The best budget motorcycle helmets: tried and tested

Cheap motorcycle helmets
Cheap motorcycle helmets

There are plenty of budget motorcycle helmets out there these days, but which ones can you trust and which ones are just a dangerous scam?

Keeping your head well protected is critical on a motorbike, however it can also be a costly process, depending on your budget, with some manufacturers charging serious money for the best range-topping motorcycle helmets.

Wallet friendly alternatives such as the lids below are far from a compromise; many offer the same level of features as far pricier examples, they just may lack the famous racer’s graphics on them.

If you want a quality helmet from a recognised brand name you don’t need to spend the earth as there is a fantastic array of choices out there. MCN’s expert testers take the pick of the sub £300 crop to task, plus we’ve added some essential buying information and handy tips.

Our Black Friday and clearance deal top picks

50% off HJC F70 Carbon – was £399.99, now £199.99

35% off Shark S900 Dual Special Edition – was £199.99, now £129.99

33% off HJC CS-15 – was £89.99, now £59.99

Price: £149.99 (was £249.99)

Tested by Emma Franklin over four months, 2000 miles. This plastic-shelled ECE 22.05 lid from US brand Bell is seriously impressive for a helmet at this price point. For starters, it comes with a super-trick ProTint visor, which reacts to the conditions to become darker on brighter days and clear again at night or in low-light. It works pretty seamlessly too, with the only time it struggles to react quickly enough being when you enter a tunnel. This type of visor, when purchased for other makes of helmet, are usually insanely expensive, so it’s impressive that Bell have included one on this mid-range model.

There’s also a NutraFog II coating on the visor, too, which provides anti-fog, scratch and UV benefits, however I have discovered that you need to keep the inside of the visor really clean or else it will start misting up. There’s a special mention for the DLX’s visor release mechanism too, as it has to be one of the easiest and quickest I’ve ever used – not that you’ll be removing the visor much, thanks to that cool ProTint function.

In terms of fit and comfort, again it’s another impressive performance. The interior removable lining has a suede effect so feels very soft and plush on your skin, meanwhile the removable chin curtain plays a bit part in keeping the noise levels low – as in my opinion, the Qualifier DLX is a quiet lid (I always wear earplugs). The vents on the chin, brow and top of the lid are very easy to toggle, being either fully open or fully closed, and do an OK job of flowing air through the inside.

The internal fit feels much similar to an Arai, meaning it’s rounded at the forehead with quite a close fit at the front of the face, and I believe it’ll suit a wide range of head shapes. On that note, the DLX is also available in three different shell sizes, meaning those of us with smaller heads won’t end up looking like Big Ed when wearing it. There’s also a double-D ring chin strap and ACU Gold sticker meaning that is suitable for use on trackdays, too.

The only slight disappointment with this lid is that, despite it featuring a Mips slip plane between the EPS and internal comfort lining to help protect against rotational brain injuries, it only scores three stars out of five stars on the DfT’s SHARP safety tests as it provides average impact protection on the sides and forehead. If this factor bothers you, then Bell’s fibreglass shelled SRT has a four star SHARP rating and is slightly cheaper at £169.99, but has a little less spec.

Although that said, if you shop around a bit and don’t mind some of the colour schemes on offer, it’s possible to pick up a DLX for the same price, so the choice is yours. But on the whole, it’s a nicely made and very well spec’d lid for the price.
Quality: 4/5
Value: 5/5
Cheap motorcycle helmets

Tested by Mike Armitage over twelve months, 2000 miles. Whoever is responsible for naming Givi’s products needs to politely be shuffled into a new role. All the letters and numbers get a bit befuddling, and ‘X.23 Sydney’ sounds like something Chuck Yeager might have piloted at ridiculous speed and altitude during the 1950s.

Thankfully Givi are better at making things than giving them monikers. It might not look like it, but the X.23 is a flip-front modular helmet, and this ‘normal’ masquerade continues when it’s atop your bonce – it feels like a regular full-face lid, with an even fit rather than feeling perched on top of your head. Or it is on my bonce. All-day comfy? Yes, as several MCN250s have proved.

The effective vents are simple to operate even with winter gloves on and the seatbelt-style buckle is easy to both secure and release. The integral sun visor has breezy operation too, as it’s deployed using a lever on the side of the chin bar rather than having to spend ages patting the top of your head trying to find a sliding thingy. You get a breath guard and Pinlock insert as well, so there’s clear vision in manky conditions.

