At RevZilla, our gear experts receive countless requests from customers seeking the best summer helmets. These riders want head protection that also delivers maximum airflow, sweat management technologies, and removable interiors for easy cleaning, among other features. If you’re looking for similar protection and ventilation, this guide to the top summer helmets should get you pointed in the right direction.
Helmet design has the most influence on ventilation. It doesn’t take a gear expert to see that a half helmet will flow the most air to your head. Three-quarter helmets aren’t far behind, while full-face helmets block the most airflow of the three major helmet types. Modular helmets offer a compromise between three-quarter and full-face designs with their hinged chinbars. We'll get into the details on those later.
RevZilla always recommends the protection of a full-face helmet over the comfort of a half or three-quarter lid, but we have plenty of other articles focused on helmet safety. We’ll keep the focus on summer comfort in this guide because the choice is ultimately yours, not ours.
Read on to learn the benefits and drawbacks of each helmet type, including some top picks in each category from our gear experts. After that, we’ll cover tips, tricks, and accessories for better summer helmet performance. Let’s dive in.
Key helmet features for summer riding
Our gear experts recommend the following for summer helmets that will see lots of use, regardless of riding style:
- A removable, wicking interior that can be washed
- Efficient ventilation with intake and exhaust vents
- Sun protection (peak, visor, and/or internal sun shield)
- Low weight
The plentiful airflow of half helmets and three-quarter helmets means they’ll be cold in late fall and winter months. Conversely, most full-face helmets can handle all seasons at the expense of airflow.
Half helmets for summer riding
If airflow ranks above protection for your summer ride, the half helmet is the obvious answer. Half helmets put the rider’s face fully in the wind, along with the sides of the head and the neck. Most half helmets have air channels built into the liner to draw additional airflow up into the top of the head for even more cooling. They may include tinted drop-down sun shields, which protect your eyes from harsh summer sun.
The Bell Pit Boss is a popular choice, along with the HJC IS-Cruiser. These helmets are simple and affordable. Both feature removable interiors, drop-down sun shields, and classic style that works especially well for cruisers and scooters. Another crowd favorite, the Scorpion EXO Covert X, takes a more modern approach with its removable chinbar and sides for half, three-quarter, and full-face styles, ideal for the rider who wants to change up their helmet depending on temperature. The Covert X is included with the half helmets because the clip-on parts aren’t as protective as dedicated three-quarter and full-face designs.
Three-quarter helmets for summer riding
A three-quarter helmet, sometimes called an open face, adds some side protection while leaving the front of the helmet unobstructed. These helmets are especially popular with vintage and cruiser riders, although you’ll see them on modern retros, scoots, and standards in the summer months. They can be worn with goggles or face shields.
Bell’s Custom 500 is the tried and true original; Biltwell’s Bonanza is very similar with their own spin on retro paint. Unfortunately, classic bubble helmets tend to fall short on ventilation for the top of the head..
Step up to a more technical three-quarter helmet like the Bell Mag 9 or the Shoei J-Cruise II for vents, high-tech interiors, and drop-down sun shields. These helmets almost look like full-face lids from a distance when their main face shields are down. The lack of chinbar means they have lots more airflow to the exposed chin while moving.
Full-face helmets for summer riding
Full-face helmets offer the best protection for your head in the event of a crash. That said, overheating while riding has its own dangers, so a full-face helmet with good ventilation is our top recommendation for summer riders. Their chinbars and face shields trade airflow for full head coverage, making up the difference with a variety of ventilation schemes and interior technologies. Let’s start with ventilation.
Most helmet vents fit into two classifications: intake (forward-facing) or exhaust (rear-facing). Intake vents are common and helpful, but the hardcore summer rider should carefully examine the back of a helmet before purchasing to make sure it has exhaust vents, too. They evacuate warm air and moisture from the helmet as you ride to keep internal temperatures under control.
As for interiors, look for helmets that offer sweat-wicking technologies. Not so long ago, wicking interiors were reserved for expensive helmets, but today you can find them in entry-level helmets, if you spend some time looking at their features. Check out the Sedici Strada II and the HJC i10 for perfect examples of an affordable summer helmets with wicking interiors and full ventilation schemes. Stepping to midrange helmets, Shoei’s RF-1400 and GT-Air II are excellent choices, along with Scorpion’s EXO-R1 Air and the HJC RPHA 70ST.
