When it comes to helmets, my all time favorites have always been full face. Fans of full face helmets enjoy the look, enjoy the feel, and enjoy the way they envelop the entire dome and provide a 360-degree range of protection. If you're like me, you might already own a couple of full face helmets, but are always on the lookout for what's new and exciting in the helmet world.
Shoei RF-1200 Full Face Helmet
DOT & ECE certified
Arai RX-Q Full Face Helmet
DOT & ECE certified
Nolan N86 Full Face Helmet
DOT Certified Only
LS2 Stream Full Face Helmet
DOT & ECE certified
HJC CL-17 Full Face Helmet
DOT & SNELL certified
After all, it seems the title of best full face motorcycle helmet is always up in the air, and there are always new contenders stepping into the ring trying to claim the throne. With all the innovation, you might be somewhat behind on which helmets are hot, but I've got a few solid selections that might have you reconsidering which is the best full face motorcycle helmet on the market.
Like I said, full face helmet wearers are mainly buying the style because of the superior level of protection one has with a full face lid. It is agreed that since full face helmets cover the head completely, including the jaw and chin area (where many injuries are frequently sustained during collisions) they are the way to go if you want total shielding for your head. That's not the only reason people wear them, though, is it?
Certainly not. In addition to providing more safety from collisions, full face helmets are ideal for protection from the elements. The Wind, rain, insects, whatever. The full face is going to keep those things away from your face and enable you to focus on the road. It's excellent for riders like myself who aren't interested in having the "wind in their hair" while they're out cruising.
It's not all about the protective elements either. Full face helmets are very stylish! From rugged, old-school designs like the Simpson M50 to modern street helmets like the Arai RX-Q, there are helmets on the market that look like a piece of art. To top it off, there are few things cooler than hitting the road in a full helmet with a tinted visor masking your face.
Now, as much as I like full face helmets, there are a few drawbacks, and when you're looking for a new helmet, you should try to find one that does the best to mitigate them. What am I talking about?
There's more helmet, and thus, more weight when you go full face. Not as much as a modular helmet, but still more than your half or ¾ varieties. It won't be the only factor that plays into your final decision, but you should pay close attention to the weight on the helmets you consider. Though not a universal rule, more expensive helmets are often constructed from more expensive materials, which benefit from being simultaneously stronger and lighter than alternative options.
Not only does adequate ventilation help to keep fog down, but it also contributes to maintaining freshness inside your helmet. You'll be burning up on those summer days if you don't have a well-ventilated full face helmet. The flow of air also helps with making the helmet more aerodynamic and reducing the amount of wind noise you have to deal with while riding.
The battle cry of half helmet fans has long been, "but you can see more with a half helmet!" There's some truth to that, but it's not that hard to get a robust full face helmet that has a large face shield and wide field of view.
Unfortunately, the face shield on some full face helmets can become rather fogged, making it difficult to see while riding. As visibility is a key point when out on the road, finding a helmet that has anti-fog features or simply isn't prone to fogging up is essential for full face riders.
If you wear specs, you'll have to weigh that into your helmet choice. Some full face helmets are fully accommodating for riders who have glasses and have more than enough room for you even with the internal visor down.
If you like to use a Bluetooth system, many helmets come ready-made to accept one. If it's not your particular system they are built for, though, you might want to inquire as to whether the Bluetooth that you prefer will still fit the helmet.
Fans of full face helmets are no strangers to Shoei and their high-quality motorcycle gear, helmets in particular. The RF-1200 is an award winning design, hailed for its combination of comfort, safety, and utility. The shell is an intermediate oval shape, constructed from Shoei's Lightweight Advanced Integrated Matrix+ (AIM+). It combines several layers of fiberglass and organic fibers to create an excellent blend of lightness, strength, and flexibility. The shell also incorporates a dual EPS liner to increase impact absorption and shock dispersal abilities of the helmet.
The ventilation system on the RF-1200 is fantastic. It has a whole array of front positioned vents and back facing exhausts to move air through the helmet quickly. The result is an exceedingly comfortable, aerodynamic, and quiet helmet that can be worn for extended periods without inconvenience. When I donned the RF-1200 and took it out for a long ride, I experienced no discomfort and was stunned by how quiet the ride was.
The front shield on the RF-1200 is also one of the best I've seen. It's quite firm, tightly sealed, gives you a wide viewing area, and can easily be removed or adjusted. When riding at high speeds, wind and rain were no issues. I didn't have any problems with the shield fogging either.
