How To Choose The Safest Motorcycle Helmet in 2023

January 5, 2023
By Michael Padway

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safest motorcycle helmet

The freedom of the open road and the wind running across you as you ride is a feeling hard to describe. But, with the excess freedom you get from motorcycling comes the responsibility to ride with a suitable, safe motorcycle and safety gear. In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know when choosing the safest motorcycle helmet. Whether your state requires wearing a motorcycle helmet by law, you should ALWAYS ride with a helmet; in 2017, motorcycle helmets saved an estimated 1,872 lives, and could have saved an additional 749 lives, had the motorcyclist worn a helmet (read our Motorcycle Accident Statistics article). 

We’ve assembled a guide on the different things to look for when choosing the safest motorcycle helmet, from motorcycle helmet types and safety standards to helmet fit and safety features.


There are numerous types of helmets, but the three main designs are the full face, ¾, and the ½ helmet. The full-face helmet is the safest choice of the three. The full-face helmet offers the most coverage surrounding your head and neck. In addition, a full-face helmet protects you from the environment you’re riding in, whether it be inclement weather or debris and bugs hitting your visor. One of the distinguishing features of a full-face helmet is a chin bar, which ¾ and ½ helmets lack. And according to one European study, the chin encounters fifty percent of severe impacts during an accident. So riders should consider when gauging how much protection they’d like to wear.


Current helmet technology involves an inner liner to absorb shock, made of EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam. In addition, there is a comfort liner that riders often mistake for a protective component, which also does provide some padding. A helmet should also have EPS foam in the lower area to properly protect the face and jaw. 

  1. When considering a helmet, always look for a shell-built design. The first line of defense protects your head to avoid direct contact with the road. Choose another helmet if the helmet you picked doesn’t have thermoplastic or reinforced composite shell-like polycarbonate. 
  2. The second feature to look for is the impact-absorbing liner. As the name suggests, it is the helmet’s inner liner, which not only gives comfort to your top head but also absorbs impact in crashes. The second line of defense protects you from severe head injuries. 
  3. The third feature is the chin strap, a helmet can only do its job if it’s adequately strapped.


The truth is that cost doesn’t necessarily equate to more safety. Helmet manufacturers have standardized criteria to follow, like the Snell Foundation requirements, DOT (Department of Transportation), and the current European Safety Standard 22/05. These requirements help to ensure a quality product is released to the public. Beyond those criteria, the cost is more driven by the materials used to make the helmet, the features available, and the visual aesthetics of the helmet.


As happens with motorcycles, heritage, and history play a major role in consumer confidence in a particular helmet manufacturer. There are many old and new helmet brands on the market, that said, there’s nothing wrong with choosing a relatively young brand name. Sure, there are experienced brands such as HJC, AGV, Shoei, and Arai, but other brand names are good examples for themselves in their quest to create safe lids for motorcyclists. Our advice? Do some research and ensure that the helmet company you choose invests more in product safety than just marketing.


There are several safety standards for motorcycle helmets, and knowing what they cover can be confusing. The most important criterion of a helmet is its safety rating. Here are the primary safety standards and what you need to know about each:


The Snell Foundation certification is not a requirement by law anywhere. However, they go above and beyond the minimum criteria to thoroughly test helmets in many respects. They also test for bicycling, karting, and professional motorsports. Below are the safety features they test for:

