Best motorbike helmets: MCN's guide to choosing your lid

Best motorbike helmets
Best motorbike helmets

You only have one brain and so it’s important to buy the best motorbike helmet you can afford. That doesn’t always mean spending £1000+ on a race-ready carbon lid, though, and there are plenty of highly-rated budget motorbike helmets that achieve top safety scores, too.

As far as the law is concerned, the only item of protective kit you are required to wear on a motorcycle is a helmet. There’s a good reason for this, as repeated studies have shown that wearing a helmet can significantly reduce the chance of serious injury (or worse) in the event of an accident.

It’s common sense to look after your noggin anyway, but deciding which is the best motorcycle helmet for you can be a difficult decision, especially with such a vast choice available.

Riding motorcycles on the road in the UK

There are so many options out there that it can feel overwhelming when you first start looking. Flip-front helmets give the best of both worlds between an open face and full face lid. Off-road style peaked or adventure helmets suit the more adventurous of us, and sports helmets are perfect for sportsbikes and trackdays.

There are also a growing number of cheap motorbike helmets hitting the market each year.

The best motorbike helmets at a glance:

Here are some of the best helmets from each category that should help you narrow your search or at least point you in the right direction.

Best Black Friday deals on motorcycle helmets

Big-name, big-discount lids is something we can all get excited about, and MCN’s here to bring you the inside line on the best deals.

40% off Shoei GT Air 2 – was £499.99, now £299.98

30% off Shoei GT Air 2 – Qubit TC-5 – was £589.99, now £349.98

30% off Arai Tour X4 – was £599.99, now £399.99

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

38% off HJC R-PHA 70 – was £399.99, now £249.99

25% off HJC R-PHA 1 – was £699.99, now £524.99

Over 30% off HJC R-PHA 1 – Red Bull Austin GP – was £799.99, now £549.99

27% off Shark Spartan GT Carbon Skin – was £449.99, now £329.98

25% off Shark Skwal 2.2 – was £219.99, now £164.99

33% off Shark Ridill 1.2 – was £149.99, now £99.99

Over 55% off Premier X-Trail – U9 – was £229.95, now £100.80

Over 50% off Premier Hyper – BP 12 – was £229.95, now £145.60

Over 35% off AGV Tourmodular – was £529.99, now £339.67

Over 35% off Simpson Venom – was £329.99, now £199.99

Best budget motorcycle helmet

Price: £99.99 (was £169.99)

Gareth Evans tested the Shark Ridill 1.2 for 1600 miles and praised it's solid construction, amount of features, selection of designs as well as value for money and said: "Shark’s Ridill is a low-price, high-feature motorbike helmet that would suit new riders perfectly. It’s not perfect, as you’d expect for a lid at this price point, but for a starting point it’s ideal, particularly with slow-speed 125cc learner riders."

"I’m less keen on the ratchet style of chin strap – I prefer a D-ring because it simply feels more secure. However, the counterpoint to this – particularly for newer riders – is that the ratchet style is easier to use, particularly with motorbike gloves on, because it’s less fiddly."

"If I were starting my riding career over again, I’d definitely put the Ridill on my list of essential kit. You’ve got to have a helmet regardless, but this one proves you don’t have to spend silly money to get something comfortable, quality and laden with features."

Read our full Shark Ridill 1.2 review


  • Solid construction
  • Lots of features
  • Large selection of designs
  • Huge value for money


  • Sun visor hits tester’s nose
  • Ratchet on strap
  • Visor release flimsy
  • Comfort
  • Visor
  • Ventilation
  • Noise
  • Looks
  • Quality
  • Value
  • Overall
Approval ECE 22.05
Chin strap Quick release
Colour scheme Red
Finish Gloss
Form Full face
Removable interior Fully removable
Sharp rating 4 star
Shell construction Thermo-resin
Visors Integral sun visor
Warranty 5 year
  • Pinlock ready quick release visor
  • Quick release retention system
  • Thermoplastic construction
  • Integrated interior sun visor
  • Upgraded removable and washable interior lining
  • Easyfit system for glasses wearers
  • Weight 1550g (+/-50g)
  • 5 year warranty (registration required)

Best open face

Price: £99.98 (was £129.99)

"Bell were in right at the beginning of jet helmets and that gives this helmet instant credibility. The shell has a top-quality feel and the chrome edging, faux leather frontage and gold/carbon-effect design are all impressive. The interior is plush and accurate to the period and the goggle strap retainer feels like quality. Shame about the D-ring strap, which has the test certificate label stitched to the outer surface for unnecessary visibility."

