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Few things are more thrilling than exploring the freedom of the open road on your motorcycle. While we tend to focus on the fun and excitement of riding a motorcycle, riding comes with a great deal of responsibility.
There is always an element of danger that comes with the territory, and it’s up to you to be vigilant and ensure that you’re doing everything you can to stay safe when you ride. The most critical piece of safety equipment for any motorcyclist will always be a helmet. But, with so many types and styles on the market, how can you be sure you’re making a safe choice?
Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the safest motorcycle helmets on the market now. We’ll also cover everything you need to know to make the best and safest choice for you.
At a Glance: Our Top Picks for Safest Motorcycle Helmets
- OUR TOP PICK: Shoei RF-SR
- RUNNER-UP: HJC 582-614 IS-17
- BEST BUDGET OPTION: Scorpion EXO-R420
Comparison of the Best Safest Motorcycle Helmets
Our Top Pick
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Best Budget Option
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How Should a Motorcycle Helmet Fit For Safety?
A secure fit is the most crucial aspect of selecting a motorcycle helmet.
Start by taking a rough measurement of the circumference of your head. Use a measuring tape and measure around your head just above your eyebrows. Then, take a look at the size charts provided by different manufacturers to get a rough idea of which size helmet you wear from each brand.
A properly fitting helmet will have no gaps at any point in the helmet, but it shouldn’t be too tight, either. When you try and rotate your helmet while it’s on your head, your cheeks should move with it. If the helmet can move freely, or if it slips when you rotate it, it’s a poor fit, and you should size down.
How Does a Motorcycle Helmet Work to Protect You?
All motorcycle helmets work in two ways to help protect a rider in the event of a crash.
First, the helmet's hard outer shell helps to disperse the impact of the crash over a larger surface area than if your head was unprotected. Without a helmet, the crash impact is concentrated in the area where your head makes contact with another surface, resulting in catastrophic injury. But with a helmet, that impact is dispersed across the surface of the helmet instead of the point of impact.
A helmet also works to protect you by prolonging the duration of impact using protective foam. By extending the impact by fractions of a second, you reduce the peak force that the impact generates, allowing your head to absorb less energy.
Motorcycle Helmet Safety Standards
Several different organizations evaluate motorcycle helmets' safety and effectiveness, and they can be helpful as you search for the safest helmet. Let’s take a closer look at these organizations and the certifications they provide to better understand what they mean.
What Does DOT Stand For On Motorcycle Helmets?
DOT refers to the Department of Transportation. As it pertains to motorcycles, DOT certification refers to FMVSS218, which is the technical certification given to a helmet when it meets specific safety criteria.
DOT certification is conducted by the manufacturer in their labs, and it’s easier to pass than the credentials provided by the Snell Foundation.
What is Snell Rating For Motorcycle Helmets?
Named for race car driver Pete Snell, the Snell Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides safety testing for motorsport safety gear. Their testing criteria are stringent, and it’s the most demanding certification for safety equipment manufacturers to achieve.
Unlike DOT certification, manufacturers must send their equipment to the Snell Foundation, where it’s tested on various criteria for safety and impact resistance. Helmets that carry certification from the Snell Foundation are generally the safest options on the market.
What is ECE Certification on a Helmet?
ECE certification is provided by the Economic Commission of Europe, and over 50 European countries recognize it. Helmets carrying ECE certification meet the ECE 22.05 standard.
This certification is the newest certification, and it’s more comprehensive than DOT certification. It’s worth noting that this is a European standard, and motorcycle crashes in Europe typically occur at much slower speeds than crashes in America. In consideration of that, the way helmets are tested is quite different. While there are more aspects involved in ECE testing, helmets that pass the tests may not be as impact resistant as those certified by the DOT or Snell Foundation.
Review of the Safest Motorcycle Helmets
Now that you’re armed with some vital knowledge, let’s take a closer look at some of the safest motorcycle helmets on the market.
Shoei RF-SR Helmet Specs
- Type of Helmet: Full-face
- Materials Used: Multi-Ply Matrix AIM+ shell and Dual-Layer, Multi-Density EPS liner
- Brand: Shoei
- Type: Full
- Certifications: DOT, Snell
- Clasp Type: Buckle
- Weight: 5 pounds
What Types of Activities is the Shoei RF-SR Helmet Best For?
