Not so long ago, budget crash helmets were cheap, noisy, and had few redeeming features.
Cut to today, and most entry-level lids are a significant step-up in quality, offering good protection and comfort for low prices.
Top Budget Helmets Reviewed
Let’s have a look at our top five models.
Shark S900 Dual Special Edition
The shell of the 1.5kg Shark S900 Dual Special Edition model is made from injected thermoplastic resin.
With extra protection in mind, the design includes a multi-element internal shock-absorber with differentiated density.
Inside is a fully removable and washable liner in microfiber fabric.
The visor options include as standard an anti-scratch 2.2 mm total vision anti-fog visor and an internal anti-scratch UV protected sun visor.
The chin strap is a Microlock quick-release design, and the helmet’s stylish external finish is an anti-UV lacquer coating.
Read our in-depth Shark S900 review.
- Slide Lock quick-release visor system
- Racing upper ventilation system using a multi-point air intake and Venturi deflector
- Stainless steel vent protection
- Anti-turbulence system
- 4 Star SHARP rating
- More expensive than other budget helmets but still good value
MT Revenge – Various colours
A sporty and aerodynamic lid with a removable and washable interior.
This Sharp 5 star rated lid is an incredible bargain, amazing value for this level of protection.
Available in several different colours from the basic to the downright wacky – skull and roses, anyone?
- 5 Star SHARP rating
- Pinlock insert included
- Micrometric retention system
- Anti-scratch quick-release visor
- At this price, we’re struggling to find one!
MT Thunder 3 Solid Various Colours
The MT Thunder Solid is a sleek and aerodynamic helmet with semi-removable interiors and a micrometric retention system.
It has an all-weather design suitable for almost any journey, whether commuting or long-distance riding.
Available in 2 shell sizes, this helmet will comfortably fit most head shapes.
- Quick-release chin strap
- 4 Star SHARP rating
- 2.2mm anti-scratch quick-release visor
- Super Cheap
- Noisier than more insulated helmets
- Slightly fewer vents
MDS M13 – Matt Black
The MDS M13 helmet has a removable and washable interior pad with dry comfort and hygienic treatment. It also has a front air intake with rear extractors.
A quick-release system allows easy visor replacement without the need for special tools.
It has a Micro-metric adjustment retention system for quick and easy fastening and removal.
- HIR-TH (High Resistant ThermoPlastic Resin) construction
- Street 12 scratch-proof polycarbonate visor
- Sleek and stylish looking
- Dry comfort interior lining with hygienic treatment
- 4 Star SHARP rating
Another aggressive street style lid from well-regarded brand AGV.
This is their entry-level model and comes with decent specs.
The lining is made from a moisture wicking fabric and is easily removed for washing.
Integrated vents make for reasonable ventilation, and it comes with an anti-fog visor as standard.
- Lightweight Thermoplastic construction
- Dynamic air intakes
- Anti-scratch and anti-fog visor
- Double D ring retention system
- 4 Star SHARP rating
- Some wind noise
BOX BX-1 Plain – Matt Black
The Box Bx-1 is a full-face helmet from the British helmet brand Box, and the BX-1 is a stylish offering at an affordable price.
Comfortable with good ventilation, the helmet holds its own with more expensive models.
It is relatively less noisy than other budget helmets, and the wide visor gives it an excellent field of view.
- Lightweight synthetic construction
- 5 vents for full flow ventilation
- Quick-release visor mechanism
- Quick-release retention system
- 4 Star SHARP rating
- Its lightweight construction may not offer the protection of heavy-duty models
The first and foremost choice with any crash helmet is ‘Will it protect my head?’
Secondary considerations may be open, full face, or slide-back designs, colour, insulation, vents, visor options, and straps.
Dozens of styles and models are available to suit all budgets, with prices ranging from less than 50 pounds to over one thousand.
Any helmet sold in the UK has to pass stringent safety tests, so we know that they offer minimum safety requirements.
But what are these safety tests, and how far do they go?
