Best Beginner Motorcycle Helmets

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

Quality helmets for those tight on cash

Updated March 2021

There’s a steep learning curve for anyone starting out in motorcycling – and that’s before you even start to talk about what gear to put on. If nothing else, there’s no more important piece of safety gear than a helmet, and even if you live in a state where wearing one isn’t mandatory, the staff can’t stress enough the importance of wearing one anyway.

We get it. Helmets are expensive, with prices for some premium lids hovering close to a thousand dollars. But not to worry, there are several helmets out there with price tags that are much easier to swallow. We’re going to highlight some of them here. Before we begin, if you came here looking for half- or three-quarter helmets, you won’t find them in this list. All the helmets here cover the entire head, including the face.

One last thing. If none of the ones you see here appeal to you and you end up on the hunt for an affordable helmet elsewhere, be sure to check that the budget helmet you’re looking at is DOT approved at minimum. It’s even better if the helmet meets the requirements for SNELL or ECE approval (they’ll usually have a sticker on the back saying as much).

Table of Contents

Bell Qualifier Full-Face Motorcycle Helmet - $115

The Bell name is synonymous with helmets, and the Qualifier packs features gleaned directly from the flagship Star line, but at an affordable price. Two vents at the top of the helmet and one at the chin flows a lot of air through to the rider’s head, while the NutraFog II shield is resistant to fogging and scratching. Combine that with its Velocity Flow ventilation, a removable, washable liner, integrated speaker pockets and a padded wind collar, and you’ve got a nice helmet at an affordable price. Helmet ships with clear shield.

LS2 Stream Street Helmet - $120

LS2 is a lesser-known helmet company in America, but the Spanish company is known in other parts of the world for its helmets. With the Stream helmet, LS2 is bringing a DOT and ECE approved full-face helmet for under $130. LS2 is able to do this because of its factory-direct pricing. Not only that, but the Stream also includes a built-in, drop down sunshield, too. Inside, it starts with a lightweight, aerodynamic shell made of LS2’s proprietary high performance HPTT polycarbonate alloy. The technical fabric comfort liner includes cheek pads cut from one solid piece of high quality foam using LS2’s 3D Laser Technology for a perfect fit and no “hot spots.” It’s fully removable and washable, too.

The Stream has a tool-less quick release mechanism for fast shield changes, and the shields are scratch resistant, optically correct, and Pin lock ready. Covered by a five-year warranty, the Stream is ideal for intermediate oval head shapes.

HJC CL-17 Full-Face Helmet - $130

Despite its $130 price tag, the HJC CL-17 was developed using CAD technology (then again, aren’t they all?). It features a polycarbonate composite shell that’s lightweight and offers a comfortable fit. Inside the helmet you’ll find a fully removable liner and cheekpads with anti-bacterial, moisture-wicking fabric. For a truly custom fit, all sizes of cheek pads are interchangeable in all helmet sizes. To help keep your head cool, HJC employs what it calls its Advanced Channeling System for full front-to-back airflow to keep heat and humidity at bay. An anti-scratch Pinlock-ready shield also blocks 95% of the sun’s UV rays and can be replaced quickly and easily without tools. Meets or Exceeds SNELL and DOT standards.

Scorpion Exo EXO-R2000 Full Face Helmet - $130

The Scorpion EXO-GT3000 has established itself in the highly competitive fiberglass modular helmet category for offering premium features at an affordable price. Its impressive list of features starts with the TCT-Ultra prepreg shell that offers lightweight combined with an extremely aerodynamic profile. Also included are features such as ScorpionExo’s AirFit liner inflation system (think inflatable cheek pads) for a customizable fit, EverClear SpeedView drop-down sun visor for different light conditions, and Everclear No-Fog face shield. Additionally, the helmet easily accommodates most communications systems. One-handed operation of the chin bar and face shield means it’s easy to open and gives a positive lock when closed. From top to bottom, the EXO-GT3000 provides comfort, protection, and function.