Downsides? It’s not exactly the lightest of lids at a slightly portly 1660g. Though comfy enough the lining doesn’t scream opulence and the X.23 uses fiddly cheap-feeling clips to hold the visor in place, one of which it deposited somewhere on a B-road in Rutland. However, these niggles are easy to overlook as at £169 the Givi feels brilliant value. Trawl the interweb and you can find one for up to £40 less than the RRP.
Quality: 4/5
Value: 5/5
Cheap motorcycle helmets

Price: £149.99 (was £229.99)

Tested by Ben Clarke over 3 months, 1000 miles. Nothing much stands out about the AGV K3 SV-S (apart from the graphics, obviously) but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. At 1569g (for a Large) it’s not especially light, nor uncomfortably heavy. The sun visor mechanism isn’t the best I’ve used but it still works just fine.

It’s quite noisy, but you only really notice if you wear it back-to-back with a quieter helmet. It’s also quite draughty but again, not so much as to put me off. It scores four stars from Sharp – which is good - but some cheaper helmets have five.

It offers a relatively inexpensive way to get a Rossi design if that’s your thing (for a tenner more than the design tested), but I’d go for the plain black one (twenty quid less) if I was buying one with my own money. The only time I had a real problem with the K3 was trying to tuck behind the screen on a GSX-R1000 as the brow obscured my view.
Quality: 3/5
Value: 4/5
Cheap motorcycle helmets

Price: £99.99 (was £169.99)

Tested by Gareth Evans over 600 miles. This lid is seriously good value for money. While the one I’ve been wearing costs £140, a blank gloss black one is a penny under £100, which is remarkable for something that fits well, has decent venting, is suitable for track days and has facility to fit a Pinlock (available at extra cost).

The main negative from my time using it is the integrated sun visor, which comes down too far for my face and rests on my nose. That’s pretty irritating, and a shame because it would otherwise be useful and it’s very easy to operate with a gloved hand. I’m less keen on the ratchet style of chin strap too – I prefer a D-ring.

Also, removing and reinstalling the thin, flexible visor highlights the cheapness we’re dealing with here. The mechanism feels flimsy, but still works flawlessly. And finally, it’s far noisier than more premium designs of helmet, but some decent earplugs would help there too.
Quality: 5/5
Value: 4/5
Cheap motorcycle helmets

Price: £247.49 (was £329.99)

Tested by Michael Guy 20 months, 1,700 miles. This is the first ever carbon helmet I’ve used and by far the lightest. In fact, it’s so light (1280 grams) it takes me by surprise whenever I pick it up to put it on. Yet in terms of specification, it’s fully loaded with a three layer construction shell, scratch proof pinlock ready visor, integrated dark visor and ventilation. So far my only gripe with the helmet is that the integrated dark visor is slightly cloudy which means it lacks some clarity.

LS2 is a Spanish company with routes to the Moto2 and Moto3 paddock but while it has a sporty look and feel, it’s clearly been well thought through and designed to be used as a helmet for every occasion.
Quality: 3/5
Value: 5/5
Cheap motorcycle helmets

Also consider these

Price: £69.99 (was £99.99)

Polycarbonate composite helmet with advanced air channelling system and washable Nylax liner
Considering its very low price, the N87 is full of clever features and is designed so that its specification can be upgraded. Arriving with a Pinlock already inserted and an integrated sun visor, the lid is ready for Nolan's N-Com communication system and you can even add Nolan's ESS rear brake light, which detects hard deceleration and automatically starts to flash its red LEDs as a warning to other road users.
Arai is one of the most famous names in motorcycle helmets and while they have some very pricey models, the Debut is their introductory model with plain colours. Although lacking an integrated sun visor, it features Arai's VAS visor mounting system for quick changes and speaker cut outs for comms. The quality and safety offered by all of this company's products is second to none - GP winners choose to wear an Arai.
The LS2 Storm FF800's shell is constructed from Kinetic Polymer Alloy (KPA) technology which according to the firm surpasses traditional composites and is lightweight, flexible to absorb energy and resistant to penetration. Boasting an impressive spec list considering its low price tag, the Storm has an integrated sun visor, Pinlock, helmet bag, easy-fit glasses system, hypoallergenic removable lining, drop-down chin curtain and even some reflective stickers included in the box. Overall a quality product that belies its bargain price tag.
Price: £142.49 (was £189.99)

