Best motorbike helmet for you: MCN's guide to choosing the right lid whatever you ride

Best motorbike helmets
Best motorbike helmets

You only have one brain and so it’s important to buy the best motorcycle 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 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 motorcycle 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 budget motorcycle helmet

Price: £94.99 (was £99.99)


A low-price, high-feature helmet, perfect for those buying their first lid or maybe an occasional pillion passenger. Despite being an entry-level option, it still comes with striking designs and really looks the part.

Read our full Shark Ridill 1.2 review


  • Entry-level
  • Great looks
  • Built-in sun visor


  • Ratchet instead of double-D

Best open face


If you're zipping around town on a stylish scooter, trundling to the beach on a Van Van, or even cruising around your local roads on a Harley, an open face helmet like this simple option from Bell is ideal.

See all the best open face helmets


  • Easy to put on
  • Light
  • Cool and breezy


  • No face protection

Best for city scooters

Price: £122.28 (was £155.88)


If you don't like the idea of getting bugs in your eyes but you fancy the freedom of an open face, a jet helmet like this one from Scorpion could be the solution. These are all the rage in European cities - perfect for stashing under the seat of your maxi scooter.

See all the best jet helmets


  • More protection than an open face
  • Cool and breezy
  • Built-in eye protection


  • No chin bar

Best helmet for sportsbikes


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.

Read our full Arai Quantic review

See all the best sports helmets


  • Very safe
  • Looks great


  • Quite heavy

Best modular motorbike helmet


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.

Read our full Schuberth C5 review

See all the best modular helmets


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


  • Not very cool

Best retro helmet


If you ride a retro or a classic, then you probably don't want a modern 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.

Read our full Shoei EX-Zero review

See all the best retro helmets


  • Looks great
  • Lightweight
  • Double-D chinstrap


  • Not very practical

Best Adventure bike helmet


Portuguese firm Nexx are better known for their trendy, retro lids, but they also make modern kit like the X.WED 2. Adventure helmets are often peaked for keeping the sun out of your eyes on the trail and can be worn with goggles or their visor.


  • Packed with features
  • Peaked and internal sun visor
  • Aggressive looks


  • Lesser-known brand in UK

Best for motocross and enduro

Price: £349.99 (was £544.99)


Adventure helmets are essentially more luxurious and comfortable versions of off-road helmets like this option from Alpinestars. Pure off road lids are chosen purely for their lightness and ventilation and have enormous apertures for fitting goggles inside. Watch out, as not all off-road helmets are homologated for use on the road.

See all the best off road helmets


  • Very light
  • Incredible ventilation


  • Not comfortable on the road

How to choose the right 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 will 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?

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.

- 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.