This versatile helmet is designed for street riding, but it’s just as at home for other applications as well. The design and vent scheme of this helmet lends itself well to riders with an upright riding style.
Safety Features of the Shoei RF-SR Helmet
The RF-SR is equipped with Shoei’s renowned AIM+ shell, which blends carbon fiber, resin, and specialized plastics to make one of the market's safest shells. It also has an emergency release system that allows EMS to remove the helmet without affecting the rider’s neck.
What Are the Components of the Shoei RF-SR Helmet?
- Ventilation System
The RF-SR has three adjustable intakes and two exhaust outlets.
- CWR-1 Shield
A UV-protective shield equipped with the Pinlock EVO fog-resistance system. The QR-E base allows for fast shield changes, and the ratcheting dial allows for fine-tuning.
- Comfort Liner
The removable liner is fully adjustable and washable, and it provides unparalleled comfort and helmet stability.
HJC 582-614 IS-17
HJC 582-614 IS-17 Helmet Specs
- Type of Helmet: Full Face
- Materials Used: Polycarbonate, multi-density EPS foam
- Brand: HJC
- Type: Full
- Certifications: DOT
- Clasp Type: Ratchet
- Weight: 4.95 pounds
What Types of Activities is the HJC 582-614 IS-17 Helmet Best For?
This helmet is best suited for street riding, but it’s versatile enough to be used for other applications, too.
Safety Features of the HJC 582-614 IS-17 Helmet
The APCS shell uses CAD design to create an exceptionally secure and protective shell with a multi-layer EPS liner for impact protection. This helmet meets DOT standards.
What Are the Components of the HJC 582-614 IS-17 Helmet?
- One-Touch Sun Shield
The shield offers 95% UV-protection, and it’s smoke tinted for riding in sunny conditions.
- ACS Vents
Advanced Channeling System allows for full front and back airflow through the helmet.
- SuperCool Interior
Anti-bacterial interior lining wicks away moisture to keep you comfortable while you ride.
Best for the Money:
Scorpion EXO-R420 Helmet Specs
- Type of Helmet: Full-face
- Materials Used: Polycarbonate, multi-layer EPS
- Brand: Scorpion
- Type: Full
- Certifications: DOT and Snell
- Clasp Type: Double D-ring
- Weight: 3.8 pounds
What Types of Activities is the Scorpion EXO-R420 Helmet Best For?
This helmet is for street riding, although it could also be used for other applications, such as off-road or racing as well.
Safety Features of the Scorpion EXO-R420 Helmet
The EXO-R420 from Scorpion features their patented LG polycarbonate shell and a multi-layer EPS foam system. This helmet meets both DOT and Snell certification standards.
What Are the Components of the Scorpion EXO-R420 Helmet?
- Aero-Tuned Design
Ram-Air intake provides unparalleled airflow to keep riders cool.
- EverClear Face Shield
The shield is treated with anti-fog coatings, and it provides 95% UV protection.
- KwikFit Contoured Cheek Pads
Customizable cheek pads are perfect for riders who also wear eyeglasses.
- EllipTec II
Quick release is a face shield system with a center lock for an air tight shield between the helmet and shield.
Safest Modular Motorcycle Helmet:
Shoei Neotec 2
Shoei Neotec 2 Helmet Specs
- Type of Helmet: Modular
- Materials Used: Matrix Aim shell, dual-layer EPS
- Brand: Shoei
- Type: Modular
- Certifications: DOT
- Clasp Type: Micro-ratchet
- Weight: 4 pounds
What Types of Activities is the Shoei Neotec 2 Helmet Best For?
The Neotec 2 is a street riding helmet that offers unparalleled comfort, so it’s perfect for touring as well.
Safety Features of the Shoei Neotec 2 Helmet
Shoei makes use of their Matrix Aim shell, which is fiber-reinforced for greater impact dispersion, and a multi-layer EPS foam system for protection from impacts. The Neotec 2 meets or exceeds DOT standards.
What Are the Components of the Shoei Neotec 2 Helmet?
- Matrix Aim Shell
Aerodynamically tuned and fiber-reinforced for less fatigue and superior impact dispersal.
- Noise Isolator Cheek Pads
Specially designed cheek pads help deflect wind and noise away for a quieter riding experience.
- 3D Interior
Removable and washable 3D interior is made from moisture-wicking fabric, and it’s contoured so riders who wear glasses can wear them comfortably.
