We’re grilling experts all the time, whether we’re searching for the best potting soil to buy, the most effective treatments for cystic acne, or the “softest” tennis rackets for beginners. To make it onto our list, every product has to be recommended by at least two experts — the result is a definitive guide to what the people who know what they’re talking about really stand behind.
We don’t mean to nag, but: If you’re going to ride a motorcycle, you really should wear a helmet. Whether you’re considering lessons or already have a few cross-country trips under your belt, there are plenty of stylish and safe options out there. But which to choose? We consulted with ten bikers, shop owners, and the founder of the New York City Classic Riders about the best helmets for beginners, for riding on the back of someone’s bike, for listening to music while you ride, and more.
Erin McEachern, who works for E3 Supply Co., a vintage motorcycle and leather-goods shop, recommends the Simpson Bandit. “The Simpson Bandit has been our favorite helmet to date and is still in production in a couple different versions,” McEachern says. “The helmet was created by Bob Simpson, a legend in the racing and safety community. We have the white version and use it with both the Dark Smoke and Clear Shields. David, one of E3’s owners, wore this helmet on a 4,000-mile trip a few years back, and it performed extremely well in all conditions.” She also describes the helmet as “lightweight and comfortable,” with “good ventilation.”
Craig Filipacchi, of Filipacchi in New York, likes the Sena Momentum INC because it lets him listen to music while he rides. Filipacchi says, “I’ve become addicted to listening to music, directions and talking on the phone while riding so these days I’m leaning strongly towards helmets that do that well.” He names the Sena Momentum INC as his favorite for its “integrated speakers, mic, noise canceling and ambient sound,” and says, “the sound is great (for a helmet) and the noise canceling works well at low speeds.” And while it’s true that noise canceling doesn’t work at highway speeds, he says, he wears the helmet while riding through New York City on a “completely silent, belt-driven Zero electric motorcycle. It’s like listening to music in a soundproof room. Very relaxing and peaceful. My son rides with me occasionally and also wears a Sena and we chat on the intercom while riding which is fun.”
Filipacchi also recommends the Shoei Neotech II with integrated Sena Bluetooth speakers and mic. He says it’s similar to the Sena Momentum, but it has a flip-up visor (though it doesn’t have the noise-canceling capability.) Don Gomo, a member of the New York Classic Riders, also recommended this one, saying it’s “comfortable for all-day riding, and fairly quiet for a modular helmet.”
Adam Kallen, the CEO of Jane Motorcycles in Brooklyn, recommended the Bell Bullitt, a helmet he says sells well for his store’s market, which he describes as riders of adventure bikes and cafe racers, as well as dirt bikes and street bikes. “There’s one called the Bell Bullitt and it’s a full face helmet, it looks really cool, it’s kind of like if Daft Punk and like a vintage designer got together and made a helmet,” Kallen says. “It’s got really amazing details, leather details, a lot of venting, it’s got a flip shield, it’s a full face helmet but it’s got a really cool retro look with a modern feel to it.” Dominique Dutronc, the founder of the motorcycle community the New York Classic Riders, also recommends the Bell Bullitt, which he describes as having “a strong retro style.” The style makes it practical for riding, too: “The wide vision you have with it makes it very practical to wear, it is also very light,” Dutronc says.
Both Dutronc and Kallen suggested the Biltwell Bonanza Open Face Helmet, as well. Dutronc says that it’s “great to ride in the city or for short distances” and “simple, cheap and practical.” Kallen, who notes that Jane sells many of this model, says that they “look great and are comfortable.”
And for an entry-level helmet, Kallen suggests the Biltwell Gringo, which he calls an “awesome-looking helmet.” “I own one,” Kallen says. “I’ll wear it around town sometimes.” Andre Acosta, the director of retail at Deus Ex Machina USA in Los Angeles, recommends this one as well, saying the helmet has a “great entry-level price with solid retro look.” The Strategist’s managing editor, Maxine Builder, owns this helmet, as well, and recommends it. She says, “I first bought the Gringo without a face shield because I wanted to ride on the back of my boyfriend’s bike, but wasn’t sure how often I was actually going to use it, and $175 is a very reasonable price.”
Once Maxine started riding on her own, she upgraded to the Gringo with a face shield. “It’s slightly more expensive, but still under $300, which is a good deal in my book. It’s light enough so not uncomfortable, and pretty stylish. I also like that the lining inside is really easy to take out and wash.” Jason No, Retail Operations Manager at Deus, praised the Biltwell Gringo, as well. “As far as price point, style, and safety is concerned, I don’t think there is any other like it in the market. Fits perfectly for most and enough color options to keep everyone happy.”
If you’re searching for a helmet with a nostalgic feel, Acosta and Kallen both suggested the Bell Moto 3. Kallen says it “looks kind of like a dirt bike helmet,” and will “bring back memories for anyone in their 40s to 60s” because it’s an update on the “helmet they wore when they were a kid.” Acosta calls it a “solid throwback to one of the original coolest-looking helmets now with modern safety.” He describes the design as “one of the most desired” and said that before Bell came out with this modern version, people would wear the vintage ones which were “not very safe at all.”
The Shoei RF-1200 came up on several of our experts lists. Acosta describes it as having “solid design and great airflow,” and says that “you get what you pay for” with these handmade helmets. The Shoei RF-1200 was named by ten (ten!) members of the New York City Riders, as well. One rider, Ethan Bregman, says, “I find it exceptionally comfortable, and with good sound blocking for highway riding. Most importantly, when reading the ‘purchaser reviews’ of most other helmets online, the others always wrote about how cool they looked or comfortable they were, but the Shoei reviews had many comments along the lines of ‘I crashed in it, and it saved my life.’ That sealed the deal for me.” This helmet also meets Snell Memorial Foundation safety standards, which New York City Rider Adam Zuckerman notes “guarantees that a helmet sold in the USA is much better than barely passing the minimum federal standards.” Marc Polfliet, also a New York City Rider, says that this helmet is “ lightweight and aerodynamic, which lowers stress on the neck and improves head stability under high wind conditions.” He adds that it’s “super-comfy” and “offers great vision and plenty of ventilation while minimizing wind noise.” He’s had it for four years and about 15,000 miles, and it’s still like new.
“A higher-tier helmet is the Arai,” says Kallen. He recommends the XD4 model, which he calls “pretty top of the line.” He says that while it may look similar to other helmets, it “has way more safety features,