Which motorcycle crash helmet manufacturer makes the safest helmets?
We scoured the SHARP and Snell crash helmet testing data to find out which helmet brands are the ones you can trust – the ones that’ll give you the best protection in an accident. We’ve had to prioritize data from UK SHARP helmet testing labs because only they give comparative scores so we can see how well helmets perform relative to each other. Plus SHARP chooses which helmets to test themselves whereas Snell is commissioned by helmet makers to test and certify their helmets. But, where possible we’ve mashed in Snell data too.
But note: SHARP uses ECE rated helmets sourced in the UK, which may differ from US DOT helmets. So, it’s far from perfect and some brands are excluded (read more in the methodology section at the bottom) but it’s the best insight we’ve got.
So, here are the results of our latest survey – using updated data from 2016-21 and showing which are the safest crash helmet brands. If you’re after a new helmet and haven’t got time to read our reviews, you might want to consider one of these brands.
Italian helmet maker AGV rises to the top spot for 2021 from number 2. AGV has been making very fine helmets since 1947 and, of course, they’re known for be-lidding the hallowed head of Valentino himself – and let’s face it, he’s not going to put just any old lid on now is he? Actually, he might if the price is right. But anyway, of 6 helmets tested since 2016, three scored maximum 5 stars (Corsa R, Pista GP-R and Veloce S) and the rest were four stars, showing you really can trust an AGV. Wowzers - incredible job AGV. You can find our AGV helmet reviews here.
Shoei are known for producing more expensive, well-built helmets at the top end of the market. All of which shows in their amazing ranking in our safety review. Across all 13 ECE Shoei helmets tested ever, they've scored an average of 4.15/5 and of their most recently tested helmets, both the X-Fourteen and RF-SR scored maximums. They also have a few helmets Snell certified - including the X-Fourteen and RF-1400 so both their ECE and DOT helmets are proven protective lids. A massive Well Done Shoei! Check out our Shoei helmet reviews here.
Storming up the chart this year from No. 8 is quality French maker, Shark Helmets. They've had 7 helmets tested by SHARP in the last four years with an average score of 4/5 stars. Which is no surprise because whatever the style of helmet and whatever it's been made of, every helmet tested by SHARP scored scored 4 stars which is an awesome performance (plus the chin bars on both modulars (including the Evo-One 2) scored 100% - which is a real rarity). All in all an amazing job from the French helmet masters. Click this link to check out all our Shark helmet reviews.
HJC are in our top 10 for the second year and in 2021 make their way up to fourth place. It's a particularly great score because HJC specializes in lower priced helmets - so you don't have to max out your credit card for great protection. They hit this spot partly because of old favorites like the five star rated HJC FG-ST and partly because their newer C70 polycarbonate lid hit a five star rating too. Overall, their 6 most recently tested helmets scored 4/5 SHARP stars sending them sky rocketing North. It's also worth noting that HJC have several helmets Snell approved too - back in the old M2015 certification days before they brought in the 2020 standard. So helmets like the i10 and outgoing CL-17 are both great protecting Snell helmets. Nice one HJC - click to check all our HJC helmet reviews.
Up from number 2 last year, Arai's excellent average score has risen from 4.4/5 to 4.5/5 over the course of 2019 putting them at the top of the pile for 2021. Of 6 helmets tested since 2016, their average score has been massively helped with both the Signet-X and Corsair-X scoring maximum 5 stars for safety while all the others scored a fantastic 4 stars. And if you're after a Snell certified helmet, nobody gets more of their helmets Snell approved than Arai (most recently including the Classic V and XD4). All of which means - now more than ever - you can trust Arai's latest generation of helmets to perform. Check out our latest Arai reviews here.
In sixth place is the daddy of the Nolan group brands. Every single one of the thirteen tested Nolan helmets has scored 4/5 stars in the SHARP safety test. Just Wow. What's also notable is that each of their tested flip-up helmets scored 100% when it came to keeping their chin bar fully locked - which really isn't easy to do. That's a real testament to their design, manufacturing and quality control excellence. For all our Nolan helmet articles, look here.
