Are you in the market looking to purchase a motorcycle helmet but have little to no idea what type of helmet you should buy? Well, you’ve come to the absolute right place to help expand your knowledge on the item necessary to protect your head and all that information you carry inside it.
Motorcycle helmets come in different shapes, sizes, design and appeal offering varying levels of protection. The goal is to provide you with enough details jam packed into small digestible packets of info easy enough to understand.
We hope by the time you finish reading this article you will be familiar with all the different types of helmets available and be able to make an informed decision as to which is most suited to your needs.
6 Different Motorcycle Helmet Types and Styles
A full-face helmet is the image that comes to mind when someone mentions “motorcycle helmet”. Circular yet oval in some manner of its shape. The most popular type of helmet and in many cases the most commonly available in many regions of the world. A visor for you to see where you’re going is sometimes retractable and sometimes fixed. Some even come with varying levels of tint.
Because of their tight fit and higher chin bar a very important factor included is air vents for breathing and circulation which in most models are adjustable. This also helps to reduce the visor from fogging up and to keep the head cool and dry.
These helmets come in a variety of materials such as plastic, carbon, or fiberglass. Full-face helmets provide the best protection available of all helmets.
It will protect from almost all-weather conditions quite well although some may feel a bit hot or stuffy in warmer climates but having the greatest safety of all motorcycle helmets.
Who wears this type: This helmet is best used on the tarmac on which high speeds are a common factor and hence the ultimate protection is of the utmost necessity. Suitable for city and even the highway. A must have for sport bike users.
Examples: Bell Qualifier DLX MIPS, Icon Airflite
- Has best protection
- More aerodynamic and comfortable
- Most soundproof of all types
- Has limited air flow despite its air vents and may feel stuffy in hot climate(2). Smaller area of visibility
2. Modular or Flip-up
These types of helmets look almost identical to full-face except for the nifty trick of being able to lift your entire chin bar up and turn it into an open face helmet. The feature allows you to pop a quick snack into the mouth, enjoy the open fresh air or just have an easier discussion with your fellow riders and not to mention make phone calls.
Some models even come with an additional visor when flipped up for eye protection should you choose to ride that way to enjoy the breeze on your face. Though keep in mind that wind noise is real and can add to stress and fatigue.
Made from similar materials as a full-face helmet. Strong when it comes to protection but weaker in terms of structural integrity and differs to even lower when the chin bar is up but extremely convenient when needed.
Who wears this type: Ideally worn while on a cruiser, touring or adventuring. Makes well for when riding long distances and removes the need to constantly take off and put on when riding or stopping somewhere.
Examples: Schuberth C4 Helmet, Shoei Neotec 2, HJC RPHA 90
- Convenient for different situations whilst attempting to eat or talk
- Has versatility allowing the wearer to enjoy the breeze or full-face protection
- Is heavier and offers less protection in the chin area (2). At high speeds is unstable when open
3. Open-face or 3/4
When you remove the entire structural chin bar section of a full-face helmet you end up with an open-face helmet. The top, sides and back part of your head until the base of your skull is all covered for protection with the exception of your face and chin area.
This allows riders to enjoy the outside conditions of the environment and allow more visibility along with head movement. The visor for eye protection is not included in most models while some are detachable and easy to remove even if one comes with it all. Some models may even have a detachable face mask like chin bar made of sturdy fiber-rubber or silicon type material.
Although offering almost the same structural protection of a full-face helmet where they lack the most in safety is the chin section, offering little or no protection to the front part of your face.
Who wears this type: Great when on cruisers, scooters and other low riding, slower vehicles. One might say that you would be less accident prone due to better peripheral vision and lower speeds.
Examples: Arai Freeway Bandage, Bell Custom 500
- Good impact safety for the neck and head
- Full peripheral vision available and great ventilation
- Lightweight and allows rider to interact with face without hindrance
- Little to absolutely no chin protection
- Poor sound proofing
4. Half Helmet, Half Shell or brainbucket
A half helmet or comically called brain bucket, covers only the top of the head sharing more resemblance of a cross between a bicycle helmet and construction hard hat than a motorcycle helmet but offering sturdier protection. These helmets are more worn by those who have a more carefree attitude towards safety but a more vintage look of style.
They offer the ultimate current environment feel of all the helmets being discussed here and offer little to no hindrance to any task that a rider may feel necessary to do while riding a motorcycle. They have no visor so you have the freedom to explore more creative means of face and eye protection should you feel it necessary.
Can be found from sturdy materials but the protection is only limited to the top part of the head. The lowest safety of all motorcycle helmet types.
Who wears this type: The folk who prefer this most commonly ride scooters, cruisers or classic style motorcycles.
Examples: Skid Lid Original, Bell Pit Boss, Bell Rogue
- Best ventilation, more immersive riding experience whilst being cheap to purchase
- Very lightweight and allows wearer to eat and even wipe face
- Only top of the head is protected offering the least safety(2). Severe weather conditions will bother user
5. Off-road, Dirt Bike or Motocross
As the name suggests Motocross helmets are built for off-roading enthusiasts and keeping in mind that it is an extremely physical exertion type activity, it is designed for the sport specifically. Bearing most resemblance to a full-face helmet however having a larger and elongated chin bar, sun visor to protect from the harsh sunlight constantly shining on the riders face but lacking eye protection.
