Carbon fiber helmets are considered the “Holy Grail” of motorcycle gear due to the weight reduction and tensile strength. Originally developed by the Ministry of Defence for production of light weight aircraft components carbon fiber weighs 3 times less than steel and maintains the same strength making it the ideal candidate. Over the last few years production costs have dropped dramatically hence the massive increase of carbon fiber helmets available on the market at reasonable prices.
When looking to buy a new helmet carbon fiber is the way to go, just be careful of the cheap fake ones, the good stuff will usually state “100% Genuine Carbon Fiber” or just check with the sales person before you buy. You can usually spot the fakes from the price tag alone.
Arai RX-7 RC
Approx Price (USD): $3,500
The Arai RX7-RC is at the top of the tree where carbon fiber helmets are concerned, price wise at least. Produced in limited numbers each RC is crafted by an Arai expert who receives up to five years of training on how to create each Arai shell by hand. Each RC will take around 18 man-hours to make and will undergo five separate quality-control inspections throughout the building process. The outer shell consists of eleven layers of premium carbon fiber reinforced with PB-SNC net strands. The carbon itself is aircraft quality with Arai’s own resin plus Zylon reinforcement which Arai say is the perfect mixture for the outer shell.
The RC is based on the car racing GP-6 equivalent which was developed for use in Formula 1 and comes with a 5-year warranty. At that price though we’re not sure we’d ever bring it out of the display cabinet.
AGV Pista GP Project 46
Approx Price (USD): $1,200
AGV have stepped things up a notch with the release of the Pista GP. This particular Project 46 colour scheme helmet belongs to our editor and he’s already made it clear how impressed with it he is.
Designed as part of the AGV standards project in conjunction with Valentino Rossi, the Pista GP has been in development since 2009. Together with his input the first obvious advancement of the Pista GP is the extra range of vision given through the visibly larger visor, particularly when the rider is looking up from a tucked position and is also 15 degrees wider compared to the previous GP Tech model. The Integrated Ventilation System provides a 193% improvement of surface area of the air intakes. Surprisingly though, the Pista is the heaviest of the bunch at a rather hefty 1510g. As you’d expect from a helmet of this price and quality, the dry-comfort material cheek pads in the Pista GP can be fully customised for optimum comfort and fit.
Bell M6 Carbon
Approx Price (USD): $800
First impressions count and when I unboxed the Bell M6 Carbon I was immediately surprised with the helmet bag. Most helmets come with a cheap pull string bag but Bell opted for a rather fetching red leather kit bag. It’s the small touches like this that count and the Bell has plenty of small features which add up to a quality product, such as the chrome finish to the chin vent. The interior is a luscious deep red and offers a level of comfort on par with the finest helmets in this review. The quality of the full carbon fiber shell is also flawless. Manufactured in Italy the M6 passes regulations for use in the EU which can’t be said for all American helmet brands. If you’re after something a little different then the Bell could be the one for you.
Shark Race R Pro Carbon
Approx Price (USD): $800
Shark say that a shell made exclusively of carbon fiber is just too stiff, absorbs less impact energy and tends to be brittle, breaking on extreme impacts. The Race-R Pro’s answer is a layer of pure carbon fiber over a base layer of Aramid fibers, giving what Shark claims is the perfect level of stiffness. The Shark visors are also noticeably much thicker than any regular visor which helps to reduce distortion towards the edge of the field of vision. I also have a Race-R Pro on test and if you’re used to an Arai or Shoei then the Shark takes a bit of getting used to. The quick release visor system isn’t as sturdy as other systems and has left me fiddling with a detached visor on the side of the motorway on more than one occasion.
HJC Rpha 10 Plus Carbon
Approx Price (USD): $600
HJC have been making carbon fiber helmets from the beginning and their FG-15 model was a popular choice when carbon fiber helmets were a scarcer commodity. The Rpha 10 plus is the next generation model worn by Jorge Lorenzo and comes in a couple of painted colour schemes as well as this bare carbon model. The weave on the Rpha 10 is slightly different too with a hexagonal shape rather than the lateral lines usually associated with the material. I’ve been using this Rpha 10 plus carbon for the last few months and it’s a sturdy piece of kit with decent venting and with the chin curtain in place it’s also pretty quiet to boot. HJC are no longer the rock bottom brand that some people may have associated them with being in times gone by. They’ve upped their game and are now on par with the top premium brands in the industry.
Icon Airframe Ghost Carbon
Approx Price (USD): $600
It’s apparent straight away that Icon do things a bit differently to everyone else. The outer shell has a matt finish to it and inside the removable liner has a unique camouflaged colour scheme which is very, er, American. The distinctive yellow visor also comes as standard and certainly works to set the Icon apart from the others in the market. At 1480g it’s a little on the heavy side, keep an eye out for more from Icon in the near future as more dealers become available.
X-Lite X-802R Ultra Carbon
Approx Price (USD): $500
What stands out straight away about the Italian made X-802R is the quality of the carbon fiber finish on the shell. The laquer is deep and shiny which accentuates the high quality finish of the triple outer layer of carbon even more. The interior is of a high standard too with a bright red finish to the removable cheek pads and the various vents are all sturdy and solid and have that quality feel that you tend to see on far more expensive helmets. Weight isn’t far off from the originally quoted figure and at 1290g means the X-Lite is the, er, lightest ACU certified helmet in this review. If you’ve not considered an X-Lite before then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the attention to detail that puts it firmly up there with the top names.
Nitro N1900VF Carbon
Approx Price (USD): $300
The Nitro comes in at the budget end of this list and it shows when it comes down to the details. The vents for example have a cheap plastic feel to them and the weight is towards the heavy end of the scale compared to the others. If you’re after an entry level helmet constructed of carbon fiber and you’re on a tight budget then the Nitro is worth a look.
Caberg V2X Carbon
Approx Price (USD): $400
The V2X Carbon is also aimed squarely at the cheaper end of the market. The finish of the carbon isn’t as deep or as shiny as others in this review and has a slightly dull matt finish to it. What the Caberg does have is an internal dark visor which can be flipped up or down while on the move via a lever on the side. The details such as the screws on the outer visor and the carbon quality reflect the relatively low price of the V2X but if you’re after a carbon full face helmet with the internal flip-down visor then your choice is limited to the Caberg.
Bandit XXR Carbon
Approx Price (USD): $450
Firmly at the bottom of our list is the Bandit XXR. What’s immediately obvious about the XXR carbon helmet is the weight, or rather the lack of it. Even without placing it on the scales the XXR is by far the lightest helmet in this review. It’s quite clear why though as the Bandit is far less advanced than the other helmets and bends in ways a motorcycle helmet really shouldn’t.
Features such as sophisticated vents aren’t present on the Bandit and the lack of an ACU Gold sticker means trackday use is out of the question. Internally the XXR Is nothing more than a bare shell with padding added which is the reason an ACU sticker isn’t present.