for preventing injury.
That’s why the Shoei VFX-EVO dirt helmet is so interesting. It has that independently moving liner and also uses Shoei’s top-tier AIM Plus construction for maximum impact protection. The helmet is lightweight at just over 3.5 pounds and has tons of ventilation. It’s also DOT and Snell certified which means it’s legal for road use. It’s not cheap as far as dirt helmets go, but neither were those two years of community college, so it’s probably worth the money.
Best vintage-style or cafe racer motorcycle helmet
Vintage motorcycles are cool, as are vintage-looking modern cafe racers like the Triumph Thruxton or the Royal Enfield Continental GT. Vintage safety equipment, however, isn’t cool. Technology has moved on significantly over the years and while we totally get the urge to have vintage-looking gear for your vintage-looking motorcycle in order to look as cool as possible, you now have the option of getting a helmet that brings retro looks with modern safety. Our favorite of these is the X3000 from the Italian firm AGV.
The X3000 is made from modern composite fiberglass technology and has a classic shape that Giacomo Agostini took to 15 GP championships during his career — including a little cut-out in the chin bar to let him put his chin on his motorcycle’s fuel tank at speed. Like most vintage-look helmets, it’s light on ventilation and features but heavy on quality materials like leather and suede. There are several colors including a limited-edition Agostini tribute model and while more expensive than some other retro-look options, it won’t break the bank and should help prevent you from breaking your skull in a crash.
Best vintage-style or cafe racer motorcycle helmet runner-up
Bell’s Bullitt is arguably the motorcycle helmet that kicked off the vintage-look helmet craze and it’s pretty easy to see why. That round shell shape and massive visor scream 1960s racer and its huge variety of colors and finishes — including carbon fiber — means there’s probably a Bullitt for everyone.
It’s not all sunshine and roses for the Bullitt, though. Like most vintage-style helmets, it’s loud and doesn’t ventilate that well. Its massive eyeport looks cool but takes away from the rigidity of the helmet, leaving it with a not-so-hot side-impact score from the SHARP testing organization in the UK. The Bullitt carries both DOT and ECE certifications.