  • Impact Testing: The impact test uses controlled impacts to simulate different impact surfaces. The object is to measure gravitational (G) force or acceleration. If the peak acceleration in any test exceeds a value, the helmet is rejected.
  • Positional Stability (Roll-Off) Test: A head form is mounted to point the face downward at an angle of 135 degrees. The helmet is placed on the head form, and the straps and buckles are adjusted to obtain the best-fit condition. Weight is connected via wire rope and dropped from a determined height. The helmet is turned 180 degrees, and the test is conducted again. The helmet may shift but must not roll off the head form to pass the test.
  • Dynamic Retention Test: The helmet is placed on a head form with the chin strap fastened under a device representing the jaw. The jaw piece has a 23 kg weight applied for around one minute. The retention system is tested by removing the 23 kg weight and applying a 38 kg mass in an abrupt guided fall. The retention system fails if it cannot support the mechanical loads or if the maximum instantaneous deflection (stretch) exceeds 30 mm (1.18 inches).
  • Chin Bar Test: The test helmet is attached to a base with the chin bar facing upward. A 5 kg weight is dropped to hit the central portion of the chin bar. The maximum downward deflection of the chin bar must not exceed the stated distance.
  • Shell Penetration Test: The test helmet is attached to a base. A sharp-pointed 3-kg object is dropped from a prescribed height. The test striker must not penetrate the helmet or even achieve momentary contact with the head from inside the helmet.
  • Face Shield Penetration Test: The face shield (also called a visor) is attached to a test helmet and shot along the centerline in three places with an air rifle. The rifle shoots sharp, soft lead pellets at approximately 500 kph (310 mph). The pellets must not penetrate the visor for it to pass the test.


FMVSS218 is the technical standard that defines the minimum criteria a helmet manufacturer must certify against in the United States. It’s known as the DOT helmet standard certification generally. The tests are very similar to the Snell Memorial tests. Still, the judged values are slightly different on criteria for impact, severity, and test equipment used. As a result, the Snell certification is more difficult to pass than the DOT testing. One additional note is that the manufacturer certifies their helmets in their labs. In contrast, Snell tests and certifies any helmet submitted to them from any manufacturer.


The European standard is similar to the DOT and Snell testing. The values and tests vary slightly on most criteria, and it also adds a retention standard testing for slipping, abrasion, retention, and durability. One additional test for helmet shell rigidity is done under the ECE 22/05 standard, not done under Snell or DOT.


Europe also has a second standard that helmets are measured by, which is very close to the Snell testing scheme. Passing values on specific tests vary slightly from the Snell standard. Still, many of the categories list the benefits as the “same as the Snell M2005 test” as a reference. The BSI tests also incorporate the chin strap slippage, retention, and abrasion testing seen on the ECE 22/05.


SHARP is a testing and rating system only available for helmets sold in the UK (United Kingdom / England). It measures the impact protection of the helmet based on similar testing to the other standards and rates helmets with a star rating system instead of a pass/fails result. The ratings are shown from 1 to 5 stars.

When To Replace Your Motorcycle Helmet

A common consensus insists helmets should be replaced every five years, even assuming you have not had any direct impacts that would jeopardize the impact protection of the helmet. This recommendation is mainly from helmet manufacturers and the Snell Memorial Foundation after studying the effects on a helmet from regular use. There is no evidence we’re aware of that suggests a well-maintained, undamaged helmet will suddenly lose its ability after five years. Deterioration is gradual, and many variables can slow down or speed up that process.

Motorcycle Helmet Degradation

Helmet degradation happens from normal wear and tear, hair oils, body fluids, and cosmetics. Cleaners, paints, fuels, and other materials affect the liner materials and overall helmet performance. Here are some tips to help prolong helmet degradation:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s care instructions for your helmet
  • Use the mildest soap recommended
  • Exposure to potent cleaning agents can cause the helmet to decompose and lose protective value. Avoid any petroleum-based cleaning fluids, especially with polycarbonate helmets.
  • Keep your helmet’s face shield clean. Typically, mild soap and warm water with a cloth will work. If it gets scratched and vision is impaired, replace it.

