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Nothing ruins the feeling of cruising down the highway on a motorcycle like deafening noise that cuts through your helmet.
And while helmets are generally designed with soundproofing in mind, not all helmets are equal, and it’s not uncommon for a rider to end up with a noisy one. When this happens, you’ll have to take matters into your hands to reduce the noise, which can be tricky if you don’t know much about motorcycle helmets.
How to Make a Motorcycle Helmet Quieter
There is no way to make a motorcycle helmet 100% soundproof. However, it can make be made a lot quieter by getting the right type of helmet that fits well with the addition of noise suppressors like wind blockers, earmuffs, and earplugs.
The rest of this article will review the common causes of noise in a motorcycle helmet and explain in detail how the above hacks can help minimize the amount of noise you experience when riding. Read on for more.
1. Buy the Right Type of Helmet
Different types of helmets have varying noise reduction capacities. So if you’re having noise problems with your helmet, the first thing you should consider is simply changing it.
Any open-faced helmet, including the ones dubbed “skull caps,” will let in most of the turbulence noise. That also goes for the 3-quarter face helmets. While these types might cover your ears, they’ll expose your face to the wind, which will allow most of the airflow to penetrate the helmet. Typically, the more wind entering your helmet, the noisier it will get.
So if you have any of the above types, you might want to switch to a full-face helmet because it covers your whole face area, which helps block out the noise. Most full-face types also have a chin guard, which is great for not only safety but also stopping the wind from getting into your helmet through the chin area.
Keep in mind that even full-face helmets have varying noise blocking capabilities. For the quietest ride, you need to choose a helmet that’s designed specifically with noise reduction in mind. Typically, these come with aerodynamic technologies and designs that reduce wind turbulence.
In case you’re not sure what the quietest helmets on the market are, here are five options to get you started:
Shoei GT-Air 2
The GT-Air 2 (see it on Amazon) inherits the performance, design, and functionality of the GT Air, and succeeds where the preceding model failed with an aerodynamic design that improves not only wind noise reduction, but also road safety.
For your safety, it comes with a CNS-1 face shield whose base plate system allows it to open more in the “cracked open” position. This minimizes fogging of the face shield at low speeds, which improves your vision so you can make better decisions on the road. When it’s sunny outside, the extended QSV-2 inner sun shield protects your face, so you don’t get blinded by bright sunlight.
As for the construction, The GT Air sports Shoei’s proprietary Advanced Integrated Matrix (AIM), a material composed of layers of fiberglass and organic fibers. This gives it just as about the same weight as many helmets on the market.
The visor of the helmet is pin-lock prepared, and the Max-Dry liner is easy to remove and wash, antibacterial, and comes with emergency release pads for your cheeks.
HJC RPHA-11 Pro Skyrym Helmet
The HJC RPHA-11 Pro Skyrym (Amazon) has a great reputation as a racing helmet due to its speed buffeting shape and snug fit. Its fiberglass shell construction makes it a lightweight option, while the aerodynamic design with an effective ventilation system helps minimize wind noise.
A breath deflector is included, and so is a chin curtain that prevents wind from penetrating the helmet through the neck area. If you’re looking for a quiet helmet that provides a tight fit without compromising comfort (even with speakers installed), the HJC RPHA-11 Pro is a great place to start your search.
HJC RPHA 70
Next up is the HJC RPHA 70 (Amazon), a quiet helmet that sports a hybrid composite construction made of glass fiber, aramid, organic non-woven fabric, and carbon fiber. Such a construction means enhanced shock-resistance, lightness, and comfort.
The RPHA 70 also comes pin-lock prepared, and the insert is included. The inner is removable, easy to wash, antibacterial, and has additional ear pads to keep noise levels low.
And while the variety of Marvel graphics has nothing to do with its performance, it’s a fun addition for the style-conscious rider. So if you’re looking for a stylish helmet that’ll keep you comfortable and block wind noise, the HJC RPHA 70 fits the bill.
If a lightweight design is your top priority, the AGV K6 (Amazon) is a helmet you’ll want to take a closer look at when shopping. With aramid and carbon fiber construction, it’s lighter than all the helmets we’ve reviewed here.
