Choosing the best motorcycle helmet when you have a budget under £200 can be tricky as there’s a huge range out there from most of the leading brands. But safety standards mean that, with a little research, you can buy a motorbike lid that’s proven to pass the same protective tests as the most expensive out there.
In this article, I’m going to take you through all you should consider when choosing, then share some of the hottest products on the market. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a new rider, or experienced, this is your guide to the more affordable bike helmets in 2022…
You first need to decide what type of helmet you want. An open-face lid (sometimes called a ‘jet’ or a ‘piss-pot’!) has no face protection, though might include a visor. Scooter riders, and those with retro-styled and classic bikes often love them, but you’ll need a pair of googles too. You might find a drop-down visor built in, but at speeds over about 40-50mph, the wind usually whips up underneath and makes your eyes water.
Some helmets have a lightweight plastic face-guard built into the lid, which is usually removable. Check the label inside or on the strap to see if it has just a ‘J’ on it, that means the helmet is only tested as a ‘Jet’ lid, so the face guard doesn’t offer any protection beyond flies and stones.
A ‘P’ on the label means the helmet has been tested a ‘Protective’ full-face helmet, and these are what most riders choose. If you do have an accident, your face is protected by the lid as much as the rest of your head.
Finally, we have flip-front helmets (sometimes called ‘modular’ or ‘system’ lids); these have a chin-guard that can be pulled up to the top of the helmet, or even flipped right over the back. They’re great for getting some extra air when riding, for talking to people, and for getting fuel. They’re a great option for everyone from tourers to couriers. Look for both a ‘P’ and a ‘J’ on the label’; the ‘P’ is the most important one as it proves the front is protective, while the ‘J’ means it’s approved for use with the chin guard pulled open (some non-P&J flip lids can drop shut as you ride, blocking your vision!).
This flip-front lid is certified as P and J
All helmets sold in the UK and Europe must, legally, be approved to ECE 22.05. They can include DOT and SNELL as well, but ECE 22.05 is essential. Technically, a helmet can also be certified to BS 6658:1985, or a ‘European Economic Area member standard offering at least the same safety and protection as BS 6658:1985, and carry a mark equivalent to the BSI Kitemark.’ But this is such an old standard that you shouldn’t find any helmets like this so I’d recommend you avoid them, not least because helmets are only really meant to last five years. Look for ECE 22.05, or the new ECE 22.06 standard…
From January 2024, all new helmets will have to be certified to ECE 220.6, which has a much tougher set of tests, including an ‘oblique’ impact, which measures the rotational forces transmitted to the brain when the helmet hits a 45° anvil.
The new standard will likely mean some lids disappear from the market, and there could be some deals to be had, but if you want the provably safest, look for ECE 22.06 on the label.
Some brands will claim their helmets far exceed a safety standard, and while using complex materials and clever design may well mean that’s true, there’s no real way of knowing how safe a lid is, beyond the minimum standards set out in the tests.
Some helmets will carry an ACU Gold sticker, which means the Auto Cycle Union – the governing body for racing in the UK – has approved it for track use. No extra tests are carried out for this, and not all lids that are ACU-approved have the sticker (you’ll need to check with the retailer if it is on the approved list). It’s only worth thinking about if you’re going to ride on track.
Multi-fibre, or composite fibre shells that use various combinations of fibreglass, carbon fibre and aramid fibres in resin tend to be at the higher end of the market in motorcycle helmets, whereas the more-budget-friendly lids often use ABS / polycarbonate / plastic shells.
There are two schools of thought here, but the theory behind a tougher composite outer shell, rather than more flexible plastic, is that it will glance off in an impact more readily, and distribute energy across it before it transferring into the softer, more compressible polystyrene inner.
All we can know for sure is the standards achieved during testing, and over the next couple of years ECE 22.06 will really highlight where manufacturers have made a provably safe helmet thanks to the more stringent tests.
