Touring connotes long days in the saddle, and that means long days with your head inside your helmet. Fit, then, is going to be of utmost importance when it comes to selecting a touring helmet. A helmet that gives you a hot spot might not be a huge deal when you’re only wearing it for 45 minutes. Over the course of days, though, like an annoying travel companion, an ill-fitting helmet will grow to be a thing you loathe.
Traveling to a brick and mortar store to try helmets on is the best thing you can do, and if that’s not possible then finding an online retailer with a generous return policy is the next best way to go. When you try a helmet on, keep it on for a while too. Minor annoyances that grow large over time can take a while to show themselves.
Anyway, there are hundreds of possibilities, but here we scratch the surface with eight of the best motorcycle touring helmets we’ve either sampled, or that come highly recommended from trusted sources.
Some of our favorite best touring helmets are modulars, or flip-front helmets, so see also Best Modular Helmets.
1. Bell Qualifier DLX MIPS
The DLX packs a lot of the features from Bell’s more expensive Stars into an inexpensive lid – ridiculously inexpensive mostly because it comes standard with a Transitions faceshield, which sells separately for around $130 if you’re lucky enough to wear a brand that even offers one. When you’re riding all day and half the night, nothing’s more convenient than not having to change faceshields all the time. Among most of the features you expect, the latest Qualifier is also MIPS-equipped for even better noggin safety. If the DLX fit, you must admit.
Bottom Line/Much anti-bang for the buck
2. AGV K6
The latest thing from Italy is the culmination of all of AGV’s helmet technology focussed onto a single helmet for street use. A super light carbon and aramid fiber shell is formed into an aerodynamic shape that works well on any kind of motorcycle, and its intermediate oval shape and four sizes deliver an excellent fit for many heads. A plush Ritmo and Shalimar fabric interior is moisture-wicking, removable and quiet, and the K6’s shield is easily swappable.
Bottom Line/Italian style plus comfort
3. HJC RPHA 70 ST (Grandal graphics shown)
HJC is a Korean manufacturer that’s been in the skidlid business for 47 years, and every time we stick our head in one lately, we’re pleasantly surprised by a level of fit, materials, and lightness that belies the price point. This one’s lightweight carbon fiber/ carbon-glass hybrid fabric shell takes on an intermediate oval shape (the most popular head shape in North America), and aims to “bridge the gap between sport riding and touring.” It comes with an anti-fog internal sunshield and an antifog insert.
Bottom Line/Japan-adjacent quality, Korean price
4. Shark Spartan (Karken graphic shown)
If you like Citroëns, foie gras, and Fabio Quartararo, you’ll also dig Shark’s line of helmets Francais. The Spartan gets great reviews for its lightness and smooth-running aerodynamic shape. “Large ram-air intake vents located on the chin bar and crest channel cool air in while hot air gets expelled out via the venturi created by the twin spoiler design. Your vision will be clear thanks to the MaxVision anti-fog system. Your hearing will be acute since Shark takes a full-system approach to sound damping. Your neck will not strain since the Spartan is both lightweight and volumetrically optimized for drag reduction.”
Bottom Line/Be the Sharknado
5. Schuberth C4 Pro
The riding expeience, they say, is “similar to sitting in the cabin of a luxury German sports car.” The DFP glass-fiber shell has been extensively tested and aerodynamically optimized for both stability at speed and low weight to minimize fatigue on long tours. There’s an integrated one-touch sun visor, super-hygienic ShinyTex interior, and a multichannel ventilation system to keep you cool. Be sure to check the fit, as Schuberths tend to be a bit rounder and smaller, and only two shell sizes cover sizes XS-LG and XL-3XL. People who like them, though, really like them, and the new C4 Pro comes prepared for the SC1 communication system with an integrated antenna, pre-installed speakers and microphone.
Bottom Line/German design
6. Scorpion EXO-ST1400 Carbon (Antrim graphic shown)
Scorpion makes pretty nice helmets in that midprice range, too. In addition to its light and aero-sculpted carbon shell, the EXO comes with all kinds of features including an internal sun visor and Pinlock insert, as well as at least one thing you won’t find anywhere else: the “AirFit cheek pad inflation system allows you to obtain a personalized fit by pumping the air inflation ball located at the chin bar or near the rear of the helmet. To release the air, simply push the quick-air release. AirFit makes it easy to create a truly tailored helmet fit.”
Bottom Line/AirFit could be good
7. Shoei GT-Air 2 (Conjure graphics shown)
Shoei and Arai are the two premium Japanese-built helmets widely available in the US, and both brands enjoy impeccable reputations for quality and comfort. While Arai offers a bunch of different shapes, Shoei somehow provides many of us an outstandingly comfortable fit with its typical longish-oval shell shape. The GT-Air 2 is SHOEI’s latest premiere full-face touring helmet. It features “a lengthened internal sun shield for optimal sun-glare protection, an all-new ‘first position’ shield opening for advanced ventilation and defogging, enhanced aerodynamics and noise-reduction technology, and the ability to seamlessly integrate with the SENA SRL2 Communication System.”
Bottom Line/You really can’t go wrong here
8. Arai Regent X (Bend graphic pictured)
Arai’s reputation is second to none when it comes to helmet safety and quality. Last year the Corsair-X was in this space; this year we’re putting in the new Regent X, which is a lot like the Corsair-X but designed around a new shell with an even smoother shape. The same plush comfort, protection and features expected of the brand is here but also something else – the Regent is much easier to get on and off your head. The new reinforcing Hyper Ridge and VAS shield system lower the center of gravity, and the bottom of the new shell flares out 5 mm to make putting the helmet on easier. It’s a subtle but really noticeable difference that makes the Regent easier to deal with in everyday use and when travelling. Naturally, the Regent still meets Arai’s own safety standards, which surpass both DOT and Snell. And maybe the best news of all is that the price has come down a bit relative to other Arais.
Bottom Line/Handcrafted in Japan, `nuff said
What makes a good touring helmet?
Like we said at the beginning, it’s all about the fit. A helmet that gives you a hot spot on your forehead or wherever might not be a huge deal when you’re only wearing it for 30 minutes. Over the course of consecutive long days riding, though, an ill-fitting helmet that gives you a headache can ruin your whole ride. Never set out on a bike journey unless you’re sure you and your helmet are compatible. Great ventilation and a comfortable liner are also biggies.
How should a good touring motorcycle helmet fit?
Snug enough to stay on your head in a crash, not so snug that it causes pressure points anywhere. With the helmet strapped onto your head, reach around with both hands to the back of your head and see if you can pull the helmet off your head. Obviously, you should not be able to. A helmet shouldn’t wobble around on your head, and the liner should contact your noggin all around. Keep it on your head for 15 or 20 minutes to see if any pressure points develop, and bear in mind that interiors will loosen up a bit as they break in like a pair of boots. Also, lots of quality helmets offer cheek pads of different thicknesses to fine-tune the fit.
Who makes the best motorcycle touring helmet?
That’s up to you. The eight we highlighted here are all top choices and good starting points to shop around and read reviews. We usually talk “Best,” which means all these are on the expensive side, but there are plenty of inexpensive helmets that are great, too.
August, 2021 updates:
Schuberth R2 replaced by Schuberth C4 Pro
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