You might have noticed that dirt bike helmets look quite different when compared to traditional or even street bike helmets. Wearing the right type of helmet for the kind of riding you’re doing is essential, so it’s worth learning the differences between dirt bike helmets and street bike helmets.
The 6 differences between dirt bike and street bike helmets are:
- Sound dampening
- Weight difference
- Impact protection
Both dirt bike helmets and street bike helmets have their advantages. Below, we’ll take a closer look at the differences between dirt bike and street bike helmets, so you can understand why and when you should use one over the other.
The 6 Differences Between Dirt Bike And Street Bike Helmets
When it comes to design, the first thing that you’ll notice on a dirt bike helmet is an extended chin. Unlike dirt bike helmets, street bike helmets have a chin guard which is much closer to the face. The only reason for the extended chin is to improve the airflow.
When you ride a dirt bike off the road, you never ride as fast as you would on the road with a street bike. Due to this lower speed, you easily get hot, which makes it harder to breathe if you are wearing the wrong type of helmet. With an extended chin, the air can easily get out, which improves the airflow and keeps you cool.
While street bike helmets have an aerodynamic design, dirt bike helmets are a bit bulkier and aren’t built to be aerodynamic. Obviously, reaching high speeds is not important when riding a dirt bike as it is for a street bike.
Another noticeable difference between these two types of helmets is that dirt bike helmets have large visors. One of the advantages of those visors is to block the sun from getting in your eyes. Because riding off the road is dangerous and requires good reflexes and concentration, you can be easily put off by the glare of the sun.
Another use of the visor is to prevent dust and debris from reaching your eyes. If you are riding behind another rider, tons of mud and dust will tend to hit your face, which a visor prevents.
When you’re riding a street bike, you don’t have to deal with this kind of dirt and debris, so a big, thick visor isn’t as important. Having a thinner one prevents the wind – and indeed any light debris or rain – from hitting your eyes, while staying aerodynamic.
3. Sound Dampening
If you’ve used both dirt and street bike helmets before, you might have noticed the difference in sound dampening between the two. Since street bikes are designed for high speeds and long rides, they tend to cover your ears more than dirt bike helmets.
This is because sound is not as much of an issue when you’re riding a dirt bike. Some people even like to hear their engine and know exactly what’s going on with their motorcycle every second of their ride. If you try a dirt bike helmet on the street with a sports bike, you will notice how significant the difference is, and how deafening road noise can be!
4. Weight Difference
There is some weight difference between dirt bike helmets and street bike helmets, but it’s negligible. Manufacturers tend to make helmets as light as possible, regardless of type, so most helmets usually weigh between three and four pounds.
With a lighter helmet, it’s much easier to go over bumps or jumps on a trail, as your head won’t move around as much. If the helmet is heavy, it will make you exhausted much sooner, as it takes more effort to keep your head straight. You’re not that worried about this when riding on the road, so you might find your street bike helmet to be a little heavier, but not by much.
5. Impact Protection
Both types of helmets are designed to protect you in case of an accident. However, street bike helmets offer slightly better protection since an accident is likely to occur at a higher speed than if you’re riding a dirt bike. You should always buy a helmet that’s designed and approved for the highest safety standards, regardless of whether you’re a dirt or street biker.
Dirt bike riding involve lots of mud, dust, and debris, due to the nature of the trails. This debris can easily find its way onto your helmet. Because of the high levels of concentration and physical exertion dirt biking requires, you’re also likely to sweat more than on a street bike. That’s why dirt bike helmets are specifically designed to be easy to clean.
All ATV and dirt bike helmets today allow you to easily remove the inner lining so that you can wash it when necessary. When riding on the highway, you don’t have the same risk of getting sweat and mud on your helmet, so most street bike helmets don’t have removable inner linings. That doesn’t mean they’ll always be harder to clean, but it’s often the case.
Why Are Dirt Bike Helmets Shaped Differently To Street Bike Helmets?
Dirt bike helmets are shaped differently to street bike helmets for practical reasons. Dirt bike helmets are designed to protect your face from dirt and debris, along with glare from the sun. Their shape is also different to allow for more airflow, to keep you cool.
We’ve already mentioned that the shape of dirt bike helmets allows better airflow in the helmet, which makes it easier to breathe during hot summer rides. Even in cold weather, you need to handle the bike at relatively low speeds. These speeds don’t allow for as much air to flow over you as if you were on a highway, so naturally you don’t get as much of a cooling effect.
Also, the big opening in dirt bike helmets allows for big, thick visors, which protect you from various elements. The off-road ride is dynamic, and mud, rocks, and debris are always in the air around you. A good visor keeps these out of your face. Due to its design, the dirt bike helmet also prevents fogging on the visor.
Finally, dirt bike helmets are designed to give you better visibility. Although visibility is important on the highway, it’s even more important when going into sharp, muddy corners, with lots of dirt being kicked up around you. Riding on the highway usually doesn’t come with these challenges, so your visibility is rarely impeded.
Which Helmet Is Safer?
Each type of dirt bike helmet is safer on its own terrain. For example, street helmets offer better impact resistance, since they are designed for riding at higher speeds. So they’re safer for riding on the highway.
On the other hand, dirt bike helmets offer more comfort and rideability when riding off the road. With a special Multi-Directional Impact Protection System, these helmets provide a slip area between the head and the helmet. It helps with lowering the rotational force that can happen during a crash.
While this is important when riding on the street, the higher speeds that you ride at mean you need tougher protection that dirt bike helmets don’t offer. But when riding off road, to stay safe you need to stay cool and have good visibility. That makes dirt bike helmets much safer than street bike helmets when it comes to riding off road.
Can You Wear A Dirt Bike Helmet On The Highway?
Some people tend to wear dirt bike helmets on the highway during summer because of the better airflow these helmets offer. On the other hand, some bikers prefer street bike helmets on their off-road adventures if the weather is cold, to keep them warm. But for safety reasons, you should never use a dirt bike helmet for a street ride, and vice versa.
If you want a helmet that performs well both off the road and on the highway, buying a dual-sport helmet is a good investment to make. They have a shorter visor and a slightly extended chin guard. Dual-sport helmets also have a shield that can be replaced with a tinted version for even better sun protection.
Which Helmet To Use For Different Types Of Riding
If you are going off the road and plan to ride through mud and gravel, you should use a traditional dirt bike helmet. It provides good ventilation and good protection, which is exactly what you need for this type of ride.
If you prefer recreational trail riding, comfort might be more important than protection from the elements. In that case, you might want to buy a street motorcycle-style helmet. It gives you good protection, but also shouldn’t cause issues with overheating as long as you stay on the trail.
Full-Face Visors vs Goggles
If your riding style is more aggressive and the dirt is always flying around you, the full-face helmet might not be the best choice. In no time, the helmet would be covered in mud and dirt, and you wouldn’t be able to see properly.
In dusty conditions, a traditional MX helmet with goggles would be a better choice. They also provide a tight fit on the face, so no dust will reach your eyes. Note that casual motorcycle helmets don’t have such a large opening, and won’t allow you to use goggles.
There are some significant differences between a dirt bike and street bike helmets. Most of the differences lie in the design of the two helmets. However, when it comes to safety, you should only ever wear a helmet designed for the type of riding you’re doing. If you want something that is safe both on the road and off it, invest in a dual sport helmet.