Every avid motorcycle rider knows that choosing the perfect motorcycle helmet is one of the most crucial yet challenging decisions you’ll have to make. And wearing the wrong gear can blow up a good riding experience, and the lack of knowledge tends to be responsible for such mistakes. The most important feature of a motorcycle helmet is safety, so if you double as a motocross rider and a motorcycle rider, I am sure you’ve wondered if you can use the same helmet on the road.
The short answer is yes, you can wear your motocross helmet on the street, but only if they have the quality and make of a motorcycle helmet. Dirt bikes should also be from a reputable manufacturer and have the appropriate certification. However, we do not recommend wearing a motocross helmet on the road as its construction is not for road use and high speeds. The laws and regulations on street helmets vary from country to country as they also have different quality merits and certifications of a street-legal helmet.
We will help you understand why motocross helmets are not suitable for road use and street helmets’ legalities in different countries.
Why are Motocross Helmets not Suitable for the Roads?
Both motocross helmets and motorcycle helmets have the same impact-resistant materials; the outer layer is polycarbonate then carbon fiber. The inside is expanding polystyrene, which absorbs shock on impact. However, since dirt biking takes place on more predictable trails, the features differ from motorcycle helmets.
Safety is paramount whether you’re riding on a dirt road or the highway, but the difference in road conditions and speeds creates a higher risk when biking on public roads. Motocross helmets, also known as ATV or dirt bike helmets, are constructed for slower speeds and bumpy rides. Therefore, they do have sufficient protection for the rider for road use.
Off-road helmets do not offer sufficient eye protection on their own. They have a larger eye port to support safety goggles which protect the eyes from dust and mud whereas, motorcycle helmets have an in-built visor for eye protection. Some also include a secondary visor for additional eye protection from the sun. Motocross helmets’ lack of a proper visor exposes the face and eyes to the wind and other elements, which can be uncomfortable when street racing.
Since motocross helmets are lighter, they tend to be noisier. The fast speed that involves street biking produces more noise from the wind, which can be very distracting when on the road. Helmets for street riding need to have a sound dampening feature which motocross helmets lack.
A conventional motocross helmet has plenty of ventilation; however, when riding on the road at speeds of above 50mph, excess ventilation is the last thing you need. The ventilation design on motocross helmets may not adequately protect you from weather elements like the motorcycle helmet does. Proper street helmets have enough vents to keep you cool on summer days and also keep the wind, rain, and snow out of the face.
Motocross helmets aren’t as aerodynamic as street helmets. At speeds of 200 mph or even more, pressure drag resistance or aerodynamic drag can cause certain helmets to lift. Motocross helmets are lighter, have a visor, an extended chin guard, and more ventilation which catch the wind and make your helmet unsteady, making it less aerodynamic and uncomfortable when road racing. The less surface area the helmet has, the more you can glide through the wind, and this is where a full face visor motorcycle helmet with a full face visor comes in handy. Although, if you ride on the road with a motocross helmet at speeds under 60-70 mph, the need of aerodynamics won’t be necessary.
Besides the lack of sufficient safety and comfort when street racing with a motocross helmet, can you be charged for wearing one on the street? The rules concerning street helmets vary between regions and countries; read more to understand why.
Are Motocross Helmets Road Legal in the UK?
It is a legal requirement to wear a motorcycle helmet in the UK when riding or as a passenger of a motorcycle. Motocross helmets are street legal in the UK as long as it meets the British helmet safety standards. These British safety standards include:
- British Standard (BS 6658:1985) and displays the BSI Kitemark
- UNECE Regulation (ECE 22.05)
- A European Economic Area member standard offering at least the same safety and protection as BS 6658:1985 and carry the BSI Kitemark
Check this too: How to Paint Motorcycle Helmets
The BSI Kitemark is usually an oval red, blue, or green sticker displayed on the helmet’s back or side. It also three different colors and levels, which include;
- Red – Type A/FR: Used for helmets with a fire-resistant lining, especially in sports racing.
- Blue– Type A: Used for high-performance helmets offering a better level of protection
- Green– Type B: Used for lower-rated helmets.
The ECE 22.05 testing is the equivalent of the DOT helmet testing in the USA. This certification also involves both the helmet & the visor and is usually a black sticker. You are liable for a fine if caught riding a motorcycle without an approved motorcycle helmet.
When buying any motorcycle helmet, you should confirm with Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme (SHARP), which displays approved helmet manufacturers and how much protection they offer using the levels discussed above. It will prevent you from buying a low-quality motorcycle helmet with a fake standardization mark.
Are Motocross Helmets Legal in the US?
A helmet can be street legal in the US if it DOT approved and carries the genuine DOT sticker on the back. It means that these helmets adhere to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard #218 for motorcycle helmets. Additionally, if you plan to ride your motorcycle across different states, it is important to know that state motorcycle helmet laws vary.
States with Helmet Laws.
