An Illustrated Guide to Motorcycle Helmet Types

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Open Face

Open Face Helmets
Open face, or three-quarter helmets, may be more comfortable than closed face lids, but they leave the face and jaw vulnerable to injury-- not to mention the fact that they lack built-in eye protection against bugs and debris. Photo © Fulmer

How to pick the lid that's right for you

If you're looking for ways to protect your noggin, you've got your head in the right place: wearing a helmet is the easiest way to avoid life threatening injuries while you ride a motorcycle. And though it's only one small part of motorcycle safety gear, it's arguably the most important.

Lids aren't created the same, so here's a breakdown of the basic types of motorcycle helmets; click on each image for more info.


  • Motorcycle Jacket Types
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Harley Davidson Helmet
Half helmets-- aka, beanies or shorties-- are barely considered safety gear. Don't fall under the illusion that these will offer much, if any, crash protection; there's a reason they're nicknamed "novelty" helmets. Photo © Harley-Davidson
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Shoei Helmets
Motocross helmets are designed to handle offroad competition by offering a wide field of vision that's open so goggles can protect the eyes from dust and debris, while their front lip is intended to keep the sun out of the eyes. Photo © Shoei
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Schuberth Helmets
Modular helmets feature components that fold out of the way (and sometimes can be completely removed) in order to temporarily offer the conveniences of an open face helmet. The open face position is usually intended for stops or low speeds. Photo © Schuberth
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Adventure Touring

Arai Helmets
This hybrid helmet genre combines elements of motocross and touring lids, offering a front lip for shade and a large opening that seals with a visor, replacing the motocross-style opening that usually makes room for separate goggles. Photo © Arai
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HJC Helmets
Sport helmets are designed for maximum performance, and tend to feature lightweight construction and a snug fit, with slippery aerodynamics to cope with high speed riding. Photo © HJC
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Touring Helmets
Touring helmets are designed for long haul comfort, and usually have a looser fit than sport-oriented lids. Other characteristics include a larger visor area for more visibility, and some also have flip-down interior tinted visors, as seen here. Photo © Nolan
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Scooter Helmets
More a European phenomenon than an American one, scooter helmets often have an open face area with a built-in visor. Photo © Momo
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Race Replica

AGV Race Replica Helmet
Race Replica helmets feature graphics emulating the lids of famous racers (a la Valentino Rossi, seen here), but tend to be essentially the same as their non race livery-clad counterparts. Photo © AGV