Something nearly every savvy rider knows is that wearing a used or borrowed helmet can be as ineffective as not wearing a helmet at all. Protective foam inside the helmet contours to the user’s head, and will not provide the same protection as a new helmet. Every rider should have his or her own helmet. Helmet manufacturers have been swift to recognize that fact. The variety, accessories, colors, and designs produced by each manufacturer can be overwhelming. After many hours of discussion with riders and motorcycle shop employees, and walking through rows upon rows of helmets, testing and hefting ones that caught my interest by looking different than many others, I narrowed my list. A second look around, focusing strictly on the fifteen remaining on my list, helped me to make my decision about the five best motorcycle helmets on the market.
Bell Custom 500
In 1954, Roy Richter formed the very first Bell helmet out of fiberglass, calling it the 500. Bell is considered one of the safest motorcycle helmets. Before my bike became a casualty, thanks to a non-attentive, pickup truck driver, that was my choice of helmet.
This year, Bell’s tribute Custom 500 produces a retro look while providing modern comfort and DOT-approved protection. The open face helmet features a custom fiberglass construction. The inside EPS foam layer provides a lightweight feel, while protecting the rider in case of a fall. A quilted liner on the inside keeps riders cool as well as comfortable. Prices range from $100 – $140.
What can I say about Shoei? Their helmets are so well-made, with protection such a high priority, that my husband is still walking around after going off the Feather River Canyon years ago, when on the way to Quincy, CA. A car sideswiped him and pushed the bike over the edge. It dropped to the bottom; he was quick enough to jump to a ledge on the way down. The speed of the vertical landing hit the Shoei hard, but it absorbed the majority of the collision. The helmets have continued to improve over the years.
The RF-1100 has been designed to meet European, as well as American standards of safety. There is a removable inner liner, which can be washed. This is always a good thing. The cheek pads and neck pad feel secure around the head, although the pads are gentle and conform to the user’s head. I spoke with different owners of this particular helmet. They enjoyed the ventilation system quite a bit, adding that even in the desert heat, the airflow helps keep the head cool and comfortable. Features such as an easy-to-change visor, the quietness of the Shoei RF-1100, and the style of the helmet, make it one of my top five. The solid helmet starts at $400, metallic at $420, and one with graphics at $500.
Harley-Davidson Carbon Kevlar Half Helmet
It’s a surprise to pick up the Carbon Kevlar and discover how lightweight it is, thanks to the Kevlar. It doesn’t offer as much protection as a ¾ or full-face helmet. The padding does not have as much give as some users would like, but there are other items that make up for that. One of these features is that it is 20% lighter than normal helmets. It also has a retractable shield; just reach a hand up to push a button on top of the helmet, and it’s done. The strap loops around a double-D ring. Ear protection is best achieved by wearing earplugs. The Carbon Kevlar Half Helmet is DOT-approved. One rider pulling into the Harley-Davidson shop as I was walking to my car was happy to point out that sunscreen is perfectly acceptable and highly recommended when wearing the half helmet. He also carries a full helmet on his bike, to use when riding the freeway or when the winds kick up about 30 mph. The Carbon Kevlar costs about $240.
Brenda, the general merchandise manager at Reno Harley-Davidson, showed me many of the helmet selections, adding that they order thousands of different styles and types for their customers. For anyone in the Reno area with questions about finding the right helmet, or other merchandise, contact her at 775-329-2913.
HJC CL-SP Typhoon
HJC Helmets’ CL-SP comes in several different model names, but I like the Typhoon best. Being realistic, a person is more apt to use a helmet if they feel good in it: not just comfortable, but also looking good. The advanced polycarbonate composite shell is lightweight and comfortable. The anti-fog face shield provides UV protection, and has anti-scratch coating. The shield can be replaced quickly; no tools are required for removal or installation. The vent system has front to back direction, pushing heat and humidity up and out of the helmet. The interior wicking can be removed for washing. The fit is good. Elliot at Kawasaki – Arctic Cat of Reno, 775-786-8696, recommended that users be fitted for their helmets, as, just like clothes, the same size may vary from style to manufacturer. The Typhoon costs $180.
Joe Rocket RKT101 TransTone Blue Carbon Helmet
There are three shell sizes for the RKT101, to enhance a great fit. The chin bar vent is adjustable, and it has an integrated, removable breath deflector. The hard coated, anti-scratch shield provides 95% U.V. protection. It offers a tool-less removal and installation shield replacement system. The liner and cheek pads are removable and washable. It meets or exceeds DOT standards. The Quad Port ventilation system features 4 external and 6 internal ports, to keep air flowing and the inside cool. The price averages about $270, although I saw one tagged at $325.
Steve Atlas, Bell Custom 500 Helmet Review, August 10, 2010
Bart Madson, Managing Editor, Shoei RF-1100
Brenda Langley, Reno Harley-Davidson
Elliot, Kawasaki – Arctic Cat of Reno
unknown motorcycle riders, who enjoyed sharing their helmet experiences
my own knowledge, based on personal experience