Just like anything else, motorcycles are continually evolving and getting lighter, faster and more powerful with each passing year. Despite improvements to how well bikes handle and perform, having an accident and crashing is always a looming threat that can never be eliminated, only mitigated – especially off-road. Fortunately for us riders, there are engineers working hard to keep our heads and bodies as safe as possible so we can continue to enjoy riding motorcycles – both on- and off-road – with confidence in knowing that we have the best chance in decreasing the amount of damage a potential crash can cause.
We here at MO are proponents of ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time), however, if you’re only going to buy one piece of equipment, you better make it a helmet. Below is a list of the best dirtbike helmets money can buy today in 2018:
6D Helmets is one of a few helmet manufacturers on the cutting edge of pioneering new safety systems and strategic technologies aimed to decrease the effects of a crash on the rider’s brain. The company has just recently released the newest version of its off-road helmet, the ATR-2 (which we’re currently testing). Building on everything that 6D has learned from its ATR-1, the ATR-2 features an evolved version of the company’s patented Omni-Directional Suspension system (ODS).
ODS is a fully active, in-helmet suspension and kinetic energy management system whose function is to reduce energy transfer to the brain over a much broader range of energy demands, including low-, mid- and high-velocity impacts for both linear and angular accelerations. What this basically means is that, depending on the crash, your head can hit the ground not only multiple times, but also from an infinite amount of different speeds and angles.
So, 6D has designed essentially a ball and socket system of dual Expanded PolyStyrene (EPS) liners that are connected via Elastomeric Isolation Dampers to isolate impact energy away from your brain caused by varying rotational forces. The elastic properties of the dampers, combined with their unique ‘hourglass’ shape, provide a progressive spring rate that manages low and mid-threshold accelerations, while simultaneously allowing the inner EPS liner to displace and shear in 3-dimensional space within itself. This omni-directional suspension capability provides ‘six degrees of freedom’, which became the inspiration for the company’s name – 6D Helmets.
The ATR-2 is available in three shell sizes covering a size range from XS to XXL and comes with a three-year limited warranty. MSRP starts at $695. Head to 6dhelmets.com for more info.
Founded in Japan, Arai has been building motorcycle helmets for nearly 70 years and is one of the top head protection choices of racers all around the world. While mostly known better for their street helmets, Arai has taken everything they’ve learned on-road and on the racetracks and implemented it into their off-road helmet – the VX-Pro4.
Just as in every Arai helmet, the basic and simple organic shell shape is based on the R75 concept. Each hand-built Arai incorporates a continuous curve radius of at least 75mm, making the shells round, smooth and strong. Arai claims this R75 shape accounts for better dispersal of kinetic energy as well as minimizing the potential for the helmet to catch on rough surfaces or obstacles that can introduce unwanted rotational forces. The chin bar is also more rounded and compact, and the way in which it protrudes less makes it less likely to catch and dig in during a spill.
The VX-Pro4’s shell is constructed from what Arai calls, Super Fiber, and it costs up to six times more than standard fiberglass but provides 30% higher tensile strength and increased penetration resistance. Building the helmet’s shell takes time and demands precise assembly by master craftsmen from many individual pieces, which Arai calls cLc (complex Laminate construction). The cLc construction contains a specially designed felt that is sandwiched between the two layers of Super Fiber Laminate, and it acts as a reinforcement layer without adding weight.
The VX-Pro4’s visor is 14mm longer and 5mm wider than its VX-Pro3 predecessor that offers better roost deflection as well as more shade from the glaring sun. Finally, the VX-Pro4 also has emergency-release cheek pads as well as sound-absorbing ear-pad foam.
The VX-Pro4 is available in sizes XS to XXL and comes with a five-year limited warranty. MSRP starts at $610. Head to araiamericas.com for more info.
Bell Moto-9 Carbon Flex
Bell has been making motorcycle helmets ever since Christ was a child. Or at least it seems like it, because Bell has been synonymous with head protection since the company’s birth in 1954 and is the go-to helmet of countless professional racers. Bell’s premier off-road helmet is the Moto-9 Carbon Flex.
