Best open-face motorcycle helmets

For many, an open-face motorcycle helmet is the ultimate in wind-in-the-hair riding.

Motorbike rider with open face helmet

by Jim Blackstock |

We’ve all seen plenty of movies and TV shows – most notably from across the Pond – where motorcyclists wear open-face helmets and are bathed in glorious warm sunlight as they ride care-free along billiard-smooth tarmac, often with a rolling ocean over their shoulder. But while a Tuesday commute into Swindon may not be quite so romantic, an open-face helmet can make a day-to-day ride a bit more enjoyable.

In a full-face helmet, your head obviously has the best protection possible; it is completely encased within the material of the helmet and with the exception of the visor aperture, there is no way any foreign material can enter. However, you are completely insulated from the outside world and for some, this is a step too far.

A flip-front helmet adds a degree of flexibility, in that you can open the flip when stopped to have a drink or a bite to eat or simply for a bit of air and some allow you to also ride with the flip open (if they are dual – P and J – homologated). Look for a tab on the chin-strap to be sure.

Shark’s Evo line (and latterly, LS2’s Valiant model) take this one step further, with a folding chin-bar that rolls all the way over the top of the helmet to the back, effectively turning a full-face into an open-face (or more accurately, a ‘Jet’-style – an open face helmet with a full visor, popular on the Continent particularly for commuters.)

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But if you want the genuine impression of the wind on your face, then an open-face helmet is the way to go. Generally, these will be particularly well suited to classic or retro-style motorcycles, as trying to get into hyperspace on a superbike or going off-road on an adventurer is likely to be a fairly uncomfortable experience.

You need to be aware that you are far more exposed in an open-face than a full-face or flip with the front closed. Your chin and face are uncovered and this is why they are generally used for low-speed riding. You also need to include some form of eye protection – little will ruin a ride more than hitting a wasp head-on at 50mph or a bit of grit kicked up from the road landing in your eye.

Like any helmet, all open-face (or Jet) lids should conform to ECE22.05 though you are unlikely to see them rated for safety by SHARP, the UK government testing scheme, since they do not protect the chin. However, if you want to get your motor running and head out on the highway, then one of these may suit.

Viper Slim Fit

Viper Slim Fit
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Made by Viper, who produce some decent kit at great value, this basic open-face helmet is decorated in cool u2018Route 66u2019 graphics for a proper retro feel. Reviews suggests it is more slim fit than some would like and it comes up small, so consider going up a size but thereu2019s no denying it would look great as you ride a cruiser or retro on a sunny evening ride. The shell is made in u2018thermo-resinu2019 and it comes with a removable peak and a goggles-retaining strap at the back.

Shoei J.O

Shoei J.O
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Available in a range of cool colours and starting at £299.99 for the base colour and going up to £349.99 for liveried lids, the J.O is made using the same design ethos as the rest of Shoeiu2019s range. The shell is formed in the brandu2019s AIM (Advanced Integrated Matrix) and comes in three sizes so the correct size for the head doesnu2019t become ungainly.

It features a classic America design with straight sidelines and it comes with a manually-adjustable visor to protect the eyes. It also has a goggle loop at the rear and the lining is removable for washing.

Shark Heritage

Shark Heritage

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This open-face from French manufacturer Shark has a bit more of a modern design to it, with the lower sections of the side pieces turning towards the front of the face, similar to a flip-front helmet when the flip is open. This means it works like an open-face with the wind flow but offers more protection than a more classic design.

It is formed with a fibreglass shell in two sizes and comes with an interior made from bamboo. It has a clear drop-down visor for protection and uses a double-D ring fastening to ensure the right fit every time. It will also accept the Sharktooth communications system.

HJC FG-70s

HJC FG-70s
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You donu2019t get much more retro than a black open-face helmet with flames painted on it. Yet you donu2019t get much more modern than this HJC helmet, which uses a shell made from Kevlar and fibreglass composite and a Silver Cool Plus lining that is designed to keep the head cool when the weather gets warm.

The cheek and crown pads are removable for washing and there is a pull-down sun visor to protect the eyes. There is also a goggle loop at the rear for those who prefer them and there are poppers located on the front for an aftermarket peak for the full scrambler effect.

LS2 Bob Carbon

LS2 Bob Carbon
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The LS2 Bob takes retro styling and brings it bang up to date, with this carbon-skinned open-face design (a non-carbon version is also available at £119.99). The carbon skin keeps strength high and weight low and the Bob Carbon comes in at 850g +/- 50g, according to the manufacturer.

It comes with a pull-down sun visor and is supplied with a peak, which can be removed and re-attached using the poppers. It has a double-D ring fastening and a goggle loop as well.

Duchinni D501 Garage

Duchinni D501 Garage

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Hailing from the Mod era (if you donu2019t know what that is, ask your dad), this open-face-design helmet from Duchinni continues the brandu2019s ethos of performance and value, costing less than £70. The shell is formed from ABS plastic and the lining is fully removable and washable.

It uses a seat-belt-style buckle and there is a pull-down sun visor to protect the eyes though there is also a loop to retain goggles for those who prefer them. The lower sections of the sides protrude slightly further forward than traditional open-face helmets to offer a little more protection to the chin and it’s finished in black and green or black and orange.

MT Le Mans

MT Le Mans

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The Le Mans from MT Helmets is another classic open-face helmet that is available for less than £70 and comes in a range of colour schemes, including this awesome skulls u2018nu2019 roses. It uses a multi-density EPS line to stop the helmet from getting too large with excessive side padding and the interior features faux leather to further add to the retro look and feel. It has a pull-down visor for protection and uses a seat-belt-style buckle for quick and easy fixing and release. It also has poppers so you can add an (optional) peak.

Arai Freeway

Arai Freeway

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Available in a range of finishes and prices (up to £349.99) my favourite is the Classic Union, currently on sale at Motocentral for £246.83. It has a touch of the classic 1960s British Racing Green to it and harks back to a bygone era of motorcycling and racing.

It is made using ‘Standard’ fibre construction – Arai’s Fibre Complex Laminate Construction (FCLC) and has a triple density liner for safety and comfort. The interior features genuine leather for a more authentic retro look and feel and there is a standard or a sun-visor peak available as an option. It has a goggle loop at the back and fastens with a double-D ring.

Bell Cruiser Scout Air

Bell Cruiser Scout Air

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Even more open than the other open-face helmets here, this example from Bell is in the Harley-cruiser style famous in America. It has a high-cut back section to allow air around the neck as well as the face and a built-in sculpted peak to direct airflow.

There are five sizes of shell and five inner liners, creating a perfect fit without the helmet becoming too large and it is certified to both the DOT (American) and ECE (European) standards. It also comes with two snap-in visors to create a more ‘Jet’-style helmet for protected use.

Shark Street Drak

Shark Street Drak

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The Shark Street Drak is an aggressive open-face helmet aimed at riders of u2018streetfightersu2019 and uses a pair of removable u2018gogglesu2019 and a face mask to turn from what looks like a full-face helmet to a fully open face, with an intermediate position of the goggles and face mask raised, like a flip-front helmet.

This allows the addition of top vents in the thermoplastic shell for a cooler ride and with two shell sizes, it should be easy to get the right fit. It uses a microlock buckle and is ready for the Sharktooth communications system.

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