Motorcycle Helmet Types: Beginner's Guide That Will Make You Choose the Right Helmets Type

Motorcycle Helmet Types: Beginner's Guide to your 1st or next crash helmet

Motorcycle Helmet Types: The 5 Motorcycle Helmet Types Explained

New to motorcycling, and this is your first or second helmet? Before you rush off and make your decision, let us unpick the differences between the helmet types.

Choosing a motorcycle helmet

Choosing your motorcycle helmet by first deciding on the motorcycle helmet type is a sensible way to start your purchase.

Each motorcycle helmet type has its pros and cons. The right crash helmet for your needs depends on the type of riding you're going to be doing, your protection requirements, and (of course) your personal taste.

And, while the default 'go-to' style is always a full-face helmet, it does not have to be that way.

Video: 2:30mins - Watch it instead on YouTube here: Motorcycle Helmet Types: Beginner's Guide to your best crash helmet style

What are the 5 motorcycle helmet types?

For road riding, you can simply distinguish between 5 motorcycle helmet types, each with their own pros and cons.

  1. The Full-Face helmet type
  2. The Adventure helmet type (aka Dual-Sport helmet)
  3. The Flip-Up helmet type (aka Modular helmet)
  4. The Scooter helmet type (aka Jet helmet)
  5. The Open Face helmet type (aka 3/4 helmet)

To help make your decision easier, we've put together a guide of the features and attributes that distinguish the 5 different motorcycle helmet types available for road use.

What to consider when choosing between different motorcycle helmet types?

What are the differences between all the motorcycle helmet types? What level of protection do they offer? How do they all look? Which helmet styles suit your ride style?

Full Face helmets: The motorcycle helmet type considered best for rider safety

The obvious one to start with is the full face helmet. Full face helmets are the most protective type of motorcycle helmet because they cover your entire head and have a chin guard that covers your jaw.

It is generally seen as the safest motorcycle helmet. The full coverage makes the helmet quiet at speed, but its one downside is that in town where your situational awareness is reduced: You hear less because the head is fully encased, and your peripheral vision, below as well as to the left and right, is reduced due to the restrictions of the visor opening. This is particularly true on cheaper motorcycle helmets. 

Adventure helmets / Dual-Sport helmets: The motorcycle helmet type for road and off-road terrain

Another type of full face helmet is the Adventure helmet. It's basically a full face helmet most of the time with a sun peak protruding out of the front. Because you've got that sun peak, it is recommended that you don't buy the cheapest option.

It's better to buy into a helmet where the manufacturer's got wind tunnel experience: It requires real craft to fit a sun peak to the front of a motorcycle helmet and for that helmet to still deliver good aerodynamic performance on the motorway.

Flip Up helmets / Modular helmets: The motorcycle helmet type that complies with two testing standards

The flip up helmet is like a full face helmet, except you can raise the chin piece and ride with it while the chin piece is raised. The result is fantastic airflow while the chin piece is raised, while still allowing you to choose the more protective closed riding position. And if you're a spectacle wearer the flip front helmet is a real gift for putting on your glasses. It's so much easier.

The one downside it's got: it's slightly louder inside, slightly noisier, and it's slightly heavier. That's mainly to do with having the flip-up mechanism. Flip-up helmets have the reputation of being slightly less safe. This is an unfair, particularly if you're buying into a reputable brand where the locking mechanisms are made out of very secure materials. Perhaps stay clear of the cheaper options.

Scooter helmets / Jet helmets: The motorcycle helmet type for all things urban

If you are riding mainly in town, you should also have a good look at a scooter helmet, or a jet helmet. Jet helmet, because it's got eye protection but no chin piece, so it looks a little bit like a pilot's helmet. The design is one of the most lightweight helmet options.

All of Paris and Rome rides around in these, and there's a reason for that. You have an enormous amount of peripheral vision and you've got more awareness of the ambient sounds around you. So, while it's not necessarily good for long distance travel, it's fantastic for urban and suburban riding.

Open Face helmets: The motorcycle helmet type with no face shield

And lastly, you've got the open face helmets. This is the only helmet where you haven't got any face shield protection, whatsoever, so it has limited application in UK weather conditions. Ride in the rain and it's 'death by a thousand needles' as the rain drops come at you at 40 miles an hour.

But, in the sunshine at slow speeds, the open face helmet is wonderful and they are the essence of motorcycling. If you want to wear goggles to complete your look, an open face helmet may be worth considering.


Motorcycle Helmet Types: Beginner's Guide That Will Make You Choose the Right Helmets Type What are the 5 motorcycle helmet types?


What are the standards all motorcycle helmet types have to comply with?

While all road-legal crash helmets must be tested to a defined safety standard, not all motorcycle helmet types are tested the same way and therefore not all motorcycle helmet types carry the same safety cretification.

Testing Standards: The safety standards that matter

  • Motorcycle helmet types that must carry ECE 22.05 / ECE 22.06 'P' full-face helmet type approval: Full-Face helmets, Adventure helmets, and Flip-Up helmets
  • Motorcycle helmet types that must carry ECE 22.05 / ECE 22.06 'J' jet/open face helmet type approval: Scooter helmets, Open-face helmets, and most Flip-Up helmets
  • Motorcycle helmet types that may carry 'P' and 'J' safety standard approval: Only Flip-Up helmets can carry approval for both safety standards, and while most do, some do not. The difference is that those without 'J' approval technically should not be ridden while the chin piece is raised.
  • Motorcycle helmet types that have SHARP safety scheme ratings: Sharp safety ratings are applied to helmets bought in regular retail outlets, just like you would purchase a helmet. That makes the approach very 'real world'. The Sharp helmet safety scheme aims to test all motorcycle helmets on the market, regardless of helmet type. The number of helmet styles tested permanently increased, but check the Sharp website to see, which helmets have been assessed and whether the one you are interested in has a rating.

» For a deep dive on how to use motorcycle helmet standards in your search for the perfect helmet, read this post: Motorcycle Helmet Safety: Motorcycle helmet safety ratings explained

Choose your ideal motorcycle helmet type

So, before you rush off and make your buying decision, have a think about the type of riding that you are going to be doing on your motorcycle and see whether you can match that up to the advantages and disadvantages of the five different types of motorcycle helmets that you can choose from. With so many helmet styles on the market, you’re sure to find one that fits both your riding needs and personal preferences.

Discover Your Motorcycle Rider Type

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