If you are reading this, your idea of perfect motorcycling is spending all day on the bike. And, the best touring helmet will make a difference to your mood. Whether you like a long, smooth ribbon of tarmac, or the challenge of a distant, dusty trail, a great ride requires:
- A motorcycle ready and loaded for the trip.
- The right personal equipment to ensure safety and comfort.
A big part of that second point is having the right touring helmet, one that can be worn hours on end. A poor choice creates a long list of problems, and adds up to rider fatigue. When you’re tired, accidents happen.
A high-quality touring helmet keeps you fresher, for longer. It’s so much a part of you, you almost forget it’s there.
So, what are the differences between good and bad? What should you look for when buying a touring helmet? We’ve spent time looking at what each helmet manufacturer offers, and asked ourselves the same thing. The following touring helmet review gives you some interesting answers.
Touring Helmet Types
There are three styles of helmet that come under the ‘touring’ banner:
- Full-Face Touring Helmet
- Flip-Front Touring Helmet
- Adventure Touring Helmet
A full-face touring helmet is not just an off-the-shelf model designed for street use. It’s significantly different to its near cousin, the full-face race helmet. If you occasionally put a couple of hundred extra miles on your bike, you may be able to do so with a race-oriented helmet designed for the engaged riding position of a track bike. If you’re serious about touring, you need to be function-specific. Your seating is different, your needs are different.
Likewise, flip-front helmets (also called modular helmets) come in various guises. Some of these innovative designs offer the touring rider excellent versatility. Others are very clever, but are best used for short journeys in town only. Understanding the details is vital.
Adventure helmets are, at first glance, a very different beast. Visually they’re similar in looks to MX and off-road helmets. Yet neither of those will do the job properly. Many of the element you’ll find in the best full-face and flip-front touring helmets, are also desirable in ADV helmets.
A Closer Look
Let’s take a closer look at the most important considerations.
Touring Helmet Features
- Cheap touring helmets often only come in one shell size. This frequently leads to a helmet that’s unnecessarily large and heavy for all but the biggest heads. Good models offer two shell sizes, the very best offer three or four shell sizes across the range. Proper fit is vital to long-term comfort. While multi-layered EPS padding can make a big difference, it can never fully compensate for the wrong shell size.
- Touring helmets often incorporate additional mechanical devices: An internal sun visor, or the ability to lift the chin-piece on a flip-front model. The result is increased weight. This can affect balance: The helmet can become front-heavy because the mechanism is in front of the natural centre line. Careful engineering is required to ensure the weight offset is minimized. And, engineering has to keep the additional weight in check: A heavier helmet is much more tiring to wear.
- Aerodynamics can help with balance. On the ideal touring helmet they’re designed to be neutral when you’re in your normal riding position. You don’t want downforce like you do on a race helmet – but you don’t want lift either. Styling is less dramatic, but enables you to turn your head more easily at speed. A wide visor aperture is also an advantage.
- Getting plenty of cooling air is great when the temperatures are soaring, but good ventilation is effective in all weather conditions. It’s all about efficient air flow. The vents on a touring helmet should be angled so they’re able to capture maximum volume at the angle you adopt on the bike. A well designed ventilation system then uses the internal shape and padding to channel air around and over the head. The final part of the puzzle is an efficient ‘exhaust vent’, ensuring ‘old’ air is drawn out from the shell quickly, without disturbing the aerodynamics.
- Aerodynamics, ventilation and padding all have an impact on noise levels. It’s something that’s easily overlooked, but shouldn’t be for two reasons. If you’re using any kind of intercom, GPS or music, you need to hear it without turning the volume up to painful levels. Second, noise all day gets just as tiring as a helmet that’s too heavy. When your concentration starts to fail, you’re no longer safe on your bike.
