The helmet is, by far, the most important piece of protective gear you can wear on a motorcycle. Yet, for some, a full-face helmet may be difficult to find (see also: our best full-face helmet under $500 list). Maybe your head shape is odd, or the chin bar is touching against your chin, or your nose gets squished up against a breath dam in a mildly uncomfortable way.
This is where the modular helmet comes into play. Not only does it form a full-face helmet when the chin bar is down and locked, but it can also allow for you to flip up the chin bar when taking a rest stop or needing to take a sip of water, without having to remove your helmet at all. As well, because of the nature of how they are built, more often than not modular helmets will have extra chin room.
While new and exciting helmets are coming out nearly every month in 2021, we’ve dug through the piles of modular helmets laying around the internet, and found the best ones you can get in 2021 if you’re just starting out, for under $500!
In the world of helmets, Scorpion sits very nicely as one of the best value-for-money contenders out there. With the EXO-AT950, not only do you get a modular helmet, but one that can tackle a variety of riding situations. If you need an ADV helmet, you can leave the peak on. If you need a supermoto helmet, remove the visor, put the peak on, and grab your goggles. If you need a comfortable street riding helmet, remove the peak and lower the built-in sunshade.
Made of LG Polycarbonate, the shell is lightweight but resilient, backed by dual-density, multi-layered EPS foam. The view through the visor is excellent, due to the shaping of the helmet to allow goggles to be used in supermoto configuration. The modular chin bar seats home securely via a steel pin-and-lock system that is integrated directly into the shell and can withstand major impacts without breaking.
The lining is of Scorpions KwikWik II, meaning it is anti-microbial and quickly wisps away sweat to be either cooled and carried out via the ventilation system, or absorbed into the machine-washable padding. It also features Ellip-Tec ratcheting on the visor, meaning when lowered, the visor is snugly pulled back into the helmet, reducing aerodynamic leaks and keeping the helmet a little quieter.
The newest helmet on our list, just recently released in 2021, the HJC C91 is a “do what is important right” helmet from the manufacturer. It has been designed from the outset to be budget-friendly, yet carries the same level of safety and impact protection you would expect out of HJC.
Starting with the polycarbonate shell, EPS foam lines the interior with carefully grooved sections for ventilation. A drop-down sun visor comes standard, and the visor itself is pinlock capable. The ventilation in the helmet, dubbed SuperCool by HJC, uses air from both the chin vent and the top-mounted intake to flow cool air through and around the interior of the helmet, exhausting out a venturi port at the top back.
Where the real budget-friendliness comes in is that the helmet comes ready to either use HJC’s own Smart Bluetooth system or any other major communications system (Sena, etc). It features a removable lining so you can machine wash it to get a day’s ride out of it, and the chin bar locks down securely with a metal pin-and-lock system.
The Sedici Sistema II Parlare is a very advanced helmet at a very middle-of-the-road price. In fact, we honestly believe that it is underpriced, but don’t tell anyone we said that. So what makes it so advanced? For starters, it uses a fiberglass and kevlar shell, which is lightweight and extremely impact and abrasion-resistant, and quite often reserved for helmets in the $500 to $700 range.
It features a dual-density, multi-layer EPS foam under that shell, which is shaped and grooved for maximum cooling. Those grooves are fed by the two-position chin vent and three-position crown air intake, circulating throughout before being exhausted through three venturi exhausts on the back of the helmet. The chin bar itself is solidly locked down with a massive steel post-and-lock system.
And if that wasn’t enough, it also comes with a SENA DWO-6 bluetooth compatible comms system built into the helmet. That, by itself, usually asks for $150+ and then you have to install it yourself. The DWO-6 has a 1-kilometer range for comms, and can have up to 4 other riders connected to it so communications can occur over a group ride.
The Sedici Sistema II Parlare is DOT and ECE certified.
The Shark Evo One 2 is a helmet with a hidden trick up its sleeve. Fashioned from thermoplastic resin, the shell is both resilient and durable. This is backed up by dual-density, multi-layer EPS foam, over which a fully removable liner sits ready to keep your head protected.