Fellow Italian helmet bods, X-Lite, are part of the Nolan Group too, so it’s no surprise they’re slap bang next to Nolan in our top 10. Over the years and 11 helmets tested by the SHARP labs, no X-Lite helmet has ever scored less than 4/5 stars. Amazing. And if we see a few more helmets being tested by SHARP, I really wouldn’t be surprised to see them floating up very near the pointy end of our safest helmets brands list. Check out all our X-Lite helmet reviews here.
At No.8 , Bell are still doing great but their three star Bell Qualifier DLX MIPS has spoiled the party a bit, meaning they've slipped down one place from last year. Having said that, Bell has scored a massive 4.4/5 across all 14 tested helmets over the years, which is the highest rating of any helmet brand overall. But because we weight recent reviews more heavily, that was enough to push Bell down the rankings a notch or two. Bell does get a heap of their DOT helmets Snell certified though - including the Stars, Moto-9 and SRTs so all of those are top rated for protection. As always, you can read all our Bell helmet reviews here.
Portuguese composite helmet specialists, Nexx, have hit our top 10 for the first time in 2021. They don't get their helmets Snell certified unfortunately, but they've had a few of their ECE helmets tested by SHARP with their most recent XG 100R scoring a very decent 4/5 stars. All their other helmets score 3/5. Find all our Nexx helmet reviews here.
Our final top ten place is taken by another budget helmet maker: LS2. They've had a mixed bag of ratings recently but they've had enough helmets making it up into 4 star ratings (including the LS2 Valiant and Stream Evo) to squeeze them into our top 10. Of 8 helmets tested since 2016, their average rating is 3.1 stars out of 5. Check out all our LS2 helmet reviews here.
Any chart/study like this has it's drawbacks of course, but hopefully it's a pretty good snapshot of how safe some of the main helmet brands will perform in an accident, relative to each other.
This table relies on SHARP crash helmet testing data only (covering 2010 to 2021) so it's never going to be fully comprehensive and can't reflect many brands sold in the US. And even where a brand has been SHARP tested, we've not included every helmet brand in the list. There's a few reasons for this. Maybe they've not been tested enough to give a reasonably reliable amount of data - or maybe they've not been tested at all. Or maybe they've so little distribution, that we've chosen to leave a brand out. We've tended to focus on the main brands - meaning brands that are more widely known and which helmet buyers will want to know about and be able to find in motorcycle stores.
Our main drawback is the limited number of helmets tested for some brands which will slant the figures - SHARP choose and buy the helmets themselves, so that's bound to skew the figures. If a brand's helmets haven't been chosen for testing, then they simply won't appear in our table.
As alluded to above, to avoid sample size skewing, we've excluded some brands where a brand hasn't had a reasonable tested sample size. Why? Well, imagine one brand has 10 helmets tested with an average score of 3 stars, they could be below a brand with just one helmet scoring 4. So because of this, where there's only a handful of helmets available to score, we've usually removed the brand from the survey.
And of course, SHARP only tests ECE helmets bought in the UK, which may be different from helmets found in DOT or other areas. Very few DOT helmets get tested by Snell but where a brand has had a few helmets certified, we mention it. Happily all the brands who score best in SHARP testing also submit the most helmets to Snell for testing, so the best Snell certified brands are included in our top 10 too.
It's worth pointing out that there are some detractors of the SHARP test too, reckoning that it's not real world enough. Which may or may not be true. However, we think it's about as good as it gets - you can read what the test entails here and an analysis of SHARP data here and make your own mind up if you like.
Whatever your point of view, what is going for the SHARP testing regime is that it's held under controlled circumstances in a laboratory so each helmet should be subject to an identical test - meaning it's possible to compare the results of each test on each helmet. Yes, agreed, it might not fully simulate the accident where you hit diesel while hanging off your Z1000 and bash your helmet on a curbstone at a 15 degree angle then scrail it down the road for 100 yards, but it does subject the helmet to impacts from multiple sides and show which individual helmets - all things being equal - perform best. So, we reckon it's about as good information as is available and that's what we're basing this analysis on.
The scoring is simple. Where a helmet was awarded five stars, we've given it 5 points. Where it scored one star we've given it 1 point. We then add up the total number of points and divide it by the number of helmets tested over the last few years to find the average (mean). We then ordered the list, putting the highest scoring first. In the event of a tie-break, we also looked at helmet scores since testing began and took them into account.
Phew. Till next year!