There are more types of helmets than perhaps any other type of motorcycle equipment; sports or touring; open or full-face; modern or retro. However, regardless of what you choose, they all have the same basic task – protect your head and brain in the event of a fall off your bike.
All should be approved either to the current ECE22.05 or the new ECE22.06 standards for legal use on British roads. Visors are approved as part of the overall helmet unless the helmet is not supplied with one, in which case you need goggles that are also approved with shatterproof lenses.
And while the ECE standards are the basics, you can use the government testing scheme to see how much protection and how safe different helmets are.
After that though, the choice is ultimately up to you. Some favour the retro look and feel of an open-face helmet – they can look cool on retro style bikes or for commuters using the ‘Jet’ type but be aware they offer less protection to the face than a full-face helmet.
Others like flip-front helmets for the convenience they offer – flip the front up to take a drink, eat something, chat with people or in case we ever get to the position where you need to for identification at say a petrol station (though with modern face coverings necessary, this may not be back for a while).
Related: Best helmet cameras
Others prefer full-face, either sporty (lightweight with higher visor aperture for vision from a racing tuck) or touring (quieter and with a lower visor for a more upright riding style).
Maybe you need an off-road lid with a peak to keep the sun – and other riders’ muck – away from your visor? Maybe you want to listen to music or use your phone but don’t want to have to fit a separate intercom to it?
There is something out there for everyone. So let’s have a look at some of our favourites.
The budget one
Agrius Rage SV
You would never think that a helmet for less than £65 could be any good but it is - very good. It has a polycarbonate shell so it's heavier than some of its counterparts, but it gets four SHARP stars for safety out of a possible five.
It’s comfortable, vents are reasonable though the chin could be better and it has a drop-down sun visor as well as a Pinlock-ready main visor. I’ve tried one of these and was impressed with it. It’s great protection and great value.
• Excellent value
• Four SHARP stars
• Range of designs
• Chin vent could be better
The sporty one
SHARK Spartan GT Carbon
When it comes to sporty helmets, light is best and for lightness, you can't do better than carbon fibre. This helmet from SHARK uses a carbon shell with aerodynamic spoilers at the rear for stability at higher speeds.
Airflow comes from the chin and top vents as well as two exhaust vents at the rear and in addition to the clear visor, there is a direct-action sun visor activated by a slider on the top of the head. It comes in two shell sizes and is equipped with a double D-ring fastening.
• Large visor aperture
• Aerodynamically stable
• Can be noisier than others
The everyday one
Also read: Shoei GT-Air II review
There's a lot to be said for a helmet that works on just about every bike and in almost every condition and the Shoei RYD is just that. In fact, it is my go-to helmet, thanks to low noise levels and weight and immense comfort.
It has a plush interior, gets five SHARP stars for safety and comes with a Pinlock anti-fog insert in the box. The only downside is no drop-down sun visor (this keeps it small) but you can get tinted or photo-chromatic visors.
• Five SHARP stars for safety
• No drop-down sun visor
The latest-spec one
The Quantic is the first, and not just from Arai but the first overall, helmet on the market to be approved to the new ECE22.06 standard, which all new helmets will need to match.
This adds rotational tests and ratings to the more traditional linear-impact testing process since rotational forces have been found to contribute to a significant number of brain injuries. This helmet features Arai’s ‘glancing off’ design style and like all of the brand’s lids, has no sun visor – it feels it compromises strength.
• First helmet to new ECE22.06 standard
• Extensive venting options
• Aero-spoiler for stability
• No drop-down sun visor
The flip-up one
SHARK Evo GT
There are lots of flip-front helmets around and most simply lift the chin-bar up and deposit it above your brow. Depending on whether it is duel-homologated or not, you may be able to ride with it locked open or only with it shut.
However, riding with the chin-bar up can be uncomfortable and a bit dodgy. This one from SHARK though sees the chin-bar rotate over the top of the helmet and park at the back. Looks a bit weird but it is fully open if it’s warm for loads of airflow or a proper – albeit it slightly wider than normal – full-face when shut.
• Open as a full ‘jet’ style helmet
• More comfortable and safer when open
• 'Normal' full face when closed
• Wider than normal full-face so slightly noisier
The off-road one
Nolan N70-2 X
This helmet from Nolan is a really versatile number for road and off-road. Firstly, the peak comes off really easily by hand (one screw and two clips) so you can use it on the road to and from off-road excursions without the buffeting you sometimes get.
It has a vast visor aperture for a great view of the road as well as the ground ahead of the bike for off-road riding and the chin bar can be removed for additional airflow. The visor can also be removed for use with goggles and it has a drop-down sun visor for road use.
• Removable chin-bar for cooling air flow
• Removable peak
• Enormous visor aperture
• A bit heavier than others
The gnarly one
Years ago, when the Simpson Bandit began to appear in motorsport, particularly in America, people began to wear them on motorcycles as their aggressive styling, which earned them the nickname 'Stormtrooper' after the Star Wars characters, made them favourites with riders of rat bikes or customs.
Sensing an opportunity, the manufacturer began to produce proper helmets approved to the ECE22.05 standard for motorcyclists and the result is the Venom, that apes the Bandit styling but with complete safety for riders – in fact, it gets four SHARP stars for safety.
• Aggressive styling
• Four star safety
• Drop-down sun visor
• Not for everyone
The retro one
Bell Moto 3
The popularity of retro bikes has led to a similar phenomenon for retro clothing, including helmets and this one from Bell is a classic design style built with thoroughly modern tech.
It is built from fibreglass in a retro motocross style and comes with a removable peak as well as a deep chin bar and a large aperture ready for off-road style goggles (available separately). The liner is also removable for washing and it features a double D-ring fastening for the right fit every time.
• Super-cool retro style
• Removable peak
• Large aperture for goggles
• Won’t suit every bike or outfit
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