The Brain Game: How to Select the Best Dirt Bike Helmets

The Brain Game: How to Select the Best Dirt Bike Helmets

By Wesley Pestana | Updated Dec 03, 2018

best dirt bike helmets

When you are heading out for a ride on your dirt bike, if you were to forget any piece of protective riding gear it better not be your dirt bike helmet. A dirt bike, like all other types of motorcycles, should never be ridden without protecting your noggin. (source) I've had the pleasure of riding with many different helmet's over the years, and this experience has helped me, to help you identify some of the best dirt bike helmets.

Dirt Bike Helmets Quick Review

Product Best For Our Rating
1. Bell Moto 9 MIPS Off-Road Helmet Technology, All riders
2. Bell MX-9 Adventure Safety, Beginners
3. Leatt GPX 5.5 Composite V15 Professionals, Quality
4. Arai VX-Pro4 Helmet Quality, safety
5. HJC Solid CL-X7 Entry level, Price

Top Choice: Bell Moto 9 MIPS Off-Road Helmet

A well-known Bell helmet with carbon fiber shell and MIPS safety precaution, all for a price that will keep you on your seat.

1. Bell Moto 9 MIPS Off-Road Helmet
Best For

Technology, All riders

Our Rating
2. Bell MX-9 Adventure
Best For

Safety, Beginners

Our Rating
3. Leatt GPX 5.5 Composite V15
Best For

Professionals, Quality

Our Rating
4. Arai VX-Pro4 Helmet
Best For

Quality, safety

Our Rating
5. HJC Solid CL-X7
Best For

Entry level, Price

Our Rating

The Purpose of a Dirt Bike Helmet

The best dirt bike helmets reduce the risk of a head injury and this is the helmet’s top priority. The outer shell of a motocross helmet is made from a hard polycarbonate plastic line with an expandable polystyrene foam, EPS. The EPS foam is designed to compress at the impact point on the helmet during a collision, spreading the energy so it dissipates and does not centralize onto your head.

Think about when you throw a baseball at a glass window versus a foam wall. The energy will travel through the glass, shattering it while the foam will ripple from the impact point, sending the energy away from the impact.

There are countless reason's to wear a helmet and I shouldn't have to explain it's importance. Closed head injuries can be the most dangerous in a motorcycle accident and dirt bike's are no exception. This is when the skull of the rider stops suddenly on a solid object and the brain continues to move forward hitting the interior of the skull and rebounds back. The plastic outer shell will protect your head from exterior dangers and epidermis abrasions (cuts, scrapes, blood) but the soft interior of the helmet will compress the energy from a crash, lowering the risk of a closed head injury.

best motocross helmet

Why Should I Wear a Motocross Helmet?

If you’re asking this, I will reply “common sense is not very common”. Your brain is your mainframe for all bodily functions! Of course, you speak and process thousands of items of information in a millisecond from your noddle but let’s not forget your subconscious bodily function like breathing and heart rate.

A blow to your head can result in serious injury or death. That’s it, lights out and poof you’re gone! Even surviving a head injury from a motocross crash could leave you a vegetable, as if death isn’t reason enough to wear a helmet. Be smart and ALWAYS wear your dirt bike helmet!

Qualities to Look for in Your New Dirt Bike Helmet

When you are selecting the best dirt bike helmets, here are some qualities to look for in your new motocross helmet choice:

Proper fit

Clear vision

Impact technology

Style and Colors

Proper Fitment of Your Dirt Bike Helmet

When visiting a local motorcycle shop, you will find an assortment of motocross helmets. Here is your opportunity to try a couple on and a get a feel for the fit.

To try a dirt bike helmet on you may be given a head sock to pull over your head for sanitary necessities. Hold the dirt bike helmet in front of you with the chin straps held down by your thumbs, so they don’t get caught inside the helmet, and slip over your head. As you pull it down, the crown of your head should fit snuggly on the helmet’s interior top and the chin straps hanging just below your cheeks.

To fasten the chin straps together, hold the two D-rings together and slip the excess strap through both rings. Bring the excess back by separating the D-rings and thread it only through the second D-ring, pull snug to your chin. Your dirt bike helmet chin strap should not choke you or have excess slack. Pull it in snuggly below your chin.

Sizing on a new dirt bike helmet may be challenging to figure out but I have some great tips to stick to. When trying on your first helmet, immediately you will be able to feel if the helmet is too small by the extremely uncomfortable pressure placed on your skull. Any pain felt when hearing a helmet means that is too small, next!

