Seven Safest Helmets Currently Available
Below I will go over what I consider the seven safest helmets presently on the market. Each helmet is Snell M2020 certified. Following the list, I will outline what it means to be Snell M2020 approved, why I chose these helmets, and what makes them the safest.
Price: $579.99 - $659.99
The Shoei RF-1400 is Shoei’s lightest full-face helmet while also being among its safest. The RF-1400 is Snell M2020 certified, like every other helmet on this list.
Shoei helmets are always well-regarded, and the RF line by Shoei is their flagship line of helmets. The RF-1400 features several improvements over the previous RF-1200, including a reduction in drag and an increase in sound dampening.
Price: $869.95 - $879.95
Arai helmets are consistently top of their class, and the Corsair-X is no different. These helmets boast all kinds of Arai proprietary technology, chief among them being their Variable Axis System (VAS) shield.
Arai’s VAS shield is intended to not only protect you from direct impacts but also to be more protective for glancing blows by better re-directing energy. Arai’s helmets consistently top the charts in terms of price, but they are never lacking in features to justify that price.
Bell Star DLX MIPS
Bell’s top-of-the-line helmet now features MIPS technology. I will delve deeper into what MIPS does later, but the inclusion of MIPS in this helmet elevates it a step above by providing superior protection in both high-speed and low-speed accidents.
The Bell Star DLX sets itself apart from other helmets by stressing the importance of a full field of view. It is not surprising, but some full-face helmets can feel claustrophobic and limit your peripheral vision. Bell has designed the Star DLX to have additional vertical and lateral visibility and includes sewn-in eyeglass arm pockets to make the helmet more comfortable for those like me who need to wear glasses while riding.
Price: $159.99 - $174.99
This HJC i10 is the most affordable helmet on this list. Don’t let its low price fool you. This helmet offers exceptional value while still meeting the rigorous requirements to be Snell M2020 certified.
While this may be the least feature-rich helmet, you still get plenty of nice-to-have features with this HJC, including a Pinlock shield and a Bluetooth-ready design. The HJC i10 is my number one recommendation if you’re shopping for safe helmets on a budget.
The Arai Regent-X is, in many ways, a more value-driven version of the Corsair-X listed above. The Regent features the same VAS shield as the Corsair, so it fairs well for both direct and glancing impacts, but it foregoes the Corsair’s emphasis on lightness.
The Regent-X is an excellent helmet for the rider that wants an Arai helmet but doesn't want to break the bank with their top-of-the-line series.
Sedici Strada II Primo
Admittedly I was unaware of this brand before researching this list. Still, when I found the Sedici Strada II Primo helmet, I was pleasantly surprised by what it had to offer at a relatively low price point. From a pure cost perspective, the HJC beats out the Strada, but riders looking for a budget-friendly helmet should still consider the Strada II Primo as a more full-featured option.
The highlight of this helmet is its proprietary shell which helps it to have one of the lightest and strongest shells on the market. For a premium, you can opt for the more-expensive Strada II Primo Carbon which features a carbon fiber shell for further weight savings.
Price: $639.95 - $649.95
The Arai XD-4is the true outlier among these six other helmets because it is the only one that is a dual-sport full-face helmet. From my research, this is the only Snell M2020 certified dual-sport helmet.
The XD-4 has all the features that make Arai helmets stand out while also having some additional ones that make it a tremendous dual-sport helmet. The XD-4 has a removable visor and a removable floating peak to customize the helmet to your aerodynamic needs.
What Makes for a Safe Helmet?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) publishes articles about motorcycle accidents and helmet use. In 2020, the NHTSA published this study highlighting that 40% of motorcycle crashes involving fatalities involved unhelmeted riders.
Furthermore, the NHTSA published a 2017 study that expressed the percentage of lives that could be saved by wearing a helmet. The NHTSA estimate that 1,872 lives were saved from helmet usage, and another 749 fatal accidents would not have been fatal if the rider wore a helmet.
I take helmet safety very seriously, and I beg every motorcycle rider that reads this to wear a helmet every time you throw a leg over your bike to go for a ride.
When compiling this list, I had a few qualifiers that helmets needed to meet for me even to consider them. The number one requirement for me was that they be Snell M2020 certified. In just a bit, I will go into detail about what that means, but for now, know that it is among the most rigorous certifications a helmet can have.
This top seven list only features full-face helmets because they are what I, and the certifying bodies, consider to be the safest type of helmet. Modular, 3/4 face, and half helmets are not as safe as full-face helmets, and the Snell foundation agrees. There are no Snell M2020-certified helmets in any of those categories.
In addition to Snell certification, other governing bodies set safety standards. These include the DOT and ECE standards. Every helmet on this list is going to be DOT and Snell-certified.
Certifications and safety features alone do not make for a safe helmet. My number one piece of advice to ensure you have the safest helmet possible is to make sure that whatever lid you put on your head is sized correctly and fits you well.
I will dive deep into what makes for a properly fitting helmet and why that is safer than an ill-fitting one.
