Here’s a dirty little secret: The typical motorcycle journalist rarely pays for a helmet, which is the reason we’re seldom seen with our heads shoved in anything less than the latest luxurious offerings from Shoei, Arai, AGV, etc. Were we doing this on our own dime, believe me, you’d be seeing us in a lot more of the helmets on this list. And truthfully, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. Though the expensive lids are definitely the Porsches and Mercedes-Benzes of the helmet world, we know from experience you can have just as much fun flogging a nice Mustang or last year’s Corvette. Maybe more, since you’re less concerned with scratching them up. What you’re paying for in the high-end stuff is exemplary fit-and-finish, top-shelf materials and graphics, prestige – and sometimes hand assembly by old-world craftsmen. That’s all great if you have $800 to drop on a helmet.

But the number-one thing that defines a great helmet, in the end, is how it fits your head, and there are a surprising number of helmets in the sub-$200 category that will ensconce your skull very nearly as comfortably as the expensive imports. Well, they’re mostly imported also, often from places where labor is cheaper, but you get the picture. Buying a helmet is best done at a brick/mortar store where you can wear the thing for 10 or 15 minutes to see if your head begins to throb – and just about all bike shops still standing will match your online price if only you ask. If you’re buying online, be sure to check the return policy of the seller.

Then there’s the whole safety component of the thing, of course, but every helmet here carries at least an official DOT (Dept. of Transportation) sticker that means it’s passed USA safety tests. Some take it further by going above and beyond to meet the voluntary (and controversial) SNELL standard: It’s really going to be up to the consumer to decide which safety standard they’re compatible with. Anyway, with no further ado:

1. Editor's Pick: Icon Airmada

If you have a longer head, you might want to try on the Icon Airmada for fit. This one’s been around for a while but has been recently overhauled with a new and better shield system. It’s come in plenty of wild graphics over the years. Wild is still available, but if you want to keep it under $200, you’ll be choosing black or white. The lightish polycarbonate shell comes in four sizes to provide a compact aerodynamic signature across a wide range of head sizes.

Icon Airmada Volare Review

  • Head shape: Long Oval
  • Sizes: XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL
  • Safety Standards: DOT, ECE, SAI, SG

2. AGV K1

AGV’s latest entry level helmet takes its aero shape, ventilation, and spoiler directly from the wind-tunnel tested Corsa R and Pista GP R worn by Valentino himself. The shell and spoiler are said to provide aerodynamic stability at speed, while five front vents and two rear extractors, ah, extract hot air  as you ride, which leads AGV to claim league-leading ventilation for this lid.  A fully removable and washable 3D inner liner and cheek pads made of Dry-Lex fabrics keeps the interior comfy and cleanish. Two shells sizes cover everybody from XS to 2XL. For a few dollars more, the K1 is available in a bunch of highly stimulating graphic treatments.

  • Head shape: Intermediate Oval
  • Sizes: XS, SM, MS, ML, LG, XL, 2XL
  • Safety Standards: DOT, ECE

3. LS2 Breaker

The LS2 Breaker helmet brings a host of features at a great price point. Three different sizes of its Kinetic Polymer Alloy shell keep it light, and a wide eye port increases peripheral vision. To keep things cool the Breaker has two closable air vents up front and one open vent in the rear. LS2 uses its Fog Fighter shield on the Breaker to prevent fogging, and the helmet also includes a drop down sun visor. A nice feature not found on many helmets regardless of price point is the quick-release ratchet closure system which allows you to get the helmet fastened or removed quicker than using the typical D-rings. The Breaker comes in a host of graphics, all of which are available for well under $200; that’s the Breaker Pinball Glow in the Dark shown.

  • Head shape: Intermediate Oval
  • Sizes: XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL
  • Safety Standards: DOT, ECE

4. HJC CL-17

The HJC CL-17 is another helmet that is offered at a great price point. This is a helmet designed to provide excellent ventilation. ACS (Advanced Channeling Ventilation System) ventilation channels vent from front to back working to keep cool air flowing through the helmet as heat and humidity are exhausted. The Pinlock lens gives you a fog-free riding experience as well. Shield changes are a breeze thanks to the tool-less RapidFire Shield Replacement System.

  • Head shape: Intermediate Oval
  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, 2XL, 3XL, 4XL, 5XL
  • Safety Standards: DOT

5. FLY Sentinel

Off-road enthusiasts may be more familiar with the FLY brand, as the company has produced all sorts of off-road gear from helmets, to jerseys, pants, and gloves for quite some time. FLY not only produces street helmets but also entire lines of other street gear. The FLY Sentinel helmet is a good sub-$200 price point even including its four graphic styles. The helmet offers a drop-down sun visor, removable liner, easy-to-change shield, and six adjustable vents.

  • Head shape: Intermediate Oval
  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
  • Safety Standards: DOT, ECE

6. Speed and Strength SS5100

Taking design cues from race helmets, the Speed and Strength SS5100 Helmet offers a smooth aerodynamic experience thanks to the integrated rear spoiler. With a crown vent, two brow vents, chin vent and rear exhaust vents located at the base of the shell and integrated into the rear spoiler, the SS5100 flows air to keep you cool and comfortable. The SS5100 also features a dual-density EPS liner and removable and washable comfort liner.

  • Head shape: Round Oval
  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
  • Safety Standards: DOT

7. Biltwell Gringo

Ah, the Bitlwell Gringo. The Gringo comes without a shield unlike its more expensive S compatriot. The Gringo is slightly rounded in its head shape. Biltwell helmets are fairly devoid of extra features, focusing more on the simple styling cues of days gone by, along with plenty of interesting color options for the Gringo, which makes them a favorite among the hipster set. Jon Langston reviewed the Gringo for MO a few years back, and that can be found here.

  • Head shape: Round Oval
  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
  • Safety Standards: DOT

8. Scorpion EXO-R710

The Snell-rated EXO-R710 uses a fiberglass/Aramid shell, which is generally a lighter way to build helmets compared to the more common polycarbonate found on helmets at this price range. The 710 boasts a removable liner, anti-fog shield, quick-release cheek pad system, pockets for communication system speakers, four vents up front with one in the rear, and three shell sizes to keep the helmet as light as possible. For only about $10 more, the R710 is available in a bunch of cool graphic designs. Bargain.

  • Head shape: Intermediate Oval
  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL
  • Safety Standards: DOT, Snell

What safety standards of motorcycle helmets are there?

There are many different helmet standards used around the world, so you’ll want to do some research to find out what is required in your neck of the woods. Here in the States, helmets must meet DOT standards. Generally, DOT, ECE, and SNELL are the standards seen on helmets in the U.S.

How do I choose motorcycle helmets?

Fit is the most important factor to a helmet being able to do its job properly in an unfortunate circumstance. It’s always best to try a helmet on either at your local shop or from an online retailer that offers returns. Not only does the helmet need to fit your head properly, but it also needs to fit your budget. Motorcycle helmets come in a wide range of prices with the products above landing on the more reasonable end of the scale. Lastly, it has to look cool! With so many brands out there, you’re bound to find a helmet that speaks to your personal style.

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