Many athletes cross-train in different sports to build up different muscles and endurance. Motorcyclists are no different.
However, cross-training doesn’t necessarily mean cross equipment.
In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between motorcycle and mountain biking helmets and why you should keep them separate.
Can Motorcycle Helmets Be Used for Mountain Biking?
You can technically wear a motorcycle helmet while riding a mountain bike, and vice versa. However, you should consider the helmet’s weight, ventilation, and aerodynamics before doing so to protect yourself and enjoy your ride.
What Are the Differences Between Motorcycle and Mountain Bike Helmets?
Would you bring a baseball bat to a golf course or a driver to a batting cage? The answer seems obvious – of course not!
But why not? Both sports require you to hit a ball with a stick, so why does the type of stick matter? You should apply this same logic to riding gear, especially helmets.
Helmets are designed with specific uses in mind. Material density, ventilation, and aerodynamics all contribute to the function of a helmet.
Weight is the most notable distinction between motorcycle and mountain bike helmets.
On average, motorcycle helmets weigh about 3.5 lbs. A traditional mountain bike helmet weighs 12 ounces. That’s a big difference!
Ventilation is another major difference you’ll notice between motorcycle and mountain bike helmets.
Despite the lack of holes in a motorcycle helmet, a well-made type can actually ventilate very well…at high speeds.
If you rode a motorcycle helmet on a mountain bike, you’d think you were wearing a giant brick on your head. The helmet would feel massive and there would be very little airflow, if any at all.
But if you wore that same helmet on a motorcycle, you might forget you were even wearing one. You’d even be able to feel the airflow over the top of your head as you cruise down the highway.
There are many styles of motorcycle helmets.
The traditional full-face motorcycle helmet offers the most protection. It covers your entire face and head thanks to the chin bar and face shield. These components offer great protection against wind, road debris (think flying gravel), and impact.
You can find a mountain bike helmet in a full-face style, but they don’t include the large polycarbonate face shield like a motorcycle helmet. But then again, mountain biking rarely requires this kind of protection.
Please also read our article about things to check if your motorcycle smells like gas.
Can You Use a Motorcycle Helmet on a Mountain Bike?
If you’re a motorcyclist venturing into cycling, you may feel tempted to take your motorcycle gear on the mountain bike trails.
After all, if your motorcycle helmet can keep you safe on the street, surely it will keep you safe on the trails. While it’s true a motorcycle helmet would offer more protection, there are other factors you may want to consider.
Read our article which explains about Motorcycle Helmet As Hand Luggage?
Motorcycle Helmets Are Heavier
Motorcycle helmets are substantially heavier than mountain bike helmets, and for good reason.
Even long motorcycle rides with a full-face helmet can leave the rider with a sore neck the next day. I couldn’t imagine the physical beating you’d feel wearing a 3 lbs helmet while cycling through a forest.
Since motorcycle helmets are heavier, they would require more strength and physical energy to keep your head up. That’s a lot of unnecessary strain on your neck muscles.
Motorcycle Helmets Won’t Ventilate Well
Motorcycle helmet ventilation works best at high speeds.
The ventilation system of a motorcycle helmet would be useless on a mountain bike since you’re not likely to travel at the same speed as a motorcycle.
Even if you are a gifted mountain cyclist, you would only move at the speeds needed to utilize the ventilation system for short periods (seconds) of time.
Make sure to also read our article about motorcycle cold start problems.
Can You Use A Mountain Bike Helmet on a Motorcycle?
A mountain bike helmet is similar to a motorcycle half helmet. But it would still be ill-advised to use a mountain bike helmet on your motorcycle for these reasons:
If you’re thinking wearing a heavy helmet on a motorcycle isn’t worth it, think again. A quality motorcycle helmet goes through rigorous testing to earn prominent safety ratings like DOT, ECE, and SNELL.
Motorcycle helmets offer substantially more protection than mountain bike helmets. Mountain bike helmets are purposely designed with large holes to give the rider better airflow.
They are not made to protect the wearer from high-impact crashes, nor do they offer face protection. Seriously, flying gravel is no joke!
Mountain bike helmets have better aerodynamic at slow speeds compared to motorcycling standards.
When you wear helmets designed for slow speeds at high speeds, you can experience wind buffering and even lift. This can jerk your head in uncomfortable directions and strain your neck while you try to combat it.
Overall, it’s not a pleasurable experience.
Also check our article about how to fix sticky handlebar grips on motorcycles.
Can You Use a Dirt Bike Helmet for Mountain Biking?
If you’re in a pinch, a dirt bike helmet would suffice for a day on the trails. Motocross helmets and full-face mountain bike helmets are very similar.
Both are lightweight and have large openings in the front to fit goggles and allow airflow.
These helmets also have a protruding chin bar that gives the rider extra protection in case of face-to-handlebar contact (it happens). But this is where the similarities stop.
Here are some differences between motocross helmets and mountain bike helmets:
Motocross helmets are still heavier because there is more material making up the helmet. These helmets are engineered to offer the rider protection when they flip over handlebars or take a fall from 20 feet.
Mountain bike helmets use less material in their helmets which allows them to use an open-air channel ventilation system. This allows air to flow more easily over your head while you exert high amounts of energy.
Motocross helmets use air channels to provide ventilation but it takes more speed to utilize it.
You can technically use different helmets interchangeably but you may not have a good riding experience if your helmet is not fit for purpose.
Do research on your ideal helmet and talk to helmet experts at your local motorcycle dealership to figure out which design will work best for you.