The fact that it has four shell sizes is great, but the lack of a sun visor is a major drawback. Speaking of the visor, K6’s is pin-lock prepared and anti-scratch treated. As for the inner liner, it features a unique blend of 2Dry, Shalimar, Microsense, and Ritmo to give you great riding comfort.
If you like retro-design helmets, the Bell Bullitt (Amazon) is the helmet for you. Sporting a vintage look design, it’s available in a low-profile fiberglass composite or 3K carbon fiber construction, both of which are lightweight.
The visor reduces a substantial amount of wind noise by allowing good airflow over your face. It’s helped by the contoured cheek pads, which provide a snug fit, so there isn’t any space for wind to penetrate the helmet. Also, the rear exhaust and four forehead vents combine to channel wind over your head and away from the ears, which further reduces wind noise and helps cool you down.
The inner liner is made of leather and has thick foam padding that not only increases comfort but also absorbs some of the wind noise. It’s also easy to remove and wash, meaning cleaning won’t be a hassle.
2. Ensure the Helmet Fits Correctly
In addition to choosing the right type of helmet, you also need to ensure that it comes in a size and shape that provides a snug, proper fit on your head. Not only will this improve your comfort and safety, but also reduce the amount of wind noise your helmet lets in when cruising.
When sizing up your helmet, pay attention to not only how it fits on your head, but also the area around your neck. You’ll want to make sure it doesn’t leave any space in this area because it’s not uncommon for riders to experience wind noise due to a loose fit in the neck, even with a helmet that properly fits their head.
3. Wear a Wind Blocker
As you might have gathered, most of the noise you hear when riding comes from wind sneaking under your helmet, where it sits on your neck.
So if your helmet doesn’t have thick padding in this area, you’ll want to invest in padded helmet support—these work by completely sealing the space underneath the helmet to minimize turbulence noise.
If you don’t already own one, the PROFOX-PF3115 (see it on Amazon) would be a great buy. It won’t just block out the wind and support your neck for comfort; it also provides protection in case of fire-involving accidents thanks to its flame-retardant foam interior. Also, it comes in 3 sizes to ensure a snug fit on people of all sizes and a Velcro closure mechanism that keeps it firmly in place when you speed up.
If you don’t like wind blockers, investing in a helmet with a quality neck roll can be an alternative solution for blocking wind. Something like the Schuberth C3 Pro (Amazon) would be a great fit because it comes with a double neck roll to not only block out the wind but also provide comfort.
4. Change the Riding Position
Your riding position has a big impact when it comes to controlling how much wind hits the lower part of your helmet. So if you’re struggling with a noisy helmet, you might want to change how you sit on your bike since it can help reduce body conducted noise.
For quieter rides, always sit on the cushioned part of your bike—and not the metallic part as some riders do. The cushion absorbs most of the sound vibrations caused by a roaring engine, effectively preventing the transmission of noise to your ears through the body.
5. Invest in a Scarf/Balaclava
The wind noise created by turbulence finds its way to your ears through the lower part of your helmet, typically where your helmet is on your neck.
Luckily, wearing a scarf around your neck can help block some of it. But for maximum noise blocking, you need to wear your scarf high enough such that it meets your helmet’s bottom and still leaves some fabric that you can tuck into the helmet. This way, you won’t leave spaces between the helmet and the scarf, where wind noise can sneak through to your ears.
Balaclavas can also be another cheap but surprisingly effective solution to a noisy helmet. But for it to be effective, you need to choose a balaclava that fits tightly and stretches to fit your face. In fact, it should feel a tad too tight at first. This way, there won’t be any gaps that may compromise its sound insulation.
You also need to choose something that can roll all the way down and cover your jacket’s collar line. Not only will this help keep with the noise, but also keep you warmer. Keep in mind that you can always pair a scarf with a balaclava to boost their effectiveness.
6. Invest in Earplugs
Makes sense, doesn’t it? Plugging your ears when riding can help cut down helmet noise significantly. But when going for long interstate road trips, you’ll want to check the local laws in each jurisdiction because many prohibit the use of noise-blocking devices on the road.