The ECE Regulation 22.05 includes various tests, including hot and cold temperature impact absorption tests, strength and durability tests of retention systems and visor and field of vision tests. For those interested, here’s a link to the standards and here’s a link to the more up to date standards – ECE 22.06.
SHARP is a UK test supplementing the ECE approval requirements by subjecting UK purchased models to more demanding impact testing.
These multiple tests aim to measure protection to the brain at varying speeds against flat surfaces and kerbs.
SHARP rates the tested helmets from one to five stars – with five being the highest with a declaration that it “Offers good levels of protection right around the helmet.”
Motorcycle crash helmets come in three main styles, although there are six variants, including half-helmets and off-road designs.
Full-face, flip-ups and open face are the popular models offering varying levels of protection and viewing.
Sometimes it’s the visor option that will concern riders most. Consider whether you need a clear or shaded visor.
A clear one leaves you the option of just wearing your shades underneath in sunny conditions.
Full face helmets usually have a pull-down visor but not always a peak.
Manufacturers may offer just one visor option, such as a clear one as standard. Others may provide add-on extras, including short, half, or tinted visors.
These come in different styles such as quick-release, micro-metric, double-D style straps.
Pick which one you’ll be comfortable with and ensure that you can easily place and remove your helmet.
You don’t want to be caught in the heat of a stressful situation while having difficulty with your helmet strap.
- Quick-release: Works a little like a seat belt’s operation on a car where a metal end part (usually with a hole in it) goes into a spring-operated catch. The strap length is generally adjusted using metal length adjusters on the strap.
- Micro-Metric: This buckle system operates by using a toothed tag on the end of a strap, which fits into a spring-operated ratchet on the end of the other strap. The principle of this system is similar to that of a reusable cable tie.
- Double D: This helmet strap system is the oldest, most basic, and possibly safest for a motorcycle helmet. It works by putting one end of the strap through both of the metal ‘D’ rings on the other strap and then looping the strap back through the first metal ‘D’ to secure it.
This video shows how to fix a Double D properly.
Not all chin straps can be operated with gloves.
This isn’t a major disadvantage if you follow a set sequence before your ride, i.e., helmet-straps-gloves and go. The same logic goes for taking the helmet off.
Channels and ducts help cool your head in the heat by guiding and circulating air around your helmet while on the move.
They also keep it fresh and fog-free, so check the types used on any models that take your fancy.
The inside lining is important because it affects how comfortably the helmet will sit on your head. See motorcycle helmet sizing for more.
The insulation level also affects the noise levels, and with budget helmets, it might be more excessive than higher-quality ones.
Also, is the lining removable and washable? A headscarf or bandana helps avoid direct contact between the lining and your hair, but the inside of a helmet may become stale and sweaty after time.
Consider too whether the interior will easily facilitate small speakers. Rider communication systems such as Bluetooth mobile phone devices may require these.
Recommended Reading: Guide To Motorcycle Bluetooth Headsets
Colour is a personal choice but think about how well you can be seen and the safety advantages of a white helmet over darker models.
Being the highest point of a motorcyclist, a helmet is the most noticeable item from a distance. If your motorcycling attire is predominantly dark, consider the benefits of a white or fluorescent crash helmet model.
If a black helmet is your preference, think about adding bright or reflective stickers that also stand out from a distance.
When looking at any model of crash helmet online, you’ll often find a ‘Variants’ section on the product page. Look here to see if the same or similar model is available in different colours or designs.
As well as protecting your head what about protecting your helmet?
Knocks and scratches can be prevented with a good helmet bag or case.
Check if yours comes with these and if not, it’s well worth considering buying them as extras.
Whether you find your budget helmet in a store or order online, be honest when trying it on. A wrong size or awkward fit will become noticeable after several minutes on the road and cause discomfort and distraction.
Lightweight helmets might make for an easier ride but offer less protection than heavier, more robust models. Your neck muscles will adjust to a heavier helmet in time but avoid anything excessive.
All the gear and no idea?
In the future, you may wish to treat yourself to a more expensive model, but a good quality budget helmet will get you started, and even if you upgrade, it can still be used for pillions or as a spare.
Safe and happy riding to all.