Continuing with the Japanese manufacturers, the RX-Q is seen as a culmination of Arai's long history of helmet design, combining everything they've learned to date into a slick full face package. The RX-Q's shell is based on that of the Corsair V, but it's been updated to include some additional features. It's designed for intermediate oval head shapes and incorporates a new style of cheek pad that come down to protect the head even more. The new shape and material design increases strength and comfort, while at the same time reduces weight and makes the helmet quieter.
The helmet includes a retractable chin spoiler, a "Hyper-Ridge" to improve aerodynamics, and an advanced ventilation system to keep riders cool. The interior lining is removable, washable, and provides outstanding comfort. The wide eye port on the face shield offers plenty of room to view the road and your surroundings. Arai's emergency release system is included on the RX-Q, enhancing safety by making the helmet easy to remove from an injured rider.
This helmet is sleek and features several solid color choices that appeal to the street rider: diamond white, diamond gray, silver, yellow, blue, and black frost. They've billed it as a "racing helmet for the streets" and I for one feel that description hits the nail right on the head.
A newer design by Nolan, the well known Italian manufacturer who has been putting out quality gear since the 1970s. The N86 features an advanced polycarbonate shell with an intermediate oval shape. It's been crafted for aerodynamics and is relatively lightweight as far as full face helmets go (though not to the degree of the Arai or Shoei models listed). The N86 also has a comfy anti-bacterial interior padding that is highly breathable, keeping you cool even in the summer heat. The helmet's interior comfortably accommodates glasses and has been pre-cut to fit the Nolan N-COM Bluetooth comms system.
The N86's face shield has incorporated efficient anti-fog technology via the pin lock anti-fog insert, along with being scratch resistant and easy to remove. The interior visor is tinted, and easy to adjust by operating the rotating slider (located on the left of the helmet). The chin strap is also worth a mention. It has a very plush velour padding and held in place with the Microlock2 double lever retention system.
Additional features include the VPS (Vision Protection System) and removable neck roll that improves rider visibility during low light conditions. This is a solid full face helmet that has the attributes a serious motorcyclist could ask for, with a price tag that's a bit easier to swallow than that of high-end names like Shoei or Arai.
LS2 makes good gear at affordable prices, and the Stream is no exception. This full face helmet is constructed from using LS2's High-Pressure Thermoplastic Technology (HPTT). It's a proprietary composite that is relatively lightweight and very sturdy. It complement's the aerodynamic design well and feels well made. The interior lining is everything you would expect from a top quality full face contender, being removable, washable, moisture-wicking (the whole 9 yards, actually). It fits well on long oval head shapes (which I am not, but was still able to fit into the helmet, albeit with some discomfort).
The face shield was exceptionally easy to remove, provided a wide field of view, and was also scratch resistant and optically corrected for optimal vision. The FFS (Fog Fighter System) performed well, and I didn't experience any instances where the shield became too cloudy to see out of (the breath deflector was also a nice touch that helped out).
The helmet includes top and chin vents, along with a rear exhaust port. It's not the best, but it was hardly what I would deem terrible. The chin strap is a pain, but this helmet still provides a lot of value without a high asking price, so it's a great choice for riders on a budget.
Has HJC crafted a full face helmet that can stand toe to toe with the big dogs in the yard? The CL-17 is certainly an attempt to do so. Crafted from an advanced polycarbonate shell, it's plenty sturdy and fits well on round oval head shapes. It's not quite as lightweight as its competitors, however, weighing in at 3.91 pounds. Still, it checks many of the same boxes as some higher priced helmets, including a comfy interior padding that has been cut for extra comfort. It's made from SuperCool fabric, so it has the anti-bacterial and moisture wicking attributes many riders demand nowadays.
The fog-deterrent face shield is marketed as having a new "3D" design. It's highly UV resistant and seals off well while including an advanced ventilation system. It's easily replaceable if you desire another color, thanks to the "Rapid Fire Shield Replacement System." A fancy title, but it means you can pop the shield out without having to use a bunch of tools.
The ventilation does a good job of flushing air and heat, keeping this helmet cool, but it's not nearly as quiet as the RF-1200 or the RX-Q. Overall, this is a good helmet for the price, and it's well put together, but not on the same tier of quality as Arai or Shoei.
I like the HJC and LS2 helmets, and they offer a lot for their respective prices, but not quite enough to compete with Shoei and Arai, even with their higher price point. Between the two, it's a close competition. Both offer superior build quality, ventilation, and aerodynamics. The RF-1200, however, pulls ahead slightly due to what I feel was a more comfortable fit and quieter riding experience. It's also a lighter helmet, and on extended rides, those few ounces start to make a difference on your head and neck. Make no mistake; the RX-Q is a sharply designed helmet, but Shoei's RF-1200 edges it out, showing just what a fantastically crafted piece of gear it truly is.
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