Dirt Bike Helmet Buyer’s Guide

There are a number of important factors to consider when choosing a dirt bike helmet to protect your head, so before you rush for the best looking helmet on the shelf, think about your purchase and how it can keep you safe and comfortable while riding.

After considering more than two dozen different helmets, I decided to buy the Fox V1 Helmet (link to check the price on Amazon) for riding dirt bikes.  For me, it’s the perfect balance of price and quality.  It has many of the features of the high-end helmets with 13 vents, exceeds some tough safety standards, and it looks awesome.  I’ve been really happy with it, and I bought two more for my son and my wife.

The most important takeaway from this article, I believe, is that I strongly encourage you to not purchase a sub-$100 dirt bike helmet.  I tested multiple cheap helmets trying to save a buck and they just aren’t very good.  I bought a cheap one for my son and it just didn’t have enough quality ventilation to keep him cool while riding.  Also, the cheaper helmets often aren’t as protective and use a thinner outer shell that will wear more quickly.

What to Look for In a Helmet

Obviously, you’ll want a helmet that meets or exceeds the most common safety standards, but what other factors should you look for?  Here are some things to consider:

  • Parts availability.  Choose a helmet from a major manufacturer so that you can easily order new pads if you lose a cheek pad or break a visor.
  • Comfort.  Pick a helmet that feels good in the store.  If it feels like it might give you a headache in the store when you wear it for 5 minutes, what about when you wear it for a 5 hour ride?
  • Total weight of the helmet.  Some helmets feel really solid and have very plush padding, but they are significantly heavier, which will make you tired when riding.
  • Ventilation.  This is absolutely key.  You won’t want to ride in the middle of the summer if you don’t have great ventilation on your helmet.
  • Graphics.  Get a helmet you’ll really like.  No, the graphics won’t protect you in a crash, but you may find yourself replacing it in a year if you don’t like the look of the helmet.
  • Price.  I recommend not buying the cheap under $100 dirt bike helmets because I simply haven’t found one that I consider to be well made, but you don’t have to spend $500 either.

Top Dirt Bike Helmet Brands to Consider

  • 6D – The ATR-1 (link to Amazon) gets my vote for being the safest dirt bike helmet in the industry.  However, the designs on the 6D helmets just aren’t very good looking if you ask me.
  • Answer –  ANSR has some excellent helmet choices with nice styling, comfort, and ventilation.
  • Bell – Bell makes some really excellent helmets.  They are comfortable and protective with good ventilation.  Solid choice.
  • Bilt – Bilt makes helmets at many different price ranges.  I bought one of their cheaper helmets for my son and it was garbage.  The ventilation was not good, the graphics weren’t cool, and it was very uncomfortable for him.  Not a brand I can recommend.
  • Fly – In my opinion, Fly makes the most comfortable dirt bike helmets.  The padding feels really good and they fit really well.  However, their graphics are kinda ugly.
  • Fox – Fox probably makes the coolest looking helmets on the market.  The forehead pad feels a little firm for my preference, but the ventilation is excellent and they will last for years.
  • Klim – This company makes some excellent gear including well-made jerseys and pants, but I’m not a big fan of their helmets.  They are somewhat higher priced and I really don’t like the styling of their helmets at all.
  • Leatt – Leatt helmets start at a higher price range than I wanted to pay, but I’m a big fan of Leatt gear.
  • O’Neal – O’Neal is definitely winning the styling game.  They have, unquestionably, the coolest graphics of any helmet manufacturer, but the ventilation on many of their helmets looks to be inadequate.
  • Shift – Looks to be a solid choice but I’ve never tried them personally.
  • Shoei – This is a very popular option, but I haven’t tried any Shoei helmets on personally so I can’t provide much of a review.
  • Suomy – The MX Jump helmet is a very good option.
  • Thor – I love Thor gear, and wish it were available on Amazon so I could buy more of it since I don’t like buying from other sites.  But since they work with distributors they aren’t likely to change that, which is a shame.
  • Troy Lee – I like the styling of some of the Troy Lee gear, but I haven’t yet tried any of their helmets, so I can’t offer much of a review.

Safety Standards for Dirt Bike Helmets

You’ve only got one brain.  If you ruin it, you’ll be trading your dirt bike hobby for eating Play-Doh with Peter Pan and Tinkerbell in Neverland while eating Jell-O from the hospital cafeteria for the rest of your life.

Many countries have their own set of laws and standards in place that define the minimum safety requirements for motocross helmets. For example, in the United States, it’s DOT (Department of Transportation).  New Zealand it is the NZ 5430. Europe – ECE 22.05. Australia – AS1698. UK – BS (British Standard).   The DOT rating is considered to be of a lower standard than the others.

If you really want to feel reassured by your next helmet choose one that has a SNELL rating. The Snell Memorial Foundation was created to provide strict and stringent testing to achieve a high level of helmet safety. This foundation came about in 1957 after William Peter Snell died in a sports car accident when his helmet failed to protect him. If a helmet has the SNELL approval – you know it’s of the highest safety standard.

Before I go any further – Do NOT buy a second hand/used helmet! Not only will you be dunking your noggin in some other guy’s stinkin, sweat-soaked hand-me-down.. but far more importantly, you have no idea if the structural integrity has already been weakened or not.  Helmets need to be replaced regularly.

A helmet’s outer shell is usually made of polycarbonate plastic, kevlar or fiberglass. The core is generally constructed of polystyrene or polypropylene foam which upon impact crushes. This process absorbs the energy that would otherwise have been forced upon your skull. So, after an impact (which can also occur if your helmet is dropped onto the pavement) it won’t be able to provide the expected level of protection even though the outer shell may still look in good condition.

Thank your lucky stars you live in an age where dirt bike helmets not only look the business, but they come packed with features to make for a much more comfortable experience.

Recent Improvements to Dirt Bike Helmet Technology

  • MIPS Liners – These liners on more advanced helmets reduce rotational impact.
  • Extremely low weight – and the lighter the better!
  • Adjustable cheek pads – for customized comfort.
  • Goggle grabbers – to keep your goggles firmly in place.
  • Large mouth vents that not only provide more air-flow but offer better roost protection to save you from chewing on unwanted dirt sandwiches.
  • Excellent venting – Most helmets these days have front air intakes that lead into, through and out the back to help keep your brain-bag cooler.
  • Removable liners – A big plus, the inners can be removed and washed (by your girlfriend.. ah just kidding. by your Mum). After hours of sweating like a basted suckling pig, your helmet lining generally ends up smelling worse than John Candy’s Y-fronts used to after a hard day on the set.

Fitment And Maintenance

When selecting the right dirt bike helmet it’s important it fits properly and feels comfortable as we humans come with different shaped craniums. And the most comfortable helmet might not necessarily be the most expensive one. Once you’ve got it on with the straps firmly fastened, rotate the helmet from side to side. You know it’s the right fit when your face skin movement and helmet movement are nearly the same. Try lifting the rear of the helmet in an effort to roll it off your head in a forward direction. You should not be able to do this.

Dirt bike helmets generally last a long time, but sometimes dirt bike helmets should be replaced if they were in a hard crash or a certain amount of time goes by and they expire.

When shopping around keep in mind you can find wickedly priced helmets and motocross gear online, however, I’d encourage you to try them on first if possible for the reasons mentioned above.