Hearing damage from wind noise is real.
High speeds? Long rides?
You might be at risk.
A quality helmet can help reduce this noise – protecting your hearing and sanity.
In this article we will look at what goes into making a quiet motorcycle helmet, but first here are our favourite helmets in this category.
Quiet, Well-Built, Worth It
The C3 has picked up a reputation as one of the quietest helmets on the market.
It combines aerodynamic design and an acoustic dampening, snug fitting neck roll to position itself as the quietest helmet at this price point.
It’s also a minor miracle that they’ve made it so well ventilated without sacrificing noise reduction.SportsBikeShop
Quiet Full-Face, Stunning Field Of View
An honourable mention goes to the Arai X4.
For a full-face helmet with a field of view that wide – it’s pretty quiet.
For people doing trails, tours, off-roading or those after aesthetics, a quality, quiet helmet and a wide field of view – it’s a great choice.SportsBikeShop
Quietest Motorcycle Helmets Reviewed
Lets dive into our top choices.
Schuberth C3 Pro
The C3 is advertised as the first flip-up suitable for sports riding – it’s certainly aerodynamic enough.
It’s light too at 1570g.
It performs well at its price-point in simulated crash tests. One interesting stat we picked up on was that the face-guard remained in the closed position in 97% of impacts!
It features the usual Pinlock anti-fog system, drop down sun visor and removable, microfiber liner.
This helmet ships with two integrated antennae, but a Schuberth comms system must be bought seperately.
Noise Reduction Features
Schuberth’s C3 is the only helmet on our list that ships with an integrated acoustic collar. Granted – this is just another word for a neck roll, but it’s clear that noise-cancellation was a priority in the design process.
This would already be a quiet helmet – it’s a flip-up with an aerodynamic design. The addition of this collar means this thing is really quiet.
82 db at 100km/h on a motorcycle with no fairing according to the manufacturer.
Your mileage may vary slightly, but this thing is as quiet as they get.
- Really, really quiet
- Schuberth’s reliable build quality
- We’re struggling to come up with any
Arai Tour X4
The X4 is constructed of ‘super fibre’ (again – trade secrets). Whatever industrial magic went into its production, it feels stiff and light.
You’ll notice its wide field of view the moment you put it on – peripheral vision fully-engaged.
It also has an undeniably cool, off-road aesthetic, makes me want to call up Steve McQueen!
The peak and visor are removable, instructions below.
It has the usual removable, washable interior and also features the emergency release system like the HJC.
For a custom fit, the X4 has 5mm removable pads at the temple area of the headliner. This can really help you dial in a comfortable fit for those epic, long rides.
The X4 doesn’t ship with speakers or a dedicated cut-out in the foam to install them.
Noise Reduction Features
First things to note are the low bottom edge and flat neck roll. Both are designed to drive air flow away from the bottom opening and reduce wind noise.
This thing is a quiet full face helmet, it also stays quiet with the vents open – and there are many of them.
Some might be concerned about noise from the visor.
We can confirm that it’s quiet in the riding position – and it’s really nice for blocking the evening sun in the UK winter.
- High-end build quality and aesthetic
- Wide field of vision
- Not as quiet as some of the flip-up helmets on our list
- Limited space for fitting speakers
Shoei Neotec 2
The Neotec 2 is flip-up helmet constructed of fibreglass, organic fibers and ‘other’ high-performance 3D layers’ (this kind of jargon is common when a manufacturer wants to hold on to trade secrets).
These layers are laminated with a heat setting polyester resin.
The result is a strong, durable and lightweight helmet which has a 4 star sharp rating.
This resin holds up well to UV, water penetration and general environmental degradation – anyone who’s owned a Shoei knows they last a while!
The Neotec 2 features a removable, washable liner and chinstrap cover, Pinlock anti-fog system , and drop-down sun visor.
This helmet doesn’t ship with integrated speakers and microphone but a full comms package can be bought as an optional extra.
Noise Reduction Features
The Neotec 2 benefits from the same noise cancelling feature found in almost every flip-up helmet – a smaller area open to the wind underneath.
The neck roll is wide and thick, forming a clean seal.
We tried a large, and it fit exactly as expected.
Specially-fitted cheek pads are designed to dampen road noise and wind noise. These do fill a space that is often a cavity in other helmets.
We could see them making a difference to wind noise – especially with the visor up.
- Some of the highest build quality out there
- It’s confirmed quiet
- No built in speakers, microphone or antenna
Schuberth C4 Pro
The C4 Pro is a flip up helmet (this is important noise-wise) constructed of machine-laid, precise cuts of fibreglass and injected resin, compressed at high pressure in a heated mould.
This ensures low strength to weight ratio and still performs reasonably well in impact tests.
It ships with decent inbuilt speakers, mic and antenna already installed – this is a big plus.
To round it off a premium, anti-fog Pinlock visor insert and a drop down sun visor are included.
