At highway speeds, the noise inside a motorcycle helmet can easily reach 115 decibels. That’s not from road noise; it’s from the wind, alone. Given that hearing loss can occur starting at 85 decibels, noise reduction is a serious concern for many motorcyclists. Being in a high-decibel environment for a long period of time can even cause fatigue, which is the last thing bikers want to deal with on a long ride.
Not only does a helmet reduce the wind noise around you, it also makes your ride significantly safer. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), helmets are approximately 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries. While that isn’t necessarily a guarantee that a helmet will save your life, you are still far likelier to survive a crash if you are wearing a helmet. Keep in mind that motorcycles represent only 3 percent of all registered vehicles, but account for 9 percent of traffic fatalities. Considering these stats, there is clearly no harm in wearing a helmet for safety – if for no other reason.
Helmets obviously make your ride safer, but also quieter and more enjoyable. With the right motorcycle helmet design, you can cut down on the wind noise to as little as 84 decibels, or less. Below, learn about what features make a helmet quiet, and discover the top five motorcycle helmets on the market, so you can have a safe and relaxing ride.
Simply put, aerodynamics. The less resistance a helmet has, the easier it will be for wind to slide over the surface. Motorcycle helmet companies put a lot of time and research into determining what makes a helmet quiet so that they can hone the perfect design. The German company Schuberth, for example, has a wind tunnel made just for testing its helmets. In fact, it is perhaps the only company with a wind tunnel in its headquarters.
That’s not to say that other manufacturers don’t wind-test their helmets, because they do. Shoei, another popular brand, uses wind tunnels to test helmets, as well. Shoei even goes the extra mile, tilting the helmet side to side, as well as up and down, to simulate more realistic movements that a rider would make. This is because wind resistance will affect a helmet differently, depending on the angle of the rider’s head.
Aerodynamics research is mainly done to determine what causes turbulence on the surface of the helmet. More turbulence equals more noise. Anything that disrupts the smooth flow of air over the helmet can potentially cause turbulence, and make the inside of the helmet noisier. Things like gaps in a visor seal, vents on the exterior of the helmet or space where air can get in around the chin all cause varying degrees of turbulence.
Unfortunately, not all helmets are created equally. While it would be great if all manufacturers cared as much as Shoei and Schuberth about rigorous testing, the fact is, they don’t. As a consumer, it is oftentimes up to you to do your own research, in order to find the perfect helmet.
If you’re unsure, look at the design features such as wings, vents and visors, keeping an eye out for areas that are likely to create resistance. Any good helmet should feature an adjustable visor with a seal, as well as a snug-fitting closure at the neck to keep out wind. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with one of the designs below.
The RX-7V is an expensive helmet, with most retailers selling them for $500 minimum, and, in many cases, well over $1,000. However, the price is well worth the quiet and comfortable fit you receive with this helmet. The shape of the helmet is distinctively round, which is not only a safety feature, but a noise-reduction element. The Arai RX-7V has a smooth exterior that does a great job cutting down on turbulence.
The RPHA 11 is one of the quietest helmets around, but as with any design, it works better at different angles. For example, when riding a bike such as a Triumph Bonneville Bobber, the noise reduction is significantly less powerful than when riding other bikes. As HJC helmets go, this design is a bit more expensive. However, the design features make it worth the extra cash. Expect to pay more than $300 for the HJC RPHA 11 from most retailers.
Schuberth is easily one of the best-known manufacturers when it comes to quiet helmets. The C3 Pro has long been one of the best designs available. Riding at 65 mph, the C3 delivers just 84 decibels to the rider. With a neck roll that has a tighter seal, this performance is even better than the previous S2 model from Schuberth. The C3 also has addresses resistance with the visor by incorporating “turbulators,” which reduce noise further.
Most of the time, the quieter a helmet is, the more expensive it will be. However, the EVO-ONE is a bit more affordable, with most retailers offering starting prices around $250. This helmet incorporates a front-flip design that, when paired with a set of ear plugs, offers excellent noise protection. If you have had your eye on an Arai helmet, but don’t want to spend the cash, the EVO-ONE has a lot of similar design elements, giving you a similar-looking helmet for a fraction of the price.
The GT Air’s main selling point is the fact that it can move air through the helmet as well as over it, which not only cuts down on resistance, but also keeps you cooler. This feature is designed to keep you comfortable, but even at high speeds, it also delivers great sound reduction. Shoei helmets are thoroughly researched and meticulously designed, so it goes without saying that you get what you pay for. Compared to others on this list, you will spend a similar amount on a Shoei helmet – usually about $400.
Sometimes it’s hard to find a helmet that provides the level of noise reduction you want, and in such cases, you may have to take matters into your own hands. Earplugs actually provide a great amount of noise reduction on your ride. While any earplug may do the job, Howard Leight Max ear plugs are some of the best.
You can also make a standard helmet quieter by adding a chin curtain, as well as a visor seal. A neoprene sleeve can also seal the gap between your helmet and neck, while cutting down on noise, as well as debris that may come in contact with your helmet. If you haven’t ever adjusted your visor, look for screws at the visor base plate to see if it needs to be tightened, as well.
No matter how sound-proof your helmet is, another major factor is the posture that you sit in while riding. Certain helmets are designed for different purposes, and may not provide equal amounts of noise reduction at every angle. For example, wearing a track helmet on a cruiser will not provide as quiet a ride if you are sitting upright, as the helmet is designed to be worn tilting forward, in a tucked position.