2010 Helmet Buyer's Guide

A new safety standard means there's never been a better time to replace your brain bucket

The single most important piece of protective gear is the helmet. So why settle for less than the best? For 2010, the Snell Memorial Foundation revised its motorcycle helmet standard to more closely reflect that of the European ECE organization, meaning approved helmets should be safer than ever. Here's a selection of new lids that meet the Snell M2010 and/or ECE standards.

SparX S-07
SparX produces feature-packed, ECE-certified helmets at an affordable price, and they have some pretty sweet graphics, too. The S-07 is an excellent example of the KBC offspring's credo. It's priced at just $139.95 and has a plush, removable liner, integrated earplug storage straps, detailed art and a 5-year warranty. In-shield vents help vanquish fog, and if you ever go down you're covered: Just send your helmet in along with a copy of the police report and you'll receive a free replacement.

Bell Vortex
The Vortex is everything you'd expect from the Star's little brother. It uses the same ventilation system and anti-fog-coated face shield, and is Snell 2010-certified. The interior features a removable and washable liner and contoured cheek pads, as well as a noise-reducing chin curtain and integrated speaker pockets. The lightweight polycarbonate shell is molded into a stable, wind-cutting shape and comes decorated in a variety of graphics designed by talented peeps like famed bike builder Roland Sands. It's available for just $169.95.

The VR-2R is KBC's top-rung race helmet, yet the elaborately-painted lid shown here is priced at just $289.95. The Tri-Comp shell is woven from a blend of carbon-fiber, Kevlar and fiberglass strands that are bonded together using a vacuum-lamination system for consistency and strength. The result is an exceptionally lightweight and strong helmet that surpasses ECE standards and has withstood real-world testing at the racetrack. The VR-2R has a softer side that consists of a washable faux-suede liner that's customizable via pad thickness for a perfect fit.

Vemar Eclipse
Each Snell 2010-approved Eclipse comes with two anti-fog-treated face shields-one clear and one tinted-secured to the helmet using bolts to ensure adequate eye protection in the event of a crash. Outside is a shell created from a carbon-fiber/aramid/fiberglass weave printed in your choice of superbly detailed graphics, while inside there's a removable liner that's been treated to resist odor and bacteria. A full wrap-around chin curtain reduces turbulence and blocks road noise for a quiet, comfortable ride. Engineered and manufactured in Italy, the Eclipse retails for $500, and is also available in an ultra-lightweight full-carbon version for $750.

Shoei X-12
Top-level racers demand the best, and the Shoei X-12 delivers. The lid is based around a new, Snell 2010-approved shell that's punctuated with an unprecedented 15 vents to keep you cool in the heat of battle. The X-12 uses a wider, taller face shield to help you keep tabs on your competition, and has a quick-release cheek-pad system that allows emergency personnel to easily remove the helmet from an injured rider's head. Available in an industry-leading five shell sizes for a precise and proportional fit, the X-12 retails for $649.99 in solid colors, while graphics cost about $100 more.

Icon Airframe
As its name suggests, the Icon Airframe is all about aerodynamics and airflow, and with a full carbon-fiber shell, it's as light as air, too. The Airframe was conceived in the wind tunnel and has a large rear spoiler to reduce buffeting and lift at high speeds, plus multiple oversized vents that provide ample interior air circulation. Plastic plates on either side of the anti-fog-treated face shield protect the hinge mechanisms, and also provide Icon's graphic designers with a larger canvas on which to display their work. The Airframe retails for $515 and is ECE-certified.

Speed & Strength SS1000
Speed & Strength has expanded its product line to include helmets, so you can clothe yourself from head to toe in the loudest attire on the streets. The new lids are slathered in the same unique, forceful style. These helmets meet ECE standards and come with all the features you'd expect in a quality street helmet: a removable Coolmax liner, full venting and an anti-scratch, anti-fog, UV-resistant face shield. The SS1000 comes in three compelling color schemes and retails for $169.95.

The latest addition to the HJC line offers more comfort and better venting than its predecessor, and weighs nearly 100 grams less. The CL-16 spent time in the wind tunnel, and has a new ventilation system to show for it. The interior has also been revamped, with a multi-layer removable liner that features a new moisture-wicking covering to help keep you cool and comfortable. The CL-16 is Snell 2010-approved, plus every helmet comes with a Pinlock-prepared face shield and anti-fog insert, all starting at $129.99.

Shark S900
Shark's latest offering is the S900, a $299.95 street helmet that boasts the same internal safety features as the French company's $600 top-tier lid. Beneath the S900's thermoplastic resin shell is a multi-piece, multi-density EPS liner for the ultimate in impact energy dissipation and absorption. The ECE-approved helmet's deep crumple zones are designed to soak up the energy of a crash, but also act as wind channels to provide excellent ventilation. The clear, 2.2mm-thick shield is double-treated to resist scratching and fogging, and is complemented by a convenient flip-down tinted sun visor.

Arai RX-Q
Arai built the RX-Q from the ground up with the intent that it would be the ultimate street helmet. It's based on a refined version of the company's intermediate-oval shape, and uses new cheek pads to improve fit and noise sealing. A smaller, more aerodynamic shell creates less of a negative pressure tug when you turn your head to check traffic, and incorporates a wider eyeport to provide you with a better view of the world around you. The vents have been tailored to work better at street speeds, and a larger opening makes it easier to get on and off. The RX-Q is Snell 2010-compliant, and pricing starts at $539.95

2010 Helmet Buyer's Guide