As adults and older teens of legal age, we riders accept the fact that motorcycling is inherently a dangerous hobby. The fact that many motorcycles are really designed to be ridden by only one person speaks to this, although there are times when riding with a passenger is either necessary, or a conscientious choice.
As adults, we also have the choice of starting families, and your child falling off of something and hitting their head is the worst nightmare. Thankfully, many gear companies realize this and have child sized protective clothing and most importantly, helmets. Like those helmets for us riders, it is vital that the helmet fits your child’s head properly, and that it is securely fastened and worn correctly.
However, not all children’s helmets are made equal, and there are several things to watch out for to make sure your child has the best protection possible.
The 5 Things To Watch Out For
Thing #1 is that the helmet is, in fact, a motorcycle helmet. Most reputable dealers and gear stores will only stock helmets that meet DOT standards or better and are bespoke motorcycle helmets. Let us be clear in this: a bicycle helmet simply will not do, and it horrifies us to sometimes see preteen kids on the back of dual sports or cruisers with nothing but a bicycle helmet.
Preferably, you will want that helmet to also either have ECE certification, Snell certification, or a SHARP Testing 4 or 5-star rating. Many helmets are available that do pass ECE and/or Snell certification or are miniaturized versions of adult helmets that have those same certifications
Thing #2 to look out for is fashion. Yes, you read that right, fashion. Find a kid that wants to ride around in a boring, all-white shell helmet. Kids love graphics, love colors, love the “cool factor” that wearing a helmet with insane graphics brings with it. And hey, as adults, some of us never grow out of that phase!
However, if it’s a choice between a DOT-rated helmet with awesome graphics, or a Snell-rated one that is plain white, those of us here at BBM that have kids will 10 times out of 10 get the plain white one. You can buy lacquer safe and shell safe paints, and as long as you do it carefully, you can make that plain white helmet into an art project.
Thing #3 to watch out for is interior padding and proper fit. Just like an adult’s helmet, the padding, especially the neck roll, is vital for long-ride comfort. Proper padding and a good fit ensure that the helmet doesn’t sit heavily on any part of your child’s head, and won’t tire out their neck from wobbling around or buffeting in wind.
As well, just like with your own helmet, make sure the EPS foam is at least dual-density. Just like your own noggin, dispersing as much direct impact energy is what saves the skull and brain from taking those direct forces and dispersing it over a larger area.
Another objective of having removable lining and padding is that through the natural course of nature, kids grow. Many kids’ helmets have padding options, from “thick” through “medium” to “thin” to maybe get 2 or 3 riding seasons out of them. But never put a helmet on them without a comfortable amount of padding, as that padding does its part to prevent injuries during a crash!
Thing #4 is more of a “our highest recommendation” thing. Always, always make sure your child’s helmet is a full face. Proper visor or room for riding goggles, a full, attached chin bar, and that their chin isn’t brushing up against the chin bar. This is mostly due to risk-vs-reward, and while you might risk your own good looks with a ¾ face or even a half helmet, facial injuries to children can be debilitating and sometimes, lifelong.
Just like we are horrified at the thought of a kid using a bicycle helmet on the back of a motorcycle, we’re equally nervous when that kid is wearing a helmet, but their jaw and face are exposed. Children are undergoing the process of growing, so it’s vital that their bones form correctly and grow strongly.
Thing #5 is more about making sure your child knows that the gear is important to wear. Try putting a sweater onto a child that doesn’t want to wear one on a chilly day, and tell us just how well that goes over. We’ll wait 30 minutes for you to come back… Okay, back? Good.
If you can tell your kid in an exciting way that the gear they are about to be wearing is both for them to be cool as hell and protect them, they’ll be much more receptive. “Hey Jimmy, you ready to board the Hovercycle Awesome? Oh wait, we need to put our protective suits on first so you don’t get blown away by the amount of AWESOME that’s going to be experienced!!” instead of “This is to stop you cracking your head open” works so much better!
Now that we’ve gone over the 5 most important things to look out for, let’s get into the actual recommendations!
The HJC CL-Y Vela Youth is a child-sized version of the highly-rated HJC CL-17 adult full face. Much like its older cousin, the helmet is made from injection-molded polycarbonate thermoplastic, lined with dual-density, dual-layer EPS foam. It features an extra-large visor and eyeport, allowing for your kid to see all the cool things around you as you ride together. It comes with an anti-fog coating on the interior side of the visor, and has padding cutouts so that eyeglasses or sunglasses can be worn inside the helmet.
