Car Racing Vs. Motorcycle Helmets: Is There A Difference?

Car Racing Vs. Motorcycle Helmets: Is There A Difference?

Why can’t you wear motorcycle helmets in place of automotive racing helmets? They basically look the same. Shouldn’t they also do the same thing?

Automotive Helmet
Automotive Helmet

There’s a big difference between car racing helmets and motorcycle helmets. Automotive helmets are meant to withstand multiple high impact collisions whereas motorcycle helmets are meant for one big impact. Car racing helmets also have fire retardant qualities whereas helmets intended for motorcycles aren’t. 

These are just some of the basic helmet qualities that differentiate automotive helmets from motorcycle helmets. And that’s why you just can’t use the same helmet you would on your bike when it’s time to take your car out for a spin on the race track.

Why Wear A Helmet In The First Place?

It doesn’t take a genius to know why you should wear a helmet. You also don’t need to be a genius to start protecting your brain by wearing one.

Wear A Helmet
Wear A Helmet

Your helmet is there for one reason: To protect you from head injuries that could have catastrophic results to your quality of life. It could also be the one thing that saves your life in the event of a disaster.

A lot of enjoyable sporting activities involve risks of incurring head injuries. The higher the speed involved, the more reason you have to wear a helmet. Anyone who engages in activities like contact sports to racing should wear one. 

Save a life. 

Your life.

Wear a helmet.

Anatomy Of An Automotive Helmet

Race Car Helmet
Race Car Helmet

A good automotive helmet withstands multiple impacts. This is because when a car crash occurs, the driver is trapped inside the vehicle and is expected to bang his head more than once on the metal parts of the car. The one big difference between automotive helmets and motorcycle helmets is resistance to flames.

Outer Shell

The outer shell is the hardest part of the helmet and is designed to take the brunt of the impact. This is designed to receive multiple impacts with little to no structural damage like cracks or dents. The outer shell is composed of either of, or a combination of the following: glass, fiber, carbon, Kevlar and other types of weave.

Manufacturers can opt to install inserts inside to further strengthen the outer shell but this drives the price up due to the production cost involved.

The outer shell is designed to be smooth and aerodynamic to resist drag as well as provide a surface that will not catch on anything inside the vehicle in the event of an accident.

Inner Lining/Impact Absorbing Layer

The inner lining is the one directly in contact with the outer shell and absorbs the impact received by the outer shell. The inner lining is often made up of Polystyrene or Polypropylene. This is compact but soft enough to provide a cushioning layer to the head inside. 

The inner lining is the one that dictates what type of head will fit inside the helmet.

Padding/Comfort Layer

The padding is the softest part of the helmet and is the one that actually touches the head. This conforms to the shape of the head to provide a snug fit.

The padding is designed to allow the skin to breathe. It also has a wicking effect with special fibers used in creating its cover. There are raised and sunken areas to allow air circulation inside the helmet.

Straps/Retention System

There’s no use in putting a helmet on and not strapping it to your head securely. The impact and G-forces you will experience is going to dislodge that helmet no matter how snug it may fit. No helmet, no safety. You’re going to end up bashing your head against the insides of your car.

If you want to live longer, strap that helmet on.

These straps also have a quick-release feature that will allow you to take it off in an instant to smile and wave at your adoring crowd. 

Visor (Optional)

Some car racing helmets don’t come with visors attached as drivers often opt to wear none (as it obstructs their vision) or wear specially designed eyewear.

Visors are made of acrylic or polycarbonate material and are highly resistant to scratching, cracking and breaking.

Anatomy Of A Motorcycle Helmet

Motorcycle helmets are constructed with the same 4 main components automotive helmets have. The outer layer, inner lining, comfort layer and retention system are also present in all motorcycle helmets as with automotive helmets. Motorcycle helmets are also designed to receive one massive impact instead of multiple ones as motorcycle drivers often get thrown off their vehicle. 

These helmets are highly designed to slide on the road with as little resistance as possible to avoid further neck or head injury.

There are many types of motorcycle helmets in the market. Automotive helmets have to adhere to one type of helmet which is a full face helmet. It should also pass the Snell Standards for it to be allowed for use on the race track or in competition. Motorcycle helmets, on the other hand, need not adhere to these standards. All they have to pass are the DOT and ECE rating. 

