We all know how important helmets are, and how with all the options out there it can sometimes be difficult to narrow down your choices. There are a ton of awesome helmets out there, but most of the very top tier are, to put it mildly, outside of the price range of many riders. If you're on a budget, your options are pared down for you, but you'll still want to get the best motorcycle helmet for the money you have.
No worries, we've all been there. Every beginner rider has to wrestle with whether they want to drop big bucks on a fancy, expensive helmet, or if they'd be better off just getting the best cheap motorcycle helmet they can find. If you're in the latter camp, I've assembled a collection of high-value helmets you can snag for reasonable prices.
HJC CL-33 Open Face Helmet
Vega X888 Full Face Helmet
Fuel SH-FF0015 Full Face Helmet
1Storm HG339 Modular Helmet
Bell Qualifier Full Face Helmet
When getting a cheaper helmet, prices are all going to fall into the same general range, so money is less of an issue. One of your main points of focus is going to be the style of helmet you want. You probably have a style you're most comfortable wearing, and whether you want a full face, open face, or modular helmet, you're going to have plenty to pick from.
If a full face is your fancy, you want to make sure that the helmet you select is roomy enough. Full face helmets have both a front face shield and often an interior sun visor. Is the helmet constructed in such a way that it will accommodate additional face gear like goggles or glasses? More expensive full face helmets don't have this issue, but a less pricey one may not be designed with the same care.
Another notable feature that is of paramount importance on full face helmets is the ventilation system. Expensive helmets are designed to be supremely aerodynamic, and thus have splendid ventilation across the board. Is the cheaper helmet you're eyeballing up to par? It might not be on the same level as some other helmets, but it's not an attribute that you want to forego.
If you want a modular helmet, you should take into account many of the same factors you would when buying a full face helmet. You'll want to pay closer attention to the weight (since modular helmets are heavier than other varieties) and above all else, you'll want to examine the chin bar. How does it release? How does it lock in place? Where is it positioned on the helmet when you fold it up? Can you operate it with a gloved hand? Is it lined correctly? More expensive helmets compensate for what is seen as the weakness of modular helmets (a weak chin bar with poor shock absorbing capabilities) with plenty of high-quality EPS padding in this area.
When going open face, issues with incorporating glasses and chin bar strength are non-existent, but you might want to ask yourself: face shield or no? There's no right answer, but you have the choice of getting a purely open face helmet or getting a ¾ style lid that also gives you a drop down shield to protect from wind and UV rays.
With all of these helmet varieties, you'll want to make sure that the manufacturer didn't skimp on the retention system. Getting a cheap helmet with a cheap chinstrap won't be doing you any favors in the event of a collision. I like to look for something comfortable, with some sturdy d-rings. The last thing you want is a roll off when you're involved in a crash. If you're looking for something that's easy to take off, you can also find a helmet with a suitable quick-release strap.
Your last factor, shared with other helmet styles as well, is going to be shell material. You're getting a less expensive lid, so don't expect the highest grade carbon fiber or kevlar weave. Still, you can get a fairly sturdy fiberglass helmet or some polycarbonate or composite blend.
If you can, try to select a helmet that has a pre-cut interior to accommodate some form of Bluetooth comms system. With a full face helmet especially, they're the best way to converse with your riding partners, get GPS directions, and listen to music while on the road.
The CL-33 is an open face model by HJC. Its shell is constructed from a lightweight polycarbonate composite, that also provides a fair amount of rigidity and impact resistance. Structured with Computer Aided Design (CAD) technology, it provides a superior fit for round, oval head shapes. I noticed no squeezing on the cheek areas, and it was easy to put on and slip off. The chin strap was quite tight, but it was sturdy and kept the helmet in place securely.
This model comes with a UV resistant, anti-scratch face shield that, with the exception of some mild distortion, provides a clear view and excellent protection from wind and insects. The standard face shield is clear, but it is also removable, meaning it can be replaced with a tinted HJC Replacement face shield of your choosing.
The helmet interior features Nylex brand fabric. It's plush, comfortable, and wicks moisture away from the head to keep you fresh during hotter months. Cooling within the CL-33 is improved by the ventilation system, which features four forward intakes to push air through the helmet quickly. Unfortunately, I still noticed considerable wind noise when riding, but not so much that the helmet is unusable (if it is grating, you always have the option of earplugs).
The CL-33 is the ideal choice for summer rides, and if you're a fan of ¾ models with face shields, it might be your best cheap motorcycle helmet.