Replacing the popular IS-Max, the i70's shell was reduced in size to create a compact and lightweight helmet that contains a reasonable amount of features and a 10mm higher visor than before to improve vision. It also gains a reassuring 4/5 SHARP rating and you get a Pinlock, integrated sun visor, a decent number of vents, helmet bag, a removable liner, an easy-fit glasses system and speaker pockets for a communication system. A well-designed and extremely good value for money helmet, the i70 also comes in a plain fluro colour for maximum visibility as well some subtle graphic options.
Price: £209.99 (was £299.99)

The Shoei Ryd delivers delight as soon as you open the box to see a separate chin skirt and small bottle of visor mechanism lube alongside a Pinlock and comprehensive user guide. The lid comes in a smart draw-string bag and features an emergency cheek pad release system but it lacks an integrated sun visor. A plush-feeling, quiet lid that is a delight to wear and very well priced considering it is such a quality product.

Rrp: £54.99

Price: £54.99
Amazon Amazon Prime
Price: £179.99 (was £239.99)

We've given the SHARK Skwal 2.2 a full review.

The important questions

Is it road legal?

To conform to UK law a helmet must either:

Reach British Standard BS 6658:1985 and also carry the BSI Kitemark.

Meet UNECE Regulation 22.05

Meet a European Economic Area member standard equivalent of BS 6658:1985 and also carry a mark equivalent to the BSI Kitemark.

Most lids will have ECE 22-05 printed on them, usually at the back of the lid.

Is it SHARP rated?

SHARP’s five-star safety rating is an independent helmet testing scheme ran by the Department of Transport. You can see which lids have been tested at SHARP’s website.

Is it ACU gold-approved?

An ‘ACU Gold or Silver’ sticker means that the lid is approved for use in motorcycle sport by the Auto Cycle Union in the UK. Some trackday organisers insist on you wearing an ACU Gold-approved helmet.

Does it have a Pinlock insert?

One of the best anti-fog inserts on the market, many lids come with a Pinlock included in the box while others simply have its fixings and you need to purchase the Pinlock itself separately. If you need to buy it, factor this extra expense into your buying decision.

How much does it weigh?

A heavy lid can put extra strain on your neck, leading to fatigue when worn for a long period of time, so a lightweight lid can be an advantage when it comes to touring.

Is the lining removable?

Helmets get sweaty and removing the lining and cleaning it thoroughly is the best way of reducing smells and keeping it nice to wear. If you cover a lot of miles in all weather conditions it is a good idea to get a lid with a removable lining.

Is the visor easy to remove?

A fiddly visor removal system can be very annoying when it comes to removing the visor to give it a good clean and remove and stuck on flies. Look for a well-designed system that will allow you to quickly remove the visor with minimal effort or use of tools. Some overly-complicated visor release systems result in broken side-pods or a damaged mechanism and that could mean a lengthy delay while you await spare parts.

Does it have an integrated sun visor?

A ‘flip-down’ sun visor is a really handy addition for when the sun is out as it means you can simply flip it down while on the go rather than stopping to fit a pair of sunglases.

What is its ventilation like?

A hot head is an uncomfortable head, so see if the helmet has vents and if they are easily operated by a gloved hand. The more vents, the cooler your head will be, however they can create extra wind noise.

Is it ready for a communications system?

Many helmets are ‘communications ready,’ which means they are designed with extra recesses around the ear areas so that you can insert headphones for a communications system. Without these recesses, the headphones can press irritatingly on your ears.

Is it designed for glasses?

If you wear glasses, a lot of helmets have special areas in them to allow the glasses’ arms to sit comfortably between the lining and your face, stopping them pressing on you or getting deformed and also making them easy to remove and put on.

What kind of strap fastener does it have?

There are two general types of helmet strap fastener – a D-Ring and a ratchet-style. The D-Ring requires manually threading and then tightening the strap where a ratchet-style system is a simple push-fit. It is a matter of choice with some riders preferring the ease of the ratchet-style and other opting for the secure feeling offered by a D-Ring.

Can I buy a dark visor?

Legally a visor must allow a light transmission of 50%, which means most dark visors are ‘for non-road use only.’ This doesn’t stop riders wearing them and if you want to have a dark visor, always check that one is readily available for the helmet you are looking at.

About the author: Justin Hayzelden is MCN’s resident products guru and keeps a finger on the pulse of all that’s new and important in bike kit and accessories.

- Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this page, we never allow this to influence product selections.