Helmets represent the most important piece of gear for any motorcyclist. Partly because it’s the law to wear one, but also because protecting the head is a must. The brain is the most important organ in the body so it makes sense to buy the best protection you can afford. That’s why we’ve put together a round up of the best six adventure-style helmets on the market at the moment.
6. Shark Explore-R – £299.99
For the last 25 years French manufacturer Shark has been establishing itself in the helmet market as a brand that offers exceptional quality for mid-level prices and at £299.99 the Explore-R sits itself nicely in the middle of this review’s price range. The Explore-R is based on the shell of the Vision-R which we reviewed a while back in Issue 14 of ABR and as we fell in love with that there was a strong chance that we’d like the Explore-R.
If you’re after a versatile helmet that offers multiple set-ups for various riding conditions then this is the helmet for you. As standard you get a pair of goggles with Carl Zeiss lenses, a removable peak, an anti-scratch and anti-fog treated visor and an integral sun visor. While you can’t use all of them at the same time (who’d want to) you can mix and match the components so that you get the best set-up for your ride.
In principle it’s a great idea and we love that the goggles are included and they’re of good quality, however there’s no provision for using the visor and the peak together which is a bit of a let-down in our opinion.
The shell of the helmet is constructed from carbon aramid fibre and multiaxial glass fibre so it’ll be stronger than your standard thermoplastic lids. While it’s not the lightest helmet in this review, at 1.6kg it’s not exactly neck-breakingly heavy and this, combined with the soft and comfortable internal lining and cushioning, makes the Explore-R comfortable to wear.
An interesting touch is the addition of a wind shield/neck scarf which can be zipped away inside the helmet. It’s not something that I’ve ever come across on a helmet before and it’s a thoughtful touch which adds to the rugged look that the Explore-R has.
The peak is of a good quality, has a good range of adjustment and is easily removable should you wish to ride with the visor instead of the goggles. Ventilation options include a closable chin vent, two brow vents and a larger exhaust vent behind the spoiler. This is OK if you’re not going to be using the visor, but we’d have preferred more effective ventilation for this purpose.
While our Explore-R came in the standard white it’s also available in a very attractive looking ‘carbon silver black’ colour which is a real treat on the eyes for an extra £20.
In a line: A versatile adventure helmet.
Value for money: 7/10
5. Stealth HD 009 – £84.99 (plain) – £89.99 (graphic)
Stealth is a relative newcomer into the motorcycle industry but a quick look through the company’s range shows that they have a nice looking selection of on and off-road lids. Their submission to this review is the Stealth HD 009, a helmet that embodies the term ‘adventure helmet’ in looks and retails at an affordable £84.99 for a plain colour scheme or £89.99 for a more colourful design.
The helmet complies with the ECER22-05 standards and has been given the ACU Gold approval. The shell is a thermoplastic construction with a dual density EPS inner to help spread the force of any impact.
The comfort liner is fully removable (though it can be a bit fiddly), as are the chin pads, so you can wash them if needs be and as they’re Coolmax, the material has good moisture wicking properties helping keep your head cool when riding in warm conditions. There’s a nice amount of padding but the chin pads feel almost too big for the helmet and made that area a little too squashed – though they’ll compress a bit after extended use.
The chin strap is a D-ring style and both the strap and the metal components feel well made with the strap not having any abrasive edges and smooth D-rings. The visor is of a sturdy construction, featuring an anti-scratch coating. The ratchet opening system has three detents to allow a nice range of openings and the visor stays in place once set. The opening tab is a little on the small side and can be a bit fiddly to access, especially if wearing thick winter gloves.
There’s a good field of view, though it’s restricted slightly by the raised area of the chin bar. The peak is non-adjustable though it can be removed if you have access to a Phillips screwdriver. The helmet will accommodate goggles if the need arises and there’s a nice amount of ventilation with multiple closable vents across the chin bar, above the visor, on the crown and four exhaust vents on the rear. All of these vents combine to make the helmet ideal for warm conditions.