The trick with the Evo One 2, however, is that unlike other modular helmets with which the chin bar only raises to the top of the crown, the chin bar on this helmet can travel a full 180 degrees and be stored snugly across the back of the helmet, out of the wind. The visor has an automatic up/down system that lets you do this with one hand, even when the visor is fully down.
Other features are a drop-down sun visor, a pinlock MAX compatible visor, three front intakes, and two venturi exhausts out back, and a very strong steel pin-and-lock securing system for the chin bar that also helps keep the chin bar down via magnets.
For the price of the helmet, it is feature-packed, and is one of the few “budget” helmets for beginners that takes into account the round oval head shape. The Shark EVO One 2 is DOT and ECE certified.
The HJC RPHA 90S is, on the face of things, a fairly expensive helmet, pushing near our $500 budget limit. However, it does have a lot of things going for it, especially in terms of safety and carrying over a lot of the technology used in the construction of the non-modular RPHA models.
First and foremost is that this is a mostly-carbon-fiber helmet, with a mix of carbon fiber and carbon-glass hybrid fabric to make the shell super strong, but also super light. This is backed by multiple layers of multiple density EPS foam for the best impact and shock resistance possible. This is the same construction used in the RPHA 11 Pro, a full-blown competition racing helmet.
Adding to this is HJC’s MultiCool interior ventilation, cooling the entire head efficiently with the minimal amount of grooving needed in the EPS foam to keep its structural stability. A flip-down sun visor is standard, as is a visor with an included pinlock anti-fog and anti-UV insert already installed. The visor system is also toolless, meaning that you can swap out visors as needed in seconds, another innovation brought over from the racing helmet side of HJC.
Altogether, it combines to make a super-strong, super light, durable, and comfortable helmet that is among the best of the best. It far exceeds DOT standards.
Much like the HJC above, the Schuberth C3 Lite is a “bare essentials” type of helmet that still fields very premium features. Based on the superb C3 Pro helmet, the shell is made using a special fiberglass weave infused with resin, under a high pressure and high heat pressing in a vacuum. This gives the helmet superior structural rigidity, while also being elastic enough to absorb any impact force without shattering.
This is backed by Schuberth’s own proprietary EPS foam, in multiple layers and multiple densities. This is then lined with a moisture-wicking, semi-permeable fabric that holds the padding in place, and is fully removable for washing. Part of the neck roll of the helmet contains what Schuberth calls A.R.O.S., or Anti-Roll-Off System, meaning that the helmet will not depart company with your head as long as the chin strap is secured properly. This is a technology that was first developed for World Superbike and MotoGP competition, and has made it down to the consumer level.
One of the best features of the C3 Lite, however, is shared with the C3 Pro. The helmet is remarkably quiet, with optimized aerodynamics and shaped neck roll deflecting much of the air that would otherwise create a whistle or roar. Inside, there is a drop-down sun visor, behind a pinlock ready main visor that is also attached to a quick-release system should a visor switch out be needed. This helmet is quite literally a pared-down, modular version of the C3 Pro, which is itself a $700+ helmet.
The Schuberth C3 Lite exceeds DOT standards and is DOT certified.
Bell has been making helmets since the first helmets were worn in motorsports. They’ve been there for over 70 years now, and know a thing or two about making a helmet. The Bell SRT Modular is one of those helmets that takes the best things about a racing helmet, and makes them available to the beginner, the commuter, the common rider, what have you.
Made of lightweight fiberglass composite, the shell is lined with powersports-grade EPS multi-density, multi-layer foam, despite being designed to never see a track day in its life. Comfortable wicking fabric covers excellent padding and is fully removable for washing.
There is, of course, a drop-down sun visor, and a “panovision” visor that allows much more use of peripheral vision. The chin bar is also reinforced across the entire bar with stiffer EPS foam, designed to take the brunt of a face-first landing off of a bike without sacrificing structural stability. A steel pin-and-lock system keeps it firmly in place when down.
The visor is pinlock ready, and while not quick-release, it is possible to switch out visors with minimal tools in under five minutes. To have a composite fiberglass helmet, with race-grade technology passed down from the top tiers of powersports, at this price is nigh on unbeatable.