Motorcycle Half Helmets: Pros and Cons

The feeling of having the wind blowing on your face while riding a motorcycle on the open road has often been romanticized, which is one reason half helmets are so popular. 

Motorcycle half helmets pros and cons

However, wearing a half helmet increases the chances of getting a serious head injury in a motorcycle accident. Half helmets protect the top of your head, but not much else. Here's a look at half helmets for motorcycle riding and their pros and cons.

What are Half Helmets?

Half helmets are exactly what they sound like. They only cover the rider’s head, but leave the rest of the face exposed down to the jaw. Half helmets are also sometimes called “open face helmets,” although that typically refers to helmets that cover the head and ears but not the face (like in the picture below). 

Motorcycle open face helmet

What we call open-face helmets cover more of the head than half helmets, but less than full-face helmets. They’re sort of a happy medium between the two. However, half helmets are essentially open-faced helmets, so they’re often referred to as "beanies" to make the distinction.

NOTE: In this article, we may refer to half helmets as open-face helmets.

Buy a motorcycle half helmet

Buy an open face motorcycle helmet

Are Half Helmets Safe To Wear?

That’s the “million-dollar question” when it comes to deciding whether or not to wear half helmets, because the risk of serious injury is much higher than for full-face helmets. 

Motorcycle half helmets are they safe?

Only experienced riders comfortable with the risks should wear half helmets. While feeling the open air on your face makes half helmets appealing, they’re not recommended for use during bad weather, as your face is left exposed to cold wind, rain and snow. Half helmets also leave your face vulnerable to smoke, dust, bugs, rocks and other projectiles, which can make for uncomfortable and unsafe rides. 

Also, half helmets are not designed for use on dirt bikes, sport bikes, or for any kind of intense riding. They’re meant only for cruising, and are best reserved for short commutes in good weather. Rather than answering “yes or no” on whether or not half helmets are safe, it’s best to look at the pros and cons so you can decide for yourself. 

Wearing a Motorcycle Half Helmet: Pros

Better Visibility

Half helmets give the rider a wider view than full-face helmets. The open-face design allows for better peripheral vision, giving riders a broader view of their surroundings, which is helpful when riding in traffic and for spotting obstacles.

Motorcycle half helmet pros

Increased Airflow

Half helmets are better ventilated than full-face helmets, which provides better comfort, particularly in hot weather. While full-face helmets do have vents, airflow is never a problem on open-face helmets, which naturally provide more airflow to keep the rider cool.

Less Claustrophobic

If you’re claustrophobic, having your entire head encased in a full-face helmet might not be the best option. Because half helmets don’t cover the whole face, those who are uncomfortable and perhaps unfocused due to claustrophobia may feel safer with an open-faced design.

Lighter Weight

Half helmets are less bulky than full-face helmets, which can take some of the pressure off the head and face. They’re also easier to put on, take off, carry around and store, since they’re lighter. If you’re in a hurry and need to make a quick run to a nearby location, putting on a half helmet could save you some time.

Motorcycle half helmet pros lightweight

More Affordable 

Because they’re made of less materials, obviously half helmets are cheaper than full-face helmets. If you’re a casual rider on a budget who doesn’t need a fancy helmet to get around in, a half helmet is a great cheap alternative. 

Style Versatility

Being a lot cheaper means you could probably afford to buy a couple of open-face helmets for the price of one full-face helmet. So if you like to change things up, you can have several colors and styles of open-faced helmet to choose from.

Open faced motorcycle helmet

Half helmets give you more flexibility with your personal style. Having your face exposed means you can mix and match styles and colors of goggles with face masks. If you have long hair, you can let it flow out of half helmets. They have a certain coolness about them, and they’re popular with those old-school riders who like to rock the vintage or retro biker look.

Vintage motorcycle half helmet

Easier Verbal Communication

Because half helmets don’t cover the mouth, communicating with others on a group ride is easier. Sure, today’s technology has evolved to allow for communication systems to be integrated into full-face helmets, but that’s also reliant on the equipment not failing. With a half helmet, you can communicate with other riders on the road verbally without the need for a Bluetooth headset.

Buy motorcycle riding goggles

Buy helmet communications

Wearing a Motorcycle Half Helmet: Cons

Less Head Protection 

As already established but worth reiterating, half helmets provide less protection than full-face helmets. They don’t protect your ears, chin or eyes, which means you need to buy additional protective eyewear and headgear.  

Half helmets put you at higher risk of head and face injuries in a motorcycle accident. They’re also known as “brain buckets”, which provides a visual ugly enough to deter some people from buying them. Half helmets also leave your face exposed to smoke, dirt, bugs, pollen and flying road debris, as well as to harsh weather conditions. 

Motorcycle half helmet safety

Less Noise Protection 

Because half helmets leave your ears exposed, that means you’ll likely experience higher traffic noise levels than what a full-face helmet muffles. Earplugs are recommended for riding with a half helmet, as deafening noise levels can impair a rider’s focus and alertness.

Choosing a Half Helmet: What to Look For

Besides affordability and for looking cool, there are other things to consider when choosing to buy a half helmet. Safety obviously comes first, and with that in mind, you should only buy half helmets that fit your head’s shape and size (S,M,L, XL, etc.) comfortably.

Motorcycle half helmets what to look for

The helmet should also meet all minimum US Department of Transportation safety requirements. Quality also goes hand-in-hand with safety, so do your research on the brand or manufacturer of the helmet you’re considering buying. Check online reviews about the helmet, and beware of knockoff brands from non-authorized dealers off places like eBay, Craigslist or any similar website. Also check the quality, type and thickness of the material the helmet is made of. 

Wearing a motorcycle half helmet

As for affordability, don’t choose an open-face helmet just because it’s cheaper. Consider the accessories (goggles, facemasks, etc.) you’ll need to buy with the helmet to protect your face. You may find that a full-face helmet with all the built-in safety accessories and extras is actually cheaper when you factor in what you’ll need to buy separately for a half helmet. 



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