In a line: Superb value for money but make sure the chin guards fit your face.
Value for money: 9/10
4. AGV AX-8 Dual Evo – £249.99
AGV has a rich heritage in manufacturing motorcycle helmets, having made them since 1947, and the company’s knowledge and experience certainly shines through on the AX-8 Dual Evo. The AX-8 has a sci-fi look to it that is reminiscent of my favourite video game character, Master Chief from the Halo series and the massive visor is undoubtedly the main focus of this helmet, offering a superb field of vision when riding.
The shell is a strong and impact resistant mix of carbon, aramid and fiberglass to make what AGV calls, the SSL shell. SSL stands for super-super light and we can’t argue with that as at 1.3kg for a size L, it’s one of the lightest helmets in this review. There’s also an EPS liner bonded to the shell to help spread the force of any impact.
There’s a very comfortable amount of padding inside the helmet and this is made from Dri-Lex, a breathable fabric that wicks moisture effectively and is incredibly comfortable against the skin. As we’d expect from a helmet of this price, the liner and chin guards are fully removable and washable should they start to pong a bit.
As we mentioned in the opening paragraph, the visor on the AX-8 Dual Evo is impressive offering a huge field of vision (by far the biggest of the helmets in this review). It comes treated with anti-scratch and anti-fog treatment while also claiming to offer 100% protection from UV rays, an excellent touch. While the visor works excellently in the dry, we found that as soon as water droplets from rain settled onto it, the vision became more distorted than we would have liked due to the shape of the visor. There’s also an annoyingly small opening tab that’s fiddly if wearing gloves.
The strap of the helmet is of the D-ring variety and it’s of good quality with the strap being nice and soft against the skin. The peak is non-adjustable but can be removed if need be (and we found that it can produce quite a lot of turbulence at high speeds so if you’re going to be riding on motorways consider taking it off for the ride).
There are numerous vents throughout the helmet; a large, closable chin vent, closable brow and head vents as well as a further eight (yes eight) exhaust vents to keep the air flowing.
In a line: A very well made helmet with an awesome visor (in the dry) and ventilation system.
Value for money: 8/10
3. Givi X.01 Tourer Helmet – £169.90
The Givi X.01 Tourer is a bit different to the other helmets in this review in the fact that the chin bar is removable. This means you can convert the helmet into an open-faced jet-style if you’re riding in warm weather. It’s an interesting concept and it’s a design that will be a bit like Marmite, you’ll either love it or hate it. Personally, I loved it.
Our test helmet came in the luminous yellow (as seen in the images), a style that has just been introduced to the X.01 range by Givi. After some initial cynicism, I began to love the colour both on an aesthetic level and also on a sensible, safety-minded level with the helmet standing out on the road making me more visible when riding in poor lighting.
The X.01 has a hard-wearing polycarbonate shell and while the inner is comfortable against the skin it feels as though it’s lacking any substantial cushioning to make it that bit more comfortable. That said, I took the X.01 on a recent tour of Europe and managed to maintain a moderate level of comfort throughout the day with it never really feeling like a burden on the head.
While the X.01 passes EU safety standards in both full-face and open-face (with the chin bar unclipped) versions, I would have to question the effectiveness of the chin bar in the case of an off. I accidentally dropped the helmet while loading my bike up and upon impact with the ground the chin bar popped out of its housing and separated from the helmet.
I also found the field of vision is restricted with the peak and the chin bar creating a letterbox vie2. While this didn’t really affect me when riding through non-descript scenery, I really noticed the limiting effects when I wanted to admire the views in the Alps. Importantly, the visor provided is coated with anti-scratch and anti-fog treatments and you also get an internal sun visor for especially bright days that works well.
In all, despite the problems I found with the X.01 Tourer I really liked it. I loved the look and while it wasn’t spectacularly comfortable, it was comfortable enough and I never overheated thanks to the copious ventilation options.
In a line: Perfect helmet for warm weather riding.
