Have you looked at buying a motocross helmet lately? There's a lot to choose from!
We don't sell any below-standard helmets but that doesn't mean you can't get confused with all the different styles, features and labels. Before we go on, the best motocross helmet is the one that fits, is comfortable and allows you to ride without any encumbrances. If you hate the way a helmet feels on your head, regardless of price or all the upper-end features, then you won't ride or worse, you'll wear it improperly.
A motocross helmet's primary job is to protect your head. There are varying degrees of protection incorporated into each and every helmet we sell. The materials used to make a helmet influence how much protection the helmet provides. Polycarbonate, fiberglass composite and carbon fiber materials make up the bulk of most helmets. Motorcycle helmets come in different types that address various needs and riding styles:
DOT, Snell, ECE Helmet Ratings
Once constructed, helmets undergo an array of vigorous testing to determine how well they hold up in the event of a crash. In the United States the minimum standard of protection is determined by the Department of Transportation, better known as DOT. Every helmet sold by MotoSport carries DOT certification. To be street legal, every helmet must pass DOT certification.
In addition to DOT, there is certification from the Snell Memorial Foundation and the ECE which is short for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. DOT and ECE standards for helmets are similar and Snell boasts a more stringent set of tests to qualify for their certification. However, a non-Snell certified DOT helmet doesn't necessarily mean a DOT and Snell certified helmet is better. There is of course a bit of controversy in all of these certification bodies but we'll try and break down what each one means, as well as suggest a helmet certified in one, two or all three certifications.
This Guide covers the following certifications and offers helmet recommendations based on those certifications:
As noted, DOT is part of the U.S government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agency that determines certain standards a helmet must abide by in order to receive DOT certification and be used on public highways. It was implemented in 1974 and since then received many updates to its standards.
Manufacturers use the honor system in testing their helmets against DOT standards. The federal government uses random testing once helmets are in the marketplace to determine if a manufacturer's helmet is DOT compliant.
The current DOT standard is FMVSS 218 which is the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard #218. Helmets undergo specific tests that measure penetration, impact attenuation and retention.
When a penetration test is conducted, a test striker (an anvil) is dropped onto the helmet from a fixed height. The striker used against the helmet cannot contact the surface of the test head form - in other words your skull!
This is a clever phrase for energy absorption. Peak accelerations cannot exceed 400g (gravity constant). Accelerations in excess of 200g cannot last longer than 2.0 milliseconds and accelerations in excess of 150g cannot last longer than 4.0 milliseconds. Simply put, how well does the helmet displace the energy absorbed by an impact.
This tests the effectiveness of the helmet's retention system (chin strap and D-rings) or the helmet's ability to stay on your head in during impact.
DOT standards tend to favor energy-absorbent helmets as studies indicate that absorbing the force or energy of an impact is more important than resisting the impact.
DOT Certified Helmets
The Snell Memorial Foundation is a non-profit founded in 1957 after the death of William "Pete" Snell, who died in 1956 after sustaining injuries to his head in a car race. Snell standards raise the bar compared to those set by DOT and are updated every five years. The current standard of M2015 allows a peak acceleration of 275g and uses five different anvil shapes. The number of tests and actual testing is much more rigorous than DOT.
Achieving a Snell standard designation is voluntary and manufacturers submit their helmets for testing. Snell also randomly buys Snell approved helmets and re-tests them for compliance. Snell has questioned the validity of DOT's criteria on gravity constant measures as they were taken from helmet standards in 1972. However, in 2005 an article in Motorcyclist magazine criticized Snell standards as too excessive. It was reported that a softer absorption material would transfer less g force to the head as opposed to the harder material used in Snell helmets. Though Snell offered a rebuttal at the time, the M2010 standards addressed some of those criticisms.
DOT and Snell Certified helmets
The ECE or United Nations Economic Commission for Europe is actually the most common internationally recognized helmet certification as more than 50 countries have adopted the ECE standards for helmets. The ECE standard, like DOT, favors impact absorbing helmets. The current standard is known as ECE 22.05.
ECE standards are similar to DOT standards in that it tests helmets on penetration, impact attenuation, retention and peripheral vision. There are some differences most notably the peak acceleration energy allowed for impact attenuation is 275g and ECE tests for abrasion resistance on how well the helmet shears away. DOT requires extensions from the helmet, like snaps and rivets, to be no more than 5mm; ECE requires no more than 2mm.
Unlike the DOT standard which relies on the manufacturer being honest, the ECE batch tests helmets prior to public release to ensure quality before the helmet leaves the factory.