Our Picks For The Safest Motorcycle Helmets In 2023

The Best Under $300

HJC i10 Helmet

Polycarbonate shell that creates a full-face helmet with a light, aerodynamic shell shape using advanced CAD technology to reduce turbulence. Advanced Channeling Ventilation System draws hot air and moisture out of the helmet by blowing air through it. To avoid fogging, the chin bar intake vent directs air upward into the face shield. Impact-absorbing, multi-density EPS liner SuperCool® moisture-wicking interior materials D-ring chin strap closure Bluetooth-ready design accepts SMART HJC 10B or 20B Bluetooth communicators DOT and SNELL M2020 approved (sizes 3XL-5XL are DOT only)

$159.99 - 174.99

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Scorpion EXO-R420 Helmet

Advanced LG polycarbonate shell that is SNELL approved. Ellip-Tec II Ratchet System for easy, secure, tool-less face shield changes in seconds Optically-clear, anti-scratch hardened coating, 100% UV protected face shield Removable and washable anti-microbial fabric Trained emergency medical experts can remove the cheek pads with ease by pulling tabs on the neck roll. Large top vent and mouth vents are used in an aero-tuned ventilation system to increase airflow to the rider's head while minimizing noise. The face shield is locked in place safely by a lock system. Speaker pockets SNELL M2015 (XS-2XL only) and DOT-approved

$159.95 - 164.95

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Sedici Strada II Primo Helmet

Performance, protection, and a Snell safety certification. A strong, lightweight shell is created using fiberglass and DuPont™ Kevlar® fiber. You can concentrate on the road ahead thanks to the shell's aerodynamic reduction of lift and turbulence at speed. To help distribute airflow through the helmet for excellent ventilation, the dual-density EPS liner has cut-out channels. Exhaust ports draw stale air out of the helmet, while numerous intake vents bring in the fresh air. To effectively control wind noise, a chin skirt that can be removed helps seal off the bottom of the helmet. Three unique EPS liners. Reflective inserts at the bottom of neck roll and cheek pads Double D-ring closure Meets or exceeds DOT and SNELL M2020 standards


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Bell SRT Vestige Helmet

Full-face helmet, both DOT and Snell M2015 rated. Lightweight fiberglass shell with 3 EPS liners. The center lock is ambidextrous. You can use either hand to open and close the Panovision face shield. Add a communication system to the SRT Helmet's speaker pockets. Double D-ring closure. Included chin curtain.


More Info

Shark Skwal 2 Blank Helmet - White LEDs

Full-face helmet with LED lights integrated at the front and back to help in SMIDSY avoidance. (The LED lights have three modes: blink, steady, and off). Design that is stable, with improved aerodynamics and a rear spoiler. To maintain antibacterial, anti-sweating, and hypoallergenic freshness, the interior has been bamboo treated. Injected thermoplastic shell The auto seal technology seals the helmet against water and cold, improves soundproofing, and flattens the face shield onto the helmet. Integrated inner sun shield. DOT approved.


More Info

The Best Over $300

Nolan N87 Savoir Faire Helmet

Premium full-face helmet with a polycarbonate shell. Has a face shield mechanism with tilting capabilities that enables a broader extension of the Pinlock fog-resistant shield's coverage area and lowers the possibility of unintentional opening/closing and air infiltration. Double-density micro-perforated materials are used to create the newly designed Clima Comfort inner liner and cheek pads. Highest level of comfort is provided by the Eyewear Adaptive system (for those who wear glasses) and the large perforated wind guard. The AirBooster ventilation system keeps the rider cool and dry. The ultra-wide face shield is equipped with a Microlock2 double lever retention system, a fully adjustable VPS sunscreen with 400 UV protection. Configured for the Nolan N-Com Bluetooth communication system. DOT approved.


More Info

Shoei RF-SR Helmet - Solid

With a lighter overall weight and a smaller outer shell, there will be less turbulence and neck discomfort. To achieve the ideal fit, the padded liner's components can be switched out. Handmade in Japan to the highest standards and easily surpasses DOT and SNELL M2015 safety certifications. Enhanced aerodynamics through extensive wind tunnel testing and feedback from experienced riders. Improved impact absorption and ventilation provided by a dual-layer EPS liner. Hot air is expelled through the top outlet for a more comfortable ride, and two upper air intake vents are positioned to increase air volume into the helmet's interior. To build a shell structure that is incredibly light, rigid, and resilient, high-performance fiber materials are mixed with extremely elastic organic fibers. E.Q.R.S. (Emergency Quick Release System) allows emergency medical personnel to remove the helmet from an injured rider easily. Standard chin strap clip neatly secures the chin strap. To dramatically reduce wind noise, the QR-E closure system offers a tool-free shield removal and installation process and an airtight seal.