It has a removable, washable, Coolmax lining and integrated grooves for glasses (really nice touch if you need your specs for riding).
Noise Reduction Features
Flip-up helmets have some interesting properties when it comes to noise (more on this below in the buyers guide.)
Look at the lower edge of the C4 below the rider’s jawline.
Picture how with your head tilted forward in the riding position, the opening on the bottom of your helmet is protected from both a headwind and the up draft from your tank.
Because the helmet is put on with the faceplate open – the opening at its bottom can be significantly narrower.
Things are kept even quieter by a wider, thicker, tighter-fitting neck roll made of sound insulating material.
The sun visor slider is sealed and insulated with acoustic foam – dampening vibration.
- Low wind noise
- Wide field of view
- Comms/Audio system pre-installed
- Several riders report ‘whistling’ with the top vent open (we didn’t get any)
HJC R-PHA 70 Plain
This is a full face carbon fibre, carbon-glass composite and aramid construction. The first two materials are common in premium motorcycle helmet construction.
The third one got us.
Aramid is a fibre used in military and aerospace applications for its heat and impact resistant properties. The R-PHA 70 performs well for its price point in simulated impact tests.
Either way – my first impression of this helmet was ‘It’s light’.
It has all the features we’d expect – washable, removable liner, drop-down sun protection and Skipfrog (it’s a competitor to the Pinlock system) anti-fog treated visor.
Though we don’t like to dwell on it – the inclusion of an emergency interior removal system for ambulance crews responding in an accident is a good feature, and maybe should be standard.
This helmet doesn’t ship with a pre-installed comms system.
Some UK riders report the sizes as coming up small.
As always, I tried a large and it felt great – check it first on the high street if you can.
Noise Reduction Features
This is really an adaptation of an existing HJC racing helmet. It’s still ultra light, but is geared more toward comfort and prolonged use.
Many of the aerodynamic (and therefore noise-reducing) features of the racing helmet are retained.
For a full-face, closed helmet – this thing is quiet.
It’s got those large cheek pads dampening wind noise and vibration from the bottom opening.
People on a range of machines, from street bikes to full sports bikes say it’s quiet with no buffeting.
The ventilation system gets a particular mention, this thing is breezy with those vents open – and still fairly quiet.
It might make our “Best Ventilated Helmets” list.
- Excellent build quality at its price point
- Really quiet for a full-face
- No speakers or mic included
First and foremost we need to understand where the noise is coming from.
If your bike is running correctly, the decibel (db) output will be within the tolerances set out in the manufacturer’s guidelines.
This doesn’t mean the engine isn’t producing db levels that could harm your hearing.
An average motorcycle produces about 80 to 90db when idling and over 100db when accelerating.
Unfortunately wind noise is not something easily tested in the factory.
It depends upon manor factors riding position, windshield height, fairing design, clothing, weather and most importantly – your helmet.
Factors that affect wind noise
#1 Riding position
It may sound obvious, but the more upright your riding position – the more air must be displaced as you pass through it.
This displacement causes turbulence and our ears pick this turbulence up as noise.
There’s a different riding position for every style of bike – from laid back chopper to full-forward sports bike.
Street bikes, bobbers, trackers and cafe racers
These are all upright, high drag and therefore produce a lot of wind noise.
They aren’t built for all-out speed or long rides – but we can stand twenty minutes of noisy riding across the city.
Touring and adventure bikes
Designed for long, comfortable riding.
Their upright riding positions are protected from wind noise by their fairing and windshield.
Built for speed and acceleration, looking to mimic that aerodynamic, tear drop shape – with the rider’s head tucked down behind the windshield.
In my limited experience of sports bikes – it’s the engine noise I’m hearing.
The area between the front of your bike (windshield or naked headlight) and your helmet is responsible for a lot of wind noise.
Riding at high speed displaces air in that space, air moves in from the sides and over the screen/headlight to fill this space.
Much of this air is moving upward off your tank, striking the bottom of your helmet.
Using a helmet with a well designed neck roll and liner can dampen the noise caused by this airflow.
It’s usually best to use the windshield that ships with your bike (unless you’re exceptionally tall).
Going larger will generally not create problems. Going smaller can give you the wobbles.
Talk to a man that knows.
We once fitted a non-stock windshield on a custom, 80’s Yamaha SR 150 cafe racer. One of those micro screens that wrap around the headlight.
The wind had us bouncing around like bobble heads. Took it right off.
Manufacturers test their fairing designs for the purposes of drag and noise reduction.
Unless you are really unusually-sized (think hobbit or behemoth), the fairing and windshield are designed to drive airflow away from your head as much as possible.
There are unfortunate combinations of bike design, rider size and helmet which can result in a lot of turbulence.
The worst case scenario here is called ‘buffeting’.
This is where a rhythmic flow of air causes your helmet to be bounced up and down as you ride. This can be a result of your helmet, fairing, windscreen – or a combination of all three.
