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When it comes to cruising the open road with maximum visibility and superior style, there's no beating an open face motorcycle helmet. Even riders like myself who usually ride with a full face helmet for maximum protection will often have an open face helmet as a secondary or backup, for those times when open face riding is just too sweet to pass up. If you've never owned one before, however, you might be a bit overwhelmed by all of the options out on the market, and curious about how to track down the best open face motorcycle helmet.
No need to worry, though, as I've been in your shoes before, and have assembled a handy guide (along with a collection of the top open face motorcycle helmets around) to give you the right clues on what to look for in a quality open face lid.
DOT & ECE Certified
SCORPION EXO BELFAST
DOT & SNELL Certified
It's not a secret that full face motorcycle helmets provide the greatest level of protection, especially for the chin and jaw, which are virtually uncovered in an open face helmet. Why then, would one choose an open face helmet at all? It's easy to retort with the impudent quip, "because you can", but there are legitimate benefits to open face riding that go beyond mere freedom of choice.
To begin, open face helmets provide an unparalleled amount of visibility and awareness when out on the road.
Full face helmets have advanced ways in expanding their field of view while maintaining high safety standards, but they still aren't able to rival an open face helmet when it comes to overall visual breadth.
Why is this important? Visit any motorcycle forum and you'll see the point raised that riders feel more connected to their bike and their surroundings while riding open face, which could potentially decrease the risk of getting into an accident in the first place. You are less likely to be blindsided by an obstacle that you didn't see coming, and better able to react to rapidly changing road conditions when your peripheral vision is at its maximum.
Furthermore, open face helmets offer a greater level of comfort for many riders. It's not a necessity, mind you, but if you can't wear a helmet because it feels wrong on your head, then there's no point to wearing a helmet at all. Best to get something that agrees with you while you're riding.
You'll definitely want to choose the best rated open face motorcycle helmet for safety, but what other features should factor into your decision? We mentioned comfort, and that is also a top priority. You'll need a helmet that fits, so you have to take your head shape and size into consideration. The interior lining will also determine how an open face helmet feels on your head. Is the lining adjustable? Removable? Features such as those will allow you to customize the fit so that you don't feel that uncomfortable pressure on the back of your head just moments into your outing.
You should consider whether the helmet comes with a built-in visor. Some riders prefer a little half visor that flips down to cover just the eyes. Others prefer a fuller visor that covers the entirety of the face and shields them from the wind. Others still would rather not have a visor at all, and would prefer to ride completely open face, or with a pair of goggles of their choosing. You might even be able to accommodate all of these choices if the helmet in question has a removable visor.
Open face helmets are known for being noisier than others, due to their lack of aerodynamics, but you can still find one that that is relatively quiet. If you prefer a quieter ride you'll want to invest in the most silent helmet possible, as hearing loss can be caused by noises exceeding 85dB.
(and wind noise while riding can exceed 115dB in some scenarios).
As always, personal style will figure into your own “best helmet” equation (so you might lean towards a helmet with aesthetics that closely match your own tastes), and your wallet might play an even bigger role than all of these other components combined.
After all, if the helmet you're eyeing is out of your price range, it pretty much becomes a birthday wish list item as opposed to near-future definite purchase.
This is a DOT-approved polycarbonate composite shell helmet, meaning that the exterior is composed of an extra-tough blend of plastics and organic carbonates. This class of material is known for being durable and highly resistant to impacts (just what you'd want in a helmet!) while remaining lightweight and still having a good amount of flexibility. Using CAD (Computer Aided Design) technology, HJC has crafted this helmet to have a superior fit and optimal degree of comfort based on head shape.
This helmet includes a tinted sun shield that deploys with the touch of a button, along with an AccuSight anti-fog face shield that protects from UV rays. The face shield is easy to remove, and can be detached from the helmet without the use of tools. Neither shield is obtrusive, and both provide enough room for you to don your regular glasses underneath (perfect for bespectacled riders such as myself).
The interior of this helmet is constructed from HJCs "SilverCool" lining, which absorbs moisture, and has anti-odor and antibacterial properties. It's comfortable, but can be removed if needed so that you can wash it or replace it with a new lining. Though a bit utilitarian in its basic shape and color selection (black, white, silver, and red), it's a superbly functional helmet that offers a good balance of overall features.
This stylish ¾ helmet is ideal for those that value modern, race-inspired design. Its shell is composed of a Kinetic Polymer Alloy, a proprietary construction material that LS2 has marketed as "super light", "energy dispersing", and said to be comparable to high-end composites regarding penetration and impact resistance. The helmet is rated to exceed both DOT and ECE safety standards, so the claims of this helmet's protective abilities don't seem all that farfetched.
