Different Types of Motorcycle Helmets and Styles | Beginners Guide
An important piece of riding equipment is a helmet. Regardless of the type of motorcycle helmet that you prefer, a quality helmet must be comfortable as it is secure. Naturally, it should also be durable enough that it can protect you from different accidents.
You can find different motorcycle helmet styles on the market nowadays. And although they all share the same purpose there are some that protect you far better than others. There are helmet styles that are also a lot easier to put on than some.
And choosing the best is entirely up to you and your preferences. However, if you’re here to find your choice helmet, then you’ve come to the right place! This article will help by giving you all the essential information you need on the different types of motorcycle helmets for you to make the best choice.
Explaining the Types
The most popular style that plenty of brands use in designing their helmets.
Full-face helmets, as the name suggests, cover all of your head and face. They also protect your neck, making them the safest type out there.
Brands such as Shoei and BELL opted for this particular design in their helmets which earned the Shoei RF-1200 and the BELL Qualifier DLX many positive reviews. It had even placed them in most top 10 product reviews for the best motorcycle helmets in 2021.
The appeal of this type of motorcycle helmet lies in its unique chin bar. This key feature gives the full-face helmets their overall protection as it plays a significant role in protecting your chin since it’s the part that’s always severely damaged in accidents.
In 1968, Bell Helmets introduced the first full-face motorcycle helmets on the market. It’s thanks to their continuous ingenuity and high-regard to safety that most full-face helmets today have saved many riders from all manners of accidents time and time again.
The durability of full-face helmets also allowed them to be used in all kinds of riding outside of motorcycles. It’s why they’re the most common style on this list.
Adding to their popularity is the fact that those new to riding are often recommended full-face helmets.
However, there is one slight drawback that most full-face helmets suffer from. And that is that they are completely enclosed.
This causes the visor of the helmet to fog up as well as damper air circulation. Granted, all full-face helmets nowadays do come with controllable vents like the ones we have mentioned.
But even with the fogging issue and the air circulation covered, full-face helmets are still not for everyone. It’s a good and highly safe choice, but people with claustrophobia may be put off by this style of helmet.
Also known as flip-ups.
At first glance, the modular helmet looks like a full-face helmet. And that thought is not entirely wrong since they provide the same benefits and demerits of a full-face helmet.
The difference between them is that the modular can flip up its chin bar along with its visor, hence the nickname. On the note of the modular’s visors, most models can often come with two visors.
One visor that protects your eyes from the wind and accidents and the second that you can put on top of the first to protect your eyes from the glaring sunlight. This is why modular helmets are regarded to have one of the best protective visors among other models.
It’s also an ideal helmet style for upright riding positions, but it can also be used in crouched riding positions. Though typically modular helmets are used by more leisure riders and cruisers.
Be aware though that modular helmets will tend to weigh heavier than full-face helmets. It’s partly due to its extra hinges and that modular helmets have an overall larger shell size than full-face helmets.
And on the note of its extra hinges, those are liable to become damaged after an accident or a crash. That weak point can heavily affect safety, which is why this helmet is reserved for more casual riders.
A style of helmet that only covers the top and back of your head.
Most Open-face models or ¾ as they are sometimes called may come with a visor, but the appeal of this style is the freedom it offers for its riders who don’t like the constrictive safety measures of both the full-face and the modular helmet.
This means that chin bars are not a part of standard open-face helmet designs and visors are more or less important depending on the model.
The absence of a chin bar does greatly affect the safety of this style. For that reason, it’s not considered to be the safest style of helmet. It is reserved for casual riders such as cafe racers, cruisers, and scooters.
However, the areas that open-face helmets do cover are highly-protected. Constructed in the same structural style of full-face style helmets, they do an excellent job of protecting your head.
And to compensate for the lack of a chin bar, some open-face models like the Shoei J-Cruise II come with a full visor that covers the entire face.
Another positive feature of open-face helmets is that they don’t weigh as much as the two previous styles. And as mentioned before, they aren’t as constrictive, making them a perfect choice for claustrophobic people.
For those who want to ride comfortably while feeling the freedom against their face.
Half helmets are an interesting design as for some reason they’re quite popular despite having even less protection than an open-face helmet. The reason for this could be because of the Harley-Davidson bikes together with its riders.
Called ‘Harley hogs’ or simply ‘Hogs’ back in the 1920s, these riders became so popular in the decade that a stereotype image was formed.
When the word ‘Harley-Davidson rider’ pops up, the immediate image is a middle-aged man wearing a leather jacket or vest, leather boots, ripped jeans, and of course a half helmet.
There’s more to describe, but I’m sure you get our point. These riders popularized half helmets and even today this style of helmet is synonymous with these bikers.
Design-wise, the half helmet doesn’t always come with a visor similar to the open-face. That is why part of the look for some of the ‘hogs’ also included goggles.
And like with open-face helmets, half helmets are best used for casual riders who drive at slow speeds. As classic as these helmets are, they don’t provide you the necessary protection for high-speed rides.
A specially designed helmet for those who love motocross.
Off-road helmets are the best in providing minimum weight and maximum protection. They also sport better air ventilation than full-face helmets. This is because they don’t have a visor. (It’s recommended that you wear goggles instead).
However, it’s important to know that off-road helmets aren’t designed for city highways for the simple reason that they were constructed aerodynamically. The parts that especially create drag are the extended chin bar and the beak of the off-road helmet. With the latter creating more drag than the former.
