Top 5 Best Open Face Motorcycle Helmets

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In 1956, AGV revolutionized helmet design with the introduction of the jet helmet, also commonly known as open face or ¾ helmet, which provided coverage to the top and sides of the head while leaving the face exposed. The innovative design quickly gained popularity, with Bell adopting it just a year later in 1957, followed by nearly every other helmet manufacturer worldwide. But as safer full-faced alternatives featuring chin bars emerged in 1967, open-faced helmets gradually fell out of favor in racing circles.

Despite this shift, on the streets, riders of scooters, cafe racers, tourers, and cruisers continued to embrace open face helmets certified by DOT, ECE, or SNELL for their distinctive look, comfort, and sense of freedom, all while ensuring compliance with helmet laws in 18 states and the District of Columbia. And as someone who has firsthand witnessed this enduring trend for nearly 50 years, I can confidently recommend the best open face motorcycle helmets available today:

Helmet ModelCategoryShell SizesCheck & Shop Now
AGV X70Best Overall3: XS-MS, ML-LG, XL-2XLFCMoto | Motardinn | Amazon
Bell Custom 500Best Classic5: XS-SM, MD, LG, XL, 2XLRevZilla | CycleGear | Amazon
Shoei J-Cruise IIBest Cruiser3: XS-SM, MD, LG, XL-2XLRevZilla | Amazon
Arai Ram-XBest Touring6: XS, S, M, L, XL, 2XLRevZilla | Amazon
Scorpion EXO Covert XBest Convertible2: XS-L, XL-XXLRevZilla | Amazon

Before I dive into the detailed reviews of each helmet and explain why I consider them the best, let me first highlight the factors that influenced my selection process.

Key Factors When Choosing the Perfect Open Face Motorcycle Helmet

Renzo Pasolini Wearing the AGV X70 Open Face Helmet
Renzo Pasolini, a legendary figure in Grand Prix motorcycle racing during the 1960s and 1970s, remains a beloved icon in Italy's motorsport history. Renowned for his exceptional talent and charisma, he often rode wearing the AGV X70 helmet, as depicted in this image. Pasolini's preference for the jet helmet stemmed from his use of glasses with high-grade lenses; he found that full-face helmets caused fogging issues with his glasses. While he occasionally utilized the AGV X3000 in certain races, his fondness for the jet remained evident throughout his illustrious career. I vividly recall the live coverage of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Italy, on the day he and Jarno Saarinen tragically lost their lives—a somber moment etched as the darkest day in motorcycle racing history.

Comfort and convenience are the main reasons I lean towards open-face helmets. Full-face options can feel a bit cramped, especially around the ears, making them less comfortable to put on or take off. It's like the helmet's saying, "It's a bit crowded in here," you know?

While full-face helmets do offer extra chin protection, those chin bars can feel quite intrusive, blocking your view of both the controls and the road ahead. On the flip side, open-face helmets provide an unobstructed view of the motorcycle and the road. With their open design and unbounded eyeport, you'll have fewer blind spots and better peripheral vision.

Open-face helmets are also lighter, typically weighing 2 to 3 pounds (907 to 1,361 grams) compared to the 3-4 pounds (1,361 to 1,814 grams. This lighter weight, combined with their ease of use, makes open-face helmets perfect for quick errand runs, even as a pillion. You won't feel weighed down, and if you need to remove the helmet frequently, it's no hassle.

And when it comes to picking the best open-face helmet, I consider these factors essential:

Get the Right Size

Ensuring the correct helmet size is crucial for maximizing protection during a crash. In fact, DOT, SNELL, or ECE certification standards hinge on the proper helmet shell size and fit for your head. So, to nail down the right size, it's best to recruit a friend to help for accuracy.

Just ask them measure the circumference of your head at its widest point—just above the ears. Most sizing charts conveniently provide measurements in both millimeters and inches, making it easier to choose the unit that suits you. Look for a helmet with at least 2 shell sizes; for example, the Arai Ram-X comes in 6 sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL, 2XL)—the most I've seen in an open face helmet.