- An internal sun visor seems like an excellent idea. It shades your eyes when you need it but, unlike sunglasses, it’s easy to lift out of the way if you go into a tunnel or the light changes. The problem is getting it inside the shell. The solution used by some manufacturers is simply to take a standard helmet and reduce the EPS padding to make it fit. Currently, only Shoei modify the shell to ensure the same level of comfort and structural integrity all over. And Shoei, again, is the only manufacturer that currently ensures the internal sun visor conforms to the same optical and safety standards as required for the main visor. Read about how to reduce sun glare, including what to look out for in dropdown sun shades [internal link]
- Any external controls – vents for example – should be easy to operate with gloved hands. Some internal sun visor go down and up with just the push of a button.
- A visor with high-quality optical clarity is a tremendous benefit, as is an anti-scratch coating. Pinlock will keep it fog free. It should seal properly against the aperture, so it doesn’t vibrate.
Touring Helmets In Action
While it’s useful to discuss the individual benefits you find in top touring helmets, there’s nothing like a few examples to underline what we’re talking about. In the following section we’ve chosen helmets from Shoei and Nexx because, right now, they best illustrate the points we’ve focused on.
Shoei GT-Air: A Full-Face Touring Helmet with all the features you would want
GT-Air stands for Grand Tourer with Superior Airflow, so right from the start you know who this helmet is aimed at. The shell is Shoei’s super-tough but lightweight AIM fibre, available in three shell sizes. There’s also a choice of four EPS liners, for excellent fit. The helmet is purpose-designed so that internal sun visor is incorporated without impacting either shell or liner.
Aerodynamics are superb, with a spoiler that cuts drag and lift. Ventilation has large upper and lower intakes for maximum air volume, and rear vents for uninterrupted flow. A chin curtain and breath guard, along with defroster vent, dramatically reduce fogging.
Sun visor and face shield are high-quality, free from distortion, and block 99% of harmful UV rays. The latter is scratch-resistant, includes a Pinlock, and has a twin-grooved aperture seal to reduce sound levels.
A class-leading full-face touring helmet and, not surprisingly, very popular with committed long-distance riders.
Shoei Neotec 2: Possibly the best Flip-Front Touring Helmet you can buy right now
This is a stunning technological achievement, incorporating all the benefits of a full-face touring helmet, but with the ability to turn it into an open-face helmet in moments. Although the safety of this kind of helmet has been a concern to some, the Shoei Neotech 2 is one of few that has achieved P&J homologation: It’s certified at the highest standard, in both the closed and open positions.
The Neotech 2 Flip-Front incorporates all the advanced rider benefits we’ve seen in the GT-Air. There are the same comprehensive size options. Proven aerodynamics and ventilation have been subtly modified to function equally well in the unique modular design. When fully open, the chin-piece works as part of the air flow outside the helmet, ensuring the helmet remains neutral and stable. The pivot and lock system itself is stainless steel. It’s not just strong, it never corrodes.
Opticals are of the same excellent quality as on the GT-Air, cleverly modified to the Neotech 2’s adaptable construction.
Some modular helmets, you can call fashion statements. Not the Shoei. This is a carefully thought out, superbly constructed touring helmet, that also offers the rider new standards in versatility.
Nexx X.Wed2: The Adventure Helmet we go off-road with
The Nexx shell, known as X-Matrix, is another multi-layered fibre construction. It gives immense strength without the usual weight penalties. Like Shoei, Nexx offer three shell sizes and four liner options. The fit is precise – which it needs to be when you get off the tarmac and onto more challenging terrain.
An MX or off-road peak is too long on a touring helmet. It has a tendency to lift. So Nexx designed a shorter version onto the X.WED2, and made it multi-positional: What it means to you is sun shade but speed-neutral handling with adaptable aerodynamics that you can tune to suit conditions. The peak is also part of the redesigned ventilation system, as is a special chin vent. Air flow is increased, buffeting is reduced. The chin-piece itself has been reshaped to reduce impact in the event of a front-on collision.
As you might expect, there’s an excellent drop-down sun visor. Safety is enhanced with quick-release straps that aid fast helmet removal with minimum head movement. Did Nexx think of everything? Just about. The peak even has a mounting for an action cam.
Comparison Photo Gallery and Buying Panels to be provided by GG