- CNS-3 Shield System
Shield offers 99% UV protection with a Pinlock EVO anti-fog lens.
Safest Open Face Motorcycle Helmet:
LS2 Open Face Track
LS2 Open Face Track Helmet Specs
- Type of Helmet: Open-face
- Materials Used: Thermoplastic, EPS
- Brand: LS2
- Type: Three-quarter
- Certifications: DOT and ECE
- Clasp Type: Ratchet
- Weight: 2.95 pounds
What Types of Activities is the LS2 Open-Face Track Helmet Best For?
The Track helmet from LS2 is best for street riding and isn’t well suited to off-road or multi-sport applications.
Safety Features of the LS2 Open-Face Track Helmet
The LS2 Track offers an EPS foam liner for impact absorption and the HPTT thermoplastic shell for impact dispersal. The Track helmet meets DOT and ECE standards.
What Are the Components of the LS2 Open-Face Track Helmet?
- Twin-Shield System
Integrated sun-shield can be controlled with one touch and is fully adjustable and compatible with glasses.
- HPTT Shell
The shell is a lightweight and incredibly strong shell that provides above-average impact dispersal.
- Flow-Through Ventilation System
Fully adjustable ventilation system and ¾ length shield design offer unparalleled airflow.
How Long Are Motorcycle Helmets Good For?
One of the most important (and often overlooked) safety considerations is when a helmet should be replaced. Like all other safety equipment, motorcycle helmets degrade over time and must be replaced. As a general rule, a quality helmet will last for five years before it needs to be replaced.
To maximize your helmet’s lifespan, avoid placing heavy objects inside your helmet or hanging it for prolonged periods. If the foam inside becomes crushed or deformed, it will affect the integrity of the helmet.
Helmets that have been damaged by a crash or fall should be replaced immediately, as damage to the helmet’s outer shell or inner padding can compromise its effectiveness. Be sure to regularly inspect your helmet for loose padding, cracks, or other signs of damage. As soon as a helmet becomes damaged, its safety characteristics are compromised, and it must be replaced.
What Features Make a Motorcycle Helmet Safe?
When shopping for a new helmet, several features signal that the helmet is exceptionally safe. Here’s what you should consider.
Safety certifications are critical, and they signal to riders that the helmet is designed and manufactured to exacting standards for safety and integrity. Accreditation from the Snell Foundation is the most comprehensive, so look towards a helmet that scores high marks on Snell’s tests if safety is your primary concern.
Polystyrene Impact Layer
Polystyrene (better known as Styrofoam) is the material of choice for impact absorption and safety. This layer is always covered with an additional layer of foam designed primarily for comfort, but the polystyrene layer bears the brunt of the impact and helps to keep you safe in the event of a crash.
The rigid outer shell of a helmet is another critical safety feature. Most helmets feature a polycarbonate outer layer, and some take it a step farther with carbon fiber reinforcements that are woven into the shell. This reinforcement helps to provide more excellent impact resistance and is a signal that the helmet is exceptionally safe.
Safest Motorcycle Helmet Types
Motorcycle helmets come in several different styles, each designed for different types of riding. Of course, some are safer than others. Here are the types of helmets to look for to maximize how safe they are.
Full Face Helmets
Considered the safest helmets on the market, helmets with a full face shield provide the greatest protection from small hazards such as insects, wind, and road debris while also offering the utmost in impact protection in the event of a crash. A full-face helmet is always an appropriate choice for any type of riding.
Very similar to a full-face helmet, a modular helmet allows you to flip up the visor or chin bar if you’d rather ride with the wind in your face or if you’re speaking with someone, drinking, or eating. These helmets feature a full chin bar for 360° protection, and when the visor is down, they provide equal protection as a full-face helmet.
Dual Sport Helmets
Dual sport models are a wise choice for riders who like to spend time on the road as well as off of it. These helmets are designed for track and off-road applications while still providing the comprehensive impact resistance you need in a street helmet. Dual sport helmets also feature a chin bar, making them a wise choice for practically any application.
Safety Comparison Overview
Are you confused by the different types of helmets and certifications out there? Read on as we unpack some of the most common comparisons people are interested in when searching for the perfect motorcycle helmet.
ECE vs Snell
Both ECE and Snell are certification bodies that certify different helmets and safety equipment meet specific safety criteria.