That polystyrene inner, also known as an EPS liner (expanded polystyrene) is sometimes available in multi-density, which means there are softer areas where necessary for maximum comfort and safety, rather than cutting out deep channels to act as ‘crumple zones.’
The newest helmets will be certified to ECE 22.06
The right fit is absolutely essential in any helmet, regardless of price or style; too big and it’s not going to protect you properly, while any pressure points will soon become extremely painful.
Speaking to dealers and manufacturers indicates that as many as 75% of riders have a helmet that’s too big for them, so don’t be afraid to ask for advice; shop staff should be trained by the major brands to help you get the right fit, so take your time and get something that works for you.
If you’re buying online, I strongly recommend you use reputable motorcycle kit dealers based in the UK, as you’ll get proper support when you need it. I’d avoid marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, and also be aware that some European sellers use .co.uk web addresses and even UK phone numbers. Dig a little deeper to check where the shops are based, as while they might be able to offer returns, you could be liable for import duty, might have to pay to send anything back that you buy and, most importantly, the UK distributors won’t be able to support you if needed.
Some of the leading helmet brands’ UK distributors provide a custom fit service when needed as they have the tools and experience to be able to refine a lid to make it absolutely perfect for your head. 99% of riders will never need it, but if you are struggling, check with the store where you’re buying from, to see if this is possible.
Here are the simple steps to getting the right fit when you buy a motorcycle helmet:
Many helmets are built in a variety of shells sizes, which means the outer shell might be one size for S-L, for instance, then a bigger one for XL-XXXL. This means someone with a small head doesn’t have to wear a massive lid, so the more shell sizes across the head size range, the better.
The traditional helmet fastener is a ‘Double-D’ ring. It can be a little awkward for new riders, and you’ll struggle with gloves on, but it guarantees a secure fit every time.
In the old days, you might have found a seatbelt style clip, but these didn’t allow easy adjustment once set, so riders often ended up with straps that weren’t tight enough.
The new ‘micrometric’ fasteners have a length of ratchet that’s secure, easy to use even with gloves on, and they give some adjustability every time.
You might also find a new magnetic ‘Fidlock’ fastener, which snaps shut with the help of magnets. It’s slightly easier to use with gloves on than a Double-D, but it has no easy adjustability once set, so is no better than the old seatbelt clips.
Double-D or micrometric fastener… they both offer good security
Checking a visor’s tricky with a big sticker over it, so do read as many helmet reviews as possible to ensure there’s no distortion through, that the up and down field of view is good, and that peripheral vision isn’t impaired. Fortunately, the ECE helmet tests give a minimum level of visibility, so you shouldn’t have any major issues.
Helmets at the cheaper end of the market might not include a ‘Pinlock’, which is a second layer of plastic with a silicone bead that clips inside the visor to reduce fogging. These do work well, though they’re available in different levels: 30, 70 and 120. The higher the number, the longer they’ll resist fogging. There’s also ‘Evo’, which is the same performance as 120, and ‘Max Vision’, which is larger and fits into a recess in the visor for less noticeable edges.
If you never ride in cold or wet weather, it’s less of a concern, but otherwise it’s worth having one included as they cost an extra £20-£30 (assuming the visor has the pins to take it – some don’t).
Some visors have an anti-fog coating, but you have to be careful when cleaning it, and it’s generally not as effective as a Pinlock.
Some visors are ‘class A’ or ‘class 1’, which should mean they offer the best clarity with little to no distortion, and be sure to check how easy any visor is to remove and refit for cleaning.
Many helmets now include a drop-down sunshield, which can really help on sunny days or those awkward low-sun autumn evenings. Check that there’s not too big a gap at the bottom for distracting bright light, but also that the shield doesn’t crash into your nose!
Knowing how well a helmet’s ventilation works is tricky without using it, so be sure to check all our helmet reviews. Look for vents that are easy to operate with gloves on, and that have a clear path through the lid, into the helmet. Channels cut into the lining can help air move around, though the deeper ones are also there as a cheaper way of making the polystyrene compress more easily in an impact.
