Over on that there continent, they love an open face helmet but here in the UK, they’re just not as popular. Perhaps it’s our weather or the fact that we’re not a scooter-loving nation. Or maybe we don’t feel we have the balls (or lady bits) to pull them off.
An open face helmet is – if you’ll pardon the pun – a breath of fresh air. They give you an uninhibited view of the road and your surroundings and they’re far cooler on a hot summer’s day.
The government test motorcycle helmets for their ability to deal with an impact. Some people in the motorcycle industry love the SHARP test and others are cynical. There is an argument that some manufacturers produce helmets with better-rated shells in the areas they know will be tested.
SHARP is not perfect but it’s a good guide. Currently SHARP don’t test open face helmets, so there’s no rating we can factor-in to this guide.
Our review criteria
We’ve set strict criteria for this helmet buying guide because we can afford to be picky.
- Every helmet has to be available in at least 2 shell sizes
- Every helmet has to have a removable and washable lining
- Every helmet has to have top-notch ratings from owners – real world riders
- Has to come with a minimum two year’s warranty
- Bonus points if it includes a sun visor
There are a lot of helmets on our longlist but we boiled this down to 5 great helmets for our shortlist.
What’s best for you
It’s very hard to say ‘this is the best open face helmet’ because different helmet brands fit riders in different ways.
When it comes to open face helmets some people want a classic cannonball-style helmet for their Harley cruising while others want a retro open face for their Vespa and others want a slick-looking modern open face with Bluetooth connectivity.
It’s also worth noting that we all have different shaped heads – what works for one rider won’t work for another. It’s vital to try different lids on, to see how they feel to you.
Although it’s no surprise that the well-known marques are popular for a reason – they’re generally very comfortable for a majority of riders.
As you have seen from our strict criteria above, all the open face helmets in this review have met a very high bar.
From under £100 to over £600
What you pay for a good open face helmet can differ massively. This huge difference in pricing is down to the materials used, the finish and ultimately the brand.
Although the price has been a factor in our considerations, we’ve recommended the helmets that we think are the best available right now – we haven’t just gone for the most expensive.
If our picks don’t work for you in terms of budgets, brands or features, then refer to our shortlist where you’re sure to find a great option.
Classy open face helmet with great features
A great option for both in-town riding and touring the N21 features a removable and washable ClimaComfort lining, it comes in two shell sizes so you’ll be able to get a perfect fit. Secured with a quick-release strap the N21 features a large clear visor but an easy-to-use internal UV resistant visor, to keep the sun out of your eyes. It’s a feature-packed lid from a well-known manufacturer, at a great price.
High-tech lid from a solid brand
There’s no denying that the Shoei J-Cruise range is a top quality open face helmet. The J-Cruise 2 is an upgrade from its predecessor. It’s quite a bit more expensive than the Nolan, but it packs almost all of the features of a top of the range full-face helmet. The shell is made from multi-composite fibreglass, with a machine washable lining, drop-down internal sun visor, and preparation for a Bluetooth intercom. The visor is Pinlock Evo prepared while the release strap is an easy-to-use micro ratchet. It’s the perfect open face for touring or city slickers.
The cheapest open face helmet
There are lots of cheap open face helmets on the market. Amazon is packed with pver 1,000 results when you search for ‘open face helmet’ but not all of them are road legal. It’s a bit of a minefield.
This catchily named OF562 helmet from LS2 is a great budget pick. The prices vary depending on the colour and size but it costs around £40.
It features a removable and washable liner, a quick-release chin strap, a scratch-resistant visor and a UV-resistant coating and additional venting. It’s a top bit of kit and cheap too.
Another great option, coming in under £50 is the MDS G240, a brilliant lid with two shell sizes, a removable and washable liner and quick release retention system.
The style choice
As we mentioned above, there are literally 100s of open face motorcycle helmets on the market and what looks stylish to one person might be another’s biggest faux pas.
But we love this AGV Legends X70 Trofeo open face.
It’s a proper open face, no drop-down sun visor, no peak, no angles. We reckon this would work just as well for a biker cruising on a Harley to a pillion on a Vespa.
Constructed from carbon fibre, the Pista features a wind-tunnel-tested rear spoiler, the ability to connect up a hydration-pack and the ability to fix tear-off visor strips.
It’s made with a tough fibreglass shell and features a leather and suede interior. You can button-on a peak (included) if you want to and the lining is removable and washable, so you can look (and smell) fresh!