See all the best open face helmets


  • THE retro brand
  • Great style
  • Range of quality features


  • No face protection
Approval ECE 22.05
Chin strap Double-D
Colour scheme Black
Finish Matt
Form Open face
Removable interior None
Sharp rating Not rated
Shell construction Fibreglass
Warranty 5 years
  • Composite fibreglass construction
  • Soft microfibre cloth interior
  • Integrated 5 snap pattern for aftermarket shields and visors
  • Leather D-ring pull tab
  • Multi-density EPS liner
  • Padded chin strap with D-ring closure
  • Five year warranty
  • Includes drawstring bag

Best motorbike helmet for sportsbikes

Price: £449.99 (was £599.99)

The Arai Quantic holds the accolade of being the first helmet on the UK market to be certified to the ECE 22.06 safety standard. It's a sport touring lid that's just as at home on the track as it is on the daily commute.

Richard Newland tested the Arai Quantic for 5000 miles and praised the quality, fit and spec, saying: "The fit and finish are superb, and there are accommodating recesses for speakers if you’re a connected sort of human, while the shell has flat areas on each side to allow easier device fitment. The nose and chin visors are both effective, and while there are no claims to being glasses-friendly, I still find it easy enough to slide my glasses into place."

"Stunningly comfortable from the first wear, beautifully finished and boasting top-level safety credentials, it’s one of my favourite helmets of all time. There’s nothing to dislike other than the price tag."

Read our full Arai Quantic review

See all the best sports helmets


  • Lovely quality
  • Superb fit
  • Top-spec


  • Brow vent wind noise
  • The price tag
  • Quality
  • Value
Approval ECE 22.06
Chin strap Double-D
Colour scheme Black-white
Finish Gloss
Form Full face
Removable interior Fully removable
Shell construction Multi-composite
Shell sizes 3
Visors Pinlock included
Warranty 5 years
  • Outer shell: PB e-cLc (Peripherally Belted e-Complex Laminate Construction)
  • Variable Axis System (VAS)
  • Quantic Ventilation
  • 3D Arai logo duct
  • One-piece rear exhaust with spoiler function
  • Emergency Release System (ERS)
  • Breath guard
  • Chin Curtain (fixed)

Best modular motorcycle helmet

Price: £409.99 (was £499.99)

Modular helmets like the Schuberth C5 take the freedom of an open face and combine it with the safety of a full-face. If a helmet is dual homologated (also known as P/J homologation) like the C5, then it can be worn open or closed as you ride along.

Adam Binnie tested the Schuberth C5 and praised the completeness of the helmet saying: "there’s always a benefit to being first and the headline-grabbing ECE 22.06 rating is bound to put it front of mind for riders shopping for a new lid. If that rating is enough to get you to try one, I think the build quality, fit and comfort will convince you to keep in on. It’s also a huge advantage that the C5 looks as sleek and compact as a regular helmet, a potential stumbling block for previous Schuberth lids that had a bit of a fishbowl aesthetic."

"I wear this on all bikes and all rides now because it’s a great all-rounder, offering good ventilation, a quiet ride and (subjectively) attractive styling. The fact it’s a flip front is almost secondary – this is a great helmet in its own right."

Read our full Schuberth C5 review

See all the best flip-front helmets


  • Can flip up at fuel stops
  • Can be ridden open when it's hot


  • Not very cool
Approval ECE 22.06
Chin strap Quick release
Colour scheme Silver
Finish Gloss
Form Flip-up
Removable interior Fully removable
Shell construction Multi-composite
Shell sizes Two
Visors Pinlock included, integral sun visor
Warranty 5 years
  • Patented Direct Fibre (DFP) fibre glass shell construction with carbon reinforcement for low weight
  • Wind tunnel developed for superior aerodynamics and aero-acoustics
  • Chin lock mechanism made from glass fibre reinforced plastic
  • Dual density EPS lining material for improved shock absorption and increased head cavity
  • Anti-Roll-Off-System (A.R.O.S.) helps ensure helmet is kept on in case of accident
  • Improved field of view thanks to City Position visor mechanism
  • First-class visor for clear vision without distortion
  • Integrated internal drop-down sun visor
  • Quick release chin strap fastening
  • Pinlock 120 anti-fog lens pre-installed
  • Pre-installed speakers, cable harness and radio antennas for optional SC2 intercom system
  • Seamless lining with highest quality fabrics from Italy (Oeko-Tex 100 certified)
  • Washable and easily removable interior parts
  • Cheek pad grooves for increased comfort when wearing glasses
  • High air ventilation due to multichannel ventilation with insect protection
  • Patented turbolators offer improved airflow
  • Easy maintenance and cleaning of air intakes
  • Branded brushed metal helmet trim plate
  • ECE 22.06 approved
  • P/J dual Homologation
  • 5 year warranty (when you register online with Schuberth)

