While we love the O’Neal Helmet we feature in our Recommended Gear, picking the right helmet isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. While with the O’Neal Helmet is a great combination of quality and value, there may be some more serious enthusiasts or professional riders that require more advanced features and are able to spend $500-600 on a helmet. With this in mind, we invited professional motocross rider Martin Varrand to share some of what he looks for in a good ATV helmet. The remaining of this article comes directly from him.
Over the last few decades, ATV riding has become steadily more popular. The ATV, or All Terrain Vehicle, has such a wide range of applications, it is no wonder it has become a favorite with riders of all kinds. When it comes to choosing a helmet for ATV riding, what should you be looking for? With a wealth of products on the market, at all price points, it is easy to get confused.
What Kind Of ATV Riding are you intending on doing?
Perhaps the single biggest influence on your choice of helmet is the style of riding you will take part in. By its very nature, an ATV vehicle has a wide range of purposes. You could be riding for agricultural purposes working on a farm. Maybe you are leisure riding across road and trail? At the other end of the scale, you could be hitting the dirt and the jumps!
If you are purely riding off-road, you may want to look at a helmet with motocross design. If you are mainly riding on the tarmac with the occasional off-road excursion, then a dual-sport helmet may be far more appropriate. The increased comfort and full face design of dual sport helmets are far better for higher speeds. An agricultural application might demand an open face or even a modular motorcycle helmet.
With so much choice, it is good to consider what key features work best for an ATV rider. This will help narrow your search and focus priorities.
Key Safety Features on ATV Helmets
You may wish to consider the following safety features when looking for the right ATV helmet.
Motocross Style Peak:
You will need one of these to protect from “roost.” This is when the rider in front sprays mud and gravel at you from their rear wheels. These peaks should be quick release or designed to detach on impact.
High-Quality EPS layer:
The best off-road and dual sport helmets contain a variable density layer of materials that increase absorption. This reduces the risk of concussions.
Lateral Force Protection:
As Off-road helmets increase in quality, you will find various shell designs, and liner designs, that are specifically made to reduce lateral movement. Whiplash is caused by a helmet smashing the ground. If your helmet has a layered liner, which allows slip, then the chance of whiplash is greatly reduced. The same is true of a shell design which has been profiled to reduce grab.
Look for manufacturers who have designed their products with Off-road riders in mind. Arai and Shoei helmets are generally considered top of the line in this regard, as reflected by their steep price tags.
Most off-road riders will wear goggles. Make sure your helmet is designed to accommodate oversized goggles and that it has good all-around vision.
Quick release linings:
The best ATV helmets for off-road will have a safety mechanism to quickly remove the cheek pads and lining. In the event of an accident, this allows the helmet outer shell to be removed without too much disturbance to the riders neck and head position.
Safety Features For ATV Helmets, Dual Sport & Tarmac Riding:
In addition to the safety features mentioned above, there are a few extra considerations of you will be riding on the tarmac at higher speeds, or if you will be covering long distances. Dual Sport Helmets will accommodate the safety needs of a motocross rider, and marry them to a helmet which can be used safely on the roads or when touring. These include:
Full Face Visor (shield):
When riding on Tarmac at speed, many prefer a full face visor (or shield for the US riders). The increased protection from debris, coupled with the quieter conditions lead to safer riding over distance, especially in terms of reduced rider fatigue.
Another extra feature often found on a dual sport helmet is the inclusion of a drop-down sun visor. These should be UV protective and optically correct to protect the rider.
Main Comfort Features on ATV Helmets
Whether you are buying for predominantly off-road or tarmac, comfort is essential. Both motocross and dual sport helmets have a number of common design features to maximize comfort. Look out for these when considering your purchase of an ATV helmet.
A long day in the saddle will lead to a hot and sweaty rider. This is especially the case if you are riding hard and exerting yourself when off-road. To combat this, good ATV helmets will have a well-designed venting system. At the front of the helmet, there should be adequate venting. These vents will force cold air into a series of channels. This cold air will serve to cool your face, dry sweat and force the warm moist air out via exhausts on the rear of the helmet. The better the helmet, the more complex and effective the venting system.
Washable & Removable Liners:
To keep things fresh, good quality ATV helmets will have removable and washable linings. Technical materials that wick moisture are preferred. As you go up the ranges, many ATV helmet components will be fully replaceable to ensure longevity.
Pricing for ATV Helmets:
Price range is a good filter to help you keep on track when buying your ATV helmet. For an adult rider, who is looking to have a reasonable level of safety equipment and comfort, expect to pay a recommended retail price of around $150+ for off-road and $200+ for a dual sport. Check out these options from HJC and O’Neal for your budget options.
About Martin Varrand
Martin Varrand is the founder and author of Motocross Advice, and he has been riding motocross for over 22 years already. In the early 00’s he became 2X Junior World Champion and has won many championships in Estonia. After he finished his pro motocross career, he has been focusing on teaching other riders and giving them best buying advice over best dirt bike gear and parts. This is why he founded motocrossadvice.com.