The OF569 has a quick-release chin strap (also DOT approved) for easy removal of the helmet, and adjustable forehead vents to improve circulation and reduce wind-noise. LS2's Twin Shield System is incorporated into this helmet's design, offering complete control over the amount of air and light let into the helmet via its dual face and sun-shield. The shield also makes use of a quick-release system, eliminating the need of tools for its removal, and can be operated one-handed, even while wearing riding gloves.
The helmet has an oval fit, engineered for comfort and contains a breathable, hypo-allergenic liner made from a laser cut foam. The liner is both removable and washable, so riders are likely to get plenty of use out of it before needing to replace it.
This helmet has a straightforward look that appeals to old-school, no-nonsense sensibilities. The shell is composed of fiberglass, a composite plastic reinforced with (you guessed it) glass fibers. A strong material (though not to the degree of carbon fiber and polycarbonates), fiberglass is lightweight, relatively inexpensive to produce, and offers a greater level of flexibility than other composite materials. It's DOT certified, so no worries there about following the rules of the road.
The Belfast's liner is painstakingly hand-stitched, comfortable, and accented with elegant Nappa leather. It's soft and has enough give to accommodate glasses or other personal eyewear comfortably. There's a 3-snap on the top for attachments, and the helmet has a tinted retractable sun visor that can be swapped out. I'm not sure why you'd want to, though, as it is easily one of the greatest visual attributes that the Belfast has to offer. Wearing this helmet made me feel exceedingly rugged, and I got multiple calls of "attaboy!" from other riders who were digging the look.
The color options are extremely limited (black, blue, red), but it's not much of a drawback if you're the type that would be interested in a helmet like this one in the first place. The Belfast is a functional work of minimalist art that hits all the right notes for a down-to-business rider.
Now we enter the big leagues. Japanese Manufacturer Shoei is known for high-quality, feature-packed gear with somewhat hefty price tags, and the J-Cruise is no exception. It's an update of the famous J-Wing open face helmet, and in many respects, it's indistinguishable from a full face helmet. Composed using Shoei's Advanced Integrated Matrix (AIM) technology, the J-Cruise's shell is both lightweight and sturdy.
It's DOT certified and has a built-in ventilation system providing top level circulation and wind reduction. You'll still get some of the typical noise associated with riding open face, but regarding overall noise canceling this helmet is top notch.
The 3D Max-Dry liner wicks away moisture, is removable, and made from Shoei's signature plush fabric. The helmet's internal shape, optimized for narrower head shapes, provides excellent comfort while remaining secure. The J-Cruise has speaker cutouts for installing audio, and the inner visor provides excellent protection for light without obstructing the use of glasses.
The external face shield provides close to full-face coverage, shielding the user from wind and UV light without hampering visibility. It can be easily removed, and is equipped with a shield stopper to prevent accidental deployment at high speed. This is a high-quality helmet with big-ticket features that justify it's hefty price tag.
Another Japanese-designed model of superlative quality, the CT-Z offers an intermediate oval shape, to provide comfort to a wide range of rider head shapes. If only they could provide that same versatility in color choices. With the CT-Z you are limited to black, white, and silver. Plain, and not what you'd expect for a helmet with such an obvious contemporary build.
The CT-Z features upper vents for circulation (borrowed from the Corsair V Race helmet), A dual pivot face shield for wind protection, adjustable visor for light filtering, and a comfortable interior liner, of which you would expect no less from a manufacturer as storied and experienced as Arai. The ear pockets are molded to accept an intercom system, and the helmet is quiet enough so that you'll be able to use said system without much interference from exterior noises.
One feature that sticks out on this helmet is the extending jaw piece, designed to add some extra protection. It's a perk that you won't find on many other open face helmets and adds a lot to the CT-Z's overall safety abilities. Any rider looking for maximum quality and build from their open face helmet would be hard-pressed to find a finer helmet than this one, provided they are willing to drop some serious cash.
The Arai and Shoei helmets provide outstanding quality and construction, but their exorbitant prices propel them way out of the everyday rider's budget, particularly those just looking for a solid open face helmet. ScorpionExo, on the other hand, provides a well-built helmet with just enough perks to appeal to most open face riding fans and does it while balancing these features with a much more reasonable price.
Whether you're a new rider looking for your first helmet, or a full face rider who just wants a comfortable back-up option, the Belfast is most likely the helmet that will deliver what you need: safety, comfort, and simplicity, without having to empty your entire wallet.
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