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Arai XD-4 Helmet

Has a removable floating peak and multiple vents for improved ventilation. Riders can customize the fit with the 5mm peel-away comfort lining and cheek pads. In conjunction with the detachable floating peak, the shell's aerodynamic tuning directs air into newly designed vents, boosting overall ventilation and reducing buffeting at high speeds. Dry-Cool technology keeps the rider dry and cool for greater comfort. Exhaust ports added to the top diffuser vents. Chin vent with more intake ports. The larger sculpted side cowl vents improve ventilation. Snell M2020 approved.

$639.95 - 649.95

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Arai Regent-X Helmet

Arai can offer protection where it's most needed while offering a low-profile, lightweight helmet thanks to multi-density odor-resistant EPS. The face shield can be positioned lower on the helmet while still having adequate room to open thanks to the Variable Axis System (VAS), which offers a pivot point for the face shield that moves. PB-cLc shell construction. Free Flow System (FFS) ventilation reduces wind noise and turbulence by creating airflow under the helmet while enhancing hot air exhaust. Dual intake front vents, side exhausts, and one-piece rear exhaust. Three-position chin vent. Neck vent exhaust. Pockets for speakers. Non-removable chin curtain. Double D-ring strap. DOT and Snell M2020 certified.


More Info

Bell Star DLX Mips Helmet

Combines performance and aerodynamics developed for racing with a touring helmet's comfort and riding attributes. Panovision ProTint Photochromatic shield is included. ProTint Photochromic shields automatically adjust with light conditions, darkening when exposed to sunlight and clearing in low light. Riders benefit from improved vertical and lateral visibility thanks to the Panovision viewport, which enables the rider to conduct safer lane changes and head checks while cradled or tucked. It is now possible to wear a prescription or a favorite pair of sunglasses. Clinical testing has shown that the X-Static liner material offers odor and bacterial protection for the duration of the liner. Bell's Tri-Matrix shell, which combines the strength and exceptional qualities of these synthetic materials used in racing, offers unrivaled durability and strength. MIPS energy management system Integrated speaker pockets Meets or exceeds Snell M2015 and DOT certifications


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Arai Signet-X Helmet

Large switches that are simple to handle, even when wearing thick gloves, and a high-performance ventilation system with significant inlet and exhaust apertures. To help avoid accidental opening, the VAS shield latch system more securely grabs and holds the shield closed. The wider latch design enables an intuitive and seamless operation of the shield in addition to a de-mist position. The Peripherally Belted - Super Complex Laminate Construction shell design utilizes a variety of internally developed Arai materials and methods that offer performance and affordability. Fully removable interior liner system is made from odor-resistant material The VAS MAX Vision shield is pre-installed with a clear anti-fog Pinlock insert to improve vision in all riding conditions and seasons. For quick and easy face shield removal, a dual-function lever releases both the side pod and the face shield. To reduce interior heat, the neckroll is detachable and contains additional exhaust channels. Cheek pads with Emergency Release Tabs. Features speaker pockets for easy installation of communication systems. Includes clear Pinlock insert. Snell 2020 and DOT approved.

