14 Affordable Motorcycle Helmets (That Don’t Suck)
You don't have to pay a lot for a great lid
From “loud pipes save lives” to “those who have crashed and those who will,” motorcyclists often lean on quips and sayings when discussing our favorite pastime. But when it comes to riding gear, there’s one old adage we don’t use nearly enough: “If you’ve got a ten-dollar head, buy a ten-dollar helmet.”
MORE AFFORDABLE LIDS: Five Safest Helmets for Under $200 | RideApart
Yes, quality riding gear costs quality money, but consider what you’re trying to protect. After all, we’re not talking about frame sliders and saddlebag rails here. But while “you get what you pay for” also applies to gear (sorry), you don’t have to break the bank to protect your most valuable commodity. Plenty of great stuff can be had for significantly less than premium prices.
Here’s a Pro Tip: Don’t overlook online sources like Amazon or wholesale clearinghouses; just because certain helmets are no longer available direct from the manufacturer doesn’t necessarily mean they sucked. More than likely, they were simply offloaded to wholesalers to make room for new product. These helmets are usually brand new and still in the box; just be sure to verify the seller, read the reviews, ask a lot of questions before purchasing, and check out past evaluations to see what experts said about the product when it was first released. Because, yeah - some helmets definitely suck.
No matter if you’re in the market for a badass cruiser cap or a sleek full-face, we’ve scoured the internets to bring you some of our favorite affordable lids. To that end, we’ve topped out the price at around $300. Categorized and listed here in alphabetical order, most are the common Intermediate oval shape, except where noted.
While we found more than a dozen options for full face helmets in our budget, here are a select few that we - and online reviewers - can vouch for.
Bell Qualifier DLX $249.95 The entry-level Qualifier is hard to beat at its $110 price point, but we think the DLX version is worth the step up in price. Why? It comes with the Transitions Adaptive photochromic face shield and can accommodate both Sena SMH10 and Cardo Scala Rider Q1/Q3 comm systems. Combine those premium features with three distinct shell sizes, and it stands out from the rest of the economy helmet crowd. Get the safer MIPS-equipped version for only $20 more.
BiLT Fusion $69.95
Who doesn’t appreciate decent quality at affordable prices? We’ve heard riders disparage Cycle Gear’s in-house product line - but that’s their problem. You can count on no-frills styling, fairly reliable workmanship, and great customer service both online and in-store (returns and exchanges are usually a breeze). The police/fire/military and MSF discounts are pretty sweet, too. The Fusion features three vents, a breath guard, and a removable liner. Available in three colors, it’s the perfect helmet for noobs, a serviceable option for most, and a great bargain for all.
Biltwell Gringo $159.95
Our favorite retro/hipster full-face is easier on the wallet than you might think. With an injection-molded outer shell, EPS inner, and removable liner with hand-sewn contrast stitching, it comes in a wide variety of hand-painted colors and finishes - although you’ll need to plunk down extra for a shield (goggles and glasses work just fine, thanks). Granted, the Round Oval-shaped Gringo isn’t for everybody; for a sleeker, more modern Biltwell, go for the Lane Splitter ($249.95).
HJC CL17 $134.95
With nine distinct colorways, four optional shields, and unisex sizes from XS to 5XL, it’s no wonder HJC claims the CL-17 is “number one in the world” - there’s one for pretty much everybody. It’s got a host of premium features like interchangeable and washable cheek pads, a moisture-wicking and antibacterial fabric interior, and tool-less face shield. I’ve had mine for years, and it’s still in my full-face rotation.
Scorpion EXO R420 $159.95
From one of the most respected names in rider gear comes one of the best bargains of the economy full-face bunch, and it’s the only one that’s both DOT- and Snell-approved. With a removable/washable liner, sunglass-ready cheek pads, and speaker cutouts, it’s got four graphics themes and comes in a multitude of colors and patterns. The solid version costs even less.
AND SOME QUIET LIDS: 5 Quietest Motorcycle Helmets
We’d never recommend an open-face helmet for pushing your limits on track day, but sometimes you just want to chill in the saddle and breathe the fresh air while still protecting your noggin.