About 20 states in the US have a universal helmet law that applies to all motorcycle riders and passengers regardless of age, condition of your medical insurance, or riding education level. The states in the US with helmet laws for all motorcycle riders and passengers include; Alabama, California, D.C, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
States without Helmet Laws
It is optional to wear a motorcycle helmet in 28 states in the US but compulsory for minors of varying age limits. These states include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
The only three states with no helmet use law, regardless of the rider or passenger’s age, are; Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire.
Also, there are other details you need to pay close attention to when applying helmet law in particular states. For instance;
- If you do not have medical insurance in Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, and Texas, you must wear a DOT-approved motorcycle helmet.
- In states like Alaska, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Ohio, Rhodes Island, and Wisconsin, you should still wear your motorcycle helmet in your first year of riding or those with instructional permits. The specific state’s Department of Transport issues instructional permits to riders who have never owned a license to operate a motorcycle in those particular jurisdictions or states.
- In Texas and Pennsylvania, riders who have not completed their Motorcycle Rider Safety course must wear a DOT-approved helmet while riding.
- Florida helmet law is a bit complicated. All motorcycle riders and passengers, whatever the age, must wear eye protection. But, any rider older than 21 years with an insurance cover of at least $10,000 for motorcycle-related injuries can choose not to wear a helmet.
- In Michigan, a rider of 21 years and above with a first-party medical benefits insurance of at least $20,000 can opt not to wear a helmet.
- In Idaho, the helmet law does not apply when riding on private property.
You must wear a DOT-approved helmet in any state requiring you to wear a motorcycle helmet, whether the helmet law is a universal rule, based on age, insurance coverage, or riding education. You are also liable for a fine if your helmet does not have an authentic DOT stamp. All DOT stamps since 2013 have the following format;
- Manufacturer Name
- Model Number
- The letters “DOT.”
- The letters “FMVSS No. 218” or similar centered below the DOT
- The word “Certified” centered below the FMVSS No. 218 text.
NOTE: Residing in a state which does not require a motorcycle helmet does not permit you to ride without a street-legal helmet in states where every rider or rider within a specific age limit requires helmet use.
Are motocross helmets street legal in Canada?
All motorcycle riders and passengers in all provinces in Canada must wear street-legal helmets that meet the safety standards of one following certification:
- DOT certification fin accordance with the American Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 218(FMVSS 218)
- SNELL M2005, M2010, or M2015: certification under the Snell Memorial Foundation 2005, 2010, or 2015, the Standard for Protective Headgear for Use with motorcycles and other motorized vehicles
- ECE 22.05: certification under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) Regulation No. 22
DOT helmets are rated by the manufacturer and favor shock absorption. ECE helmets have similar DOT standards, but ECE helmets are put through more meticulous tests by authorities. The SNELL rating has the most strict helmet safety standards. Therefore, a motocross helmet may not be street legal unless it meets one of the above safety standards.
Though you are required to wear a motorcycle helmet in all of Canada, every province has the power to specify the standard the motorcycle helmet must meet. For instance, in British Colombia, Alberta, and Manitoba, turban-wearing Sikhs have been legally exempted from wearing motorcycle helmets when riding.
Other than the above safety standards, in Ontario they also allow one of the following certifications:
- Canadian Standards Association Standard D230 Safety Helmets for Motorcycle Riders with the monogram of the Canadian Standards Association Testing Laboratories
- British Standards Institute, with the approval certificate of the British Standards Institute
On the other hand, British Columbia does not consider these additional safety standards legal as they are not available to the public free of charge. When riding in Canada, it is much better to have a motorcycle helmet with either a DOT, ECE, or SNELL certification. They are legally acceptable in all other provinces and territories.
Are motocross helmets legal in Australia?
In Australia, it is legal to wear a motocross helmet on the road as long as it adheres to the safety standard requirements. Street-legal helmets in Australia must meet the required helmet safety standards and have the mark displaying compliance; these standards include:
- Australian Standard (AS) 1698:1988
- Australian Standard /New Zealand Standard (AS/NZS) 1698: 2006
- United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) 22.05
DOT and SNELL-approved helmets are currently not legal for use in Australia.
Also, motorcycle riders and passengers in all of Australia must wear approved standard helmets.
Check this too: Are DOT Helmets Legal in Australia?
Australian standard helmets are tested and approved by accredited private-owned certification companies include; BSI, Global Mark, SAI Global, and TUV RA, while the European standard helmets are certified by the European Government.
NOTE: ECE helmets are not legal for road use in the USA; DOT helmets are not legal for road use in the UK. When traveling to different countries with a bike, make sure your helmet has the right standardization mark recognized in that country.
It is legal to wear a motocross helmet on the road in most countries as long as it meets the safety standards approved in that specific country. DOT, SNELL, and ECE are the three most common standards in motorcycle helmet construction, with each of their own rules and quality levels. However, the most common reason people will avoid wearing motocross helmets on the road is personal comfort. The motocross helmet is noisy and has less aerodynamics at high speeds, making it unsuitable for road use.