Go-Kart Helmets vs Motorcycle Helmets: What’s the Difference?

Go-Kart Helmets vs Motorcycle Helmets

Safety is paramount in motorsports, and ensuring you have the right head protection for your specific activity is crucial. While all helmets aim to shield your head from injury, some differences exist between go-kart and motorcycle helmets. Let’s dive into these differences and learn more about each type of helmet.

Related Article: Best Go-Kart Helmets Under $100

Key Points: Go-Kart Helmets vs Motorcycle Helmets

  • Certification: Snell K (karting) vs. Snell M (motorcycle)
  • Ventilation: Both helmets feature vents for cooling
  • Testing: Different standards and requirements for each helmet type
  • Design: Varied shapes and angles for each type of racing
  • Features: Go-kart helmets may have HANS support (Snell SA), while motorcycle helmets do not
  • Aerodynamics: Motorcycle helmets often have rear spoilers for stability

Go-kart helmets, which closely resemble auto racing helmets, have unique impact tests, design features, and aerodynamics compared to motorcycle helmets. Now let’s explore these differences in greater detail.

Comparing Go-Kart and Motorcycle Helmets: Similarities and Differences

Both go-kart and motorcycle helmets share the primary goal of protecting the wearer’s head. Though they may seem similar at first glance, several key distinctions exist between them.


Snell K2020 Karting Helmet

Go-kart racing helmets are certified with Snell K (karting) standards, like Snell K2020, while previous versions include K2015 and K2010. These helmets resemble auto racing helmets, which follow Snell SA (special application) standards, but Snell K helmets lack a fire rating.

Snell M2020 Motorcycle Helmet

On the other hand, motorcycle helmets follow Snell M (motorcycle) standards, such as Snell M2020, with previous versions including M2015 and M2010. Although Snell K and Snell M-certified helmets undergo similar tests, they have different testing parameters, design elements, and applications, resulting in separate Snell certifications.


Both go-kart and motorcycle helmets undergo extensive testing before receiving official certification from the Snell Foundation. Snell’s tests aim to assess four primary helmet protective properties:

  1. Impact Management: How well the helmet handles collisions with objects
  2. Positional Stability: How securely the helmet remains on the head
  3. Retention System Strength: How effectively do the helmet straps hold
  4. The extent of Protection: How well the entire head is shielded

To ensure accurate and effective measurement of these properties, helmets go through a series of tests:

  • Impact Test
  • Positional Stability Test
  • Dynamic Retention Test
  • Chin Bar Rigidity Test
  • Shell Penetration Test
  • Face Shield Penetration Test
  • Frontal Head Restraint Test
  • Chin Bar Impact Test

Although both Snell M and Snell K helmets require stringent testing, each type must meet specific requirements. This is because go-kart and motorcycle racers face different risks due to the distinct nature of their motorsports.

TestSnell SASnell KSnell M
Chin Bar Impact Test
Chin Bar Rigidity Test
Dynamic Retention Test
Face Shield Penetration Test
Flame Resistance Test
Frontal Head Restraint Test
Impact Test
Positional Stability Test
Shell Penetration Test

Motorcycle riders and go-kart drivers assume different racing positions, resulting in varied impact angles and velocities. These factors must be considered during testing to ensure comprehensive safety coverage.

For example, both Snell SA and K helmets undergo multi-impact testing for roll bars, while motorcycle helmets do not, as motorcycles don’t have roll bars. Consequently, K and M helmets undergo similar tests but with different parameters and requirements.

Helmet Design

Beyond certification and testing differences, motorcycle and go-kart helmets differ in design, features, and aerodynamics due to their unique applications.

motorcycle helmet
motorcycle helmet

Motorcycle and go-kart racers have different positions, with go-kart drivers sitting upright and motorcycle riders keeping their bodies as perpendicular to the bike as possible. This results in varying helmet shapes and angles for each sport.

go-kart helmet
go-kart helmet

Go-kart racing helmets typically have a more rounded shape and a flatter position, while motorcycle racing helmets feature an angular design to accommodate the rider’s posture.


Both helmet types come equipped with ventilation ports for cooling and air circulation. However, motorcycle helmets usually have larger eye ports, reflected in the Snell K and Snell M certification requirements.

Go-kart racing helmets, either Snell SA or K certified, may include threaded inserts for Head and Neck Safety (HANS) devices. Although not always necessary for karting, these helmets possess features similar to auto-racing helmets. On the contrary, motorcycle helmets don’t offer HANS support.


Both go-kart and motorcycle helmets boast aerodynamic designs that encourage efficient airflow around the helmet. However, subtle differences in shape exist, as the seating positions of go-kart and motorcycle racers vary.

Go-kart racing helmets usually have a more rounded design, while motorcycle helmets feature sharper edges and an elongated rear section.

Some motorcycle racing helmets also have rear spoilers, which help reduce helmet lift and allow for easier body position changes. You won’t find rear spoilers on go-kart helmets, as the go-kart chassis is already aerodynamically optimized.

In conclusion, choosing the appropriate helmet for your motorsport is essential, whether it’s go-kart racing or motorcycle riding. Remember that the fitting helmet can significantly affect safety, comfort, and performance. Always ensure that you select a helmet designed and certified for your specific sport, and enjoy the thrill of racing with confidence in your protective gear.


Goran, a seasoned go-kart racer and enthusiast, is the driving force behind GoKartLife.com. Through his writing, he seeks to share his passion for go-karts and provide valuable insights, tips, and information to others who share his love for this thrilling hobby. He is dedicated to helping the go-kart community grow and is grateful for the support he has received. By visiting GoKartLife.com, you can join Goran on his go-karting journey and learn more about this exciting sport.

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