If your ideal of stylish is a little more race-focused then check out this AGV K5 Jet Valentino Rossi replica. Or if you like your Martini’s shaken not stirred then this Nexx X.G10 Clubhouse could be right up your strasse.
How to find a helmet that fits
There’s no point buying a feature-packed helmet if it doesn’t fit. Similarly, a ‘bargain’ helmet isn’t a bargain if it gives you a headache.
Here are the steps you need to take to ensure you’re buying a helmet that’s a perfect fit.
- Measure around your head at the level of your eyebrows using a Seamstress tape measure (or a piece of string which you then measure out with a ruler). This will give you the size of the lid you should be trying on. Different manufacturers have slightly different measurements for their sizes (typically XS, S, M, L, XL)/
- When you put the lid on, you shouldn’t feel any undue pressure around your skull. The cheekpads will probably feel tight at first but they do bed-in a touch. If they are exerting a lot of pressure, check to see if the helmet manufacturer offers cheek pads with different thicknesses so you can adjust them. If the helmet is exerting pressure on your skull, it’s too tight. There will be little to no give in the shell and lining, so if after 60-seconds you can feel any pressure (almost like someone’s poking their finger on a part of your head) then you need to go up a size.
- Strap the helmet up as if you’re going to get on the bike and try and rotate the chin bar up and down your face. If the helmet rolls on your head then it’s too large. If you do the same with a sideways motion, the helmet should pull at your skin but not rotate around your face.
- Place your thumb pointing upward on the bridge of your nose. You should be able to slide the top half of your thumb between your forehead and the helmet. This shows you’ve got just enough space for the lid to seat properly and not exert too much pressure on your head.
Remember that a Medium-sized Arai will fit and feel differently to a Shoei or any other brand. So if you’re switching to a different manufacturer, it’s worth trying on a couple of different sizes, just to ensure you’re getting the best fit.
Open Face Motorcycle Helmet Buyer's Guide
With a focus on quality, the best motorcycle helmets are rarely the cheapest ones out there but that doesn't mean you can't get a bargain.
If you're looking for the best helmet, these are the features that we think you should be looking out for.
- Safety ratings: Full-face helmets are tested to the EC 22.05 standards. If it doesn't have this rating it won't be UK road legal.
- Retention system: Most open-face helmets a micrometric retention system to keep the helmet securely in place. If you have a preference for D-ring type retainers, make sure the lid you're buying uses your preferred system.
- Linings: All of the helmets in this review feature a removable washable lining. Most of the top-end lids do but some are only partially removable or others only have removable cheek pads. If you're going to be using your lid all the time, you'll need to wash the lining a couple of times a year.
- Internal visor: An internal sun visor is a very useful addition. It can be used in conjunction with a clear visor to ensure you stay legal.
- Shell material: Top-end helmets will use carbon-fibre or composite fibre which are strong and light. Polycarbonate (plastic) shells are just as strong but they'll be slightly heavier.
- Shell sizes: Most budget lids will only be made with one shell size but if your lid comes in two sizes, it means you'll be able to buy a lid that comes with far less padding (if you're an S or XS size) or a decent amount of padding (if you're an XL size) meaning you'll get a better fit and a more comfortable lid.
- Bluetooth: More high-end helmets feature the provision for a Bluetooth intercom. Most of the well-known manufacturers make their own Bluetooth system which will neatly fit into their lid. If you're planning on using a Bluetooth headset, this is definitely worth factoring in.
- Warranty: All of the helmets in this review have a minimum of a two-year warranty but some helmets have up to a 5-year warranty. If your lid is going to get heavy use, this longer warranty could prove very useful.
Carbon Fibre Open Face helmet
If you’re after a trick-looking helmet then check out this Shark S-Drak Carbon Skin helmet.
The shell is constructed from carbon fibre and with its clear lacquer, you can see the gorgeous detail. It also comes with a face mask meaning it’ll offer a bit more protection from the elements (although a questionable improvement on crash protection) compared to an open face.
The visor tips up and back into the helmet too, meaning you can keep the wind out of your eyes when you’re shifting.
Make sure you're buying a helmet that's road legal in the UK. Some sites like Amazon sell helmets that won't be road legal.
If you're planning on using an intercom, consider a helmet that has been made to accommodate a manufacturer's Bluetooth headset, so you can have a neat setup, instead of riding around with a brick attached to the side of your lid.
Be careful when buying a cheap lid on a site like eBay. If it hasn't come through the UK importer, the chances are they won't honour any warranty issues.