My head measures 56cm, and the small size of the AGV X70 I ordered fits perfectly. If you're considering a different brand, I recommend consulting the size guide, especially since AGV offers unique medium-large (ML) and medium-small (MS) options:

Size Head (Cm) Head (In)
XS 53-54 20.9-21.3
SM 55-56 21.7-22
MS 57-58 22.4-22.8
ML 59-60 23.2-23.6
LG 60-61 23.6-24
XL 61-62 24-24.4
2XL 63-64 24.8-25.2

Remember to keep your measurement as a handy reference point when picking out your open-face helmet, both now and in the future.

Understanding Your Head Shape Is Equally Important

Ask your friend to snap a photo of your head while you're sitting upright, looking directly downward. This gives you a visual of your head shape—whether it's round, intermediate oval, or long oval.

Next, grab a soft tape measure and take horizontal front-to-back and ear-to-ear measurements. If they're similar, your head is likely round; if slightly different, it's probably intermediate oval; and if significantly different, it's likely long oval. Pay close attention to fitment annotations for each helmet you consider; even helmets from the same brand can fit differently.

No Fogging

Renzo Pasolini Racing in the AGV X70 Open Face Helmet
Renzo Pasolini, with his iconic horn-rimmed glasses, leans confidently into a corner atop an Aermacchi Harley–Davidson 250 RR motorcycle, wearing the timeless AGV X70 Jet helmet. I've never worn a jet-style open-face helmet myself, but Renzo was one of the last Grand Prix racers to compete with one.

While fogging inside the helmet may seem like a myth for those who use open-face helmets, it's still possible for it to occur, particularly with the longer face shield like, say, the new J-Cruise II.

That's why Shoei includes a Pinlock-ready face shield (inserts sold separately), which significantly reduces fogging compared to other similar open-face helmets, addressing a common concern among riders.

Meets Safety Standards

While SHARP and FIM do not certify open face helmets, ECE, SNELL, and DOT organizations do. They conduct comprehensive tests, including visor/face shield penetration, impact, and angled impacts, ensuring these helmets meet stringent safety standards. Open face helmets offer better protection compared to half helmets and provide superior peripheral vision than full-face counterparts. DOT mandates a minimum of 105 degrees allowed from the centerline for peripheral vision, and all my top picks boast a 180-degree peripheral vision.

The new ECE 22.06 rating standard, which is currently met only by the Bell Custom 500 among the helmets in my list, introduces further measures to enhance protection. It assesses visor mechanisms for removability, impact resistance, and stability, ensuring durability against high-speed impacts. Tests include a steel bullet traveling at 60 m/s and impact testing on the sides, back, and top of the helmet—areas vulnerable without proper protection. 

The presence of a 'J' on the label signifies that it's homologated as a 'jet' or open-face helmet. Such thorough evaluation ensures open face helmets meet rigorous safety requirements, providing optimal protection for riders.

Secure Chin Strap

Todd in Thailand Wearing an Open Face Helmet While Out Shopping
One of the delightful aspects of Asia is the integration of motorcycle stores within shopping malls and dedicated motorcycle accessories departments within department stores. I took this photo of my friend Todd in Bangkok, Thailand, in late 2022 during our two-week riding trip amidst the COVID era. It's a lighthearted moment, showcasing Todd in a retro open-face helmet paired with old-style goggles, adding a touch of nostalgia to our adventure.

With open face helmets lacking chin bars, a reliable chin strap is essential for a secure fit.

The Double D buckle is my preferred choice for its long-standing reputation as the safest and most versatile fastening method. Alternatively, the Micrometric chinstrap offers convenient use, particularly with gloves.

Try It On

When trying on your new helmet, expect a snug fit initially, as helmet linings typically break in about 15% during the first 20 hours of riding. If it folds your ears but doesn't feel uncomfortably tight, it's likely the right size. If it's difficult to put on, reconsider your size choice, and if it feels loose, consider sizing down.

Adjust the chinstrap to the correct tension and have someone try to roll the helmet off back-to-front. If it moves easily, it may not be the right fit. Ensure the helmet stays on securely and moves with your head to act as a single mass, reducing potential impact against safety gear in a crash.