Bell Custom 500 $119.95
Based on Bell founder Roy Richter’s 50s classic, the popular 500 features five shell sizes for a sleek look, no matter if you get the XS or the XXL. And, it comes in a wide variety of colors, designs, and finishes, as well as a cool, modular five-snap pattern on the brim to accommodate even aftermarket shields and visors. For a similar retro style but with integrated sun shield and supple tan leather trim, we like the Scorpion Belfast ($199.99).
Joe Rocket Carbon Pro From $145.19
One of the lightest helmets you can find, the Carbon Pro is renowned for a comfortable but snug fit and sleek looks. It’s got a dual-density 4x4 carbon fiber weave shell, and an anti-fog coated 3D shield; two large adjustable front intakes channel air through to an aerodynamic rear exhaust spoiler. It’s designed for a snug fit, so order big. Meets both SNELL and DOT standards.
Nolan N21 Visor $210.46
With its extra-wide visor, integrated sun shield, quick release strap buckle, and channeled air ports, the sharp N21 is a high-tech open-face that’s great for most any riding condition. The peripheral vision is fantastic, the visor flips up and away when not in use, and the sun shield engages and retracts with the touch of a button. If brand names aren’t on your priority list, the comparable LS2 OF569 runs about a hundred bucks less.
AND A SUPER FANCY LID: Borderless Kickstarts CrossHelmet X1 Smart Helmet
Flip-up helmets provide versatility and functionality; unfortunately, many of them are clunky, noisy, or downright fugly. Not so here.
Bell Revolver EVO from $99.95
The Round Oval-shaped EVO features a drop-down interior sun shade, adjustable ventilation ports, integrated speaker pockets, magnetic strap closure, and, like all Bells, a five-year manufacturer’s warranty. Two shell sizes promise a snug fit and sleek look, and it’s ready for the optional Transitions Adaptive face shield.
GMax GM54S from $166.46
This off-brand modular gets remarkably great user reviews. Two sweet features help it stand out: one, the "flip-jaw" chin bar rotates all the way to the top of the crown, taking it completely out of the wearer’s line of sight and allowing comfortable, convenient slow-speed putts around parking lots and gas stations; and two, the integrated, multi-function red rear light improves your visibility to other motorists on the road.
HJC IS-MAX II from $198.99
Sales pitches are always glowing, but here’s the bottom line: 75 percent of Amazon reviewers rate this modular as “Excellent.” A three-stage adjustable internal sun shade, integrated ventilation channels, Pinlock faceshield, and single-button chin bar headline the list of features, and the washable anti-bacterial liner and interchangeable cheek pads keep it fitting like new for years. Plenty of colors and styles are available, and prices vary accordingly.
Scorpion EXO-AT950 from $269.95
Dual-sport riders, take note: with its flip-up chin bar, massive goggle-ready eye port, and removable off-road visor, this might be the only helmet you need. The anti-fog face shield and internal sun visor combine with the aerodynamic shape to make this an ideal touring helmet for long rides, or pop off the visor and shield and throw on some goggles to take it off the pavement. Either way, the EPS shell and washable, wicking liner keep you safe and comfortable all day long.
It’s not gonna protect your pretty face, but when it’s 110 degrees in Sturgis (or 110-percent humidity in Daytona) and you want fresh air, at least make sure the “brain bucket” you choose is DOT-certified.
Scorpion EXO C110 from $129.95
Scorpion’s modern take on the skid lid features shell contours, exterior top vents, a low-pro peak visor, an EPS liner, and ear pads that snap onto the ear flaps. It also has a drop-down shaded visor -- which renders the vents useless when flipped up. Still, in a genre flush with cut-rate knockoffs and fake “DOT” stickers, this half-helmet is a Scorpion. For similar brand-name recognition with more traditional styling, try the Bell Pit Boss.
Voss 888FRP from $99.95
Voss specializes in lightweight fiberglass shells, and this one (so named because it weighs just 888 grams) features a removable drop-down eye shade and metal buckle closure. If you insist on rocking your cruiserface come rally time, we strongly recommend paying the extra fifty bucks for the carbon fiber version.