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Types of Motorcycle Helmet Explained (Novice Friendly)

You have spent the last 2 months debating on which bike to purchase and finally it’s on order. Now you’re quickly discovering that with so many types of motorcycle helmets available, choosing one is just as overwhelming as it was picking out your bike!

That is where this article comes in. We will take you through all the various types of motorcycle helmets available to help you pick the right style for you, your bike and your needs.

Let’s get started.

Full Face Motorcycle Helmet

First up is the traditional full face motorcycle helmet, which is one solid piece that covers your whole head, with a fixed chin bar across the front of your face.

The full face helmet is widely accepted as the safest, most protective helmet style available. It is for this reason that competitive racers are only allowed to wear full face helmets, same applies for those partaking in track days.

Experienced bikers who ride powerful sports or liter bikes, any of the Streetfighter or naked bikes, as well as those who just want the best protection available for their head regardless of what they are riding, will always use a full face helmet.

There are still loads of styles and options available within the full face sector however, from retro style helmets like the Biltwell Gringo to sports focused lids like the Arai RX-7V.

It doesn’t really matter your style, or the bike you are riding there is definitely going to be a full face helmet out there to suit. 

Full face helmets offer more protection from the elements than open face helmets do. They are also more practical for attaching communication systems and GoPro action cameras.

No matter your budget you will be able to find a full face helmet to suit your needs, and one that has good safety ratings. 

I always recommend a full face helmet for new riders so that you are protected as much as possible when just starting out. 

Pros

  • Protective properties are second to none
  • Additional features are easier on a full face and more common, such as in-built bluetooth, internal sun visors, and more technical ventilation options
  • Perfect for riding all year as they are protective from the elements
  • Easy to find highly rated (in terms of safety) across all budgets

Cons

  • Full face helmets are heavier than some other types of helmet
  • They can also be warmer than other types of helmet 
  • If you are on and off the bike a lot then a full face helmet is less practical than something like a modular, this may affect delivery riders more than most

Good Options:

  1. Arai Quantic Racing Helmet
  2. Arai Quantic Racing Helmet
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    5.0
    $965

    Excellent quality, premium safety and performance features


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  3. HJC C70 Helmet
  4. HJC C70 Helmet
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    4.5
    $159.99

    Great value, premium features for less

    More details
    09/27/2022 09:40 am GMT
  5. Biltwell Lane Splitter
  6. Biltwell Lane Splitter
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    $249.95

    Aggressive Streetfighter styling and wide visor for great visibility

    More details
    09/27/2022 01:10 pm GMT

Open Face Helmets aka ¾ Helmets

Another popular style is the open face helmet. Favored by a wide variety of motorcycle owners from Harley Bagger and Bobber owners all the way to Cafe Racer and scooter riders.

The open face helmet is essentially built like a full face but without the chin bar, so there is no facial protection. 

Open face helmets will fit to cover your ears and the base of your skull in the same way a full face does.

These helmets have been around almost as long as motorcycles have, and if you come across some vintage posters you will likely see the rider wearing an open face lid.

They instill a sense of nostalgia, an old Triumph Bonneville, a Bell helmet, a pair of retro motorcycle goggles and scarf flailing in the wind is the perfect image of vintage motorcycling. 

Open face helmets offer up a great sense of freedom when out on the road, while still offering a decent level of protection for your head. 

You can now get many visors, and add-ons like speaker pockets for open face helmets too, so you don’t need to go without some of the benefits of a full face. 

An open face helmet is great for those who want to avoid a full face for the fear of being claustrophobic, but are better suited to being used at lower speeds. 

You can get open face helmets that come with clip-on chin bars, which change the look and offer a level of protection from the elements. However, it is important to note that these face shields are often not protective and should not be treated as such. 

Pros

  • Great sense of freedom when out on the bike
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable 
  • Modern construction and features mean safety and performance has greatly improved

Cons

  • Open to the elements, not great in wind and rain
  • No facial protection 

Good Options

  1. Bell Custom 500 Helmet
  2. Bell Custom 500 Helmet
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    $125.95

    Worlds most popular retro helmet available in 5 shell sizes. Classic design, quality and construction

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    09/27/2022 12:16 pm GMT
  3. AHR Run-O5 Retro 3/4 Open Face
  4. AHR Run-O5 Retro 3/4 Open Face
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    4.5
    $66.99

    1950's pilot helmet inspired. Features classic Stars & Stripes. Detachable visor, DOT approved

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    09/27/2022 12:45 pm GMT
  5. LS2 Helmets Open Face Spitfire Helmet
  6. LS2 Helmets Open Face Spitfire Helmet
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    $119.98

    Great value for money pilot style helmet with integral visor included

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    09/27/2022 06:30 am GMT

Half Helmets

It’s the half helmet that you probably associate with the riders of Harley Davidson motorcycles.