Lastly, wear the helmet for 30 to 60 minutes at home before riding to identify any pressure points, especially around the forehead or temples. If there's no discomfort, especially in these areas, you've likely found the perfect fit!

Now that I've outlined the factors influencing my choice of the best least restrictive motorcycle helmets, let's take a moment to review my top picks.

The AGV Pista GP R Carbon Valentino Rossi Helmet, one of the best helmets ever made

The motorcycle helmets I recommend provide a perfect balance of affordability and unwavering quality, ensuring the utmost value for your investment. These are items I've become well-acquainted with during my more than 50 years of motorcycling experience, where I've led and consulted for reputable companies in over 25 countries, in addition to being an avid rider. They are the very same helmets that have earned my trust and served me exceptionally well during countless adventures.

Top 5 Best Open Face Motorcycle Helmets

Helmet Model Category Shell Sizes
AGV X70 Best Overall 3: XS-MS, ML-LG, XL-2XL
Bell Custom 500 Best Classic 5: XS-SM, MD, LG, XL, 2XL
Shoei J-Cruise II Best Cruiser 3: XS-SM, MD, LG, XL-2XL
Arai Ram-X Best Touring 6: XS, S, M, L, XL, 2XL
Scorpion EXO Covert X Best Convertible 2: XS-L, XL-XXL

In compiling my collection of open-face helmets, I've prioritized firsthand experience over hearsay or online discourse. With 47 years of motorcycle helmet expertise, as of 2024, encompassing leadership, consulting, and passionate riding, I've observed the organic evolution of helmet technology firsthand. From my inaugural embrace of the iconic 1956 AGV X-70 to present-day explorations, I've traversed the landscape of helmet evolution with a discerning eye.

My objective is clear: to provide insights that are dependable, deeply informed, and precisely tailored to your needs. Each recommendation is the product of extensive personal engagement and tireless exploration. And to ensure diversity and clarity, I've diligently categorized my selections:

1. AGV X70: Best Overall

AGV X70 Helmet
AGV X70: Buy on FCMoto | Motardinn

In 1956, Amisano Gino, the visionary founder of AGV Helmets, unveiled a revolutionary motorcycle helmet at the London International Motor Show. Inspired by the streamlined aesthetics of fighter jet pilot gear, this helmet, known as the AGV Jet, marked a significant leap forward in head protection technology.

Its debut was met with resounding success, as it surpassed existing options by offering unmatched levels of safety and innovation. The AGV Jet's contemporary design resonated with riders of all stripes, cementing its status as an enduring icon that transcends fleeting fashion trends.

Timeless Elegance

Fast forward to the present day, and the AGV X70 stands as a tribute to the timeless elegance of the original Jet helmet, enriched with modern refinements accumulated over the years. Designed as an open-face helmet, the X70 effortlessly blends high-performance functionality with unparalleled comfort and versatility, catering to both urban commuters and tourers alike.

Superior Construction

Constructed with a lightweight ACF fiberglass shell, the AGV X70 is available in 3 sizes (XS-MS, ML-LG, XL-2XL), ensuring a comfortable and precise fit for riders of varying head sizes.

The XS-MS sizes utilize the smallest shell size, weighing approximately 870g ± 50g, while the ML-L sizes utilize the medium shell size, weighing around 950g ± 50g. The XL-2XL size uses the largest shell size, weighing approximately 1,040g ± 50g. Each size variant is reinforced with five different densities of protective EPS, offering optimal impact absorption and protection.

Certified Confidence

In adherence to stringent safety standards, the X70 is certified by DOT, ECE 22.05, and SNELL, providing riders with peace of mind regarding its safety and reliability. Its double D-ring closure and padded straps guarantee both a secure fit and all-day comfort, even during extended rides.

Luxurious Touch

Adding a touch of luxury to its classic appeal, the X70 features an eco-leather liner that elevates the helmet's aesthetics. Furthermore, the removable and washable liner, with the exception of the neck roll, ensures durability and hygiene throughout years of use, making the X70 a reliable companion for countless adventures on the road.