$699.95 - 719.95

More Info

Shoei VFX-EVO Helmet

The VFX-EVO’s liner incorporates the special M.E.D.S. (Motion Energy Distribution System), a module of the EPS liner that was specifically installed to lessen the rotational acceleration to the head in the event of a crash. This system is designed to absorb sudden impacts. Built with high-performance AIM+ (Advanced Integrated Matrix Plus Multi-Fiber), a combination of fiberglass and organic fibers. The result is a rigid, ultra-lightweight, yet elastic structure. Braced nose cover with mesh to filter dust and dirt, aluminum mesh to stop roost from getting into the mouth, and an easy-to-remove cap for cleaning and maintenance. Based on the choice of many top-ranked riders, the adjustable visor selects the top position on the helmet as the default position. Testing on riders and in the wind tunnel maximizes aerodynamic qualities. To increase flow-through ventilation, additional front intake vents are combined with rear exhaust outlet vents and an expanded neck outlet vent. The material of the 3D Max-Dry detachable liner system absorbs twice as much moisture as its weight. E.Q.R.S. (Emergency Quick Release System) contains unique straps behind the cheek pads that make them easily removed, allowing emergency personnel to remove the helmet fast after an accident. Snell M2015 and DOT approved.


More Info

Schuberth C4 Pro Carbon Fusion Helmet

In a 100% carbon fiber shell, making it the lightest modular helmet ever. The C4 Pro carbon is one of the most compact and technologically advanced modular helmets accessible to touring motorcycle riders. It features German-engineered quality and is the most recent in aerodynamics. Featuring a new and improved Coolmax inner liner (antibacterial, washable, and fast-drying). Aerodynamically tuned shell to mitigate fatigue. Integrated one-touch sun visor. Complex multi-channel ventilation system. Integrated antennae, pre-installed speaker, and microphone. Plug & Play prepared for the SC1 communication systems. Extra-large anti-fog lens insert. Spoiler built into the neck roll or helmet shell. To achieve the maximum shock absorption for various impact scenarios, the EPS foam impact liner features a sectional, multi-part design. This detailed segmentation ensures improved force distribution and absorption. DOT certified


More Info


In closing, here are the key takeaways on the safest motorcycle helmets:

  • The full-face helmet is the safest type of helmet
  • Motorcycle Helmet features to focus on first: Shell-built design, Impact-absorbing liner, Chin strap
  • A higher cost doesn’t necessarily equate to a safer helmet
  • A helmet’s safety rating is the most important metric when considering helmet safety
  • DOT FMVSS218 is the technical standard that defines the minimum criteria that a helmet manufacturer must certify against in the United States
  • There are multiple tests you should conduct to ensure your helmet fits appropriately
  • The typical recommendation for replacing a helmet is every five years. Ultimately, the need to replace your helmet will be determined by the amount of wear, quality of helmet, and upkeep on the helmet
  • Avoid strong cleaning agents that can deteriorate your helmet over time

Michael Padway

Michael Padway uses his expertise in personal injury and motorcycle accidents to represent a broad spectrum of clients dealing with life-changing and permanent injuries for the first time. His offices are located at 235 Montgomery St., Ste 668, San Francisco, CA 94104 and at 3140 Chapman St. Oakland, CA 94601. For more information, please call (800) 928-1511.


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  1. Ed in Miami

    Really, there is no evidence that these super premium helmets provide any better protection than the DOT full face helmets that you can get at Cycle Gear for $49.99. If there is, I would like to see it. Me, personally, I use a 2010 Bell Star, but that is because of comfort and features, not because I think it provides more protection than other Snell approved helmets costing hundreds less.

    • PismoJoe

      It sounds legit to me, if you think about it, those $50 plastic buckets with cheap liners cannot be near as safe as, an engineered for safety, high-end material that stands up to a much more rigorous set of standards. If the cheap helmet could pass those test they would do it and proudly announce it has same quality at a fraction of the cost.

