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Use A Motocross Helmet For Mountain Biking

Safety should also be a focus of yours when it comes to your different activities on the road. This includes the fact that you need to wear a helmet whenever you are mountain biking. Then again, if you are also a motocross fan and you have a motocross helmet, can you also use that helmet for mountain biking?

You can use a motocross helmet for mountain biking but it would not be the best choice. Mountain biking isn’t the same as motocross in terms of speed and safety standards. That’s why it is better to have a helmet that offers better ventilation, is lighter, and more aerodynamic whenever you are mountain biking.

Mountain bike and motocross riders out there should just throw away the notion that every kind of helmet is the same in the sense that any helmet can work well with just about any kind of on-road activity. While that may be true to some degree, different types of rides require different helmets depending on the safety issues involved.

Is a Motocross Helmet a Good Choice for Xc and Trail Mountain Biking?

Motorcross rider

One of the things you need to know if you are into riding whether it is a motorcycle or a bike is that you need to keep yourself safe from any possible crash.

That’s why it is necessary for you to wear a helmet whether you are into cross-country (XC) or trail mountain biking. But, if you have a motocross helmet laying around, can you actually just use your motocross helmet whenever you are riding cross-country or on trails?

Technically speaking, yes, you can use your motocross helmet for cross-country or trail mountain biking. That’s because motocross helmets provide enough protection for your head or face in case you do end up figuring yourself into an accident while you are trail biking.

Still, even though you can use your motocross helmet, the thing you need to know is that you probably shouldn’t do so. And that’s because motocross helmets are designed to offer maximum protection when crashing at very high speeds (much higher than the speed at which you can ride your MTB), but this comes at the price of poor ventilation.

When it comes to XC mountain biking ventilation is a very important factor when you chose your helmet, a motocross helmet will be a poor choice here because it is heavy, offers poor ventilation, and the extra protection it provides isn’t quite needed.

For example, when you look at a helmet made for XC or trail mountain biking, you would see that these helmets aren’t full-faced. The reason is that open-faced helmets are lighter and offer you all the protection you need for XC or trail mountain biking.

MTB Helmet

In a more scientific sense, the average mountain bike speed is somewhere between 10 to 12 mph. On the other hand, dirt bikes meant for motocross can average somewhere close to 87 mph. 

So, as you can see, the speed difference between the two is staggering. That’s why, when you are into mountain biking, it is best to use a helmet that is light and aerodynamic. You need a helmet that won’t weigh you down or make it difficult for you to bike against the wind.

On the other hand, motocross helmets don’t have that in mind because the important aspect that these helmets focus on is safety. Moreover, because dirt bikes are already fast enough, the weight of the helmet isn’t as big of a factor as it is in mountain biking.

Meanwhile, if you do intend on using a motocross helmet for XC or trail mountain biking, the weight of the helmet will not only slow you down but can also cause more harm than good in case you do get into a crash. Because of how heavy the helmet is, there is a chance that you will end up with a neck injury due to the whiplash that an accident can cause.

Let’s not even talk about the lack of ventilation. You need to keep your head well-ventilated when you are into XC or trail mountain biking because of the amount of effort you will be exerting.

With that said, it is not a good idea to use a motocross helmet for XC or trail mountain biking.

Do You Really Need a Full-Face Mtb Helmet or a Motocross One Will Do the Job?

Even if a full-face mountain bike helmet is similar to a motocross helmet in terms of appearance, a mountain bike helmet will allow you to bread better, is designed with ventilation in mind and it is lighter. 

Remember that a mountain bike helmet (full-face or not) is designed to be able to handle crashes that are somewhere in low to medium in terms of speed. On the other hand, motocross helmets were designed for much higher speeds.

Keep in mind that it is better to use a motocross helmet than no helmet at all, so if you have one laying around and no MTB helmet, you should use it!

For the more dangerous disciplines of mountain biking like downhill a full-face helmet is needed, so a motocross helmet will do the job but buying a full-face MTB helmet will be a big upgrade and it will significantly improve your ride experience.

Can You Use a Motocross Helmet for Downhill or Enduro Mountain Biking?

The difference when it comes to downhill or enduro mountain biking, as opposed to trail biking, is that it is better to use a full-face helmet. Of course, the reason for that can be attributed to how much more dangerous these disciplines are.

As mentioned, downhill mountain biking involves higher speeds as you can go well over 20 mph when you ride downhill. And because how you are basically putting your head forward on a downhill slope, there is a good chance that your face will make contact with the ground first in case of an accident. This is why full-faced helmets are required.

Full-face MTB Helmet

Then again, just because you wear a full-faced helmet for downhill riding doesn’t mean that a motocross helmet would be the best choice. And let’s see the reason why.

The type of testing that’s used for motorcycle helmets is the one used by the SNELL Memorial Foundation. Basically speaking, helmets that are certified by SNELL are engineered to handle 275 g-forces in the foam found inside the helmet. So, in a motorcycle crash, the one that takes the brunt of an impact is the foam that cushions your head.

Helmets that are SNELL certified are designed to compress during a high-speed crash. But when the foam inside the helmet doesn’t compress during a lighter crash, what happens is that your head will smack against the foam and your brain will then hit your skull. In case you didn’t know, that is exactly what it means to suffer a concussion.

On the other hand, full-faced mountain bike helmets are designed for crashes with lower g-forces such that the inside will easily compress during a crash that happened at lighter or medium speeds. As such, the chances of you suffering a concussion while wearing a mountain bike helmet is much lower than if you were to use a motocross helmet.

Let us not forget that you need to change body position a lot when riding a mountain bike downhill and doing this with a heavy helmet isn’t fun. A full-face MTB helmet will give you more ventilation, and readability and will be much lighter than a motocross helmet.

I know that spending a lot of money to buy a full-face MTB helmet when you have a motocross one at home can seem to be unnecessary but believe me an MTB helmet will really improve your riding experience and it is well worth the money.

My advice here is to ride with your motocross helmet until you have the money for an MTB helmet and then make the investment, you will thank yourself later.

Differences Between Full-Face Mtb and Motocross Helmets 

Now that you understand why you shouldn’t be using a motocross helmet for any kind of mountain biking (trail or enduro), let’s look at a quick summary of the differences between a full-face mountain bike helmet and a motocross helmet:

  • Mountain bike helmets are designed for low to medium-speed impacts while motocross helmets are designed for much higher speeds of somewhere between 80 and 100 mph.
  • Mountain bike helmets tend to be lighter and have a softer cushioning that’s meant for impacts caused by lower speeds. On the other hand, a motocross helmet tends to have a thicker and tougher cushioning that won’t easily compress.
  • There are more holes on mountain bike helmets to allow you to have the ventilation you need to keep your head cool. Meanwhile, because you get enough airflow when you are riding at higher speeds, ventilation isn’t too much of an issue for a motocross helmet
  • Mountain bike helmets were designed to be lighter because you don’t need the added burden of a heavier helmet. Whereas, because of how rigid and tough motocross helmets are, they are supposed to be heavier.

Conclusion

In the old days of mountain biking, everybody was using motocross equipment because they didn’t have better alternatives but now you are spoiled with choices.

So yes you can use a motocross helmet for mountain biking but it wouldn’t be the optimal choice!

The best choice is to use an open-face MTB helmet for cross-country (XC) or trail mountain biking and a full-face MTB helmet for enduro and downhill.

I hope that by now you know what you have to do and have fun riding!

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Sources:

https://www.pinkbike.com/news/dh-helmets-vs-motocross-helmets-which-is-safer.html

I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.