Best retro helmet

If you ride a retro or a classic, then you probably don't want a modern motorcycle helmet ruining the look. But you also can't buy a genuine classic helmet for safety reasons, so a retro-style lid like the Shoei Ex-Zero is a good compromise. It can be worn with goggles, but it also has a small pull-down visor for convenience.

Ben Clarke tested the Shoei EX-Zero and praised it's attractive and lightweight design saying: "Look at it. It’s so good-looking that I’d still wear it if it crushed my head. I’d probably still wear it if I couldn’t see where I was going or it was made of immaculately finished papier-mâché. Maybe that makes me a dandy, but I don’t care… just look at it!"

"The Ex-Zero weighs in at just 1227g on my scales (size L) and it feels very light to wear on the bike when you are doing quick shoulder checks or looking back and forth at a junction. It makes you feel incredibly free and unencumbered if you’re nipping out in a jacket and jeans to a pub or the shops and means it’s comfortable for longer periods, too."

Read our full Shoei EX-Zero review

See all the best retro helmets


  • Looks great
  • Lightweight
  • Double-D chinstrap


  • Expensive for a vanity helmet
  • Not very practical
  • Quality
  • Value
Approval ECE 22.05
Chin strap Double-D
Colour scheme Multi
Finish Gloss
Form Full face
Removable interior Fully removable
Sharp rating Not rated
Shell construction Multi-composite
Shell sizes 3
Warranty 5 years
  • AIM Multi-Composite fibre layered shell
  • EPS liner system with multiple densities
  • E.Q.R.S (emergency quick release system) for easy helmet removal in case of accident
  • Integrated CJ-3 visor, adjustable in 3 positions
  • Double-D ring retention system
  • Removable and washable cheek pads and centre pad
  • Three shell sizes

Best adventure bike helmet

Price: £399.99 (was £499.99)

Michael Guy tested the Arai Tour X4 helmet for one year covering 2400 miles and said: "I’m now on my second Tour X4 helmet having had a Tour X3 before that meaning I’ve been wearing Arai’s adventure helmet for nearly 20 years. While it’s not perfect, it remains my go to adventure helmet despite testing alternatives from AGV, Klim and Shoei."

"One of the key factors that keeps me coming back for more is the fit. I wear an XS and unlike other helmets, Arai have different outer shell sizes meaning that I’m not wearing a helmet with a large outer shell and lots of padding to make it fit correctly. This in turn makes it feel and look better."


  • Fantastic fit
  • Well balanced
  • Excellent vision and minimal glare


  • Changing visors is a slow and laborious task
  • Quality
  • Value
Approval ECE 22.05
Chin strap Double-D
Colour scheme Black
Finish Gloss
Form Adventure
Removable interior Fully removable
Sharp rating Not rated
Shell construction Multi-composite
Visors Pinlock included
Warranty 5 years
  • Penetration resistant
  • Hybrid multiple-density foam EPS liner
  • Hyper ridge
  • Diffuser
  • FSC
  • Chin spoiler
  • Removable interior
  • Chin strap
  • Brow ventilation
  • Demist lock

How to choose the right motorbike helmet for you

The basic rule of thumb is to buy the best motorcycle helmet you can afford. However, that still leaves a lot to consider. Let’s start by looking at the fundamentals and work our way through to options.

A helmet’s primary function is to protect your head from an impact with a solid object. It does this with two main elements – a hard outer shell that is designed to absorb the impact across its entire surface and a deformable inner layer that acts as a cushion or crumple zone. Fibreglass, polycarbonate or carbon fibre are typical materials for the outer construction, whilst expanded polystyrene (EPS) is widely used for the inner.