This full face helmet from Vega is made from a thermoplastic. It's designed to be lightweight, but at 4.4 pounds it's a fair bit heavier than other helmets in the price range. The helmet seems sturdy, though not as reliable as a top of the line helmet. It has a tendency to scratch easily and also fit tighter than expected. At least it incorporates a dual-density EPS foam to increase its shock dispersing abilities. The chin strap is also more than adequate. It's a D-ring system that stays in place quite well.
The equipped face shield isn't my favorite, but it does have anti-fog capabilities, and it is replaceable. The field of view is wide and keeps you connected to the road and your surroundings. Helmet ventilation is facilitated by four vents, located on the chin, forehead, mouth, and rear of the helmet. The vents are replaceable, which is a nice touch. They do a better than average job keeping the helmet fresh, and reducing wind noise.
The interior is comfortable enough and made from a wick-dri anti-microbial fabric that stays both cool and dry for rider convenience. If you're looking for something more feature laden, it might not be the very best budget full face motorcycle helmets. However, it still has enough going for it to make it a good choice for casual riders or as a secondary helmet for passengers.
Another full face helmet featuring a thermoplastic shell, this model by Fuel is a snug fit, but not too tight. It's true to size, and though it's on the 3-month side, it has various other qualities that make it a decent choice if you're looking for a value helmet. The face shield has a wide viewing field, is removable, and flips up easily. It is not, unfortunately, anti-fog, which makes riding somewhat inconvenient, but is mitigated by the helmet's ventilation system.
The internal channel vent system, along with the front and rear exterior vents keep air flowing well. The helmet felt cool and in my case, and wind noise was pretty low when I was out on the road. The retention system is a D-ring design, which keeps the helmet on the head very well. It also has an additional feature that allows riders to secure excess chin strap with a clip-in-place snap.
The cheek pads are removable and padded for a comfortable fit. Fuel also adds some welcome customer service features to the helmet purchasing experience: shipping the helmet double boxed and packaging it in a complimentary scratch-resistant helmet bag. All-in-all, one of the best motorcycle helmet value bundles I've seen.
This modular helmet by 1Storm packs a good amount of functionality in an affordable package. Constructed from a thermoplastic shell, the design is aerodynamic. Combined with the ventilation system the helmet does a very nice job cutting through the wind and circulating it past the helmet. Top and rear vents also keep the helmet cool and riders comfortable in the heat.
The chin release isn't anything fancy, but it's functional and can be operated one-handed. The chin bar stays secure in both positions. The face shield is UV protective and removable, so it can be swapped out for a tinted shield if you prefer. 1Storm included an interior sun shield that is retractable and doesn't interfere with glasses or other face wear.
The interior is comfortable and nicely padded and is both removable and washable. For the exterior, 1Storm has offered riders a wide range of color options, including black, white, blue, green, pink, and red. Though the HG339 is on the heavy side (5 pounds), it might be the best inexpensive modular motorcycle helmet, if you need a functional lid with a few extra features.
Designed for oval head shapes, the Bell Qualifier features a comfortable fitting, aerodynamic design that's perfect for many styles of riding. The shell is a lightweight polycarbonate (only 3.28 pounds) and is available in both a smooth white and black finish. It comes standard with a clear shield but looks much better with the optional tinted shield which can be installed easily thanks to Bell's ClickRelease system. Both varieties are anti-fog and anti-scratch and protect from UV rays.
The interior is removable, washable, and anti-bacterial. It's padded and also has contoured cheek pads to improve comfort. Bell also included some speaker pockets into the interior so you can enjoy music or GPS navigation during your ride via the speaker system. The Qualifier's ventilation system is one of the best I've seen on a less expensive helmet and does an excellent job flushing hot air right out the back. The vents are also adjustable so you can open/close at will.
The D-ring closure system on the chin strap is sturdy, and the chin strap is padded as well (a nice extra touch for comfort). If you're into the sport bike look, this is probably the best budget motorcycle helmet you're going to find.
HJC makes some quality gear, and the CL-33 is an excellent helmet, especially for an inexpensive open face model. The Bell Qualifier though, packs in more features, better ventilation, and a sweet design while still coming in at an inexpensive price. It's constructed from excellent materials.
The polycarbonate is both strong and lightweight, much more so than other cheaper helmets made from thermoplastics or fiberglass. It has a great fit and a contoured comfort interior that's pre-cut for speaker systems. Combined with other great features like the padded wind collar, padded chin strap, anti-fog shield, and aggressive look of the Qualifier, it's a definite high-level contender.
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