2014 Modular Helmets Buyers Guide

More and more riders appreciate the benefits of full-face helmets, not just for the comprehensive crash protection they provide, but also for the additional wind and weather protection afforded by the fully encircling shell and face shield. But wearing a regular full-face lid has its disadvantages. If you wish to converse easily with your buddies at brief stops or have a soda or something to eat, you have to remove a full-face helmet. For glasses wearers, that means taking them off first. And there isn’t always a safe place to put the helmet, leading to drops, scratches and even theft. Leaving it on at a rest stop can get warm, too.

Years ago, the only alternatives to full-face helmets were the ½ or ¾ open-face lids, which are lighter, less expensive and more sociable when you stop. They only provide partial crash protection, however, like riding with your jacket unzipped or wearing just one boot or glove.

Today it is possible to have nearly the best of both worlds by wearing a “flip-up” or modular helmet. These offer most of the frontal impact and weather protection of a full-face helmet, with much of the convenience of an open-face when you pivot open the chinbar.

Because the chinbar flips up and out of the way along with the face shield, modular helmets are popular with tour guides who want comprehensive protection but often need to give their clients quick and clear directions. Glasses wearers like them since you can flip the front of the helmet out of the way for talking, eating, etc., without having to remove your specs. And though you should never ride wearing a modular in the flipped-open position, they’re cool enough flipped open that you can often leave them on at stops.

Recent improvements to modular helmets include integrated Bluetooth communication systems (usually optional), and sun shields that drop down from inside the top of the helmet. The latter eliminate the need to carry a separate dark shield, and every helmet in our test here is so equipped. By utilizing a sliding control, the darkened shield (similar to those used by military fighter pilots) pivots down into place from above the eyeport and acts as a sunglass. It protects the rider’s vision, is easily deployable in the sun, and likewise easily retractable for tunnels or when day turns to dusk.

While most modular helmets still strap to the rider’s head with the traditional double D-rings, many of the helmets included here make use of a quick-release ratcheting buckle arrangement. It is extremely easy to latch and adjust by inserting the rigid, serrated strap into the buckle; it unlatches by simply pulling a tab that opens the buckle and allows the strap to slide right out. The only drawback is that a helmet so equipped cannot be directly secured to a traditional motorcycle helmet lock unless it offers a separate ring for that purpose.

To increase comfort on a hot day, each of these helmets has controllable vents. One brings in air from the chinbar that also helps deal with fogging of the face shield, and vents in the crown deliver cooling air across the top of the head. Each helmet here has a removable, washable liner, and most utilize a variation of the popular rear spoiler shape. Each is available in a variety of colors; check the website for specifics.

To be legally sold in the U.S., any motorcycle helmet must pass certain impact and other tests, and carry a sticker that says it meets the standards of the Department of Transportation (DOT). The manufacturer certifies that each of these helmets passes DOT, and several also pass the stricter standard of the European Union (ECE 22.05), which usually includes the flip-up chinbar. None of the helmets here carry the voluntary certification of the Snell Memorial Foundation, which states that, “It has not had the opportunity to test any of the flip up front type helmets for certification” (though Zeus in the UK says that its flip-up is Snell certified). Snell goes on to state that, “We do not find any fault with these designs as long as they are used according to the manufacturers instructions and meet all of the requirements of the standard.”

A modular helmet does have a few drawbacks. In terms of safety, a standard full-face helmet is pretty much going to remain intact should you go sliding down the road. With a modular, however, there is the remote possibility that, should it be impacted in a certain way, it could conceivably open, exposing the rider’s face to injury. To lessen this possibility, be certain that any modular helmet you consider buying has (like all of those tested here) a metal-to-metal latching system for the chinbar, and that it is securely locked while riding.

Because of the additional hardware related to the mechanism, modulars tend to be more bulky and several ounces heavier than a full-face, and somewhat more expensive. Our lightest modular here weighs 3 pounds, 9.5 ounces, and the heaviest is more than 4 pounds. In our last full-face helmet buyers guide, the average weight of the helmets was about 3 pounds, 8 ounces.

Modular Helmets Buyers Guide

(This article Head Trips: Eleven Ways to Flip Your Lid with a Modular Helmet was published in the June 2014 issue of Rider magazine.)


  1. No decision made of which one you prefer and why???? Comon!! Could of done this online better with Revzilla ,Competition Accessories or any other online store. Really want to know about the Schuberth and Shoe Neotech!!!

  2. Really be informative to know the size range, head circumference, these helmets came in. Why waste time looking for a helmet that don’t fit?

  3. Why didn’t you test a Shark Evoline 3? It’s the only one certified by DOT or ECE with the chin bar in the raised or lowered position.

  4. A helmet in the Schuberth price range should come in more than 2 shell sizes. I have the Neotec and the HJC RPHA Max, and actually prefer the HJC. It’s the lightest of them all, it’s fairly quiet although I always ride with earplugs, it’s a lot cheaper, and a big one for me is that it doesn’t make you look like a bobble head doll, it just looks like a full face helmet.


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