Needless to say having your head bob up and down is both uncomfortable and dangerous.
Notice how you almost never see pro cyclists racing a downhill stage in jeans and a flannel shirt?
Wind resistance will slow you down. But hey – none of us are in that much of a hurry, right?
Don’t know about you, but all that flapping around drives me crazy – and can create its own kind of buffeting. Motorcycle specific clothing is designed to limit drag and therefore noise.
For quieter riding, pay particular attention to how collars are designed.
We prefer a collar that when fully closed will stay tucked under the chin piece of our helmet – forming a clean seal.
Barbour’s original motorcycle jackets are a good example of this, and many modern manufacturers still use elements of this classic collar design.
Top tip – bring your everyday jacket with you when you go helmet shopping (or, like us, you go to the high street to try on helmets you’ll later order online).
Headwind, sidewind, gusty, swirling madness….
None are great news and all contribute to noise.
The result of anything other than calm conditions or a tail wind is an increase in turbulence and therefore noise.
Only the Windjammer, a scarf or a set of earplugs can help address this issue.
Whatever noise your helmet makes is amplified in unfavourable wind conditions.
Attributes Of Good, Quiet Helmets
Manufacturers use wind tunnels to measure db levels of their helmets at a variety of simulated speeds.
Unfortunately, only Schuberth publish their data – making direct noise comparisons difficult.
We must depend upon experience and feedback.
Schubert’s confidence in including this information on consumer websites is duly noted.
There are some shared characteristics to look out for when selecting a helmet for quieter riding.
#1 Flip Up/Flip-Face/Modular Is Best
All of these terms mean the same thing, a type of helmet that can be fully opened in the front.
The one you see couriers riding in the open position – cigarette in mouth.
Also generally the kind of helmet that must be put on with the chin piece in the open position.
This is important.
It means the opening at the bottom of your helmet can be significantly smaller than a fixed, full-face helmet.
Less open space means less surface area in contact with the wind and less wind means less noise.
Flip up helmets can wrap down around the chin and jaw, driving air away from the opening in a way that wouldn’t be possible on a fixed, full-face.
These are usually the quietest type of helmet.
This tight seal and reduced airflow from under your helmet, though quieter, will also be hotter in warm conditions.
A snug fit in the neck roll and lower part of the lining is crucial for reducing noise.
Well-placed pads and foam will dampen vibration and reduce noise travelling up to your ears.
Try a helmet on in a high street shop.
If you can feel airflow coming up from the bottom of the helmet, it’s probably loud at high speed.
An incorrectly-sized helmet will also create noise and vibration through the front when the visor is in the open position.
Snug fit is key. Read more about how to measure helmet size.
Folks on the dark side of 35 – remember that new EPS foam in some helmets feels stiff compared to the old stuff and needs to bed in.
Aerodynamic Design And Visor Seal
Nature provides a pretty good example of a low drag design – the raindrop.
We see this helmet design in time trial and track cycling.
Elements of it are incorporated into motorcycle helmets, but the full teardrop is impractical for everyday use (think impaled pillion passenger!).
Helmets that drive air away from the bottom opening are best.
Pay attention to whether the chin piece wraps around your jaw or is flat and more open to airflow.
A poorly designed visor seal will either vibrate from the get-go, or loosen over time and begin making noise.
Helmets are always quietest with the visor fully closed.
But, snug-fitting ones with pads placed around the visor opening will be quieter in the open position.
If your strap is incorrectly adjusted, it’ll flap about noisily.
It also won’t offer full protection in the event of an accident.
Check it often, please.
Generally, the strap doesn’t make too much noise – unless after adjustment you’re left with a lot of strap outside the buckle.
This can flap about noisily and should be trimmed with a shears and the end burnt with a lighter.
Most modern, toothed straps won’t have this issue.
The cheapest and easiest solution to wind noise is a set of earplugs.
We’ve talked about these before, check out our article on the best motorcycle ear plugs
Another cheap and easy option is a Windjammer, its a neoprene helmet skirt, designed to insulate your helmet from wind noise and drafts.
It attaches to the bottom of your helmet on the outside, using a reusable adhesive band.
You are left with a fairly small, but stretchy hole to pop your head through.
The idea here is to reduce the surface area open to the air.
Feedback on this is good with most riders reporting a significant reduction in noise.
Though we can imagine sealing up your helmet like that will test your anti-fog system.
Remember – repeated or prolonged exposure to sounds above 85db can result in hearing damage.
These volumes are easily reached inside your helmet at high speeds on the open road.
The quickest, easiest solution here is a set of earplugs.
For those who’d like to isolate just the wind noise and still hear environmental noise – a modular helmet with a snug-fitting neck roll and liner is key.
- How to make a motorcycle helmet quieter
- Motorcycle helmet sizing
- How to clean a motorcyle helmet
- Lightest motorcycle helmet
All product images via SportsbikeShop