The chin bar and head design are made to allow more ventilation for the rider and being light weight also contributes for breathability and reduce fatigue during this strenuous activity. Options for materials are fiberglass, Kevlar and carbon fiber. These materials reduce fatigue and the weight on your neck and head.
They have less insulation inside the helmet and riders are expected to wear goggles for eye protection with this type of helmet. This also leaves room for a neck brace or body armor.
You are protected well wearing this type of helmet but your helmet may need consistent cleaning although your own mileage may vary.
Who wears this type: These helmets are mostly reserved for motocross enthusiasts and off-road riding with low speeds.
Examples: Klim F4, Alpinestars Supertech M10 Motocross, Arai VX-PRO 4
- Lightweight and good protection
- Good airflow and spacious inside
- Poor soundproofing little insulation against cold weather
- No visor and not ideal for fast speeds
6. Dual-sport, ADV, Enduro, Hybrid
Dual-sport helmets are a blend between a full-face and motocross helmet. Retaining the safety, fit, soundproofing and aerodynamics required for on road tarmac of a full-face helmet but also with the additional features of a sun visor, space for goggles, larger chin and air vents for when the situation may require you to go off road. Perhaps the most futuristic looking helmet of all the types visually.
Speaking in regards to the future and technology these helmets optionally come fitted with exceptional practical gadgets that one may require when out and about for example, Bluetooth speaker, mic, GPS tracking and built-in camera or head mount. However, because of these additional components, helmets usually end up being heavier than motocross but lighter than full-face helmets. All these features do add up to make this a more expensive helmet to buy in comparison to others.
Very strong and sturdy. Some might say second best or even better when it comes to protection but some details and factors may come into play. Despite being built to protect from all areas of impact.
Who wears this type: The helmet has a versatility like no other. Suitable for almost any or all motorcycle types. Particular to none.
Examples: Arai XD-4 Helmet, Bell MX-9 Adventure MIPS Helmet, AGV AX-9 Carbon
- Multiple additional features for convenience and ease
- Better ventilation than full-face helmets
- More sound proof and very good protection
- Can be more expensive than most helmets (2). Has less ventilation than motocross helmets
Standard Parts and Features of a Helmet
Typically composed of either carbon fiber, Kevlar, polycarbonate, moulded plastics or a combination of them; the outer shell of a helmet is the coloured exterior part that protects the head from an injury in event of an accident and prevents any unwanted intruders from getting inside, such as rocks, bugs and etc.
A safety feature that keeps the rider safe from getting dust, debris and bugs in their face and eyes. The Visor is usually removable, which comes in handy/ is useful if you wish to replace it or just simply clean it. Though available in customizable colors and various tints for different weather and riding environment situations, be mindful of wearing a clear visor in low light levels for a clear vision.
Impact Absorbing Liner
On the inside of the outermost part of the helmet lies the impact-absorbing liner, conventionally made from EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam. It’s role in being placed there is to absorb shock and displace energy during an impact. While the purpose of the outer shell is to prevent unwanted substances from penetrating the helmet, the task of the inner layer is to keep the energy of the impact from traumatizing and damaging the rider’s head.
Depending on the type and particular brand, liners may differ, some may only be made from a single density foam, whereas others may include a dual-density layer for better energy displacement during an accident.
Padded Comfort Layer
The third layer of a helmet is the padded layer. Instead of being there as a safety feature like the other components of a helmet, this part is for the rider’s comfort. It is created of open-cell foam and covered with moisture-wicking material. It is designed to support its user’s head and keep them cool while riding. It is suggested to check if the padding is removable and interchangeable for hygienic purposes, also if the helmet manufacturer offers different comfort liner shapes to best fit the rider’s head shape.
The part that needs to be secured quite carefully. The proper way to check if it is worn correctly is to see if it allows only 2 fingers to fit between a person’s chin and the helmet’s strap. It is essential that the helmet retention system secured below the chin is kept tightly on the user’s head while riding. It consists of an open-cell foam that is covered in a second cloth material designed to wick away sweat and has two D-rings that secures it.
This feature is not available in all types of helmets. They can be primarily found in ¾ and full-face helmets. They are designed for more comfort and a more secure fit for your face. They are replaceable and, in most cases, also can be cleaned with ease when detached.
The ventilation system of a helmet is one of the most important components of a helmet as it allows you to breathe and reduce stress and fatigue that would occur in a poorly ventilated environment. They are also adjustable to accommodate for varying climate conditions. In a hot climate or weather vents allow airflow to cool the head and in cooler conditions they prevent fog from building up on the visor.
Finding the Right Size and Shape
Whatever the type of helmet that you may choose to go for there are certain key elements that you must make sure meet the criteria before making your purchase.
- Make sure that it is the correct size, this leads directly to comfort.
- The pads inside must fit your head shape, a snug fit is important to protection and sound proofing
- You should try it on before going for a ride to make sure it isn’t too loose or uncomfortable
At the end of the day a helmet’s main purpose is to provide good protection to the head all the while representing your own style and make you happy.