Value for money: 9/10
2. X-Lite X-551 Adventure – £379.99
The X-551 Adventure is X-Lite’s offering. For £379.99 you expect quality and from the off it’s clear to see that this has been made by people who know their stuff and use only the best components. In terms of visual appeal it’s up there with the best and it’s compatible for use with the Nolan N-Com Bluetooth intercom system.
The shell is made from a hard-wearing composite fibre and this is bonded to an EPS inner to help with shock absorption. The lightweight construction along with the luxurious inner combine to make this one heck of a comfortable helmet to wear providing it fits your head shape.
The inner is fully removable, as are the cheek pads, and these are made using the Unitherm light-racing material which is a comfortable, highly breathable fabric that works exceptionally well in warm, sweaty conditions. The fabric is, of course, washable as well.
The visor on the X-551 is both scratch-resistant and covered by an anti-fog coating but it’s ready to be fitted with a Pinlock insert (which I would recommend) to further avoid the interior fogging up. It has four detents on the ratchet providing a wide variety of open positions and once in place it stays there. A large opening tap ensures that there’s no frustration when trying to open the visor with a gloved up hand and the integral sun visor works very well when needed.
The visor also has a wide field of vision and if you’re so inclined, the helmet will accommodate a pair of goggles but it’s a tight fit. There’s plenty of ventilation on the X-551 making it ideal for warm weather riding. You get some very effective chin bar vents, two closable brow inlets and a further two closable crown vents as well as exhaust vents behind the rear spoiler to allow a great circulation of fresh air. The peak is well made, can be easily removed if required and there’s a huge amount of adjustment available with regards to its position.
In all, if you want quality there’s no doubt that the X-Lite X-551 will provide it. It’s well made, the lining and cushioning is incredibly comfortable and it looks amazing as well. We’ve been using X-551s for a long while in the ABR office and we’ll continue to do so.
In a line: Quality, good looks, comfort and exceptional performance. What more could you want?
Value for money: 8/10
1. Arai Tour X4 – £499.99
You’d be forgiven for wincing when looking at the price tag on the Arai Tour X4. At £499.99 it’s the most expensive helmet in this review by a long shot (and probably the most expensive adventure style helmet on the market), but in the same way that if you had the money you wouldn’t mind splashing out for a Ferrari, if you have the money you can’t go wrong with the Arai Tour X4.
The Tour X4 is essentially an updated version of Arai’s popular and trend setting Tour-Cross helmet that originally set the benchmark for adventure-style helmets when the adventure bike movement began. Changes to the ventilation, padding and overall improvements to the quality of the helmet have been made to make the Tour X4 a worthy successor to the old model.
If you compare a helmet of this standard to those at the lower end of the price range then you begin to understand and appreciate why you pay such a premium price. The quality of components, the feel of the helmet in your hands and on your head, the luxurious lining against your skin, the attractive design features… it all comes together to create a helmet that you’ll fall in love with and one that almost resembles a work of art in its own right.
The shell is made from a Super Fibre Construction which is highly impact resistant and a triple density inner shell further helps to prevent your body’s most vital organ from impact in the event of an off. The helmet is fastened using a D-ring and this is of exceptional quality.
The Dry Cool lining can be removed should the need to wash it arise and it’s incredibly comfortable against the skin for long periods of time. There’s a 5mm layer of foam on the cheek pads and temple pads that can be removed for an enhanced fit and it works well at preventing pressure points if the helmet doesn’t exactly fit the shape of your head.
Plenty of ventilation means the Tour X4 is ideal for warm weather riding and the visor will accommodate a Pinlock insert to prevent any misting up (and an excellent touch is the inclusion of a Pinlock visor in the box).
There’s no denying that the Arai Tour X4 is an excellent helmet. If you have the money then you can’t go wrong, it’s lovely to look at, a dream to wear and while I can’t speak from experience, if there’s one helmet that I’d be happy to rely on in the case of an off – this is it.
In a line: If you’ve got the money, buy one.
Value for money: 8/10