LS2 Strobe Helmet - $130

Another LS2 helmet, and the first modular on the list, is the LS2 Strobe modular full-face motorcycle helmet. We opened this piece saying there were no three-quarter helmets on this list, but a modular helmet is almost a loophole, offering full-face coverage with the convenience of a three-quarter at a stop (most modular helmets are meant to be closed when riding).

The full-metal latch system operates smoothly and offers a super secure closure for safety. It opens with a single button that’s easy to find and easy to use, even with a heavy winter glove. The chin bar has a secure detent when fully opened, so it stays in place. More than just a modular, the Strobe also has a built-in Twin Shield System Sun Shield, so you get the sun protection you want, and can quickly get more light when entering a tunnel or darker area by flipping it up and out of the way. The face shield is optically correct, scratch resistant, and has a tool-less quick release making it easy to change. Inside, the liner wicks moisture, and is removable and washable. 3D Laser Cut foam in the cheek pads make for a secure and comfortable fit, and a quick release strap makes it easy to get on and off.

Bell SRT Modular Full-Face Helmet - $170

Following the LS2 modular helmet is a version from Bell, the SRT Modular – also available as a non-modular version simply called the SRT. Both feature a fiberglass shell, recessed EPS speaker pockets, a broad range of sizing options and class-1 Panovision optics. The beauty of the modular version, obviously, is having the versatility and convenience of a modular helmet. An ideal sport-touring helmet, the SRT Modular is available in several different graphics. Or black, if that’s your thing.

HJC IS-MAX II Modular Helmet - $208

Modulars are popular on this list for good reason – they are very versatile. The is-MAX II from HJC is another example. Its polycarbonate shell and chinbar were designed in CAD to give optimum fit while still being lightweight. If you peek closely at the picture you’ll see a drop-down sun visor that pops in and out via a slider on top of the helmet, easily accessible with gloved hands. A single button at the chin opens the chinbar and is also easy to use. HJC’s Advanced Channeling Ventilation System (ACS) gives you full front-to-back airflow to dissipate heat and humidity as quickly as possible. A tool-less shield changing mechanism makes it easy to swap, though you probably won’t need to since you have the drop-down sun shade. Nonetheless, the shield blocks out 95% of UV rays and is ready to accept a Pinlock insert (sold separately).

ScorpionExo EXO-GT920 Full Face Modular Helmet - $220

Rounding out this list is the EXO-GT920 modular helmet from Scorpion. While there’s nothing wrong with the other modulars on this list, some might wish for a modular that has a more racy look. The EXO-GT920 is that helmet. With all the features of a modular helmet wrapped in a low-profile and sleek design of a race helmet, the EXO-GT920’s shell is constructed from advanced LG polycarbonate for light weight and strength, and features a modular chin bar. Beneath the shell lies a dual-density EPS liner for optimum energy displacement in a crash. Other features include a drop-down sun visor for bright daylight conditions, KwikWick II liner for moisture management and comfort, as well as aero-tuned ventilation to keep you cool and ventilated on hot days.

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Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.

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2 of 5 comments
  • Scott Halbleib Scott Halbleib on Mar 09, 2022

    After helmet prices got absurd and my $800+ Arai left me ho-hum, I bought the $130 HJC and have been very pleased with it! I won't go back to any overpriced lids. You can get safety without selling a kidney! (Yes I'm talking to you Arai, Shoei, etc)

  • Rendell Dolan Rendell Dolan on Mar 30, 2022

    You only have one head. An injury cannot be undone. Buy a Shoei, Arai, or one of the Euro brands. You can buy them at reduced cost if you shop around and look for models being discontinued due to new designs coming to the market. You spent thousands on a motorcycle. Spend hundreds on your helmet. The quality and safety differences will save your brain. In my case it was my face that was spared being smashed in due to a quality helmet that seemed expensive when I bought it. It saved my life.

    There really should be no such thing as a beginner helmet. New riders are more likely to crash and need a Shoei, Aria, or a high-end European helmet. I would avoid the trash made in China with pretty graphics. Protect yourself and stay safe.