The neck roll is full wraparound, and the padding is mostly removable except for the crown pad. Ventilation is through a small chin vent and two crown intakes, with a dual venturi exhaust on the top back of the helmet. The padding itself is not size adjustable, but will comfortably fit over a youth’s head and is soft enough to compress enough that it won’t be too tight. The recommended age range for this helmet from HJC is 7+ years of age.
To be honest, any of the LS2 Rapid youth helmets will do, but we chose the Machine version because it has those awesome graphics we mentioned in the 5 Things discussion that makes a kid want to wear it. It uses a high-pressure thermoplastic technology shell technique that makes it rigid, but still elastic enough to disperse impact force. The shell is lined by multi-density, multi-layer EPS foam.
The biggest thing about the LS2 Rapid is that it has fully removable and washable padding and lining, which is also hypoallergenic to prevent any rashes or skin breakouts on your child. It has three intakes for ventilation that flow out via two venturi vents at the top back. The focus of that ventilation is through the two chin vents and one ram air crown vent.
The shell is also shaped to reduce lift, and fits well around the neck, giving your child a much easier time wearing the helmet without it lifting and putting strain on their neck. The visor is full anti-scratch and optically correct, so glasses or sunglasses can be worn in the helmet without distorting vision.
This is where things get serious. Fox Racing is a legendary name in both North America and Europe for making the best of the best in motocross and trials riding gear. As a parent, you’d expect them to also include the best technology and best protection in a youth helmet. Fox Racing is not about to let you down there!
This helmet is fully competition-ready if your child wants to join junior motocross, and is otherwise a solid investment in your child’s safety for motorcycle rides. The shell is injection molded polycarbonate with ventilation all over the place. That lightweight shell is backed with dual-density, multi-layer EPS foam in a coordinated impact structure to protect the most vital parts of the head.
What makes this helmet above and beyond is that it features a full Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) inside. This is a technology that was first developed on the MotoGP and World SBK race tracks, and has trickled down into many helmets for street and dirt riders. What MIPS does is allow the helmet to take an impact, and “slips” across the interior of the helmet until it reaches its stops.
That millisecond of slipping is enough to dissipate a lot of rotational energy, and helps prevent the helmet from rolling over the neck or forcing a helmet tuck to the chest. This keeps the neck aligned during the most forceful part of an impact, and prevents the brain from sloshing around too much and hitting the skull, which can cause a concussion. In fact, in testing, the rotational and energy absorption properties of MIPS have shown that it helps prevent traumatic brain injuries and neck injuries by up to half.
The Youth V1 also features fully removable cheek pads and interior liner, so they can be washed clean. The sun peak has a patented magnetic quick release should it need to be removed, and is designed to break away in case of a crash, to prevent the head from being snapped back. There is no fitted visor, so this helmet must be used with motorcycle-grade goggles.
The Fox Racing Youth V1 Matte helmet is ECE and DOT certified, with an additional certification level of “Competition approved” from the ECE.
Shift really does have their head in the game when it comes to youth helmets, and while it may not have full graphics, the Whit3 Label Blac does have that awesome matte black that speaks to stealth and awesome times ahead. In fact, if your child doesn’t exclaim “Awesome!” or “Cool!” when looking at this helmet, then we can’t be held at fault!
The helmet is made of molded ABS combined with injected polycarbonate to make the entire shell structure as solid as steel, but also extremely light. Dual-density, multi-layer EPS foam coats the entire interior of the shell, including the projected chin bar.
The helmet has a slightly unbelievable 15 ventilation holes, 10 intakes, and 5 exhausts. If you live in any of the Southern US states, this is the helmet to keep your kid cool on the back of your bike, and we’re not talking just in the looks department. The fixed sun peak is also shaped to create neutral lift by directing air into the intake vents and using a venturi edge to allow air to flow through and over the shell of the helmet.
The GMax Youth GM49Y helmet, in all its color schemes and graphic designs, has been around for a few years now, so this is not the newest helmet on our list by a long shot. However, by sticking around and sticking to what works, the GM49Y, including the Deflect color scheme here, is rated highly in many reviews and recommendation lists year after year.
Despite being an inexpensive helmet (notice we did not say cheap), it is made of injection molded thermoplastic and polycarbonate, with full dual-density, dual-layer EPS foam. The interior lining is fully removable and, crucially, have adjustable padding so that a perfect fit can be guaranteed. Despite this being the least expensive on our list, this is the only helmet that has adjustable padding and lining straight out of the box.
Ventilation is also superb, with a chin vent and two vortex air crown vents. The exhaust out via two venturi vents at the top back of the helmet. The visor is anti-fog coated, and is able to be switched out for other visors you can buy for the helmet without needing tools. Simply raise it to the top-most position, pull the spring release switch, and it pops right off.
The GMax Youth GM49Y Deflect, like all of the model line, is fully DOT certified.