Being a motorsport, riding a dirt bike requires the wearing of a helmet. While the main reason is for protection from injury, helmet styles vary in design and functionality across the various motorsport disciplines for a purpose. The design differences in the helmets have taken the various requirements for each sport and purpose-designed the helmets for the task.
One of the main differences between street bike helmets and off-road helmets is the visor on the dirt bike helmet. Why do dirt bike helmets have visors like these and not street bike helmets?
The primary purpose of the visor, or peak, on a dirt bike helmet, is to protect the rider’s face from dust, dirt, and mud that is kicked up by other riders on the trail. Another purpose is to protect the rider’s eyes from the glare of a sun low on the horizon.
For many riders, it just looks cool and has come to be an iconic symbol for dirt bike riders that separate them from other bike riding disciplines, a form of pride, if you will. Many riders will say a dirt bike helmet without a visor is not a dirt bike helmet!
What Is A Dirt Bike Helmet Visor Made From?
The visor in a dirt bike helmet varies in design and manufacture almost as much as there are different helmet designs! Some helmet visors are made from a simple, tough, and semi-rigid plastic that clips onto the helmet at the forehead section of the helmet.
In most cases, with this kind of design, the visor is removable; you simply unclip the plastic visor from its mounting s on the helmet.
Other, more modern dirt bike helmets have a visor that is made from a carbon fiber type material. The visor is then designed, painted, and color-coded to fit in with the design and style of the helmet. Some of these types of visors are removable, but require tools to remove them, while others are designed to be part of the helmet and are not removable!
If you look hard enough in the marketplace, you will even find dirt bike helmets that have no visors, and no mountings to fit one. These helmets are generally to cater more for the recreational trail rider who is not going to see much dirt kicked up from a bike in front.
What Is The Purpose Of The Visor On A Dirt Bike Helmet?
The main reason for the visor on the dirt bike helmet is to protect the rider’s face from mud and dirt in a track environment where you are racing against other riders. You will often hear in motor cross circles talk of a roost. A roost is shortened slang for a rooster tail.
When you are riding on a mud and dirt-filled track and a rider ahead of you accelerates away, his rear bike tire kicks up a spray of dirt, mud, and stones in an arching spray. This arching spray of mud and dirt is termed a rooster tail because the shape of the arch coming from the back of the bike resembles the tail on a rooster!
Seasoned dirt bike riders will dip their heads into when they are riding into the rooster tail so that the visor takes the brunt of the spray of dirt, rather than taking it fully in the face. A rooster tail in the face can clog your goggles so that you can’t see where you are going, and it can even cause injury to the face in terms of cuts and lacerations!
Another use for the visor on a dirt bike helmet is to keep the glare of the sun out of the eyes of the rider. This function can be likened to the visor on a baseball cap, which serves the same purpose. Admittedly, this would only be necessary either early morning or late afternoon as the sun is low on the horizon at these times.
If, however, you are having a full day of riding, you could conceivably still be out on the track, and the sun starts to dip down to the western horizon. In this instance, you will welcome the protection the visor offers.
Some people may wonder why the visor on a dirt bike doesn’t catch the wind from the forward momentum and flip up the rider’s head. This would most definitely be a problem if you were using a dirt bike helmet on a street bike, where the speeds are much higher.
In comparison to street bike riding the speeds that dirt bike riders reach are nowhere near as fast. These lower operating speeds make the problem of whipping the rider’s head back a problem that is not likely to happen out on the dirt bike track or off-road trail.
Is A Dirt Bike Helmet Visor Necessary?
The question as to whether the visor on your dirt bike helmet is necessary or not will be dependent on the type of riding you participate in.
If you are doing a lot of motocross dirt track racing then I would say a visor is most definitely necessary, mostly due to the protection the visor provides from the roost of other riders.
If your dirt bike riding is more off-road trails where there is not a lot of high-speed competition riding, then the visor may not be quite as necessary for protection from a roost form other riders. You may, however, benefit from the protection of the glare from the sun that the visor provides.
If you ride your dirt bike both on the street and off-road, if your bike is street legal, of course, then I would recommend having a street bike type helmet for riding on city and suburban streets and a dirt bike helmet for off-road.
While this may seem to be overkill, you will soon find that a street helmet does not work well off-road and vice versa for dirt bike helmets. If you try to use a street bike helmet in the dirt, you will find that it quickly becomes very hot and uncomfortable inside at the lower off-road speeds. As a result, the screen will also fog up, and you will be a very disgruntled rider!
Street helmets are not made for the rigors of off-road riding, which makes them susceptible to scratches and damage when used in this environment.
Using a dirt bike helmet as an on-road helmet, you will find that the additional ventilation makes the helmet very noisy at higher speeds, and very cold in the winter months. At street speeds, you may also find the visor to be a problem as the wind tries to lift your head off your neck!
As you can see, motorcycle helmets are purpose-built specifically for the intended environment the helmet was made for.
As we have mentioned previously, there are dirt bike helmet designs that have no visor that you can source as an alternative. However, we would only recommend this style of helmet if you are not doing any form of competitive style dirt bike riding.
What Are Dual Sport Helmets?
Dual sport helmets are a kind of crossover helmet in which manufacturers have tried to combine the best of both on-road and off-road helmets into one hybrid helmet.
These helmets have a visor like a dirt bike helmet as well as a full face shield like a street bike helmet. The face shield is capable of being lifted, either sliding under the visor or sliding up into a cavity in the front of the helmet.
Many riders find that these helmets compromise too much, and while they do everything at an okay level, they don’t do anything well.
These style of helmets are often popular among enduro bike riders such as the BMW RS series bikes, which are capable of high speeds comparable to street bikes, but which are also used off-road for rally style races.
Now that we’ve covered all you need to know about why dirt bike helmets have visors, it’s time to get your dirt bike to the track!
Happy dirt biking!