Unless you get a chance to tryout every available on the market, figuring out which ones are the “quietest” can be quite the challenge. Add to that the fact that no two riders are alike,and have different perceptions of what is loud,and things just got more complicated. The problem is that we don't get to test the helmets we're interested in on the road. Most retailers won’t let us take a demo out for a test ride to figure out if it works for us or not,and manufacturers don't usually publish or even test their products' decibel measurements.
So,we have to compensate for the lack of information by reading professional reviews and users’ opinions on forums,and hopefor the best. We decided to do some digging to figure out what makes a helmet noisy and came up with a few suggestions of features you can look for to help keep the decibels to a minimum.
Protect Your Ears:
Gear Review: Auritech Biker Earplugs
Product Review: EarPeace Motorcycle Earplugs
Why Do You Want a Quiet Helmet?
Riding is a pretty noisy affair. Between the wind, the engine, the road, and the traffic, things can get loud enough to damage your ears.It might not sound like it, especially if you’re used to cathartic chaos, buta motorcycleengine alone can reach a sound level of up to 95 decibels (dB). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),that’s enough to cause permanent hearing damage if the exposure lasts longer than 50 minutes.That means that your weekend joyride can cause more damage than you imagined—damage that is irreversible.
Despite that very real problem,few manufacturersadvertisetheir products’ ability to protect a rider from prolonged exposure to road noise, let alonetheir decibel readings.We don’t know for sure how quiet or not helmets are unless we test them for ourselves.
Companies such asSchuberth test their lids in wind tunnels and gladly share the results,but they’re the exception to the rule. Schuberth even took things a step further when it inaugurated its upgraded aeroacoustics wind tunnel and climate testing facility in 2015. As far as we know, it’sthe onlymanufacturerto include a decibel rating in its sales pitch.
Schuberth claims that the C4 Pro helmet limits the sound level to 85 dB at 62 mph.
In2018, the results of anin-housestudy by Dutch motorcycle magazine Promotor suggested that most motorcycle helmetsare pretty uselessagainst theroadnoise.Themagazinetested a selection oftenmainstreamhelmets at 50 km/h (31 mph), 100 km/h (62 mph), and 150 km/h (93 mph) to find out just how noisy mainstream productsthey can get.
It turns out that the best-performing(unidentified)helmet the team tested got a reading of 85 dB at 31 mph. At 62 mph, the sound levelreached 100dB.The average sound reading for the entire sample was of 88 dB at 31 mph.
What Makes a Helmet Noisy?
Ok, so helmets aren’t exactly good at the whole soundproofing thing, but why? What makes motorcycle helmets so noisy? We turned to a British study to try and find the answer.
In 2011, researchers at the University of Bath in England published a study about "aeroacousticsources of motorcycle helmet noise” or, simply put, where helmet noise comes from. The researchers considered the following factors: the helmet’s wake and boundary layer—or,how air flows on thehelmet’ssurface and the resulting turbulence it creates—as well as the chin clearance and opening at the neck.
“The helmet wake, while being shown to contain turbulence over a wide frequency range, did not prove to be a signiﬁcant source of at-ear noise,”sates the University of Bath study.“An investigation of the helmet boundary layer was conducted at several locations around the helmet surface. These regions did not measurably contribute to the at-ear noise.”
A sleek, air-cutting helmet looks sharp but the shell's aerodynamic properties have little to do with how noisy the helmet is.
It turns out that the helmet’s design and the presence of aerodynamic components such as grooves and wings might reduce drag and resistance,but they have very little impact on how noisy the helmet is.
Based on the data, the fitting at the neck seems to be the main source of helmet noise.
“The third potential noise source investigated was the cavity under the helmet at the chin bar. Investigations in this area were conducted using a microphone placed at the center of the mannequin chin. After conditionally removing the contribution of tunnel noise a high coherence was achieved between this region and the at-ear sound between 0 and 1000 Hz. Helmet angle and ﬂow speed were identiﬁed as key factors governing the production of sound from this region.”
The size and height of your motorcycle's windscreen factor into how noisy your ride can get.
While quite revealing, the study didn’t consider several factors. For instance, the researchers acknowledge that their study did not take the rider’sbodyand the motorcycle structure (fairing) into consideration. Keep in mind that the size of the windscreen and the type of fairingaffecthow much wind reaches your helmet and influencehow much noise youperceive. They also recognize that the sound levels vary with how the helmet fits the rider’s head—the opening under the chin will incidentally vary in size and shape.
The research also didn’t takehelmetfeatures such as visors,seals,vents, and modular chin pieces into consideration. Any opening or ill-fitting component can cause additional noise. If you’ve ever had to deal with a whistling visor, you can vouch for this. That being said, by knowing that causes the noise, it becomes easier to counteract it.
What Features Should You Look For?
We have a long way to go before we see helmets that efficiently protect our hearing hit the market,and chances are that when the technology reaches that coveted level,we’ll have to pay the price of innovation.
In the meantime,what can we do to protect our ears? As Promotor’s study proved, there is no perfectly sound-proofed helmet so what are the options? The good news is that there are a few things we can look for in a helmet that will help block out the noise. Keep in mind that none of those features alone will save your ears;a combination of several will provide you with the optimal protection.
A thick, well-fitted neck roll is your first line of defence against road noise.