Again, our helmet reviews will help here, but it’s important to understand that noise is greatly affected by the bike. While some lids are tested in a wind tunnel, it’s on an unfaired motorcycle; it’s actually the screen and fairing that cause the buffeting that can create the most noise when riding.
If you ride at more than about 40mph, you should wear earplugs… here’s why.
AGV K1 | Price: From £139.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
AGV says: “Aerodynamic shape, racing-developed front air vents and wind-tunnel engineered aero spoiler maximize performance while providing stability at higher speed. Panoramic anti-scratch visor allows a wider lateral and vertical field of vision for total control of the environment.”
AGV K3 SV | Price: From £179.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
AGV says: “The K3 SV is an affordable, adaptable helmet with a surprising array of features, including an internal drop-down sun visor, impressive aerodynamic performance, efficient ventilation and an expansive field of vision. The shell is of thermoplastic construction, and the inner liner is of Dry-Comfort fabric.”
Bell Qualifier | Price: £139.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
Bell says: “The Qualifier delivers exceptional performance at incredible value. In addition to superb fit and comfort, it comes fully decked with aggressive styling, NutraFog II anti-fog, anti-scratch face shield, Velocity Flow ventilation, a removable, washable liner, integrated speaker pockets and a padded wind collar.”
Bell MX-9 Adventure | Price: From £189.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
Bell says: “MIPs Technology, Lightweight injected polymer composite shell, Integrated Face Shield, Velocity Flow ventilation system for cooling and comfort, Moisture Wicking, removable/washable air channelled comfort liner, Adjustable mouth vent, Five-year warranty.”
Bell Qualifier DLX | Price: From £169.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
Bell says: “The Qualifier DLX MIPS delivers exceptional performance at incredible value. Safety is enhanced by the inclusion of the MIPS energy management system, aggressive styling, Velocity Flow ventilation, a removable, washable liner, and a padded wind collar.”
Caberg Avalon | Price: From £139.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
Caberg says: “Polycarbonate shell in two sizes with micrometric buckle, removable liner and two-way chin venting to avoid misting.”
Caberg X-Trace | Price: From £193.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
Caberg says: “Adventure helmet with removable, washable liner, micrometric buckle, removable peak and inner sun visor.”
Caberg Duke 2 | Price: From £149.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
Caberg says: “Flip-front helmet homologated as P and J with an ABS shell, drop-down sun visor, micrometric buckle and Pinlock included.”
HJC I70 Tas | Price: £179.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
HJC says: “The I70 from HJC impressively combines the best of sport and touring helmets. Great comfort, a wealth of features and light weight - these are the ingredients that make this an extremely interesting helmet for sporty touring bikers.”
HJC I90 | Price: £199.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
HJC says: “The HJC i90 Modular Helmet is a simple touring helmet with a polycarbonate shell, air-flow ventilation system and an internal sun visor. Its SuperCool® moisture wicking liner system keeps you comfortable on long rides. A special groove along the temples accommodates glasses so you can see clearly even if you don't have 20/20 vision.”
HJC CS-15 Inno | Price: £99.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
HJC says: “A competitively priced full-face helmet for riders that value quality and safety. The Advanced Polycarbonate Composite Shell provides a lightweight helmet, with superior fit and comfort using advanced CAD technology. The ACS Advanced Channelling Ventilation system allows full front to back airflow to flush heat and humidity up and out.”
LS2 Rapid | Price: From £59.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
LS2 says: “The new Rapid interprets the basic compromise between high level protection and easy design. Moulded in HPTT, a mix of ABS giving a total safe structure with a very light weight, three shells, breath deflector, Class A visor and quick release system. This helmet is perfect to be used for daily rides in the city and really comfortable for mid-distance journeys.”
LST FF800 Storm | Price: From £129.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
LS2 says: “LS2 Helmets Storm full-face motorcycle helmet offers the performance and features of helmets costing two to three times as much, but because we build it in our own factory, LS2 is able to offer it at an incredible value. The shell is uses LS2's proprietary KPA. It's light, but strong. Easy to use and fully adjustable top vents are ported to allow true flow through ventilation.”
