The motorcycle riding season is in full swing in many parts of the country now that the weather has turned warm for the foreseeable future. Maybe you’ve just bought your first motorcycle, and you’ve yet to take it out for a spin. As excited as you may be, you’ve got to make sure you have all of your gear in check first. There’s no way to safely ride without a good helmet. Along with the right boots, pants, and jacket, the helmet is the most important part of your riding gear (next to your brain, of course). While some riders insist that riding free without a helmet is worth the risk, statistics show that the risk is far too high. A good motorcycle helmet can reduce the chances of head injury and death significantly, so it’s imperative for riders to invest in a high-quality helmet.
What to Look For in a Motorcycle Helmet
There are a handful of important criteria to keep in mind when shopping for a good motorcycle helmet.
- Don’t buy based on looks. A motorcycle helmet might draw your attention because it looks slick, intimidating, fun, or just plain eye-catching.
- A full-face helmet is the safest, followed by modular, open-face, and half. When in doubt, go full-face because the chin encounters impact 50% of the time in severe motorcycle riding impacts. Full-face helmets also provide the best protection from debris, bugs, and crappy weather.
- Look for ECE, Snell, or DOT certification, and that’s the order of progression from most to least rigorous testing criteria for motorcycle helmet safety.
- Most good helmets are made from carbon, carbon/kevlar, composite, fiberglass, and thermoplastic. Carbon and carbon/kevlar provide the most protection and thermoplastic the least. But keep in mind that there are only marginal protective differences between all of them.
- Fitment based on just the size is the wrong way to go. Measure your head’s circumference just above the eyebrow. That number may fall into different sizes based on different manufacturers. Know your head shape, as well, whether it’s long, wide, round, etc., and the fit should be snug but comfortable.
- Wear it for a period of time before buying. If it starts to be uncomfortable after a little while, it will not be suitable for rides.
What About Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmets?
Of course, modern helmets are about more than just safety. Communication systems have become commonplace and necessary, and they make riding in groups or making phone calls safer and easier. Communication is vital while you’re riding, but first, you need to understand your communication needs. Many helmets now come with built-in Bluetooth or Bluetooth-enabled mesh intercom systems, but you can also buy separate equipment if the helmet is ready to accept such systems. Talking with your riding group and making phone calls are two different functions, and the technology behind each is also different.
Group riding is generally safer because the pack makes you more noticeable, and extra eyes (and mouths) can provide key information about your route and the hazards within. Riding solo, while less safe than group riding, provides faster travel, more freedom, and a better opportunity for skills development. Naturally, communication needs vary between the two. Standalone Bluetooth-equipped helmets aren’t ideal for group talk because if one person drops off, the chain of communication is broken, and everyone drops off the line. If you ride solo, a Bluetooth-only helmet should be more than sufficient since it can easily pair with your phone and also accepts voice commands via (Siri, Alexa, or Google), making it convenient for hands-free operation. For group communication, the two proprietary Bluetooth mesh intercom systems, Cardo and Sena, are at the head of the pack. They allow multiple riders to communicate with each other, use voice command, share music, and even pair in Bluetooth-only users. You’ll want to check and see which system your riding buddies use because they are not cross-compatible. They can still connect with Bluetooth users, as well as operate hands-free.
Best Bluetooth Mesh Intercom Motorcycle Helmets
Sedici Strada II Parlare Bluetooth Helmet
The Sedici Strada 2 Parlare Helmet one-ups the Strada II by adding a Sena intercom system. The excellent materials and features are still present from the Kevlar fiber and the drop-down sun visor to the aerodynamic enhancements and fit customization pads. The Sena system comes standard and provides Bluetooth 4.1, HD intercom and phone, advanced noise control, voice command, 1,000 meters of range, and up 8 hours of talk time. The Strada II is both ECE and DOT certified.
Shoei GT-Air II Helmet
The new composite and organic fiber shelled GT-Air II is one of the best all-around helmets that just so happens to have a built-in Sena comm system. It now has improved aerodynamics and ventilation via a molded air spoiler and three redesigned intakes that just so happen to make it look badass, whatever color you choose. It also gets a new drop-down sun visor that’s 5mm longer than before for additional coverage. The micro-ratchet strap allows for excellent adjustability, and there’s also an E.Q.R.S. (Emergency Quick-Release System) that allows emergency services to remove the helmet more easily. Pray that never has to happen, of course. The GT-Air II is DOT certified.
Klim Krios Pro
While the Krios Pro ADV riding helmet doesn’t have a built-in intercom system, it’s ready for insertion thanks to streamlined speaker pockets. The shell is made of full carbon fiber, and there’s also Koroyd honeycomb material that allows for the reduction of head trauma thanks to its decelerative properties when crushed. The Pro also gets upgraded ventilation, a removable visor, and a photochromic lens that can swap out without the need for tools. The Krios Pro is ECE and DOT certified.
HJC RPHA 70 ST
For less than the price of the majority of helmets here, the RPHA 70 ST delivers looks, comfort, safety, and tech compatibility that’s great for many a rider. It’s ideal for sport touring thanks to its low weight, excellent ventilation, and premium carbon fiber and carbon glass construction. It has been touted as an excellent cold-weather helmet (between 40 and 60 degrees) despite its lightness. The swappable smoke-tinted visor doesn’t require tools to remove or install, and it’s also eyeglasses-friendly. Built-in speaker pockets are compatible with Cardo systems, and the helmet is ECE and DOT approved.
Best Overall Motorcycle Helmets
The K6 might just be the best helmet for the money in this set. Not only is it both ECE and DOT certified, but it’s also one of the few carbon fiber helmets under $500. It weighs in at under three pounds, making it incredibly light. The K6 has ample venting, a 2Dry wicking system, an abrasion and water-resistant neck roll, and room for eyeglasses. It also comes in tons of colors and patterns.
Sedici Strada II
For a pittance, you can get the Strada II that improves on the original. The blend of DuPont Kevlar, fiberglass, and Aramid fiber in the shell is strong and light, and it’s shaped to reduce turbulence at higher speeds. Inside, there are cutouts in the dual-density EPS liner for improved airflow, and there’s 5mm of customization with removable panels. The best part might just be the internal drop-down sun visor so you don’t have to swap out the clear external visor. The Strada II is ECE and DOT certified.
Bell Race Star Flex DLX RSD
If it’s premium features for a premium price you want, then the star Flex DLX RSD is a solid choice. It makes use of top-end materials like high-tech and lightweight 3K carbon fiber used for racing, a VIRUS Cool Jade Power Mesh Liner, and a three-layer Flex Impact Liner for all-speed impacts. The finely-tuned aerodynamics provide excellent high-speed stability, and the huge Panavision viewport allows for near-untrammeled visibility that’s aided by a photochromic visor that adjusts to light levels. The special Roland Sands colorway makes it artful and extremely visible for increased safety. It’s both Snell and DOT certified.
Bell SRT Modular Transmit Helmet
A good modular helmet provides the best of both worlds: full-face protection and a degree of freedom for those moments when things are less dicey on the road. The Bell SRT Modular Helmet is made with fiberglass composite, so it’s strong, as well as light. It also comes with a drop-down inner sun shield, recessed speaker pockets, and eyewear compatibility. The Transmit is DOT approved.