A Proper Fitting Helmet
A properly fitting motorcycle helmet is crucial to a helmet’s safety. You may have one of the safest helmets available, but if it does not fit correctly, it will not adequately protect you.
To put it into very rudimentary terms, think of your head in a helmet like an item packaged in a box. If you have a large box with a bunch of extra space, the thing will get thrown around and damaged in the shipping process.
On the flip side of that, if you have exterior packaging that fits snugly against the item inside the box, that item is going to fair much better as it is thrashed about in the back of your favorite delivery company’s truck.
What I’m getting at is that you need to ensure you’re getting a properly fitting helmet when you buy one. Companies like Revzilla offer an excellent return policy on helmets, allowing you to shop for the perfect fit without worrying about wasting money.
The NHTSA has published a guide on proper helmet fitment to ensure that you get a well-fitting helmet. They break it down into shape, size, and style.
The shape of the helmet refers to the shape of the outer shell. Because everyone has a head that is shaped differently, helmets come in different shell shapes.
There are three shapes available for motorcycle helmets. The most common head shape is intermediate oval. The two less common shapes are round oval and long oval.
When you try on a helmet, you want to make sure there are no “hot spots” or pressure points. The helmet needs to fit snuggly around your entire head, and you should feel equal pressure evenly distributed.
Size is the measurement around your head. Using a cloth measuring tape, you obtain this measurement by measuring around the widest part of your head. Once you have this measurement, cross reference it with the manufacturer’s size chart, and you will know what size helmet you need to buy.
Remember that not all helmets are sized the same, and a medium from one brand may fit differently from a medium from another brand. Trying on a helmet is the best way to ensure a proper fit.
Finally, that brings us to NHTSA’s final point regarding helmet fitment, which is helmet style. As discussed above, this list only contains full-face helmets as they are, by design, the safest type of helmets. There are also modular, 3/4, and half-helmets available.
Snell M2020 Certification
As I stated above, every helmet on this list will have a Snell M2020 certification, so it will benefit you to know what that means exactly.
The Snell Memorial Foundation is a non-profit established in 1957. The foundation was created after the tragic death of William Snell, a sports car racer who died following head injuries after a crash.
The Snell Foundation is committed to research, education, testing, and development in multiple fields, including motorcycle helmet safety. Their M2020 helmet standard can be read in full here, but to keep it short and to the point, the M2020 certification is the most demanding certification for a helmet to have and indicates it ranks among the safest helmets available.
A few of the tests that Snell subjects helmets to determine if they meet the M2020 standards are an impact test, roll-off test, chin bar rigidity test, penetration test, and flame resistance test.
Other governing bodies provide crash certification for helmets. The most common you will find in the United States is the DOT certification, but you are likely also to find an ECE certification.
All Snell-certified helmets are also DOT, or ECE-certified but not all DOT and ECE-certified helmets are Snell-certified.
If you have a helmet that is only certified by DOT or ECE, that does not mean it is not a safe helmet. They still meet the minimum safety requirements for a helmet to protect you, but if you want the absolute safest helmets, you need to look for Snell M2020 certification.
DOT-certified helmets are helmets that have met the United States Department of Transportation's minimum safety requirements.
It is important to note that DOT does not actually approve helmets themselves. DOT certification is self-reported, meaning the manufacturers state that the helmet meets the DOT standards.
If a helmet is found to say they meet DOT standards but does not, that manufacturer is subject to penalties and may be open to legal liability.
The DOT certification for helmets is also the lowest helmet safety certification, but that does not mean a DOT-certified helmet is bad. Riding with a DOT-rated helmet is better than riding with no helmet and will protect you in the event of an accident.
ECE stands for the Economic Commission for Europe and is the second most common helmet rating in the United States and obviously the most common in Europe.
ECE helmets are put through more thorough and rigorous tests than DOT-rated helmets. And certification is not self-reported like the DOT is. A third-party lab conducts the tests required to get ECE certification.
If you can’t find an M2020 Snell helmet but want something tested more thoroughly than a DOT helmet, you will be safe buying a helmet with an ECE certification.
The last thing I wanted to touch on is MIPS, an acronym you will find on some, but not all, of the helmets I have included on this list.
MIPS stands for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System, and this is a technology that has been around for over 25 years. MIPS is prevalent in bicycle helmets but has found limited penetration into motorcycle helmets, though in recent years, there has been an uptick in motorcycle helmets that offer this tech.
MIPS technology works by applying a thin layer between your helmet’s lining and the EPS foam that allows for rotational movement during a crash. MIPS produces fewer concussions during low-speed collisions because it enables the head to move naturally within the helmet.
About THE AUTHOR
With nearing a decade of riding experience and tens of thousands of miles on two wheels I will always opt for two wheels over four. My favorite motorcycling pastimes are motocamping and spontaneous runs to the ice cream shop. You can often find me with a loaded pack strapped to the back of my bike on my way to a new adventure.Read More About Michael Conger