Express Your Style

I particularly appreciate its variety of retro colors and patterns, with two special designs paying homage to Italian Grand Prix racer Renzo Pasolini. The 'PASOLINI' design replicates Pasolini's iconic race helmet, while the 'MONTJUIC' honors his custom silver helmet with twin eye graphics, created in response to doubts about his eyesight.

Embrace Heritage, Define the Future

To complement the classic styling of the X70, AGV offers a range of accessories, including retro flat visors, MX-style 'Legend' goggles, and press stud peaks, allowing you to customize your look while maintaining vintage charm.

2. Bell Custom 500: Best Classic

Bell Custom 500 Helmet
Bell Custom 500: Buy on RevZilla | Amazon

Named after the iconic Indy 500 race, the Bell 500 helmet emerged onto the scene in 1954, featuring a pioneering design with a polyurethane foam liner and a hand-laminated hard shell. Initially manufactured in limited quantities—only 100 units—for testing, its favorable reception spurred Roy Richter, the founder, to establish the Bell Helmet Co. in response to the increasing demand.

Evolution of Excellence

And in 1957, an upgraded version called the 500-TX was introduced, featuring an innovative non-resilient energy-absorbing liner material known as 'expanded polystyrene' (EPS), which revolutionized helmet safety. The innovation even earned the 500-TX a place in the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1962, showcasing its excellence in sport design.

Transitioning into the 1970s, the helmet underwent a name change to the 'R-T', though its core design remained unchanged. Today, the Bell Custom 500 helmet proudly carries on the legacy of its predecessors. Maintaining the same classic shape and design elements, including the iconic double D-ring fastening, it embodies authenticity and heritage in the realm of open-face motorcycle helmets.

Craftsmanship and Comfort

Similar to the AGV X-70 but slightly lighter at 2.41 pounds compared to 2.44 pounds for the Bell, the Bell Custom 500 is made from a fiberglass composite. And to ensure an optimal fit, the helmet is available in five separate shell sizes (XS-SM, MD, LG, XL, 2XL), with each size tailored to provide a low-profile silhouette.

But its fit may not be universal, as it caters more to an American round head shape unlike Arai Ram-X's long oval head. And so, its suitability depends on individual head shapes, as there are no provisions for adjusting internal components like cheek pads.

Uncompromising Safety

Internally, the helmet features a multi-density EPS liner, designed to absorb impact progressively in the event of an accident. The double D-ring closure system ensures a secure fit, while five snaps on the brow allow for the attachment of a peak or visor for added versatility.

Options for Every Preference

For those seeking even lighter options, the Bell Custom 500 range includes variants with carbon shells. All Bell Custom 500 helmets are DOT and ECE 22.06 approved, ensuring compliance with stringent safety standards.

3. Shoei J-Cruise II: Best Cruiser

Shoei J-Cruise II Helmet
Shoei J-Cruise II: Buy on RevZilla | Amazon

Introduced in 2013, Shoei debuted its J-Cruise helmet as a successor to the longstanding J-Wing model. But in 2020, Shoei revamped and improved upon the J-Cruise with the release of the J-Cruise 2 model. Despite the original J-Cruise's commendable performance, Shoei recognized the need to adapt to evolving technologies, materials, and customer preferences. As a result, the J-Cruise 2 represents a comprehensive upgrade across various aspects.

Redefining Aerodynamics

Visually similar to its predecessor, the J-Cruise 2 features a redesigned shell that contributes to enhanced functionality. While the changes may not be immediately evident to the casual observer, the new shell design offers improved aerodynamics, including reduced lift and drag.

Plus, the helmet exhibits a 43% decrease in the yaw effect at speed, minimizing sideways pull.

Innovative Impact Absorption

Retaining Shoei's multi-composite AIM shell construction, the J-Cruise 2 incorporates EPS with different densities to optimize impact absorption. Updates to the internal surfaces include the use of softer and more moisture-absorbing fabrics, along with lower edges that resemble real leather.

Importantly, the helmet maintains the ability to interchange headlinings and cheek pads for personalized fit adjustments.

