Summer breeze: Best open-face motorcycle helmets

Open Face helmet
Open Face helmet
1

We’ve all seen plenty of movies and TV shows – most notably from across the Pond – where bikers wear open-face motorcycle helmets and are bathed in glorious warm sunlight as they ride care-free along billiard-smooth tarmac, often with a rolling ocean over their shoulder. But while a Tuesday commute into Swindon may not be quite so romantic, an open-face motorcycle helmet can make a day-to-day ride a bit more enjoyable.

In a full-face helmet, your head obviously has the best protection possible; it is completely encased within the material of the helmet and with the exception of the visor aperture, there is no way any foreign material can enter. However, you are completely insulated from the outside world and for some, this is a step too far.

A flip-front helmet adds a degree of flexibility, in that you can open the flip when stopped to have a drink or a bite to eat or simply for a bit of air and some allow you to also ride with the flip open (if they are dual – P and J – homologated). Look for a tab on the chin-strap to be sure.

Shark’s Evo line (and latterly, LS2’s Valiant model) take this one step further, with a folding chin-bar that rolls all the way over the top of the helmet to the back, effectively turning a full-face into an open-face (or more accurately, a ‘Jet’-style – an open face helmet with a full visor, popular on the Continent particularly for commuters.)

But if you want the genuine impression of the wind on your face, then an open-face motorcycle helmet is the way to go. Generally, these will be particularly well suited to classic or retro-style motorcycles, as trying to get into hyperspace on a superbike or going off-road on an adventurer is likely to be a fairly uncomfortable experience.

You need to be aware that you are far more exposed in an open-face than a full-face or flip with the front closed. Your chin and face are uncovered and this is why they are generally used for low-speed riding. You also need to include some form of eye protection like riding goggles – little will ruin a ride more than hitting a wasp head-on at 50mph or a bit of grit kicked up from the road landing in your eye.

Like any helmet, all open-face (or Jet) lids should conform to the latest regulations, although you are unlikely to see them rated for safety by SHARP, the UK government testing scheme, since they do not protect the chin. However, if you want to get your motor running and head out on the highway, then one of these open-face motorcycle helmets may suit.

Price: £295.99
Available in a range of cool colours and starting at £299.99 for the base colour and going up to £349.99 for liveried lids, the J.O is made using the same design ethos as the rest of Shoei's range. The shell is formed in the brand's AIM (Advanced Integrated Matrix) and comes in three sizes so the correct size for the head doesn't become ungainly.

It features a classic America design with straight sidelines and it comes with a manually-adjustable visor to protect the eyes. It also has a goggle loop at the rear and the lining is removable for washing.
This open-face from French manufacturer Shark has a bit more of a modern design to it, with the lower sections of the side pieces turning towards the front of the face, similar to a flip-front helmet when the flip is open. This means it works like an open-face with the wind flow but offers more protection than a more classic design.

It is formed with a fibreglass shell in two sizes and comes with an interior made from bamboo. It has a clear drop-down visor for protection and uses a double-D ring fastening to ensure the right fit every time. It will also accept the Sharktooth communications system.
Price: £48.00
Made by Viper, who produce some decent kit at great value, this basic open-face motorcycle helmet is decorated in cool 'Route 66' graphics for a proper retro feel. Reviews suggests it is more slim fit than some would like and it comes up small, so consider going up a size but there's no denying it would look great as you ride a cruiser or retro on a sunny evening ride. The shell is made in 'thermo-resin' and it comes with a removable peak and a goggles-retaining strap at the back.
Price: £199.99
The LS2 Bob takes retro styling and brings it bang up to date, with this carbon-skinned open-face design (a non-carbon version is also available at £119.99). The carbon skin keeps strength high and weight low and the Bob Carbon comes in at 850g +/- 50g, according to the manufacturer.

It comes with a pull-down sun visor and is supplied with a peak, which can be removed and re-attached using the poppers. It has a double-D ring fastening and a goggle loop as well.
Hailing from the Mod era (if you don't know what that is, ask your dad), this open-face-design helmet from Duchinni continues the brand's ethos of performance and value, costing less than £70. The shell is formed from ABS plastic and the lining is fully removable and washable.

It uses a seat-belt-style buckle and there is a pull-down sun visor to protect the eyes though there is also a loop to retain goggles for those who prefer them. The lower sections of the sides protrude slightly further forward than traditional open-face helmets to offer a little more protection to the chin and it’s finished in black and green or black and orange.
Price: £59.99 (was £69.99)
The Le Mans from MT Helmets is another classic open-face helmet that is available for less than £70 and comes in a range of colour schemes, including this awesome skulls 'n' roses. It uses a multi-density EPS line to stop the helmet from getting too large with excessive side padding and the interior features faux leather to further add to the retro look and feel. It has a pull-down visor for protection and uses a seat-belt-style buckle for quick and easy fixing and release. It also has poppers so you can add an (optional) peak.

It is made using ‘Standard’ fibre construction – Arai’s Fibre Complex Laminate Construction (FCLC) and has a triple density liner for safety and comfort. The interior features genuine leather for a more authentic retro look and feel and there is a standard or a sun-visor peak available as an option. It has a goggle loop at the back and fastens with a double-D ring.

There are five sizes of shell and five inner liners, creating a perfect fit without the helmet becoming too large and it is certified to both the DOT (American) and ECE (European) standards. It also comes with two snap-in visors to create a more ‘Jet’-style helmet for protected use.
Price: £227.00 (was £239.99)
The Shark Street Drak is an aggressive open-face helmet aimed at riders of 'streetfighters' and uses a pair of removable 'goggles' and a face mask to turn from what looks like a full-face helmet to a fully open face, with an intermediate position of the goggles and face mask raised, like a flip-front helmet.

This allows the addition of top vents in the thermoplastic shell for a cooler ride and with two shell sizes, it should be easy to get the right fit. It uses a microlock buckle and is ready for the Sharktooth communications system.

What are the pros and cons of open face helmets?

Open face helmets offer excellent ventilation, and being able to feel the breeze makes for an experience unlike any other in motorcycling. The main drawback is safety – your face is more exposed, and so you’ll be less protected.

How safe are open face helmets?

Generally speaking, an open face helmet will be considerably less safe to wear than a full-face helmet. Open face helmets leave a large portion of your face unprotected, which could end badly should you be involved in a crash.

On the flip side though, some people feel claustrophobic in a full-face helmet, and being comfortable in your gear is a big part of safety. As with most things in motorcycling, it’s really up to you how you want to ride – as long as you’re wearing a helmet, you’re still riding on the right side of the law.

If you’re unsure which style will suit you, it’s best to find out by trying some on at your local kit store.

What style of riding are open face helmets suitable for?

Open face helmets are great for summer, as they let lots of refreshing wind onto your face. To be on the safe side, we recommend only using them for urban duties, and slower speed riding.

About the author: After qualifying as a mechanical engineer, Jim Blackstock began working on magazines in the early 1990s. He remains passionate about product testing to ensure readers know what products offer good value and why. He relishes torrential rain to see if riding kit keeps water out and an hour or two to tinker on a project bike in his workshop.

- 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 - read why you should trust us.