Beginner riders don’t want to spend too much money on gear, and hey, I get it. When I first started riding I spent all the money I had on a crappy motorcycle and I lacked extra dough for good gear. I wore an older open face helmet that I bought to ride go-karts years before and some sunglasses for the first year of riding.
After that, I upgraded. I would not recommend this path to new riders. You need good protection right away when you’re most likely to make big mistakes. I’d suggest starting with a good helmet. You can spend a couple of hundred dollars for a good helmet or up to or over $1,000, but generally, I tell new riders not to buy anything over $500.
For $500 or less you can get one hell of a helmet that will provide you with excellent protection, good features, style, and high levels of comfort. Also, as a new rider, I hesitate to say you need to buy the latest and greatest helmet out there that was designed for the best MotoGP riders. If you want to, go for it, but there are so many great helmets available for only a few hundred bucks. Here are my top picks.
The new Scorpion EXO-HX1 is a superb helmet for the beginner, for three main reasons.
Firstly, it is a combination of two helmets into one. You have a standard full-face helmet, and a supermoto helmet when you replace the visor with a peak shade and goggles. Secondly, it is made of very durable, impact-absorbing LG polycarbonate for its shell, with advanced multi-layer, dual-density EPS foam backing it up throughout. Third, as it is designed to be able to handle goggles of multiple sizes in the supermoto setup, the visor is extremely large and allows for a great field of view.
It also comes with the latest KwikWick III lining, which is fully removable and machine washable, and has excellent ventilation via a large mouth vent, which also directs air around the cheeks, and ram air upper intake, which covers the ventilation around the top and sides of the head. All is exhausted through the subtle venturi exhaust at the back of the head.
Putting all of it together, you have a helmet that really should be nearer to $300, yet is selling for around $200.
A lot of people chastise open-face helmets, but I like them. Sure they don’t offer quite as good of features and protection, but they still provide a good amount of protection and they do so while letting you get the wind on your face. And, the Bell Custom 500 Helmet is the way to go in my opinion.
Bell has essentially remade its helmet of old with modern materials and technology. This allows the Custom 500 to sit low on the head and look good while you wear it. The helmet features five shell sizes and five EPS sizes to keep the profile as small as possible. There’s also an integrated five-snap pattern that will allow you to add aftermarket shields and visors.
Bell’s Custom 500 Helmet also gets a padded chin strap with a double D-ring closure system, multi-density EPS, and a five-year warranty—see Scorpion isn’t the only one.
The Arai Classic-V Helmet is Arai’s take on the classic open-face helmet, and a good option if you’re not loving the Bell Custom 500 but still want that classic open face helmet style.
The helmet features the PB-cLc shell, which is Arai’s special helmet shell. It’s one of the best in the business. There’s also faux leather edge trim, hidden interior ventilation, one-piece multi-density EPS, integrated five snap system for adding accessories like face shields, and a goggle strap holder. The helmet also comes with an anti-microbial interior and removable cheek pads.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find an open face helmet that’s as comfortable as this helmet is to wear for hours and hours, which is what makes it so special.
The AGV K1 Helmet is an aggressive, sharp-looking full-face motorcycle helmet that will pair nicely with a quick and sporty sportbike or naked street bike.
The helmet features AGV’s high resistance thermoplastic resin shell construction and the shell is offered in two different shell sizes. There are also four EPS sizes across the sizing range. The helmet comes with an integrated ventilation system, a quick-release visor system, scratch-resistant anti-fogging face shield, micro-opening visor, fully removable and washable 3D liner, and a double D-ring chin strap.
This helmet is a fantastic option for sportbike riders who want good protection and style but don’t want to break the bank.
The Shoei RF-1400 Helmet tickles right at the very edge of the limit of pricing for this article. However, for the $499.99 you pay for it, you get all of the knowledge that Shoei has garnered over 50+ years, and a helmet that takes the lessons learned from the FR-1200 to heart.
The helmet’s shell is made of multiple, interwoven layers of both fiberglass and organic fibers to make a supremely durable, yet exceptionally lightweight helmet. It is lined with dual layer, multi-density EPS foam. The shell has spent hundreds if not thousands of hours in the wind tunnel, increasing the noise resistance over the already-quiet RF-1200.
Those same wind tunnel tests improved the shape of the helmet, reducing drag by 4% and lift by 6%. A new faceplate system, CWR-F2, replaces the original system, adding 10% wider field of view as well as being Pinlock EVO compatible. It is also easier and quicker to switch shields out with the simple “pop out” mechanism when the faceplate is fully raised.
A chin curtain and breath guard come with the helmet, and it has achieved the latest Snell M2020 and DOT certifications.
Bell’s helmet building experience has allowed them to figure out how to build one of the best adventure motorcycle helmets for the money. The MX-9 Adventure MIPS Helmet is that lid.
The helmet features Bell’s multi-directional impact protection system for rotational impact protection. The helmet has a polycarbonate shell that comes in three sizes, an integrated face shield, a top-quality ventilation system, moisture-wicking removable comfort liner, and speaker pockets.
There’s also EPS in the chin bar, a padded chin strap, and the helmet comes both DOT and ECE approved. This lid also comes with a five-year warranty as all Bell helmets do.
The Scorpion EXO-AT950 Helmet is one of those that makes you wonder. It’s super good, and Scorpion is still able to sell it at a really good price. How? Don’t ask, just accept it.
The helmet features a polycarbonate shell, dual-density EPS that’s multi-layered, intake and exhaust vents to keep you cool, and the Ellip-Tec ratchet system for the no-fog face shield. The helmet also comes with a drop-down sun visor, KwikWick II anti-microbial helmet liner, a flip-up chin bar, and speaker pockets.
This is the ultimate do-anything, go-anywhere helmet. It comes with DOT approval and a five-year warranty.
The Biltwell Gringo S is now better than ever before. It offers classic full-face styling, a ton of super cool colors, and now ECE approval as well as DOT approval.
The helmet offers an injection-molded ABS outer shell with a hand-painted finish, EPS inner liner, hand-sewn Lycra liner with diamond stitching, internal BioFoam chin pad, double D-ring chin strap, CNC-cut eye-port, rubber or chrome around the eye-port, and speaker pockets.
This helmet is a great option if you want full-face protection and classic helmet styling. Biltwell makes quality lids, and this one is no exception.
Bell’s version of the classic full-face motorcycle helmet is the Bullitt. This helmet takes a lot of Bell’s heritage and rolls it into a modern lid that looks old school.
The helmet features a low-profile fiber composite shell with three shell sizes across the sizing range. The helmet also has a multi-density EPS liner, a premium comfort liner that’s removable and washable with micro-suede and a mix of fabric and leather. There’s a padded chin strap, five metal mesh intake vents, and an exhaust vent.
This helmet comes with a—you guessed it—five-year warranty. It also ships with a flat face shield, but you can buy a bubble shield if you prefer.