When a motocross helmet is too large, you won’t be able to feel the snug impression on your head’s entirety. Try shaking your head a little left to right; the helmet will wobble instead of moving consistently with your movement. A helmet that is too large for a dirt bike rider runs the risk of moving away from the impact point in a crash and causing more damage. It can even slip off! Think of a bobblehead, you don’t want to be a bobblehead.

The best dirt bike helmet will feel comfortable and snug around the rider’s entire head. When moving your head, the helmet needs to follow with your gaze and feel uniform. Your cheeks should be pressed up slightly but not so that you resemble a chipmunk. Another trick to test the fit is to have a friend hold the chin guard while you shake your head back and forth. If the helmet doesn’t fight to move with your head, then your helmet is too big.

Sometimes a motocross helmet feels comfortable all around the interior except in the cheeks. You have the option to remove the check pads and either go up or down in size. I personally do this in my own dirt bike helmet, placing medium cheek pads in a small sized helmet for a better fit.

Just remember in your dirt bike helmet; not too loose, not too tight, just right!

Vision is Key

best dirt bike helmets

Being able to have a clear sight of vision during your dirt bike ride is a top priority. The best dirt bike helmet moves with your gaze and seeing upcoming objects in your peripheral vision will make you a safer rider.

Dust is a huge factor out on a dirt bike ride and the closeness of these goggles makes sure your vision is never compromised. The open frame of a dirt bike helmet allows for you to strap a pair of your favorite goggles up and over the helmet to fit securely around your eyes. You’re going to put in a lot more work riding a dirt bike with the ever-changing terrain and obstacles so your helmet’s large opening gives you more helps in ventilation, keeping you nice and cool on your ride.

Here is a tip when trying on a new motocross helmet. Bring along your favorite dirt bike goggles and slip them over the helmet to make sure they fit perfectly with your new helmet.

Impact Technology

New research in the prevention of head injuries has only increased technology in dirt bike helmet design. As I talked about earlier in the article, lowering the risk of a head injury starts at the outer shell where the dirt bike helmet is made of seamless polycarbonate but can also be made out of Kevlar, a highly resistant synthetically made fiber, carbon fiber, or fiberglass.

Depending upon your choice in outside material, you will find that one outside material is heavier than another. A dirt bike helmet made entirely of carbon fiber will weight much less than one made of polycarbonate. Weight is an important factor as a heavy helmet will put stress on your neck and could result in other injuries. The lighter the better but also your choice in the outside composition of your motocross helmet will affect the price dramatically.

The interior liners of all motocross helmets is where the most of the impact in a crash is absorbed. You will find expandable polystyrene foam, EPS among other high-density materials. EPS is going to be the most popular medium found in the liners of dirt bike helmets but new technology is testing out other foam-like materials such as Polyphenylene Ether, PPE.

A new form of impact technology is the Multi-Directional Impact Protection System, MIPS (source). The MIPS system is a small layer that allows the helmet to move just a couple millimeters on the rider’s head when an impact occurs. This movement directs the force of the impact away from the skull, lowering the risk of a head injury. New motocross helmets will almost always have this new safety system.

The best dirt bike helmets will also be DOT(source) and SNELL certified. The Department of Transportation, DOT, has a minimum set of guidelines for a helmet to be upheld for highway use. All helmet manufacturers are required to submit their product for DOT approval while a SNELL certification is a voluntary submittal. Rigorous testing is done with motocross helmets including impact testing from various angles.

Style With Purpose

Browsing through a motorcycle shop, you’ll find that most motocross helmets are brightly colored with lots of striping, neon colors, and even light-reflecting paint. There is a purpose in these attention-grabbing designs. A brightly colored helmet increases the chances of the dirt bike rider being seen from oncoming sources and lowers the probabilities of a potential collision.

Have fun with your design choice in a dirt bike helmet! You will find that a lot of motocross helmets are a work of art that you will take pride in wearing. Steer clear of dark colors like black that could potentially camouflage you into danger.

dirt bike helmets

Street Vs. Dirt

You may be wondering, why can’t a dirt bike rider wear a traditional motorcycle helmet? Sleek in design, a street motorcycle helmet does not have the functionality that is needed when riding motocross.

Street motorcycle helmets are designed to be aerodynamic as a motorcycle has the capability to travel at speeds much faster than a dirt bike. The rider needs to be protected from the wind along with the noise that comes from traveling at those high speeds. A helmet that does not flow well against the wind creates drag. Excessive drag on the rider’s helmet can quickly fatigue the rider while also placing him at risk of not moving fluidly on the motorcycle.

Dirt bike helmets are designed to have a chin guard and visor that protect the rider from outside hazards including but not limited to trees branches, rocks, mud, and the occasional face plant. Goggles are also worn closely around the eyes with the band stretching up and back around the helmet while a street motorcycle helmet, only a visor is brought down over the eyes but is still inches away from rider’s eyes. This would not be advantageous out on a dusty trail ride!

5 Best Dirt Bike Helmets Reviewed

As with everything else, you can find the best dirt bike helmets via Amazon. Here are five great motocross helmet options that I found without having to shop at a motorcycle shop.

Motocross Helmets Review

Arai VX-Pro4 Helmet

dirt bike helmets motocross helmet

Arai is known for its super sleek design. Just a smooth outer shell that makes the helmet’s first line of protection ultra-strong.

With no protruding edges, Arai boasts that their smooth design is another precautionary measure for lowering head injuries. This helmet is DOT/SNELL certified and has an Emergency Release Cheek Pad system to help sustain a hurt rider for rescue staff. A downside, the helmet is heavy coming in at 5 pounds.

  • Sleek design.
  • Advanced technology features.
  • SNELL and DOT certified.
  • Quality product.
  • Cha-ching, $$$.
  • Only solid colors available, boring!
  • Heavy.

Bell MX-9 Adventure

best motocross helmet best dirt bike helmets

Bell offers a superbly priced dirt bike helmet that contains the modern MIPS system.

With a polycarbonate shell brings this helmet in at just 3.2 pounds. It has a removeable face shield so you can wear this helmet off-road and maybe even on highway, let’s say for you enduro riders. I can’t say the style of this helmet is most aesthetically pleasing but for the price and safety, who cares how it looks!

  • MIPS safety systems.
  • Mid-range weight.
  • Great introduction price.
  • Removeable face shield.
  • Design is not aesthetically pleasing.

Bell Moto 9 MIPS Off-Road Helmet

dirt bike helmets motocross helmet

A well-known Bell helmet with carbon fiber shell and MIPS safety precaution, all for a price that will keep you on your seat.

Bell has been making some of the best moto helmets in the industry that offer a range of price and design. This dirt bike helmet is a mixed carbon fiber shell with the MIPS safety system and other neat features like magnetic cheek pads along with an overall five-year warranty. I can’t get over how great a price this is for a dirt bike helmet that is ultra-light weight with all the bells and whistles. Might just be adding it to my cart now!

  • MIPS safety systems.
  • Ultra-light weight.
  • Carbon fiber shell.
  • Bright, unique designs.
  • Break out your wallet, $$$.

HJC Solid CL-X7

best motocross helmet best dirt bike helmets

Great intro pricing means less cha-ching out of a rider’s pocket, HJC is a reputable name that has been in the dirt for decades.

HJC makes helmets for the extreme sports industry across the board. Street, off-road, and motocross. This helmet is a great introductory price with an HJC specific, advanced polycarbonate composite shell, and dual EPS interior liner. An HJC is going to be a trusty choice if you are looking to get a helmet that does the job without being fearful of scratching it up.

  • Great introductory pricing.
  • Simple design.
  • Availability on replacement parts.
  • Heavy overall weight.
  • Only solid colors available.

Leatt GPX 5.5 Composite V15

dirt bike helmets motocross helmet

Leatt Brace originally focused on minimizing neck injuries. By creating the Leatt GPX 5.5 Composite V15 helmet its technology is superior in reducing head injuries as well.

Leatt Brace broke in the motocross scene with its original head and neck braces that protect a dirt bike rider from neck injuries. Paired with this Leatt helmet that is formed by 3D modeling and has every safety feature you can throw on it, you’re ready to ride. Although on the pricey side, Amazon has this helmet at a superb price that a sales rep at a motorcycle shop might pass out when you tell them what you got it for.

  • Top-of-the-line technology.
  • Compact helmet shell design.
  • Works cohesively with Leatt Brace safety products.
  • Expensive.
  • Mid-range weight, not the lightest.

Wrap it Up

This article is a great guideline on what to look for in the best dirt bike helmet but, As previously mentioned my preferred choice for the best dirt bike helmets is the Bell Moto 9. I highly recommend visiting your local motorcycle dealer to try on different brands for sizing as each manufacturer can be slightly different. A high price does not always determine the best product but steer clear from those deals that can be too good to be true. After all, it is your noggin! While there are no fundamental difference's between helmets for men and women, I have managed to pull together some preferred helmets for the ladies out there.

motocross helmet

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