MT Vector II | Price: £179.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.06
LS2 says: “This ECE 22.06-certified helmet has a multi-density EPS liner, optically correct A Class visor, removable and washable hypoallergenic liner and a micrometric steel buckle. The Vector II has a staggering SIX shell sizes across the head size range.”
MT Storm | Price: £129.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
MT says: “Flip-front helmet with a thermoplastic shell, drop-down sunshield, removable washable lining and micrometric buckle.”
MT Rapide Overtake | Price: £149.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
MT says: “Fibreglass shell with two outer sizes and multi-density EPS liner. Double-D fastener with a removable washable liner and Pinlock Max Vision insert included.”
MT Streetfighter | Price: £109.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
MT says: “Homologated only as an open-face helmet, the Streetfighter has a removable mask, micrometric buckle and an inner sun visor.”
Nexx SX100R | Price: From £184.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
Nexx says: “Lightweight thermoplastic helmet with double-blade rear spoiler, efficient venting, drop-down sun shield and removable liner.”
Nexx SX100 | Price: From £149.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
Nexx says: “An extremely wide eye port in this thermoplastic helmet gives an increased feeling of openness through the Class 1 visor. Incorporates a drop-down sunshield and quick-removable lining. ”
Nolan N80-8 | Price: From £199.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.06
Nolan says: “The new top-of-the range polycarbonate full-face helmet, certified to ECE 22.06. Thanks to its rich technical characteristics and generous standard equipment, it is the ideal helmet for any occasion, from long urban trips to the most challenging journeys, whatever the motorbike used and the destination to be reached.”
Nolan N60-6 | Price: From £149.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.06
Nolan says: “Certified to ECE 22.06, this new polycarbonate road full-face helmet has a contemporary, sports-inspired design. Its technical characteristics make it suitable for any situation, both in the city and on the motorway.”
Scorpion EXO491 | Price: From £119.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.06
Scorpion says: “ECE 22.06-certified polycarbonate lid with five-year warranty, effective RAM-AIR ventilation system, high-quality, removable and washable KwikWick inner lining and integrated sun visor.”
Scorpion EXO 230 | Price: From £119.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.06
Scorpion says: “ECE 22.06-certified open-face helmet with a KwikWick C lining, two shell sizes and a five year warranty.”
Scorpion EXO 520 | Price: From £169.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
Scorpion says: “With a five year warranty, the KwikWick2 anti-microbial lining keeps you cool and dry in warm weather, warm in cool weather. The Exo 520 has three shell sizes and features airfit inflatable cheek pads.”
Spada Raiden Camo | Price: £79.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
Spada says: “Four vents, removable washable lining and a quick-release visor that’s ready for a Pinlock (sold separately).”
Spada SP1 Raptor | Price: £159.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
Spada says: “Six vents for superior airflow, internal sun visor, removable washable lining and a Pinlock included.”
Spada Reveal Tracker | Price: £94.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
Spada says: “Flip-front helmet with a thermo-plastic shell, drop-down sunshield and removable cheek pads.”
Shark Ridill | Price: From £99.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
Shark says: “Ventilation optimised with computational fluid dynamics, integrated sunshield and removable lining. Thermoplastic outer shell and chanels for comfortable wearing of spectacles.”
Shark D-Skwal | Price: From £169.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
Shark says: “Pinlock included for the ‘autoseal’ visor that improves soundproofing and water sealing. Ventilation optimised with computational fluid dynamics, the D-Skwal is designed to work comfortably with glasses. Thermoplastic helmet with removable lining.”
Shark Citycruiser | Price: From £199.99 | Safety standard: ECE 22.05
Shark says: “Open-face helmet with AEGIS® MICROTECH lining fabric made from recycled fibres offering antibacterial properties, removable interior suitable for machine washing and channels for the comfortable wearing of glasses.”