The Best Low-Cost Helmet For Road Racing

By Shawn Stout

January 23, 2020


We talk to track day/HPDE enthusiasts and auto racers every day who are looking for a great helmet at a price that won't break the bank. Drivers don't want to waste money, but they don't want a cheap helmet either. We have looked at almost every helmet on sale and there are some standouts in the lower price ranges. One approach is to look for the lowest-cost good helmet, and here we usually point people to the HJC AR-10 III.  On the other hand, some drivers want the best low-cost helmet, which is a different thing. In the $300-$500 range, our experience is that there is one helmet that drivers in the latter camp should look at first: the Bell Racing M.8 Composite. Of course, because head shapes differ, and fit matters to both safety and comfort, it is pretty much impossible to declare any one helmet "the best value", but it helps to have a place to start.


The Bell M.8 Composite stands out for a simple reason that we summarize as "carbon weight, composite price".


We've weighed the M.8 Composite and in a size 59 it runs across the scales at 3 lb. without HANS posts. There are many carbon helmets at three times the price (or more) that weigh a comparable amount or even a bit more. When you go above a size 59, Bell moves to a larger shell, but that weighs only 3.5 lb., which again is competitive with larger carbon helmets. Maybe the more relevant comparison is to low-cost composite helmets which often weigh 3.7 - 3.8 lb. The lower weight of the M.8 means that it is like removing an extra can of beer from your head (or more, because your sports car or race car can probably pull more than 1g).


The Bell M.8 Composite costs $499.95. That's one-hundred-or-so-dollars more than good base helmets like the HJC AR-10 III or OMP Sport OS 70. We'd say that isn't a big premium to pay to take some serious weight off your neck. You also get:


  • Bell Racing quality (in 2017 the F1, Indycar, WEC, F2, F3 and GP3 champions all wore Bell)
  • Large eye port
  • Choice of five different optional shield tints (comes with clear)
  • Bell's Comfort Plus lining
  • Molded-in channels for hydration and communications
  • Unusual size range from 2X Small to 4X Large
  • Black or white finish
  • Also available as the M.8 Carbon in full carbon layup (even lighter) with special Bell "pillow-soft" lining


To purchase the Bell Racing M.8 Composite helmet, click here.