Provided you aren’t getting in trouble with the law, earplugs can help isolate harmful frequencies thanks to the size of the plug aperture.
The beauty of these noise reducing devices is that they don’t completely block out all sound. This way, you can still hear important alerts such as horns from other motorists, meaning you get to block the noise without compromising your road safety.
As for the buying options, you can choose one-size-fits-all earplugs or have yours custom-fitted. Obviously, you’ll pay more for the latter.
7. Adjust the Windscreen
The primary purpose of a motorcycle windscreen is to direct wind up and away from your head when riding. However, some combinations of the helmet, windscreen, and rider height can increase wind noise.
If you’re experiencing noise in your helmet, check that the windscreen is high enough to drive all the airflow up and over your head. If it isn’t doing that in the stock position, try raising it. When it’s high enough, you shouldn’t be feeling any impact from the airflow on your head when riding.
If you’re exceptionally tall, a windshield spoiler like the Justech might come in handy. Attaching it to your windscreen will increase its height and ensure that all the airflow goes up and over your head for a quieter ride.
8. Ensure You Have a Well-Fitting Visor
Even with a full-face helmet, the seal created by the visor can be a source of the noise.
Most helmets have visors that you can leave slightly open or completely shut off using a ratcheting system. But in some helmets, the visor doesn’t quite seal tightly, and this creates turbulence noise. Others come with visors low-quality visors that tend to loosen with time, which results in rattling noises when riding.
So when buying a helmet, you’ll want to choose those with a high-quality visor that won’t loosen up with time or leave any space when closed. And even though this goes without saying for any experienced rider, you need to close the visor before you hit the road for a quieter ride.
9. Invest in Quiet Ride Earmuffs
Wearing earmuffs can be an effective solution for minimizing “at-ear” wind noise. Unlike with earplugs, you can switch earmuffs on and off, which helps maintain auditory awareness of your surroundings.
Read my guide on making soundproof earmuffs
However, earmuffs might not be the most suitable solution for reducing helmet noise in places with extreme heat. But in colder climates, they can be a great way to protect your ears from wind noise and keep them warm.
What Causes Noise in a Motorcycle Helmet?
As a rider, the noise you notice in your helmet comes from several sources, but the usual culprits include:
This is perhaps the most obvious source of noise in a motorcycle. However, the engine’s loudness is only pronounced before you hit the road. Once you accelerate to highway speeds, the actual sound of the engine isn’t as much of a problem as the vibrations it creates.
Noise from engine vibrations is harder to quantify and block because it doesn’t use the typical air-to-ear route of normal sound. Rather, it’s directly transmitted to the ear’s sensors through your flesh and bones when riding—hence the name body conducted sound.
Being body conducted, this type of noise can’t be blocked by earplugs and earmuffs. That’s because it bypasses the ear canal, and earplugs/earmuffs can only block sound by stopping it from reaching the eardrum via the ear canal.
The wind is the main source of noise in a helmet at high speeds. The faster you’re cruising, the harder the wind will hit your helmet—and the louder it will get. That said, your speed isn’t the only determinant of the amount of noise you’ll experience from the wind. Air turbulence also factors in.
Essentially, air turbulence results from air displacement when an object moves through space. When riding your motorbike, you’re actually displacing the air in your path. So as you move forward, the displaced air behind you re-assumes its original space, creating forces in the air behind you known as turbulence.
This is why your motorbike feels less stable when riding behind or next to a truck. In reality, the “shakiness” you feel in your motorbike in this situation is a result of forces in the air as it returns to its original position after being displaced by the truck.
If you could form one solid shape with your motorcycle, you’d only experience turbulence behind you when cruising, which wouldn’t be a problem. But since many motorcycles come with a screen, there’s usually some space between your helmet and the screen.
As the screen cuts through the air and displaces it, it creates some sort of vacuum in this space. When this happens, air from the sides naturally gushes into the vacuum to fill it. And because this process keeps repeating when you’re riding, there’s usually a lot of air turbulence in the area behind the screen.
Since this is where you put your head in a riding position, the result is a lot of turbulent air around your helmet. And because small variations in airflow patterns can result in big changes in sound level, turbulent air around your helmet means more noise.