Arai helmets with the VAS system offer a barely open shield position intended for de-misting, although it can also be used for extra airflow on hot rides. Check out the Quantum-X or Signet-X for examples of this setup. Another alternative is the HJC F70. It has a very tall breath guard, so when you have the internal sun shield down, it allows an opening for direct airflow without exposing your eyes.
Keep in mind that more vents mean more noise. If you aren’t already wearing earplugs, make sure to get a set to wear with your high-flow helmet.
Modular helmets for summer riding
Modular helmets are a sensible choice for long hours in the saddle during summer weather. They’re called modular helmets because they use hinged chinbars to switch from full-face to three-quarter configurations. Keep in mind that not all modular helmets are certified for riding with the chinbar open. (Use this chart of dual-holologated helmets to see if your helmet is rated for use with the chinbar up.) Even so, flipping the chinbar and face shield out of the way while waiting for a light or getting gas can bring sweet relief on a hot day, all at the touch of a button.
Summer riders should consider Shoei’s Neotec II or Shark’s Evo One2. Scorpion’s EXO-AT950 is another proven option that can do everything from street rides to light off-roading, although you’ll want to consider dedicated ADV or dirt helmets if you regularly leave pavement behind.
Dirt and ADV helmets for summer riding
In terms of airflow, dirt and adventure helmets sit somewhere between three-quarter and full-face designs due to their spacious chinbars and massive eyeports. Additionally, off-road riding gets slow and sweaty, so manufacturers place a greater emphasis on airflow with these lids. Klim’s F5 Koroyd leads the way with its innovative Koroyd shell technology, which replaces sections of foam EPS with hollow tubular structures for incredible ventilation.
Motocross riders have their pick of high-flow helmets. Bell’s Moto 10 is our current favorite because of its enormous central vent. Bell creates this shape by fusing two pieces together into a single shell.
Frequently asked questions: Summer helmet edition
Can I add anything to my existing helmet setup to increase comfort in hot weather?
Sure! Try a helmet liner, like this one from Axial, for breathable four-way stretch for better airflow and moisture wicking. It seems counterintuitive to add a layer to stay cooler. Base layer manufacturers use special materials to promote comfort. Don’t knock them til you’ve tried them.
When I first bought my helmet, it was comfortable in hot weather. A few years later, it’s much worse. What happened?
Like motorcycles, helmets need routine maintenance to perform their best. Try pulling out your summer helmet’s interior and washing it. Thousands of miles of riding can result in more human slime buildup than you’d expect, and that clogs the mesh pores in the pads that pull moisture away from your face. Check out our complete helmet cleaning guide to refresh your helmet’s interior.
Another problem for high-mileage helmets occurs in the vents. Are you constantly cleaning bugs off your face shield? Over time, insect carcasses can clog up your vents, too. We’ve had customers call in about inoperative vents only to discover that they were completely jammed up with dead insects. Use a pick and compressed air to make sure your vents actually flow air.
Is it safe to ride with my face shield open? The increased airflow really helps with comfort on hot days.
We always recommend riding with your face shield in place. Eye protection is the most important safety issue when the shield is up. Always wear some form of approved eye protection if you must ride with the shield up.
Why can't manufacturers put active cooling technology into helmets?
AGV tried, and it didn't work very well. Maybe someone will have more success in the future.
My dirt/ADV helmet is way too hot at slow speeds on the trail. What can I do about that?
Dirt goggles block most of a dirt helmet’s eyeport, limiting airflow in exchange for a wider field of view with greater protection from roost. If you’re riding off-road on a hot or wet day, and you don’t have another rider in front of you spraying roost, consider wearing a pair of clear safety goggles for eye protection. They aren’t as protective as standard goggles, but they’re better than going full Jarvis and wearing goggles on the back of your head to escape the heat.
Hydration also keeps you cool on hot rides. Look for dirt and ADV helmets with integrated clips for hydration hoses. This encourages steady sips throughout the ride instead of big gulps at every rest stop.
Does helmet color matter for heat management? Will a black helmet be hotter than a white or silver helmet?
Science tells us that a white helmet will be run coolest, although you probably won’t feel any difference. That said, white is also highly visible, so the plain vanilla helmet might be worth a try.
Hopefully you learned a thing or two about summer helmets in this article. Summer is peak riding season for most of our readers and customers, and now you’ll be able to make the most of it with the information in this guide. Not sure which summer helmet is right for you? Drop our gear experts a line, and they’ll be happy to assist. Stay cool out there.