A full-face helmet is shaped like a tear because it’s the most aerodynamic shape and it avoids creating drag that will pull the rider’s head back. An off-road helmet has a beak that creates drag and if a rider were to go at a constant 100 mph, it will likely cause the rider to suffer whiplash.
This is why we recommend that you only use off-road helmets for motocross. They do an excellent job at protecting you if you’re using them in the correct situation.
You can choose between kevlar, fiberglass, and carbon fiber for the main construction material of the helmet shell. All three are lightweight while still providing a lot of strong protection. So, whether you hit a rock or a tree, you’ll come out only feeling mildly disoriented.
And the inside of the helmet is surprisingly more comfortable than a full-face helmet.
Overall, the off-road helmet is a quality lightweight model that’s a bit bulky in appearance.
Bringing the best of both worlds.
If you loved the features of the off-road helmet but you don’t do a lot of motocross in your day, then we believe that the dual-sport crossover could be the style of helmet for you.
Considered the best combination of an off-road helmet and a full-face helmet for its similar merits while having few drawbacks.
Dual-sport helmets can be used for both off-road and in-city without a problem -though the laws on allowable helmet types may vary from country to country.
This type of helmet has the exterior of an off-road bike which protects its riders from both grime and accident. While the interior of it is lined with overstuffed protective padding that most full-face helmets have which ensure the rider’s safety.
Going back to its exterior design, dual-sport helmets kept the longer chin bar construction for increased neck protection. It still also sports the same beak at the top but is now more aerodynamically designed for highways.
A new addition to the exterior is a large visor to protect the eyes against the wind. It can also be flipped up under the beak in the case of off-roading.
And cleaning it feels as though you’re taking care of an off-road helmet.
The little drawback that dual-sport helmets do have is their poor air ventilation, but other than that there’s not a lot of problems with this style of helmet.
This is the exterior part of your helmet you see from the outside. Typically, they’re made from either carbon fiber, kevlar, or molded plastics. They can also even be a combination of those materials put together.
Any quality helmet shell should protect the rider from any incident such as abrasions or impacts.
A clear protective shield that ensures the safety of your eyes from dirt, dust, and other debris. In some cases, visors can also be tinted to protect your eyes from the sunlight.
Most visors are also removable, making them easy to clean or replace if damaged.
Impact Absorbing Liner
As the name suggests, this part absorbs and displaces the force of the impact around your helmet which protects your head from feeling the brunt of the accident.
It does this by creating a second layer of protection, one made using a type of crushable foam. (usually expanded polystyrene).
Padded Comfort Layer
The third layer of a motorcycle helmet and an important element of comfortability.
While the impact absorber liner is primarily focused on creating a second layer of protection for your head, the padded comfort layer is what provides the needed support for your head.
Made from an open-cell foam that’s covered in moisture-wicking material, this part of the helmet ensures comfortability and resistance to odors and moisture.
And just like with the visor, the padded comfort layer is removable for easy cleaning or replacement.
Like with any helmet, motorcycle or not, chin straps are important as they tightly secure the helmet to your head.
And in the case of open-face helmets or half helmets, the straps can serve as an added layer of protection for your chin. And although the protection that they offer is negligible, it’s better than nothing.
The chin straps are also covered in the same moisture-wicking material which will keep it from absorbing moisture and any bad odors.
Another element of comfortability, cheek pads act the same as the padded comfort layer wherein it exists to give your head support. In addition to that, it also serves as a way to further secure the helmet on your head by keeping the helmet from sliding on either one side.
Like with visors though, they’re not a feature that exists in every style of helmet. However, they are common on full-face and open-face helmets.
A vital element for both comfortability and safety. Any good helmet should have a controllable ventilation system to maintain air circulation inside the helmet. This helps mitigate fatigue which is caused by poor air circulation in the helmet.
Other than that, vents also help in keeping the inside smelling fresh as it allows for any moisture and odors to evaporate from it.
A good thing to take home when picking a good helmet is the adjustability of its vents. Having a controllable ventilation system allows riders to adjust how warm or cold the inside of their helmets is by opening or closing some vents.
Regardless if you’re aware of which type of helmet should be in what environment, it wouldn’t hurt to also know whether or not your helmet meets at least one of the few motorcycle helmet safety standards.
Especially if you live in the U.S where a DOT helmet might even be a law in one of your states.
What kind of helmet do you use when riding a motorcycle?
Different types of helmets exist for different types of motorcycles. Similar to how an off-road helmet is reserved for a dirt bike.
But usually, the answer is a full-face or a modular helmet. It’s because they cover all the bases on protection and are the easiest style of helmets to pass certification.
What is the safest motorcycle helmet?
The safest style of a motorcycle helmet is the full-face helmet. Its aerodynamic shape prevents drag which in turn would cause whiplash.
It’s also more protective than the modular, simply because its flip-up hinge is a weak point.
Do you need a full-face helmet for a sports bike?
Absolutely! It’s important to wear a full-face helmet on a sports bike as it ensures that the whole head is much better protected than say an open-face or half helmet.
And there you have it! Now that you’re familiar with the 6 main types of motorcycle helmets out there and the specifics of each one, you should be able to pick your preferred style.
If you’re still undecided then we recommend the full-face helmet as it’s the standard when it comes to riders.