Based on the University of Bath’s results,a thick, well-fitted neck roll and the presence of a chin guard and/or a windjammer should help block out some of the noise by reducing the flow of air that enters the lid. You will,of course,want to try the helmet on to determine how well it fits on your head and around your chin and neck. The better the lining and padding around the head and neck fit your head, the better impact and noise protection the helmet will provide.
Look at helmets with a good-quality shield as well. Test the shield and its mechanismto see that it seals properly when closed. Is the visor’s material thick and sturdy or flimsy and easy to distort? Does the mechanism press the visor against the rubber seal or does the closure feel light and ill-fitted? A tight-fitting visor will help reduce the risks of dealing with avoidable noises like whistling.
The same applies to theair ducts and vents: if the materials and closure systems areflimsy andlow quality,chances are they might get caught in the wind and increase the noise level. Consider that a single-piece, full-face helmet isalsoquieter than a modular or a 3/4 model designed with additional opening and seals.
The Shoei RF-1200 regularly appears on the list of quietest helmets offered on the market and it retails for less than $500.
If your budget allowsit, premium helmets such as Schuberth and Shoei are widely recognized as some of the quietest products on the market. Schuberth claims that its C4 full-face model limitsthenoise to 85dB.You can also shop for smart helmets likethose inSena’sMomentumlineup that feature integrated headphonesand use active noise cancellation to helpcut down on theexteriordecibels.
Ultimately, themost popular,efficient, and inexpensiveear protector you canbuy is a pair of earplugs. Sadly,whilethey’regenerally socially accepted, they areconsideredillegal in a few States. According to AAA, the use of earbuds while operating a vehicle is forbidden in Alaska, California, and Maryland. Ohio appeared on the list as well until recently, when the use of earplugs by motorcyclists was legalized earlier in January 2020.
Good helmet designs will help more than they will harm but you might want to double down on your ear protection and make sure your new lid checks as many boxes as possible. Good materials and a good fit can go a long way.
What makes a quiet motorcycle helmet? ›
Noise Reduction Features
The first things to note are the low bottom edge and flat neck roll. Both drive airflow away from the bottom opening and reduce wind noise. This thing is a quiet full-face helmet; it also stays quiet with the vents open – and there are many of them.
There is no such thing as a quiet helmet, period. Noise levels over 85 dB or so can damage hearing, and a motorcycle idles around 80 dB. So once you're moving and the wind is adding to the sound volume, you're into dangerous noise levels which can permanently damage your hearing.Are full-face helmets quieter than modular? ›
Yes, full-face helmets are quieter than modular helmets. This is because they have a better aerodynamic design. The full-face model is one-piece construction. It lacks the flip-up components that cause increased wind resistance and turbulence.What helmet does the FBI use? ›
The Ops-Core Future Assault Shell Technology (FAST) Helmet, also known as the FAST helmet, is an American combat helmet used by special operations forces and law enforcement organizations in various countries, as well as the current standard protective headgear of the Norwegian Armed Forces.How do I reduce the wind noise on my motorcycle helmet? ›
Adding extra padding to a motorcycle helmet is also a popular choice. Many riders also like to wear earmuffs underneath their helmets, and others will insert a piece of foam or fleece between their cheek pads or around their ears to muffle the noise of the wind and the road.Should a motorcycle helmet squeeze your ears? ›
So, when you try a new helmet on, it needs to be snug fitting. Not so tight that when you put it on it shoves your ears down towards your neck and squeezes the blood from your skull – but moderately tight. You should be able to feel the polystyrene (EPS) padding touching all of your head without and pressure points.Should a motorcycle helmet squeeze your cheeks? ›
A full-face helmet should be snug enough that it squeezes your cheeks. It should not be painful or cause you to bite the side of your cheeks, but if it is not squeezing your cheeks firmly then it is for sure, too large too loose.Is it hard to hear with a motorcycle helmet on? ›
Hearing: The hearing test showed that there were no significant differences in the riders' ability to hear the auditory signals, regardless of whether they were wearing a helmet. And for any given speed, helmets did not diminish hearing.Should you open or close helmet vents? ›
“You need to close the vents in order to keep that heat in,” Silva said. “It's the same reason why people layer their clothing.” Team Wendy offers three versions of the M-216™ ski helmet.What is the 2 2 2 rule when fitting a helmet on your head? ›
Two fingers above your eyebrows: The helmet should cover the top of the forehead and should rest about two fingers' width above the eyebrows. Straps form a V under your ears. The side straps should fit snugly around the ears in a "V"shape. The buckles on the side strap should fit right under the ear.
How quiet are Simpson helmets? ›
Though the helmet is comfortable and flows air well, the Simpson Ghost Bandit is pretty damn loud at double digit and triple digit speeds. I usually run a set of high quality headphones cranked up to 11, so it didn't really bother me for the first few rides.Is the HJC RPHA 70 quiet? ›
The down-line HJC internal shields are often spring-loaded, and can be awkward to implement, as well as noisy in operation. The RHPA 70 ST's sunshield is completely silent, in addition to being easy to open and close via a lever on the left of the chin guard.Do full-face helmets reduce noise? ›
Of the many types of motorcycle helmets, full-face helmets offer the most wind and noise protection in addition to being the safest helmet type in general. If you have a helmet with a visor, such as a modular helmet, put your visor down as riding with the visor up will create a lot of wind noise.