Types of Motorcycle Helmets

There are six main types of motorcycle helmets: Full Face, Open Face (¾), Half Face, Off-Road, Modular, and Dual-Sport. Each one has its own unique pros and cons.

Full Face Helmets

Full Face Helmet
Full Face Helmet

This is the safest helmet you could get for yourself on the market today if you’re riding a motorcycle. This provides you with the most head coverage including your jaw and chin thanks to the chin bar incorporated within the helmet. 

Full faced helmets have vents that allow for air circulation. In colder situations, you can close these vents off and remain warmly ensconced within your head gear.

Other features that have recently been added are provisions for Bluetooth speakers or communication devices and secondary visors that adust to the light conditions on the road.

Open Face (¾) Helmets

Open Face Helmet
Open Face Helmet

This is one of the most popular types of helmets as these are often offered for free along with the purchase of a basic motorcycle. This protects your head while keeping your face exposed.

Most open face helmets have removable visors to protect your eyes. The downside to this is that it doesn’t have the chin bar equipped which leaves your jaw fully exposed reducing its over-all safety.  

Half Helmets

Half Helmet/Skull Cap
Half Helmet/Skull Cap

This is the preferred helmet for bikers who love the freedom that the open road gives them. Sadly, this is also the least safe motorcycle helmet in the market today. The protection this helmet provides is only for the top half of your head. Everything below the forehead is exposed. 

Still, you can’t argue the fact that this is the coolest looking helmet in this bunch.

Off-Road Helmets For Dirt Bikes, Motocross, or MX

Dirt Bike Helmet
Dirt Bike Helmet

These helmets are specifically designed for off-road purposes. They are considered full face helmets but are lighter for recreational purposes. They are still designed to provide maximum protection without too much weight. It is still designed to protect your head fully from harm. 

Off-road helmets are used in conditions where high-speed conditions aren’t as risky as on the highway. The bigger opening is designed to allow the rider to have more peripheral vision for making split decisions in these conditions. There is no provision for a face visor so most riders use goggles for eye protection. Most off-road helmets do come with a sun visor to keep extra light away from the eyes.

Modular Helmets/Flip-Ups

Modular Helmet
Modular Helmet

Flip ups or Modular helmets are a cross between a full face helmet and an open face helmet. These helmets are hinged in a way to allow for the rider to click a button and swing the entire fascia up and over the forehead. In doing so, it transforms from a full face helmet to an open face helmet with a simple flip up, thus the name.

It has all of the features of a full face helmet. The additional hinge adds a significant amount of weight. Because the fascia is massive, driving with the helmet flipped up can prove challenging as it tends to trap air and reduce your over-all aerodynamic qualities.

Dual-sport Helmets For Recreational Activities Such As Crossover, ADV, Hybrid, And Enduro

Dual Sport Helmet
Dual Sport Helmet

This type of helmet is considered as a new addition to the helmet types available to riders all over the world. This is basically a cross between an off-road helmet and a full face helmet. The design basically looks like it was built for off-roading without sacrificing all of the features found on a full face helmet.

This is significantly heavier than a regular off-road helmet thanks to the attached face visor and secondary visor within for additional eye protection.

In the end, it is up to you which helmet you are going for. The safest helmets are those tested by Snell and have the seal of approval stamped on them. 

It’s also a good thing to have more than one helmet for easier transition between situations (racing with a car or riding on a motorcycle). After all, helmets are to riders/drivers what shoes are to women.

Related Questions:

Who Or What Is Snell?

The Snell Memorial Foundation was put up in honor of “Racer of the Year” William ”Pete” Snell. He died in the 195 Sports Car Club of America race wearing a helmet made of leather and pressed cardboard. This prompted his family and friends to seek better helmets so no one else had to needlessly die.

My Helmet Is Five Years Old. Should I Replace It?

Regularly used helmets that are five years old should be retired. Wear and tear accumulates over time. The inner lining will eventually thin causing a once snug helmet to become loose. The outer shell can also have stress fractures leading to the helmet cracking open. Stay safe. Buy a new helmet. 

Can A More Expensive Helmet Protect You Over A Cheap One?

Lots Of Helmets
Lots Of Helmets

Helmet price is not indicative of its protective capabilities. A well-developed $150 helmet can provide as much protection as a $500 one. What you need to do is check the manufacturer to ensure that all of the safety features needed are included in your helmet. Just make sure it fits your head well.

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