ECE is a European certification, and it’s very comprehensive. However, motorcycle accidents in Europe are usually quite different from crashes in America. In Europe, crashes tend to occur at much lower speeds. While the ECE certification is very comprehensive, ECE certified equipment might not be as protective as gear which bears other certifications.
The Snell Foundation is another certification body, and they’re considered the most comprehensive governing body. Helmets that receive high scores on Snell’s tests are generally the safest and most impact resistant choices on the market.
Snell vs DOT
The Snell Foundation and DOT both offer certifications for American motorcycle safety equipment. There are a few key differences as far as how they certify equipment.
Unlike Snell (and also ECE), the equipment can be certified as meeting DOT’s safety standards by the manufacturer. The manufacturer is in charge of testing and reporting results to the DOT to achieve certification. For certification by the Snell Foundation, manufacturers must send their equipment to an independent lab where professionals certify it.
Certification from Snell is the most comprehensive American motorcycle safety certification, and it’s considered to be a more prestigious certification than the DOT.
Modular Helmet vs Full Face Safety
Both modular and full-face helmets are a wise choice for safety-minded riders, and they share many similarities.
Both helmets offer comprehensive protection for your entire head, and they also both have a shield to protect against road debris, bugs, and wind.
With a full-face helmet, the visor is fixed to the body of the helmet. With modular helmets, the visor and sometimes the chin bar is hinged and can be moved up and out of the way. This feature is useful for times when you’d like to ride with the wind in your face or if you’re eating, drinking, or speaking to someone while wearing your helmet.
HJC vs Shoei
Both HJC and Shoei are two of the premier manufacturers of motorcycle safety equipment.
Shoei is considered to be the industry standard when it comes to motorcycle helmets. Ask most riders, and they’ll tell you that Shoei models offer the best protection, venting, and comfort of any manufacturer. All these features and benefits come at a price, as Shoei helmets tend to be the most expensive on the market.
HJC is another exceptionally popular option. What they lack in the premium features that Shoei possesses, they make up for with a much more attractive price. When comparing the two, ask yourself what’s more important to you, a top of the line product or a lower price.
When it comes to riding, a helmet that offers comprehensive safety is the most essential piece of equipment you’ll ever buy. Always purchase the safest helmet you can afford, and ensure that the helmet you choose fits perfectly and offers the comfort you’ll need for long rides.
People Also Ask
Beyond the vital info we’ve covered above, people usually have a few other questions when shopping for the safest motorcycle helmets.
How Safe Are Motorcycle Helmets?
Riding a motorcycle will always have some inherent danger. The best way to reduce those dangers is to wear a quality helmet whenever you’re riding. Motorcycle helmets aren’t all created equally, and the certifications they carry are essential. When shopping, always make sure you select a model that holds DOT, Snell, or ECE certification.
Is a Full-Face Helmet the Safest?
Full face helmets tend to be the safest style of motorcycle helmet. These helmets offer 360° protection, and the visor helps protect against wind, bugs, and road debris. Compared to other styles, full-face helmets are usually the safest.
Are Half Helmets Safe?
Half helmets do offer some degree of protection against the hazards of riding a motorcycle. But, these helmets don’t offer protection for your eyes or the lower portion of your face. While half helmets are much better than no helmet, they aren’t as protective as full-face or hybrid styles.
Are Shoei Helmets Worth the Money?
Shoei helmets are among the most popular options on the market for plenty of practical reasons. These helmets offer the utmost safety and plenty of premium features to improve visibility, comfort, and every other aspect of wearing a helmet. If you’re willing to fit one within your budget, Shoei helmets are definitely worth the money.
How Do I Check My DOT Safety Rating?
If your helmet meets DOT standards, it will carry a sticker or logo on the helmet's back to indicate that the helmet meets or exceeds the necessary standards for DOT approval.
What Are Helmets Made Of?
Motorcycle helmets are made from a variety of materials. The outer shell is typically made from polypropylene or from a plastic material infused with carbon fiber for added protection. Inside, polystyrene is the material of choice for the protective inner layer, and then additional foams are added to provide comfort and a custom fit.
How to Tell if a Helmet is Snell Approved
Motorcycle helmets approved under the Snell Foundation will carry a tag or other mark on the inside of the helmet. Tags are typically clearly marked and easy to find. If you don’t see a tag from Snell, the helmet hasn’t been submitted for certification.