If your helmet manufacturer offers different size cheek pads you can switch these over to further improve the fit of your helmet.
Don't feel embarrassed or pressured when trying on a helmet. You need to wear it for at least a minute to get an idea of whether it's putting pressure on any parts of your skull. If you feel a bit of pressure after one-minute, imagine how that will feel after an hour.
Our shortlist: The best motorcycle helmets
There are literally hundreds of open face helmets on the market, we quickly whittled this down to 150, by using a set of features that our helmets had to include and criteria that our helmets had to pass in order to make the longlist.
Then from here we picked the 5 top open face helmets from each manufacturer and removed the ones that just didn’t quite cut the mustard. So if our two picks above don’t work for you, one of the helmets from our shortlist will.
HJC IS-33 II – HJC makes quality helmets at great prices. The IS-33 features an antibacterial washable lining, provision to be more comfortable for glasses, a 3-stage sun visor and a quick-release retention system.
Nexo Urban Style – Great for zipping about in the city, the urban style features a trendy matt black polycarbonate outer shell, internal drop-down sun visor and a quick release ratchet chin strap. ECE 22/05 certified, this helmet is lightweight and has a removable and washable lining.
Nolan N21 – Our pick of the best open face lids. the N21 features a removable and washable ClimaComfort lining, it comes in two shell sizes so you’ll be able to get a perfect fit. Secured with a quick-release strap the N21 features a large clear visor but an easy-to-use internal UV resistant visor.
MDS G240 – A quality budget lid featuring a removable washable lining, multiple vents and a micro-metric quick release retention system. There’s no internal visor but the price reflects this.
Shoei J Cruise – The shell is made from a multi-composite fibreglass, there’s a machine washable lining, noise reducing earpads and preparation for a Bluetooth intercom. The visor is Pinlock-ready and the internal visor is anti-fog anti-scratch. It’s the perfect open face for touring or city slickers.
Motorcycle helmet FAQs
What does a helmet need to be road legal in the UK?
In order to be road legal a motorcycle helmet has to have one of the following: a British Standard BS 6658:1985 and carry the BSI Kitemark or a UNECE Regulation 22.05 or a European Economic Area member standard offering at least the same safety and protection as BS 6658:1985, and carry a mark equivalent to the BSI Kitemark.
Are open face helmets safe?
This is open to debate. Open face helmets are designed to protect the back, sides and top of your head, but there is no protection in the front. 1 in 5 accidents result in damage to the chin area, so this does pose a safety risk.
What’s the best open face helmet?
Open face helmets are not SHARP tested, so it is hard to tell which ones provide the best impact protection. We recommend you choose an open face helmet which meets the current ECE 22.05 regulation. The EU regulated tests for crash helmets. Our picks above meet our standards and also get great owner’s reviews.
How much is a motorcycle helmet?
You can pick up a motorcycle helmet from around £50 at the lower end or £500 and up at the higher end. Prices vary based on brand, features and design. The average half-face helmet costs around £150.
Do I need full-face helmet?
The short answer is no, not legally at least. If we all needed to wear a full face helmet, other options would not be available. Your choice of helmet depends on your preference and style of riding (trials, road, adventure, urban riding, scooters, etc.)
How much safer is a full face helmet?
According to Dietmar Otte, a German researcher, full face helmets are 45.3% safer than other types. This is due to the increased risk of the front of face/head impacts during an accident.
Does dropping a helmet ruin it?
No, not really. Dropping your helmet from your height to the floor probably won’t cause significant damage although we don’t recommend continuing to do so. If you are concerned about your helmet there are companies who will X-ray it for you. However, helmets are designed as a one-use item, meaning, if you crash, you should replace it. Look after your helmet, and it will look after you.
Are more expensive motorcycle helmets safer?
More expensive helmets usually justify their prices based on the high-quality brand name, patented designs, additional features for comfort and safety. You could argue that this makes them safer than their cheaper alternatives (they’re also a lot more comfortable!)
Are Shoei helmets worth the money?
In short, yes. Shoei helmets are well researched to provide decent levels of protection, they’re made of good quality materials plus they come in a more extensive range of sizes compared to most budget brands.
What are the safest motorcycle helmets?
Aside from the standard ECE 22.05 regulation testing, SHARP helmet ratings build on this by testing for more impacts a helmet can withstand. SHARP ratings are scored out of 5 stars with 5/5 being the safest.
Thanks to the following websites which helped us research and write this review of the best open face motorcycle helmets:
SHARP helmet safety scheme: