Can an MX off-road Dirt Bike helmet be worn on the street?
The question is often asked can I use an off-road helmet, a dirt bike helmet, an MX helmet for use on Street Road riding? Often the answers I see on various blogs, websites, and forums are completely inaccurate, misinformed, and seemed to be written by people that do not know much about this subject.
I have been riding since I was 14 years old and have almost 50 years of riding experience. I have hundreds of thousands of miles of motorcycle riding experience on-road/Street bikes, off-road / Enduro, as well as road racing.
Kawasaki 250 Bangkok Thailand
I have ridden in the countryside, the suburbs, city as well as deserts, forests, and mountains. I have riding experience in all temperatures from below freezing in the winter to 100° in the summer.
I also have more than 40 years of experience in the motorcycle helmet industry. So, between my personal experience riding motorcycles and from my professional experience from working in the helmet industry I can say with 100% confidence that much of the advice given about the use of off-road motocross dirt helmets for Street Road riding is incorrect.
To answer the question. Can I use a dirt bike helmet for Street riding? One must know what type of street riding you will be doing.
So, what are the benefits of an off-road MX style helmet vs. a road-street style helmet?
This article will answer all these questions. Benefits of an off-road MX style helmet or dirt bike helmet as many people call them are as follows:
– Greater cooling and comfort
– In many conditions, goggles offer greater eye protection than a standard face shield.
– The ability to wear glasses for eye protection instead of the face shield, which again may offer a better solution in extremely hot human climates.
– The sun peak can block bright sunlight from the eyes and provide a shaded area for the goggles for maximum visibility.
– Often an off-road MX style helmet is lighter weight than a similar road or street helmet.
Some people ask what the difference between an ATV helmet and a motorcycle helmet is. There is no such difference. A motorcycle helmet can be an off-road helmet, which is what an ATV helmet is, or a motorcycle helmet can be a Street helmet.
Street helmets can be full face, modular, or often called flip-ups, open face, or sometimes called a three-quarter helmet or half helmets which are the shorts that Harley riders often wear. A dirt bike helmet and an ATV helmet are the same things.
They are both full-face off-road helmets requiring goggles for eye protection, they are made by the same companies, have the same shells and liners, and are the same in every way except for maybe graphics.
An off-road helmet can be a fantastic choice for riding on the road. If you are in a hot climate and traveling at low to moderate speeds like in a dense urban or city environment as they are designed to be used with goggles and allow considerably greater airflow. More airflow into the eye-port equals greater cooling for the rider.
I personally own motorcycles in both Vietnam and Thailand and have a lot of experience riding in temperatures over 90° with extremely high humidity. In these climates, the off-road helmets can be far superior to any full coverage Street/Road model.
An off-road helmet typically is cooler than a full-face street helmet due to the lack of a face shield and the large eye-opening. An off-road helmet with sunglasses provides the coolest full-coverage helmet option, but even with goggles, a dirt-style MX helmet can still be considerably cooler than any full-face street helmet.
Why do dirt bikers wear goggles?
AGV AX8 for Mini Moto Racing
When riding off-road or racing in an Enduro or Motocross race the rider is subject to a lot of dust, dirt, and debris being thrown towards the head.
A standard face shield like a street bike helmet has would become covered on the outside with mud and debris, and with a layer of dust on the inside making it impossible to say without opening it and exposing the eyes directly to the incoming objects.
Goggles can have tear-offs or roll-off systems that can keep the lens clear enough for the writer to have good visibility and to protect the eyes from any damage or injury.
Although I have genuinely nice full-face AGV street helmets in Vietnam and Thailand. I rarely use them. I have several AX 8 model AGV off-road motocross-style helmets. When it is extremely hot. I will wear sunglasses to get the maximum cooling.
Goggles provide better eye protection and I try to wear them when I can, but when the heat gets above 90°, the dirt helmet with sunglasses provides the best solution.