Many manufacturers incorporate a multi-directional impact system (MIPS) which offers additional protection by allowing the inner to move independently, thus reducing rotational injuries. Some helmets also have an emergency quick-release system (EQRS), which gives emergency services the opportunity to withdraw the cheek pads whilst the helmet is still being worn. This reduces pressure on the head, loosening the fit and making removal easier and safer.

Whatever helmet you choose, it’s worth investing in some earplugs. The wind noise experienced at motorway speed on any bike and wearing any helmet is enough to damage your hearing, so make sure you protect it!

Watch this video on how to get a helmet that fits correctly:

How are helmets tested?

All helmets sold in the UK must comply with the current European standard of ECE 22.05. This involves a whole range of tests to ensure that any given helmet will perform as it should. You’ll find a tag somewhere on the helmet to confirm this, usually on the chin strap. As of July 2023, all new helmets manufactured have to be tested to the newer ECE 22.06 standard, although it will remain legal to wear those tested under the current certification.

In 2007, the UK government set up its own testing scheme, the Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme (SHARP). This awards helmets a star rating out of 5 and can give a further indication as to the best motorcycle helmet for you.

Which type of helmet do I need?

There are three main types of helmets – open face, full face and modular. Deciding which will meet your needs is the first step in finding the best motorcycle helmet for you.

An open face is the most basic type, offering protection to the top, back and sides of the head. These are more suited to riders who prefer a less restricted view, want maximum ventilation or feel claustrophobic with their face covered. They’re popular with those who ride urban, classic, trials or cruiser-type bikes. Many have provision for a clip-on visor and peak, or you could choose to wear goggles. A variation on the theme is the ‘jet’ style, which incorporates a visor much like a fighter pilot’s helmet.

So-called because it wraps around the whole head leaving just an aperture for your eyes, a full face helmet provides much more protection, both from an impact and the elements. There are many different sub-types, from the more rounded road/race style to peaked adventure and off road helmets.

Both adventure and off-road helmet types can be identified by their extended chinbars, designed to give greater airflow for coping with the exertions of riding on the dirt. Off road helmets don’t have a visor and are intended to be worn with goggles.

Modular, or flip front, helmets offer the best of both worlds. The front part of the helmet is designed to rotate upwards, converting it from full to open face – although it should be noted that not all are approved to be worn open whilst riding, so check before you buy. Modular helmets provide a level of convenience for people who ride a lot, such as for work or touring. Although the most versatile, modular helmets are generally the heaviest of the bunch due to the extra mechanism required.

How do I choose the right size motorbike helmet?

A correctly fitting helmet is paramount, both in terms of safety and comfort. Too loose could cause it to move around in use, and it won’t be able to protect as it should, maybe even coming off in an accident. Too tight, and it will quickly become uncomfortable, affecting concentration and giving you a headache – a few miles in a helmet that’s too small can be akin to a medieval torture device. The best motorcycle helmet should be just snug, moving with your head without causing discomfort.

Measuring your head is a good place to start in finding your size (above the ears and around the forehead), but the only way to be sure is to go to a shop or show and try some on. Manufacturers offer a range of shell sizes to suit different size heads, as well as liners and cheek pads to achieve a full custom fit. The best motorcycle helmet is the one you feel most comfortable wearing.

What’s the best type of strap?

Keeping a helmet in place is crucial to its effectiveness, and there are three main types of fastening systems – double D-ring, ratchet clasp or a car seatbelt style clip and catch. All meet the required standard, so ultimately it’s down to personal choice.

A double D-ring is the traditional method and is adjusted each time it’s fastened by simply tugging it snug. With no moving parts, it’s also the simplest and remains the standard at the top level of bike sport. A ratchet clasp is similar in that you tighten it to suit every time, but some will find feeding the strap through the clasp less fiddly to get the hang of. The seat belt type has to be adjusted first, altering the length of the strap to suit, so may involve some trial and error. In operation, it’s a simple case of clipping the buckle into the catch and pressing a button to release.

A strap is correctly tightened when you can slip two fingers between it and your jaw. Any more than that could restrict breathing or blood flow, any less and your helmet may not stay on when it needs to.

Which helmets are rated by MCN?

MCN’s expert road testers have a wealth of experience in testing every aspect of motorcycle kits and have put a huge variety of helmets through their paces. Here’s our pick from each category – you can find more options plus in-depth reviews by clicking on the relevant links.

About the author: Justin Hayzelden is a Commercial Content Writer at MCN Products. He has extensive industry experience, having spent over 10 years as a freelance road tester and journalist.

- 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.