Elevating Comfort and Functionality

You'll also notice a deeper drop-down sun visor and a 5mm deeper cut-out for the nose, contributing to enhanced comfort and functionality. Furthermore, adjustments to the internal visor cavity aim to reduce noise levels for a quieter ride.

Moreover, the CJ-2 visor offers top-grade optical quality and now features a thicker bottom edge to minimize buffeting. While misting up is typically not a major issue, Shoei has incorporated a 'crack' position for the visor to facilitate demisting.

Seamless Integration

Enhanced sealing mechanisms and increased airflow intake and exhaust capacities further improve the helmet's performance. Plus, the J-Cruise 2 is now equipped to accommodate Sena's SRL communication system, previously featured on the Neotec 2 and GT Air 2 models.

Unlike the system used in the new Shoei Neotec 3, which utilizes the SRL-03, the J-Cruise 2 employs the Sena 20 unit. A cutting-edge communication package that integrates into the helmet, with no unsightly box on the side, and a discreet boom microphone that blends seamlessly with the helmet's design.

Enhanced Weight Distribution

Despite its lack of a chin bar, the J-Cruise 2 weighs 1,450g in the SM size, which is 100g heavier than the GT Air II full-face helmet it is based on, representing a 200g increase from its predecessor, the J-Cruise.

But this additional weight contributes to the helmet's robust feel, elevating its perceived quality and comfort.

4. Arai Ram-X: Best Touring

Arai Ram-X Helmet
Arai Ram-X: Buy on RevZilla | Amazon

Launched in 2020, the Ram-X represents a substantial evolution in Arai's helmet lineup, taking the place of the CT-Z and XC models, both of which trace their roots back to the 1988 Arai SZ open-face sport helmet. Although the XC-W model remains an option, Arai has redirected its focus towards promoting the Ram-X.

Inspired by the design principles of Arai's top-tier Quantum-X and Signet-X street helmets, the Ram-X integrates the advanced ventilation system derived from the track-focused Corsair-X, resulting in a remarkable touring helmet engineered to deliver exceptional airflow and panoramic views of the surroundings.

Advanced Construction

Despite foregoing the chinbar, the Ram-X retains the hallmark features that define Arai's full-face helmets: a rigid Super Fiber Laminate shell with Z-compound technology derived from the Quantum-X and Signet-X, and a multi-density one-piece EPS liner strategically designed to mimic the contours of the human head.

The helmet also features an efficient ventilation scheme inherited from the Corsair-X, featuring three large intake vents in the crown and two exhaust vents that can be easily opened or closed as needed.

Enhanced Visor Systems

Introduced alongside the Ram-X is the Pro Shade visor system and the new VAS-Z face shield system, offering smoother operation and enhanced durability compared to previous models, the CT-Z and XC. The Pro Shade visors come equipped with an adjustable tinted lens covering half the visor, providing adaptability to varying lighting conditions.

Smooth Motion at Any Speed

And thanks to its lineage from the Quantum-X, Signet-X, and Corsair-X models, the Arai Ram-X ensures impeccable aerodynamics across all speeds. When riding, the helmet glides effortlessly through the air, providing a sensation of smooth motion even when turning my head.

Despite its substantial weight of 3 pounds and 5.7 ounces in a Medium Size—comparable to lighter modular helmets—the Ram-X feels remarkably light and comfortable on the head, even during extended journeys.

Comfort and Convenience

Convenience features abound in the Ram-X, including spacious pockets near the ears for accommodating Bluetooth device speakers and provision for glasses wearers. The intermediate oval fit ensures comfort for a wide range of riders, with Arai offering extensive customization options to achieve the perfect fit across six shell sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL, 2XL) – a remarkable range for an open-face helmet.

Premium Performance at a Premium Price

Undoubtedly, the Ram-X commands a premium price tag above $700, positioning it as one of the most expensive open-face helmets on the market. But removing the cheek padding for cleaning can be a bit challenging, especially initially, but with some practice, it becomes more manageable.