Another advantage of using an off-road helmet for Street writing in dense urban traffic is that these helmets usually offer greater peripheral vision than the typical full-face street helmet. When darting through traffic in Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City. The off-road MX-style helmet offers maximum visibility.
Some of the blogs write that off-road helmets are not as safe as street bike helmets because they are not meant for high-speed. This is factually incorrect for several reasons. First, helmet standards in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia are the same for road and off-road helmets.
There is not a different SNELL or DOT standard for road and off-road helmets. So, are motocross helmets street legal? For helmets to be legal for use on a public road in the United States. The manufacturer must certify that the helmet meets the department of transportation standards.
All modern off-road helmets meet this minimum standard, and many also meet the more stringent Snell Memorial Foundation and European Union standards. The UK must meet the British standards, but all modern off-road motocross-style helmets should have no problem meeting any of the modern safety helmet standards anywhere in the world.
AGV AX8 on the way to Bangkok Thailand
NOTE: I have read on many blogs and websites that off-road helmets must be DOT certified or approved to be legally used on streets and roads. This is not only incorrect for off-road MX helmets it is incorrect for any type of helmet.
The US Department of Transportation does not and has never certified motorcycle helmets to their standards. The US Department of Transportation does not approve any helmets of any type for any use.
The DOT creates the standard it is up to the manufacturer to certify that their helmet meets the DOT standard. It is the helmet manufacturer that creates the DOT label and affixes it to the back of the helmet, indicating not that the DOT has certified or approved the helmet, but that the manufacturer themselves had certified that their helmet meets the DOT standards.
From time to time. The DOT may randomly test motorcycle helmets from the market to make sure that the manufacturer’s self-certification is correct. But there is no mandatory requirement for any specific amount of testing each year or anytime.
Additionally, many street bike riders do not ride at an excessive speed they are not writing sportbikes there, not road racing to be cruisers Sunday riders, and are traveling at relatively normal speeds below 60 mph.
An off-road motocross helmet must be built with the consideration that a professional racer might be wearing many of these motorcycles that are capable of speeds of well over 100 mph. At extremely high speeds the sun peak or sun visor of a motocross helmet can be a distraction.
But very few people would fall into this category. Why do off-road helmets have peaks? The primary purpose of the peak or visor on an off-road MX-style helmet is to keep the sun out of your eyes. The peak can block direct sunlight to the riders’ eyes by creating an area of shade.
AGV MX Off-road Helmet on the way to Vietnam
Bright sunlight shining on a goggle lens that is dirty or scratched can create a big visibility problem. Secondarily, it can be helpful to protect from rain and even rocks and debris. If the head is tilted so the peak becomes a temporary shield.
Supermoto racers and riders wear off dirt bike style MX helmets proving that off-road helmets not only can be worn for road and street use, but they can be the preferred type of helmet to wear. Super Moto racers know that off-road dirt bike style MX helmets offer superior airflow and make breathing easier.
MX helmets have better ventilation, peripheral vision, and are lighter weight. Off-road helmets can meet all the same safety motorcycle helmet safety standards that street helmets do like Snell, DOT, and ECE.
So, the answer to the question can you use an MX helmet on the road, or can you use a dirt bike helmet for Street riding is in most cases yes. And in many instances, they would be the better choice.
As I mentioned earlier, it is much easier to glance from side to side with an off-road helmet due to the wide peripheral vision that provides a wider spectrum of vision, which is especially useful in high-density traffic.
Any motorcycle helmet which meets the applicable standards for the US, Canada, Europe, Japan, or Australia – New Zealand is safe to use for street bike riding. The big difference comes in eye protection. Sunglasses in an off-road helmet will not protect as well goggles for his face shield on a full-face street helmet.
About the author: Michael Parrotte was the Vice President of AGV Helmets America, and a consultant for KBC Helmets, Vemar Helmets, Suomy Helmets, Marushin Helmets, KYT Helmets, Sparx Helmets. In addition, he is the founder and owner of AGV Sports Group.