1. Arai has been making helmets since 1952, so it’s a safe bet they know a thing or two about making a good helmet, a fact proven by ranking No. 1 in the J.D. Power Motorcycle Helmet Satisfaction Study not just once, but 13 years in a row. The Defiant is Arai’s latest full-face helmet, and like all Arai helmets it’s designed first and foremost with safety in mind. Based on the RX-Q, the DOT/Snell 2010-approved Defiant shares the RX-Q’s “intermediate oval” shape. Features include 5mm peel-away cheek and temple pads, a fully removable, washable and replaceable liner with Arai’s water-repellent Dry-Max material on exposed areas, and Arai’s new IR front spoiler edge trim to reduce buffeting and lifting, and IR chin vent for greater airflow to the rider’s mouth and shield. A clear Pin Lock face shield with anti-fog lens insert comes standard. Comfortable and built to the highest standards. $619.95-$749.95.
2. Italian motorcycle accessory manufacturer GIVI is best known for its full line of stylish hard and soft touring luggage. GIVI also has windscreens for sport/touring and ADV bikes, and recently started introducing helmets to the U.S. market. Its current lineup includes the X.01 Explorer and Tourer, both of which slot into the growing modular class of helmets. Both have a removable chin bar, an integrated sun visor, a standard clear flip-up visor and a quick-release chin strap, but the ADV-oriented Tourer also features a removable spoiler and extra air intakes. Comfortable and lighter than a flip-up modular, the Tourer is surprisingly quiet and peripheral vision is excellent. We liked it best in full-face mode, but it works equally well as a 3/4 helmet with the chin guard removed and gets lots of looks in “jet” mode with the clear visor off and integrated sun screen down. $329.
3. Highly regarded for its superior strength-to-weight ratio and used in everything from racing frames to high-performance wheels, carbon fiber is an excellent choice for helmets, where high weight negatively impacts rider comfort. While we’ve sampled several full-face carbon helmets, Joe Rocket’s new Carbon Pro is one of the few 3/4 carbon fiber helmets we’ve seen. Fit and finish on our helmet was excellent, with a deep luster to the Snell and DOT-approved 4x4 weave carbon shell. A dual-density EPS impact absorbing liner helps ensure rider safety. Noise is about average for a 3/4 helmet; we found it quieter on a naked bike than behind a fairing. Ventilation is aided by two adjustable front intakes, with two rear exits to pull air through and across the inside top of the helmet. The fully removable and washable liner features Joe Rocket’s Qwickdry fabric. $299.99.
4. Think of LS2 as the largest helmet manufacturer you’ve never heard of. A relative newcomer to the U.S. market, LS2 is the fastest growing brand in Europe, where it’s become well-known for high-quality but inexpensive helmets. LS2’s helmet line includes everything from traditional full-face to flip-up modular and offroad helmets, but we were drawn by their old school line, the OF583 Bobber. The Bobber looks the part, with quality-feeling, chrome-lined edge beading on the DOT-approved fiberglass shell and a moisture-wicking synthetic suede interior lining. We thought the padding was a little on the light side, but our Bobber fit well and we liked the quick-release chin strap, a nice surprise in this price category. Noise level is average for an open-face, and we like that it came with a tinted snap-on shorty visor and a pair of goggles to complete the retro look — and everyone liked the cool Matte Gunmetal finish. $129.95.
5. Here’s an interesting little bit of trivia. Which of these three originated in Southern California? A): The first patent for the modern motorcycle helmet; B): The landmark motorcycle safety study, the Hurt Report; or C): H&H Sports Protection, aka Torc Helmets? If you answered all of the above you win the no-prize. Although Torc supplies a comprehensive line of helmets, its Southern California roots have helped make the Torc Route 66 T-50 one of the most popular helmets in the company’s lineup. We tried the T-50 Pinstripe, a classically styled open-face painted deep ruby red and accented by hand-applied pinstriping across the top and on the lower leading edge of each side. The interior of the DOT-approved ABS shell features moisture-wicking synthetic suede, and it comes with a snap-on removable sun visor. Fit and finish was good on our T-50, with nice padding and a comfortable fit. $89.99-$124.99.
6. The new N44 Trilogy modular from Nolan features a removable chin bar, face shield and brow visor along with an integrated flip-down sun visor to let the rider configure the helmet between full-face, 3/4 or “jet” modes, tailored with different visor/face shield options. Features of Nolan’s new “crossover” helmet include a fully removable and washable antibacterial, antifungal interior. It also features a quick-release chin strap, and three large intakes at the front of the helmet work with a large exhaust vent on the rear for excellent ventilation. But the part we liked the most is the N44’s enormous, quickly detachable, full-length face shield with integrated air intake. Set in the closed position, it fully encompasses the low-set removable chin bar to give the rider almost unobstructed vision. The DOT approved N44 passes the European ECE-2205 standard for full-face helmets and accepts Nolan’s proven N-Com communications system. $389.95-$419.95. MC