The Best Carbon Fiber Helmets For Racing

By Winding Road Staff

April 11, 2018

When you are looking for a helmet for road racing, time trials, HPDE or track days, you naturally want the best combination of capability and value you can find. For some drivers, that means looking for a carbon fiber helmet because they like the reputation that carbon fiber has for high strength and low weight.

When evaluating carbon fiber helmets, you may wonder why there is such a large range of prices. It is helpful to keep in mind that not all carbon fiber is created equal. There are different grades of carbon fiber which differ in terms of tensile modulus. Tensile modulus basically indicates how many million pounds per square inch of stiffness the material has. More stiffness requires much more expensive carbon fiber. And, as with many things in engineering, more isn't necessarily better, because brittleness tends to rise with tensile modulus. So, to some degree you are paying the manufacturer to find and use the right material for the job.

The other factor involved is the level of certification the helmet manufacturer is aiming for. In simple terms, SA 2015 helmets generally meet a lower standard than FIA 8860 helmets. Finally, some helmet makers will design to pass well above the minimums required for the standard.

To find a good selection of recommended helmets, we turned to our partners at WindingRoadRacing.com. They carry more than 60 models of helmets, from Arai, Stilo, GForce, Sparco, Roux, Oreca, Simpson, Zamp, Black Armor, Schuberth, HJC and Bell which represent the majority of the helmets on the market. From these, we wanted to find the carbon fiber helmets that generally offer the best combinations of fit, features, certifications, weight and price. We talked to their chief product manager, Shawn Stout, about the carbon fiber helmets that they find drivers like the best. We also looked at specifications and features. Here are WRR's recommendations (all helmets are SA 2015 or FIA rated):

1.  Black Armor Circuit Pro. $599. The Black Armor represents a great value. Drivers like the adjustable pads, which help to dial in a good fit. Black Armor also offers a version of this helmet with built-in communications and hydration pods, called the Gladiator ($799). The Circuit Pro weighs about 3.6 lb., depending on size. SA 2015 rated.

2.  HJC HX-10 III. $799. The HJC is a beautifully finished helmet. It also has a shape that works for many people, although the pads are not adjustable. The HX-10 III weighs about 3.5 lb. depending on size. SA 2015 rated.

3.  Bell M.8. $949. The M.8 brings a large eye port and traditional Bell fit, while adding new Bell thinking to the mix. Among these new things are Bell's amazing "pillow-soft" lining, which feels great to the touch and allows the helmet to better relieve pressure points. In addition, Bell has invested in carbon-fiber lay up in their new factory, allowing them to achieve lower weights than previously. The M.8 weighs about 3.3 lb. depending on size. SA 2015 rated.

4.  Bell GTX.3. $999. The GTX.3 is very similar to the M.8, but with a smaller eye port and aero features, making it more suitable for open cockpit cars (or drivers who race a variety of cars). It has Bell's "pillow-soft" lining. The GTX.3 weighs about 3.2 lb. depending on size. SA 2015 rated.

5.  Stilo ST5 GT Carbon. $1915. Stilo helmets have a shape that works to fit the widest range of drivers and their shield selection is unmatched. In addition, the ST5 Carbon, like all Stilo road racing helmets, is made to have built-in communications, hydration and ventilation as well as eject systems. The Stilo ST5 Carbon weighs about 3.3 lb. depending on size. SA 2015 rated.

6.  Stilo ST5 GT 8860. $2799. If you need or want an FIA 8860-2010 helmet (e.g. you are racing in IMSA events or internationally), Stilo offers the ST5 GT 8860. It is very similar to the ST5 GT Carbon, but with 8860 certification: same good fit, same shields, same adaptability to comms, hydration and ventilation options. The ST5 GT 8860 weighs about 3.4 lb. depending on size. FIA 8860-2010 rated.

7.  Stilo Zero 8860. $4995. The Zero 8860 is pretty close to "the one helmet that has it all". You get Stilo fit, Stilo ports for comms, hydration and ventilation options, Stilo design, Stilo shields and very low weight (about 3.0 lb. depending on size). Of course, there is a price for all this goodness. FIA 8860-2010 rated. 

To see all the helmets WindingRoadRacing.com offer visit their helmet store.