      • Biostar01

        Well, it’s not exactly styrofoam, and that’s for a reason. There is a HUGE difference between styrofoam and the EPS foam used in helmets. Your suggestion of gel has a slight issue with the gel technology available right now. Most ‘soft, cushiony’ gels will not absorb enough energy to protect you in a 50mph crash. Recently, we have seen technologies such as D3O that can absorb more energy, and some helmets utilize these gels as intermediate layers between solid crash protection – EPS polystyrene. Styrofoam crumbles between your fingers; EPS can take a 50mph direct impact and protect your brain. Your logic is correct in saying that you want multiple density layers, because different densities of EPS foam absorb different amounts of energy. For example, a layer of EPS that is built to withstand a 50mph impact is going to feel awfully hard in a 20mph impact, and likewise, a layer of EPS for 20mph protection will be crushed in a 50mph impact. I have seen motorcyclists ride with bicycle helmets because ‘it’s good protection’, but the foam used in those is built for low-speed cushioning, not freeway-speed protection. Here is where many helmets, such as the ones above, excel in comparison to the $50 plebeian helmets suggested above. The helmets above may be a bit more expensive, but they have lots of technology (such as many layers of impact-absorbing material, great aerodynamics and appropriate ventilation to prevent hearing loss from 115dB wind, etc). While you might save a bit of money at the cashier when you buy the bargain helmet, you are putting your own life at risk.

        • b beb

          Are you aware of the impact velocity snell and DOT use? It is not nearly 50mph. It is more closely associated with the impact velocity from gravity at the average height a motocyclists head will be from the pavement. Like 5 feet. This equates to IIRC about 19mph. This is the force a helmet is designed to withstand to prevent a 300g force to the brain.

  2. Anonymous

    I’m extremely impressed together with your writing talents and also as} with the layout in your weblog. Is this a paid subject matter or did you customize it your self? Either way stay up the excellent high quality writing, it is uncommon to peer a great weblog like this one today..

  3. Xchoppers

    The idea of not wearing a helmet being safe is so stupid you’d think no one would be dumb enough to suggest it. I think it should be a personal choice but there’s no way in hell I would ride without one. I had a helmet save my life (again) on January 25, 2015 when I hit gravel in a blind turn on a back country road when I went through a barbwire fence at 50+ MPH. I had a small hematoma on the front of my brain as well as swelling along the side of my head but fortunately all was back to normal in a few days. Without a helmet I would surely be dead. I was wearing a full face modular at the time.

  4. Martin

    I think all of helmet you mention is safest . Of-course you select these on experience. But What about modular helmet, are these safe for rider.

  5. Anonymous

    Outstanding and well written article. First-time or new buyers generally ignore Helmet certifications and buy helmets without knowing it. You explained those certifications very easily.
    Motorcycle riders should also consider following things like; Don’t hang your helmet on motorcycle mirror or suspend it next to the hot engine. This will help you maintain an outstanding durability. If you are a learner rider, go for a lighter model instead of the heavier one. This is because maintaining balance on your ride is every compliment to a safe ride.

  6. helmet manufacturers in mumbai

    Hi Michael Padway, thanks for this great article all helmets are amazing but i like Fly Racing Street Revolt FS Liberator most because his look is very amazing. all safest bike helmet are very nice

  7. ash green

    Thanks for such a nice content. Apppreciate it 🙂

  8. Pragmatic

    “Motorcycle helmets should be replaced every five years (…) This recommendation is from a consensus of helmet manufacturers and the Snell Memorial Foundation (…).” There is absolutely no reason to replace helmet after 5 years if there was no impact. What you should replace are inserts but the main body of helmet can be used way more then 5 years. But of course manufacturers will tell you “BUY, BUY, BUY”. The other reason to replace helmet earlier may be if there is significant improvement in structure of new helmet and it is just simple safer but the rule “replace after 5 years” is simply wrong.

  9. Kerry A. Antle

    helmet make an extra layer for the head and in this manner shield the wearer from a portion of the more extreme types of horrible mind injury. A protective helmet means to lessen the danger of genuine head and mind wounds by decreasing the effect of a power or crash to the head.

  10. Gavin Reid

    When you argue about price i always recall bells slogan from the seventies “A ten dollar hat for a ten dollar head” so what’s your life worth?


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