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.
We’ve set strict criteria for this helmet buying guide because we can afford to be picky.
There are a lot of helmets on our longlist but we boiled this down to 5 great helmets for our shortlist.
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.
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.
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.
There’s no denying that the Shoei J Cruise is a top quality open face helmet. 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dexter Soddy – Possibly the worst name we’ve ever seen for a motorcycle helmet but the Soddy has a strong set of features: removable washable liner, internal sun visor, tool-less visor removal, and a micro-metric retention strap. More expensive lids can Soddy off.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks to the following websites which helped us research and write this review of the best open face motorcycle helmets:
SHARP helmet safety scheme: