Why do Dirt Bike Helmets Have a Visor? [Things You Should Know]

Why do Dirt Bike Helmets Have a Visor? [Things You Should Know]

Most helmets have tinted visors that are very effective against road debris and keep the sun from blinding us on the road. There are, however, some differences between the typical road helmets and the type specifically designed to be used with dirt bikes.

In this article, we’ll be looking into these differences to find out what, exactly, the difference between a typical street helmet and a dirt bike helmet is.

While the only difference between the two designs may seem cosmetic, you’ll soon learn that there are some other key differences that you may not have even thought about! So let’s jump right in and take a closer look at this important piece of safety equipment.

What is the Purpose of a Visor?

The visor on your helmet is there to protect your face and eyes from a variety of hazards on the road or track. At any given point while riding any motorcycle, but especially a dirt bike, debris may fly into the rider’s face. 

What is the Purpose of a Visor

This can be both annoying and extremely dangerous. Any sort of visual impairment when riding significantly increases the risk of a crash. Having dirt in your eyes can also be uncomfortable, as anyone who has experienced it can tell you!

Aside from protecting the eyes and face from debris, visors can be tinted to act like sunglasses, protecting the wearer from harsh light. Bright light can be just as much a hindrance to your vision as dirt and debris in the right conditions and can be just as dangerous. Using a tinted visor mitigates the harsh sunlight. This can also help with eye strain, which becomes an issue on longer rides where you may be exposed to bright light for extended periods of time. 

Why do Dirt Bike Helmets Have a Visor?

Dirt bike helmets do not typically have the normal face shielding visor found on other helmets. Instead, most dirt bike helmets are fitted with a plastic bill, not unlike the type you find on a baseball cap, although these are specifically designed to handle the rigors of riding a dirt bike. Besides that, they are a major component of the iconic dirt bike helmet design. 

Helmet with visor

This bill’s primary purpose is to protect the eyes of the rider from dirt, debris, and rocks thrown from the surface of the track. On any trail or dirt track, there will be a great deal more large debris to deal with than what you would find on a pavement surface. For this reason, the bill extended over the eyes is far more effective at handling this kind of riding than a typical road helmet with no feature. 

One important thing to remember is that the bill on the helmet is only half of the protective measures that should be present to help protect the rider’s eyes from injury. Because dirt bike helmets lack the traditional face shields that you would find on a normal helmet, most dirt bike riders also wear protective goggles to handle the smaller dust and dirt thrown up from the track. A good pair of goggles combined with the dirt bike helmet’s bill offers good protection for the eyes and face. Many dirt bike goggles are also tinted so as to also offer protection from excessive light as well. 

There are some helmets offered that have a face shield, but these options are much less common and disallow the use of goggles, which many riders prefer when riding dirt bikes. 

Which Visor is Better for Your Dirt Bike Helmet?

Now that we’ve taken a look at the purpose of a visor in general, as well as the special bill featured on dirt bike helmets, let’s compare the two. While there is no “correct” answer as to which is better, the advantages and disadvantages offered will appeal to every rider differently. One rider may prefer to keep the helmet open to allow their favorite pair of goggles, while another may prefer the convenience of an attached face shield. 

We’ll examine both options here!

Option 1: Open Face Dirt Bike Helmets

These are the most common type of dirt bike helmets. When browsing the options online or at your local gear store, you will notice that the majority of dirt bike helmets do not feature an attached face shield, which is by design. 

Open Face Dirt Bike Helmets

Helmets with an open front allow significantly more airflow than a closed helmet, and when riding a dirt bike around a track, this can be a major advantage. Riding a dirt bike may be slower than riding a motorcycle down the highway, but it is also a much more intense experience. The high energy means that you will be generating a great deal more heat and sweat than on a typical motorcycle, and so the airflow offered by an open helmet may be not only preferable but critical. 

Because of the lack of a face shield, you will need to wear a set of goggles. This opens up a lot of options for tailoring your gear to your personal preferences. One example would be the combination of this O’Neal Helmet from Amazon.com paired with this set of Oakley dirt bike goggles. This example provides proven protection from two highly popular brands without running the risk of the rider overheating. 

Even with these advantages, however, there are drawbacks to this approach. If you happen to wear helmet glasses, the goggles needed for riding with an open-face helmet will be uncomfortable. Dirt bike goggles are also not full face protection, and there will be gaps where dirt and debris can still hit the face over the mouth guard. 

Option 2: Closed Dirt Bike Helmets

Closed-face dirt bike helmets are equipped with face shields very similar to the ones found on normal motorcycle helmets. The attached visor offers more complete coverage than a pair of goggles without relying on additional equipment.

Closed Dirt Bike Helmets

With this option, there are no gaps left to allow debris to hit the face or get around the mouth guard, and suiting up takes one less step without the goggles. However, the closed helmet holds heat much more than an open style, and this can lead to overheating on hot days or long rides. Changing the visor is also a bit more difficult than simply swapping out different sets of goggles, so you will want to make sure that your helmet is equipped with the right visor for the conditions you will be riding in. 

O’Neal also offers a helmet with a visor which can be found here. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I wear a regular motorcycle helmet on a dirt bike?

Dirt bike helmets are designed to handle the more intense dirt and debris on dirt trails and tracks. While a regular motorcycle helmet is a great choice for riding down the highway, it is not suited for use in the sort of environment a dirt bike is usually ridden in. This is especially true for helmets with an open-face design which allows dirt and debris to hit the face. 

Can I change out the visor on a dirt bike helmet?

Many dirt bike helmets are equipped with visors that snap on and can be removed or replaced. Replacement visors are available not just in different colors but sometimes with other features or design elements to suit a variety of rider preferences. Feel free to experiment with different designs to find the one that works best for you!

Are there different certification standards for dirt bike helmets than regular motorcycle helmets?

Dirt bike helmets do not have different safety certification standards than regular helmets. DOT, ECE, and SNELL standards still apply to this type of helmet. When choosing a dirt bike helmet, you will look for the same information as any other motorcycle helmet. 


Today we’ve taken a look at one of the most critical and iconic pieces of equipment for riding a dirt bike. The distinctive bill on dirt bike helmets not only gives them the iconic look that makes us immediately think of motocross but serves the important function of protecting the rider in a way that normal helmets designed for the road simply don’t. 

Whether you prefer a longer visor or a shorter one, wear goggles, or use a face shield, these helmets will help keep you safe so that you can focus on the most important part of riding a dirt bike: having a good time!

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Ryan Christian

My lifelong love of everything on wheels began with a dusty old scooter and a set of second hand wrenches. Since then I’ve spent every moment I can spare finding new dirt paths, winding country roads, and long open highways. I write to share my passion with other enthusiasts, and maybe inspire one or two new ones along the way!

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