It’s the most technically challenging helmet that Bell has ever produced, and it features a three-layer progressive system, in which each layer consists of a different material and density to more comprehensively disperse high-, medium- and low-speed impact energy. This progressive layering system also works to reduce the rotational energy transfer caused by the rider hitting the ground or any other foreign object at an angle that causes his/her head, skull and brain inside to rotate, which can cause serious injury and or trauma.
The Moto-9 Carbon Flex has six removable panels and features a flexible, segmented liner that achieves an adaptive, more personalized fit for a wider variety of head shapes. This construction also allows the helmet to flow air more freely for better cooling and ventilation. This inner liner system can rotate relative to the middle and outer layers to further mitigate rotational impact forces.
The Moto-9 Carbon Flex’s shell is made from a lightweight 3K Carbon Composite shell. The Carbon Flex is Bell’s top-of-the-line off-road helmet, but the company also offers the MIPS-equipped Moto-9, as well, which costs less and features the MIPS slip-plane technology (more on MIPS below) and an Aramid, carbon fiber and fiberglass composite shell instead.
The Moto-9 Carbon Flex is available in sizes XS to XXL and comes with a five-year limited warranty. MSRP starts at $499.95.
Being one of the original motocross and off-road riding gear and apparel companies, Fox has been pioneering and providing off-road riders technical race wear since 1974, and the V3 is their latest and greatest form of head protection.
The V3’s most notable feature and biggest talking point is its all-new for 2018 Magnetic Visor Release System (MVRS). This innovative design replaces the traditional three-screw system that keeps a helmet’s visor in place with strong magnets. The idea is to allow the visor to easily release from the helmet in the event of a crash, however, the magnets are strong enough to keep it secure and in place while deflecting roost. Allowing for the visor to release from the helmet in a crash like this means there are fewer angles and surfaces to catch and dig into the ground, which mitigates rotational force to the rider’s head and brain.
Adding to the safety of the Fox V3 is the Multi-Directional Impact Protection System – more commonly referred to as MIPS – within the helmet’s multiple-composite shell construction. Mimicking the cerebrospinal fluid, the idea behind MIPS is adding a low-friction layer between the helmet and the head. This technology allows the innermost layer of the EPS liner to move independently of the outer layer, which in turn, reduces the rotational force otherwise transmitted to the brain.
Additionally, the V3 features 14 intake and 4 exhaust vents to channel fresh air through the helmet and allow hot air to escape. A DriLex Comfort Liner is found on the interior padding and it effectively wicks away sweat and moisture.
The Fox V3 comes in four different shell and EPS sizes for a precise fit and is available in sizes XS to XXL. MSRP starts at $499.95. Head to foxracing.com for more info.
Klim F5 Koroyd
Klim – pronounced: climb – FYI, has been specializing in enduro and adventure riding gear for nearly 20 years, and is more often than not the go-to choice for the most hardcore off-road riders. So, it’s safe to say the Idaho based company knows a thing or two about producing quality technical and protective gear.
The F5 Koroyd is Klim’s premier off-road helmet, and Koroyd isn’t just some funky helmet name, it’s actually a next generation energy absorbing technology. It’s engineered with a unique honeycomb-like structure which is designed to reduce trauma levels with innovative energy management properties. When impacted, the Koroyd cores crush homogeneously, decelerating the energy from the impact and reducing final trauma levels. In addition to the strategically placed Koroyd layers, the Klim F5 features MIPS technology as well, which, as mentioned earlier, reduces the rotational force from angled impacts otherwise transmitted to the brain.
Also found in the F5’s interior are two dual-density EPS layers, and it’s all fully wrapped in a Klim Karbon Fiber Shell. The F5 Koroyd also boasts itself as the industries most well ventilated off-road helmet, with 18 different intake ports and eight exhaust vents. It almost sounds like staying warm will be a bigger challenge than staying cool!
The F5 Koroyd has a DryLex Comfort liner, comes in three different shell sizes with matching EPS liners for maximum protection and comfort, and is available in sizes S to 3XL. MSRP is $649.99. Head to klim.com for additional info.
Leatt GPX 6.5 Carb V16
Leatt entered the motorcycle protective gear industry with its revolutionary and highly acclaimed GPX line of neck braces. A prototype was formulated in 2001, and in 2006, the GPX line was officially born. Since then, Leatt has received countless awards and has grown to produce other protective gear as well, including the company’s premier GPX 6.5 Carb V16 helmet.
