The Best Motorcycle Helmets You Can Buy Under $200

John Burns
by John Burns

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:

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Table of Contents

1. Editor's Pick: Icon Airform Dark Helmet

The Icon Airform Helmet is designed to cater to riders who want the utility of a touring helmet, but the performance of a track helmet. Its construction features an injection-molded polycarbonate shell, contributing to strength and durability. For visibility, it comes with both dark smoke and clear fog-free Icon Optics face shields, a rapid-release system for easy shield swaps, a dark smoke internal sun visor, and a Prolock positive shield locking system. The helmet's glow-in-the-dark exterior is suitable for nighttime riding, and its fog-free shield aims to provide a distortion-free view with enhanced peripheral vision.

Ventilation is handled through internal airflow channels and a continuous venting system, designed to maintain a dry and comfortable environment inside the helmet through the Hydradry moisture-wicking interior. The helmet's design includes a sculpted neck roll to reduce interference with a rider's jacket. In addition, internal speaker pockets support Icon's R.A.U. Bluetooth Communicator for connectivity on the go.

The helmet meets or exceeds safety standards set by DOT FMVSS 218 (US), ECE 22-06 (Europe), and PSC (Japan), promising a high level of protection across different regions. It is important to note that it does not ship with PSC or MFJ certification stickers unless purchased from an authorized dealer within the respective country.

2. Bell Qualifier DLX Blackout Helmet

The Bell Qualifier DLX Helmet is equipped with features similar to the standard Qualifier helmet but at an attractive price. The helmet's design includes a lightweight polycarbonate shell available in three sizes: SM (XS and SM), MD (MD and LG), and LG (XL, 2XL, and 3XL). It boasts an aerodynamic profile to minimize buffeting and lift. For visibility under different conditions, it comes with both clear and dark smoke face shields, enhanced with NutraFog II technology for anti-fog, anti-scratch, and UV protection.

The ClickRelease system allows for quick and tool-free shield changes. The helmet's ventilation system is adjustable, helping enhance cooling and comfort. Inside, the helmet features moisture-wicking, removable, and washable fabric, contoured cheek pads, a chin curtain, and a breath deflector for added comfort and functionality. Integrated speaker pockets and a padded wind collar are designed to lower wind and road noise.

Safety certifications include DOT and ECE, with a padded chin strap featuring a D-ring closure. The Bell Qualifier DLX Blackout helmet is backed by a five-year warranty.

3. HJC i10 Helmet

The HJC i10 Helmet features a polycarbonate shell designed for aerodynamics, taking advantage of CAD technology to minimize turbulence. It incorporates an Advanced Channeling Ventilation System to facilitate airflow from the front to the back, which helps to reduce heat and moisture inside the helmet. A chin bar intake vent is included to help reduce face shield fogging, and you have the option to add an anti-fog lens (sold separately) for better visibility. The helmet's interior is removable and washable, and is designed with grooves to accommodate glasses.

For connectivity, the helmet is compatible with the Smart HJC Bluetooth Communication System (sold separately). The face shield is designed to be Pinlock-prepared and offers UV protection, with a tool-less RapidFire shield replacement system. The helmet is made to be comfortable if you wear glasses, thanks to its moisture-wicking interior materials.

It employs a D-ring chin strap closure for securing the helmet. The design also supports the installation of Bluetooth communicators (10B or 20B), sold separately. The helmet is designed to accept all i10 cheek pads, which are interchangeable across different shell sizes. Safety certifications include DOT and SNELL M2020, with the caveat that sizes 3XL to 5XL are DOT only.

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.

Recent Updates:

February 23, 2024: We have reduced the list of recommendations to three, for a better shopping experience. Our top recommendation remains unchanged, but we have adjusted our list of recommendations based on experience from our editorial staff, as well as feedback from fellow automotive journalists.

Additional Resources

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John Burns
John Burns

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2 of 16 comments
  • W powers W powers on Feb 24, 2024

    When you have 60+ years riding you end up with a closet full of helmets and a wife asking "why are you keeping these things" Well each has a story and like the gloves and the leathers, they are mine and she can toss them when I am dead. After 30 something years I started replacing helmets every two years and fit became #1 priority. Over the years you do experience things like a bee coming into the helmet and fogging and water leaks , so the new helmets now are far better. Know what in 75 I crashed and Arai took my helmet and gave me a new one.

  • Scott W H McKay Scott W H McKay on Jun 26, 2024

    Check out SMK - made in India at a terrific price point. DOT and ECE22.06 approved.