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The Different Types of Motorcycle Helmets: Which Style Is Right for You?

March 15, 2023

Whether you’re hitting the road for the first time or the thousandth, one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself while on the road is to wear a high-quality motorcycle helmet. But how do you make sure that, for such an important choice, you make the right one?

This guide to the most common types of motorcycle helmets is a good place to start. Below, we break down the key characteristics of each of these different motorcycle helmet styles so you can make an informed decision on which is right for the way you ride.

The Different Types of Motorcycle Helmet Styles

With a variety of different motorcycle helmets to choose from, today’s riders have a ton of options to protect their heads. Between the styles below, which span from half helmets to full-coverage options, riders can pick from different levels of airflow and protection and enjoy the open road in the comfort and style of their choice.

Half Helmets

Covering just the top of your head, the half helmet offers minimal protection in exchange for maximum airflow. With its full exposure to the elements, many casual urban riders making frequent stops and starts, as well as riders who love taking a cruise at moderate speeds, may opt for a half helmet that lets them really feel the wind in their face.

Those considering a half helmet can find options featuring both classic and contemporary styles. Among the Harley-Davidson® lineup of DOT-approved half helmets, you’ll see low-profile headgear with a timeless Americana look and feel alongside more modern, eye-catching designs. And no matter which style you choose, you’ll find straps that are thick and secure yet still comfortable, features like speaker pockets that add flexibility, and quality shell construction that can stand up to harsh weather and wear and tear over time.

Open-Face Helmets

The category of open-face helmets encompasses both 3/4 helmets and 5/8 helmets that offer a middle ground of coverage between half helmets and full-face helmets. Because of this, riders who wish to go the open-face route can still feel the wind in their face while enjoying some added protection. In the areas of the head and neck they cover, open-face motorcycle helmets provide the same structure and comparable protection to full-face options. So, while open-face designs may leave your face exposed to adverse weather and potential debris, they’re typically lighter than their full-face counterparts—potentially reducing strain on neck muscles over the course of any lengthy adventures.

Explore some of your options for women’s and men’s open-face helmets below and discover features like removable visors made of lightweight fiberglass, Bluetooth® audio compatibility, washable interior liners, and a variety of designs to suit your style.

Full-Face Helmets

Full-face motorcycle helmets, sometimes referred to as street helmets or sports helmets, are typically considered the safest helmet option thanks to their full coverage that includes important protection for the chin and jaw. 

Of course, the full-face coverage does come with some potential drawbacks, depending on the way you like to ride (and when you like to do it). Beyond limited access to the face, full-face helmets tend to run significantly warmer than other helmets—something that’s great for winter riders, but potentially less so for those that like to hit the road even on sweltering summer days. 

Still, many of the latest full-face helmets, including those from Harley-Davidson, incorporate features to help riders maximize their comfort. Cutting-edge ventilation improves airflow so you can keep cool, while hi-def audio and advanced noise control help you hear only what you want to. With the right features and the proper fit, men’s and women’s full-face helmets from Harley-Davidson can help riders get the most out of every mile on the road. 

Modular Helmets

The modular helmet aims to provide riders with the coverage of a full-face helmet as well as the face access afforded by half and open-face helmets. So, while a modular helmet has a similarly snug, full-face fit like a full-face motorcycle helmet, a handy hinged chin bar on a modular helmet enables riders to pop open the helmet’s face shield—perfect for those times you need to cool off, take a drink of water, or have a chat with one of your riding buddies.

This versatility makes modular helmets an increasingly popular option with all kinds of riders, who, aside from convenient functionality, can choose from all kinds of designs. Whether you tend toward the café racer look or prefer something that’s more classic chopper, Harley-Davidson has women's and men’s modular motorcycle helmets that more than make the grade.

Learn more about how motorcycle helmets should fit by reading our Motorcycle Helmet Fit & Sizing Guide today. Then head to your local Harley-Davidson® dealer to try on the helmet of your choice today and ensure a perfect fit.

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