We all crash – it’s inevitable – and Leatt is determined to mitigate as much of that risk as possible. The Leatt GPX 6.5 Carbon features what the company calls, 360-degree Turbine Technology. This technology has two main advantages: namely the reduction of rotational acceleration to the head and brain, and the absorption of energy upon impact at concussion level. Leatt claims that their technology reduces up to 30% of head impact at the concussion level, and up to 40% of rotational acceleration to the head and brain. It’s all constructed from multi-density, V-shaped impact foam that’s molded directly to the outer shell.
The GPX 6.5’s shell is constructed from carbon fiber and is available in three different shell sizes. For 2018, the outer shell mass has been reduced 10%, resulting in what Leatt claims to achieve 20% less rotational forces transferred to the neck, head and brain. The helmet also has a Dri-Lex moisture wicking, breathable, anti-odor and washable inner liner, as well as removable cheek pads in the event of a crash that requires immediate medical attention.
The Leatt GPX 6.5 Carb V16 is available in sizes XS to XXL and MSRP is $599.99. Head over to leatt.com for more info.
One can’t help but think of Shoei anytime premium motorcycle helmets are mentioned. Since 1959, every Shoei has been handmade in Japan utilizing a sophisticated process that involves over 50 people for each and every helmet. Shoei doesn’t offer multiple versions of the same helmet with different technologies and varying price points. The company only offers what they consider to be the best for the category, and the VFX-Evo is its premier off-road helmet.
The VFX-Evo’s predecessor, the VFX-W, was incredibly popular amongst all the top riders, and it went unchanged for many years because of how ahead of the times it was when initially released. The VFX-Evo takes it to another level. Just like all of the other helmets on this list so far, the Evo’s top priority is to mitigate rotational acceleration to the head, neck and brain. Shoei calls their technology, Motion Energy Distribution System, or M.E.D.S. for short, and I can proudly say that having crashed and bounced my head off the ground like a basketball in this helmet multiple times already, it seems to be doing its job.
Despite multiple dirt samples, not once have I ever suffered any sort of injury above the shoulders, though some would probably argue I’m already somewhat sick in the head… The VFX-Evo’s Multi-Ply AIM+ shell is hand constructed through a matrix of organic and glass fiber-reinforced layers and resin. The Evo’s outer shell is both lighter and more elastic, yet just as strong and even more resistant to penetration due to the additional use of special 3D fibers.
Shoei’s innovative Dual-Layer, Multi-Density EPS liner is what’s found under the shell, and this system provides enhanced impact absorption by utilizing varying densities of foam in key areas around the rider’s head. This combination of layers is designed to enable cooling air to travel unrestricted through tunnels created in the EPS, allowing for not only great ventilation and cooling, but a better, more customized fit as well.
The Shoei VFX-Evo comes in three different shell and EPS sizes for a precise fit and features a five-year limited warranty. It’s available in sizes XS to XXL and MSRP starts at $539.00. Check out shoeihelmets.com for more info.
Troy Lee Designs SE4
Last but not least, Troy Lee is probably best known for his wild and vibrant custom helmet paint jobs that countless racers have donned, both on- and off-road since the ‘80s. From there, Troy expanded to offer equally bright and eye-catching gear sets, and ultimately his own helmet line too, and the SE4 Carbon Metric is currently the premier model.
As its name might suggest, the helmet’s outer shell is constructed from carbon fiber, and it’s incredibly lightweight. Like other helmets on this list, the SE4 also features the MIPS brain protection system, reducing rotational forces to the head, neck and brain. The chinbar’s inner makeup consists of Expanded PolyPropylene (EPP) and flows a lot of air. The helmet also comes with 20 air intake ports and six rear exhaust ports to channel cool air over and around the rider’s head.
The cheek pads, like the rest of the helmets on this list, are also easily removable by first responders in the event of a more serious crash and the visor is attached with plastic screws in brass fittings to allow it to break away in the event of a bigger spill.
The Troy Lee Designs SE4 Carbon Metric comes in three shell sizes to more accurately fit a variety of head sizes and rider ages, is offered in XS to XXL sizing and costs $650.00. Check out troyleedesigns.com for more info.