A half helmet offers up far less protection than any other motorcycle helmet but they are better than riding with none at all. 

Just as the name suggests, half helmets cover the top half of the head and sit very similarly to a typical bicycle helmet. 

a half helmet provides no cover at the base of your skull, or for the ears and below, there is also no facial protection. 

From a protective standpoint they don’t offer much and they don’t protect from the elements either, what they do give is the ultimate freedom for the rider.

They are obviously also very lightweight, no other motorcycle helmet type can beat the half shell on this point and they are low profile, so unlike some other open face helmets they will sit low on the head.

Some half helmets will come with drop down visors or peaks.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Freedom, you can ride at one with the road and elements

Cons

  • Lack of head protection
  • No eye protection from the elements
  • No face protection
  • best suited to lower speeds

Good Options

  1. Bell Rogue Half Helmet
  2. Bell Rogue Half Helmet
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    4.0
    $269.95

    Design bonus points, comes with a removable chin piece

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    09/27/2022 11:15 am GMT
  3. HJC IS-Cruiser Helmet
  4. HJC IS-Cruiser Helmet
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    4.0
    $104.99

    Good value and has a half visor

    More details
    09/27/2022 11:35 am GMT
  5. Scorpion C90 Helmet
  6. Scorpion C90 Helmet
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    4.0
    $114.95

    True low profile, half shell helmet, comms ready and integral sun visor. From a quality manufacturer

    Buy Now
    09/27/2022 10:45 am GMT

Modular Helmets aka Flip Up

A modular helmet offer the best of both worlds between a full face and open face helmet.

Many modular helmets are dual-homologated which means you can ride in both the full face and open face positions and the helmet has been safety tested in both of these positions. 

Some however, are only built to be used in the full face position with the flip up reserved for when you are filling up the bike at a gas station or popping into a shop for example without needing to take your helmet off. 

Therefore you need to be sure that your helmet is dual-homologated if you want to ride in the open face position. 

Some modular helmets have a chin bar that will flip up right over the helmet and sit at the back while on others the chin bar sits on top of the helmet. 


Where the chin bar flips right over to the back, the helmet is more suitable to use as an open face as there is no wind resistance at the top of the helmet to cause issues. 

They make for great touring helmets particularly if you are riding with a pillion as when stationary at lights etc. you can flip up the lid and communicate easily and clearly.

A modular helmet is also very popular with delivery and courier riders as they don’t have to keep removing their motorcycle helmet with every stop. 

Features like sun visors and bluetooth comms compatibility found on many full face helmets are also found on modular helmets, so there is no sacrifice to be made there.

They do tend to be heavier than full face helmets which is largely down to the flip up mechanism. 

Pros

  • Ease of use – easier to get on and off than a full face helmet
  • The modular helmet system is great for riders who are on and off the bike regularly or ride with a pillion
  • Loaded with features just like a full face helmet
  • Protective properties can be just as good as a full face when ridden in that position
  • Open face option with dual homologated helmets
  • Generally quieter than other styles of motorcycle helmet as the flip up system makes for a tighter fit which reduces wind and road noise 

Cons

  • Heavier than other motorcycle helmets
  • Not all modular helmets are dual homologated so be sure to check before riding in the open face position
  • When riding in the open position the weight is often carried up top so this can make the helmet quite heavy and cause fatigue

Good Options

  1. Shoei Neotec II Helmet
  2. Shoei Neotec II Helmet
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    4.5
    $799.99

    Built in communication system, premium quality, construction and design

    More details
    09/27/2022 11:25 am GMT
  3. HJC i90 Modular Helmet
  4. HJC i90 Modular Helmet
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    4.5

    Great value for money, comfortable and quiet

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  5. Schuberth C3 Pro
  6. Schuberth C3 Pro
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    5.0
    $494

    The quietest helmet on the market, extremely comfortable and premium

    More details

Dirt Bike Helmets

If you are getting into dirt bikes then the first thing you need to know is that off road helmets are quite different from road bike helmets, the biggest difference being to start with is that they tend to be lightweight.

Most off road helmets do not offer eye protection so will be visor-free, this is so you can add your own goggles or glasses. 