5. Scorpion EXO Covert X: Best Convertible

Scorpion EXO Covert X Helmet
Scorpion EXO Covert X: Buy on RevZilla | Amazon

Scorpion is joining the ranks of helmet brands that offer a tough, stormtrooper-esque look with their Scorpion Exo Covert helmets, reminiscent of Shark's Drak/Raw series. The Covert X, the successor to the original Covert, now incorporates Scorpion's Ultra-TCT fiberglass technology, resulting in a lighter shell weight of 0.36 pounds (2.95 lbs. compared to 3.31 lbs.).

Versatile Design

Essentially an open-face helmet with a plastic face guard, the Covert X instantly adds a rugged edge to your appearance, all without breaking the bank. With the added convenience of a drop-down sun visor, known as the Combat outside the US, the Covert X promises to offer practicality alongside its badass aesthetic.

But remember it is not intended as a replacement for a full-face helmet but rather as an open-face option with added protection for your face.

Cool and Comfortable Riding

Ventilation is surprisingly good for an open-face helmet. With the face guard removed and the sun visor raised, you can enjoy ample airflow. Moreover, even with the face guard in place, the strategically designed vents ensure sufficient air circulation, particularly with the chin bar vents always open.

Plus, a forehead vent, operated by a slider, facilitates airflow through channels in the polystyrene liner, further enhancing ventilation within the helmet.

Sun Protection and Anti-Fog

The sun visor of the Covert X functions primarily as a tinted shield, offering protection from the sun's glare. While it can be pulled down like a conventional face shield, it should not be used for night riding due to its tint. Scorpion provides both a lightly tinted and dark tint sun visor with the helmet, catering to varying lighting conditions.

The sun visors are also Everclear anti-fog coated, minimizing misting except in extreme cold or rainy conditions.

Visor Functionality

Although the visor opening may be somewhat limited, the sun visor features convenient opening tabs on both sides, allowing for easy adjustment while stopped at traffic lights. I've observed that the visor opening's size can pose challenges for shoulder checks and lifesavers, making it less suitable for inexperienced riders.

Chin Guard Versatility

The Covert X's chin guard primarily acts as a shield against weather elements and road debris. While it enhances the helmet's aggressive appearance, it isn't intended for impact protection and can be easily detached. Removing the chin guard converts the helmet into a standard open-face design.

In the US, riders can opt to further convert it into a half helmet by removing the lower piece, although I find the open-face configuration to be the most aesthetically pleasing and functional.

Optimal Sizing and Fit

When it comes to sizing, the Scorpion Exo Covert X is available in two shell sizes covering fitments from XS to XXXL, aligning with other helmets in its class like the the affordable Biltwell Bonanza, priced at less than $100, the lightweight LS2 Spitfire weighing in at 2.31 lbs., and the urban riding HJC i30.

The HJC i30 features the HJ-34 faceshield, which can be easily removed without any tools, allowing riders to utilize the internal drop-down sun visor for eye protection. I also have the flexibility to keep the faceshield down or flip it up as needed.

But the sizing of the Covert X may vary slightly, so I recommend going up a size on Scorpion's sizing chart for a better fit.

Michael's Summary and Conclusion

AGVSPORT Knee and Body Armor

I've diligently categorized my motorcycle gear recommendations into all available categories, with the aim of providing you with a comprehensive analysis that showcases the absolute best options for all your needs. These items are the culmination of in-depth research, extensive testing, and personal use throughout my vast experience of 50+ years in the world of motorcycling. Besides being a passionate rider, I've held leadership positions and offered consultancy services to reputable companies in over 25 countries. To See Top Picks and the Best Prices & Places to Buy: Click Here!

Information for this article was partially sourced and researched from the following authoritative government, educational, corporate, and non-profit organizations:

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About the Author:

Michael Parrotte started his career in the motorcycle industry by importing AGV Helmets into the North American market. He was then appointed the Vice President of AGV Helmets America. In total, he worked with AGV Helmets for 25 years. He has also served as a consultant for KBC Helmets, Vemar Helmets, Suomy Helmets, Marushin Helmets, KYT Helmets, and Sparx Helmets.

In 1985, he founded AGV Sports Group, Inc. with AGV Helmets in Valenza, Italy. For over 38 years now, the company has quietly delivered some of the best protective gear for motorcyclists in the world.

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