They are designed for maximum protection, reduced weight, increased ventilation and visibility.

The eye opening is much larger than on full face style helmets and the chin bar protrudes significantly which offers not only more protection but increased ventilation into the helmet. 

If you are riding in dirt or mud then goggles are your best bet to secure a seal around your eyes and prevent dirt etc from getting in your eyes. 

Most dirt bike helmets will also have peaks, this is to stop dirt and debris from hitting you in the face when off-road. 

Dirt bike helmets are not built for fancy features like speakers and sun visors, they are built to do a job and nothing else. 

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Great ventilation, so good for Summer months
  • Protective
  • Maximum visibility 

Cons

  • Great for off-road but not suitable for road use
  • Offer little protection from the elements
  • Can be quite bulky so best to try on with your body armor before purchase
  • Not all goggle shapes will fit every helmet so make sure you try them together first. 

Good Options

  1. Bell MX-9 Mips
  2. Bell MX-9 Mips
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    4.0
    $245

    Maximum Impact Protection System, lightweight, premium components and comfortable. Available in a variety of color schemes

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  3. O-Neal 3 Series Flat
  4. O-Neal 3 Series Flat
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    4.0
    $237.50

    Good value, aerodynamic and great visibility

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Dual Sport Helmets

Dual sport helmets tend to sit somewhere between an off-road dirt bike style lid and a full on adventure helmet. 

They are lightweight, straight to the point, feature free and ready for some exciting rides.

Dual sports motorcycles by design are ready to tackle the road along with the dirt and trails when you come across them, therefore you need a helmet that is ready for that too.

In terms of protection dual sport helmets are produced from the same materials as full face helmets so share the maximum protective properties but have off road features too like peaks and some have the option to remove or flip up the visor to use goggles instead. 

The eye port will take after the dirt helmet style and be much larger than a full face or modular style helmet so that you have maximum visibility of both the road and the bike’s controls at all times. 

The chin bar on a dual sport is often a bit larger too and lower like a dirt bike helmet.  Although it isn’t massive so it keeps some of the wind and road noise out compared to an off-road helmet. 

Having the choice to use the visor while on the street and then flip it up to use goggles off-road is perfect and in line with a dual sport motorcycle’s purpose. 

Pros 

  • Great for when you are riding on and off-road in the same day
  • Excellent visibility so great even as an everyday helmet if your full faces visor is a bit small
  • Lightweight, built to be used all day
  • Unlike dirt bike helmets you can fit comms kits etc.

Cons

  • Noisier than regular full face/modular helmets

Good Options

  1. AGV AX9 Carbon Duel Sport
  2. AGV AX9 Carbon Duel Sport
    • Save
    5.0
    $629.95

    Built like an off-road helmet in its design, long chin bar, huge visor

    More details

    I may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    09/27/2022 01:00 pm GMT
  3. KLIM Krios Pro Dual Sport Motorcycle Helmet ECE/DOT
  4. KLIM Krios Pro Dual Sport Motorcycle Helmet ECE/DOT
    • Save
    4.5
    $749.99

    Ultimate dual sport/adventure helmet, premium quality, maximum visibility and protection

    More details
    09/27/2022 10:56 am GMT

Adventure Helmets

Adventure riders are ready for long haul so they need a helmet to suit. Adventure are dual sports that are ready for the road and to take on some longer tours.

Usually fitted or compatible with all the mod cons of full faces, adventure helmets are best described as a full face with better visibility and a peak.

They will have excellent ventilation, are as quiet as a full face helmet and as comfortable. 

Pros 

  • All the features and benefits of a full face, protective, comfortable and quiet
  • Off-road features like a longer chin bar, a peak and large visor
  • Make excellent touring helmets for long journeys


Cons

  • Can be quite expensive when compared to a regular full face helmet
  • Hard to distinguish between an adventure or dual sport helmet, so research is needed to make sure the helmet will suit your needs

Good Options

  1. Arai XD4 Helmet
  2. Arai XD4 Helmet
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    4.5

    Arai quality dual sport helmet, ultimate protection and ventilation

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  3. Shoei Hornet X2 Helmet
  4. Shoei Hornet X2 Helmet
    • Save
    5.0
    $642

    Upgraded for the new model year, lightweight, pinlock included, grooves for glasses

    More details

Summary

Bikers involved in motorcycle accidents reduce their chances of a head injury by a whopping 69% when wearing a helmet.

Motorcycle helmet FAQ
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